If ever a record highlighted new horizons for heavy music, it was Blackwater Park, Opeth’s fifth album.
The Swedes had been incorporating increasingly contrasting shades of light and dark into their once none-more-black metal sound, to the point where Blackwater Park sometimes sounded like three or four different bands taking turns on the same record.
Twenty years on, of course, with many others having since followed their lead, it’s easier to get our ears around. So when a demonic doom growl and bass-drum-pummelling thrash blitz brings The Leper Affinity to life, then the stuttering time signatures and intense rhythmic flurries leave you breathless and flailing, only for the black clouds to clear and classical piano to lead us out, we have no problem expecting the unexpected.
Similarly the sweetly elegiac, lilting acoustic folk of Harves can lead into the cascades of symphonic metal that flood across The Drapery Falls either side of anxious singer-songwriter yearnings, before summoning the same demonic vocal apparitions and thrash thunder of the opening track to remind us that these are all corners of the same sonic universe.
The bonus track’s live rendition of the opening track is preceded by Mikael Akerfeldt’s breezy introduction, as if from an actor proceeding to step into the first of many guises. As ever, we’re suspending our disbelief.