Opeth – Ghost Reveries (2005)

BACKGROUND

Ghost Reveries is the 8th studio album by Swedish Metal band Opeth. It was released on August 29th 2005 (Happy 15th birthday!). Opeth have had quite the evolution of sound throughout their career. This has led to some people loving one part of their discography while hating another part of it. Other people enjoy all eras of Opeth. I fall into the latter category.

Opeth started out in the early 90’s as a Death Metal band with progressive tendencies. In the late 90’s, they moved closer to a Progressive Death Metal sound. In the early 2010’s, all Death Metal trappings were lost and they embraced a pure Progressive Rock/Metal sound. For many fans, including me, Ghost Reveries and its follow-up Watershed (2008) are the zenith and culmination of their Progressive Death Metal sound.

Personal connection

Ghost Reveries by Opeth is special to me for a number of reasons. I discovered this album during a particularly difficult year for me personally. The person and main reason why I started playing music in the first place, and piano in particular, had left the world. I lost all motivation and interest in playing my instrument and writing songs (which I had enjoyed a lot) after my father passed. He was a pianist and composer and he cultivated my love of music from the day when I first showed an interest in it.

Even though my motivation and inspiration was shattered, I still had a reason to try to write songs and work on my musicianship because I was playing in a band, and we had three gigs to play that spring. A few months after my father’s passing and after the three live gigs had been played, the band called it quits. The motivation and inspiration for pursuing music was now completely gone.

In the summer of that year, something pulled me towards wanting to listen to Ghost Reveries, although I can’t remember what it was that pulled me towards it. The only Opeth albums I had listened to previously were Pale Communion (2014) and Heritage (2011). The reason why I started with those two albums was because I was never really a “Metal head”, but I was however a fan of Progressive Rock, so I felt that they would be the best gateway albums.

Ghost Reveries not only became the soundtrack for that summer, but it gave me inspiration and motivation to continue to write songs and get better at my instrument. The songwriting of Mikael Åkerfeldt and the keyboard playing by Per Wiberg gave me the motivation and inspiration to continue pursuing music.

Even though my father would probably not enjoy a majority of this album, I know that he would be happy that I found my inspiration and motivation again!

With that said, I would like to dedicate this review to Brian Hobbs, my first and main musical inspiration.

I would also like to thank Mikael Åkerfeldt for showing me new avenues of songwriting and also to Per Wiberg for showing me new ways of how keyboards can be implemented in Metal music.

And a shout out to Sound Pollution in Stockholm for supplying me with both my CD and vinyl copy of this cherished album!

Cover art

The cover art was made by long-time collaborator Travis Smith. He had done the cover art for Still Life (1999), Blackwater Park (2001), Deliverance(2002) and Damnation (2003). He would also go on to do the cover art for Watershed (2008), Heritage (2011), Pale Communion (2014), Sorceress(2016) and In Cauda Venenum (2019).

The artwork is dark, moody and gothic which fits the music perfectly. It depicts a number of burning candles in what looks like a dark gothic church. In the background there appears to be some kind of figure. This adds a haunting atmosphere to the album cover, which fits perfectly with the music contained inside.

Members of Opeth

Mikael Åkerfeldt: Vocals, guitars & additional Mellotron

Peter Lindgren: Guitars

Martin Lopez: Drums & percussion

Martin Mendez: Bass

Per Wiberg: Mellotrons, organs, grand- & electric pianos

Music by Mikael Åkerfeldt and Opeth.

Lyrics by Mikael Åkerfeldt.

Produced by Opeth.

Co-produced, engineered and mixed by Jens Bogren with Opeth.

Spotify link to the album:

Ghost of Perdition

“Ghost of Perdition” starts with the calm strumming of a clean electric guitar. When the last note ends on a suspension, the chorus leaps out from the shadows and takes you by surprise. Lopez’ double bass-drum barrage enters as Åkerfeldt’s and Lindgren’s guitars chug away. Åkerfeldt’s demonic growled vocals enter in such a way that it might startle you on the first listen.

