Rock bands have been expressing a soft/hard duality ever since Led Zeppelin veered from powerhouse proto-metal to pastoral folk. But few have evinced their contradictory impulses as effectively as Swedish band Opeth do here.
Deliverance and Damnation were released as separate albums, in 2002 and 2003 respectively, despite being written and recorded at the same time. Now they’re being issued together for the full schizoid effect.
They’re available either as a triple-LP set on classic 180g black vinyl, or as a four-disc ‘bookset’, comprising new stereo mixes of each album by The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord and 5.1 mixes by Steven Wilson. There are new photos and redesigned artwork by original artist Travis Smith, plus a 32-page booklet with liner notes courtesy of singer Mikael Åkerfeldt and Prog magazine editor Jerry Ewing.
Deliverance remains a raging assault, all scything guitars, startling death-metal growls and Martin Lopez’s mighty machine drumming. To complicate matters, there are quieter interludes on Deliverance – A Fair Judgement features Åkerfeldt in gentle singing mode, and For Absent Friends boasts a lovely two-minute guitar instrumental. Meanwhile, there are harsher moments on Damnation, such as In My Time Of Need, when the pace quickens and the haunting atmospherics threaten to become harsher.
But mainly Deliverance and Damnation are yin and yang affairs, with the bludgeoning brutality largely kept to the first, typified by the track By The Pain I See In Others; the baleful beauty, represented by Death Whispered A Lullaby, is kept to the second.