Now, I’ll be completely honest and say that I wasn’t expecting much from this album. Since Opeth started doing a lot more of their proggy stuff, I kind of lost interest in them as at the time I wasn’t really a fan of it. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when they released the song, “Will O The Wisp”. I suddenly found myself really rather enjoying that track and figured it worth giving the rest of the album a listen.
Mix-wise, it’s very dry. Almost too dry really as some of the tracks just sound a bit thin and don’t really have any meat to them. Whilst it works on some of the quieter songs, the heavier songs just sound a bit plastic and flimsy.
Album opener, “Persephone” comes in with a rather calm and collected acoustic guitar melody with various other instruments adorning it, providing backing counter melodies. It makes for a rather nice opener to the album and shows how the song writing in Opeth has progressed from earlier albums such as Orchid and Morningrise.
The title track of the album then plays and I find myself rather confused. The engineer has for some reason decided to pan the guitar and the bass hard left and hard right respectively. When I first heard it, it made for a rather jarring listen as the bass is not meant to be anywhere but the middle of the stereo field. After the first minute however, commonality is restored and the haunting cleans of Mikael come in. In comparison to the last album, his vocals seem to fit with the music a lot more and as a result, the track is a lot more cohesive. “The Wilde Flowers” thankfully cleans up the mix a bit but unfortunately, Mikael’s vocals become lost in the mix in some sections. Fortunately, however, the vast majority of the song has his vocals sitting clearly in the mix.
When I first heard “Will O The Wisp” I felt as though I had been transported back to 2003 and was listening to Damnation. Featuring the beautiful clean vocals of Mikael, the track is easily one of my favourites on the album simply by being quite calm and serene. The same can’t really be said for “Chrysalis” that kicks the pace back up with its overdriven guitars and rather nice organ/keys parts. Whilst it’s a good track, like the previous songs, the mix sadly lets it down due to the vocals are a little unclear at points.
“Sorceress 2” calms things down once more and that calm atmosphere continues into the instrumental track of the album “The Seventh Sojourn”. It’s only when we get to the 2:09 mark in “Strange Brew” that the pace is kicked back up again. Whilst the breaks in the song make for a rather interesting listen, you simply can’t really hear what Mikael is saying without cranking the volume up to excessive levels.
“A Fleeting Glance” opens with a rather nice acoustic guitar part before a barely audible Mikael comes in and gets drowned out by almost everything. As the track goes on however, you can gradually make out what he says as he is brought up in the mix. It’s still rather hard to hear him though.
Initially opening softly, “Era” then kicks the pace up with some rather tasty grooves, which are repeated just one time too often. Contrary to other songs, you can actually hear the vocals quite well in this song. They’re still nowhere near loud enough though, and at points I struggled to make out what he was saying.
Ending the album, “Persephone (Slight Return)” features a rather nice piano melody that is sadly far too quiet to hear, as is the spoken vocal part. It’s a shame really as it’s a lovely piano melody but it just simply isn’t loud enough.
It may seem as though I’ve criticised the mix on this album a lot. For a band as well-known as Opeth, the least I would have expected would be for them to have a good mix. Hell, I’ve heard better-mixed things from independent unsigned bands.
However, it’s still a good album. I was initially rather apprehensive about it but I’ve found myself actually quite liking it. It’s no Blackwater Park or Deliverance but it’s still Opeth. It’s just a shame that the mix holds it back.
Rating: 7/10 (8/10 if mixed properly)
Standout tracks: Will O The Wisp, The Seventh Sojurn, Persephone (Slight Return)