This is a good time for me to talk about growls in general and why I think Åkerfeldt’s are some of the best that I’ve heard. It took a while for me to find any enjoyment in listening to growled vocals, but when I did, it was Mikael Åkerfeldt’s that I liked first. At the time I didn’t know why I liked his and not anyone else’s, but now, I think I’ve been able to pinpoint the reason why. A lot of other growls sound angry to me. I’m not a huge fan of angry sounding vocals, so that’s one aspect. Another thing about his growls that to me make them better than a lot of growls is that they don’t sound like “Cookie Monster” growls, or the even more amusing term, “toilet bowl” growls (named so because the vocals sound like a flushing toilet).

What I like about Åkerfeldt’s growls is that they are not too deep, they sound demonic rather than angry and you can actually understand what he’s singing. Another nuance that I’ve noticed this past year is that his vocal range when he growls somehow manages to stride the balance perfectly between  Death Metal growls and Black Metal shrieks. A lot of Black Metal features vocals that are piercing, shrieking and cold (kind of like a Ringwraith/Nazgûl from The Lord of the Rings). The best example I can think of that illustrates my point is in the song “Deliverance” where Åkerfeldt does a kind of call-and response with himself from around the 7-minute mark to 7:30. Some growls are quite deep while others are more high-pitched and closer to the Black Metal style. The nuances in said example are subtle, but it makes a big difference.

Now that I’ve stated why I think Åkerfeldt has some of the best growls, let’s get back to the song.

The vocal melody and the first two chords feature what is known as a line cliché (thank you Rick Beato for teaching me the proper term!) which is quite common in a lot of Jazz music. There are some notable Pop/Rock songs that feature this as well, such as “Michelle” and “Something” by The Beatles and “The Rain Song” and “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. The line cliché works surprisingly well in the song, perhaps because it’s followed by a blues-based riff. Wiberg’s distorted Hammond organ enters on the third round of the chorus.

The intense chorus then gives way to a breakdown-section which features a calmer yet chugging riff. Lopez plays a cyclical drum loop over this part and Mendez performs an ascending bass slide in major thirds right before Åkerfeldt’s clean vocals enter. The calm reprieve soon gives way to Lopez’ double bass drumming and a sinister guitar riff over which Wiberg’s Mellotron eerily floats above.

Lopez’ cyclical drum loop and the calmer yet chugging riff from earlier come back. Mendez plays an ascending bass slide this time again, but without the major third harmony. Instead, it’s Åkerfeldt’s vocals that come in with major third harmonies. I love this kind of attention to details in songwriting and arranging.

Lopez’ double bass drums enter once again as do the guitars and Mellotron. This leads into the second chorus which is structurally the same as the first chorus except it’s only half as long.

The barrage of drums and guitar in the chorus ends suddenly as an acoustic guitar and Åkerfeldt’s clean vocals enter. The chords he plays in this part are dark, haunting yet beautiful. This part becomes even more beautiful as he sings “Winding ever higher” and lingers on the word “higher”. A picking pattern starts playing and Åkerfeldt vocalizes an incredibly beautiful melody that fits so well to the gorgeous picking pattern. On the third round of this part, he adds a high harmony part on vocals.  He then comes in with an electric guitar and plays some emotional and slow lead parts. I love the sound of his guitar tone in this part. This part ends with a suspended chord on the acoustic guitar.

Heavy electric guitars then enter as Lopez plays another cyclical drum loop. A new riff then enters and Lopez plays some fantastic heavy yet mid-tempo drums. He plays some great double-bass drum patterns towards the end of this part.

Yet another part with a different riff comes in after this. The chords in this part are dark and it culminates in a diminished chord staccato riff where Mendez does some very cool things on the bass!

Wiberg’s distorted Hammond organ enters at the end of the staccato chord riff and serves as a segue into what is perhaps the best part of the entire song!

Åkerfeldt’s vocals enter with what sounds like a “telephone effect” on his vocals. The guitar riff that’s underneath this is just supremely cool. Once again, Martin Lopez knocks it out of the park with his drumming in this section. It’s one of those drum patterns that can get stuck in my head for hours! Wiberg’s Mellotron also adds a sinister vibe to this part.

The next part feels like what the song has been building up to in the 6:26 minutes since it started. Åkerfeldt, Lindgren and Mendez play a jagged and genuinely evil riff in unison. Lopez matches the staccato nature of the riff with double-bass drum action. A nice little detail is how there’s a faint growl that comes in before the vocals. The cherry on top is Åkerfeldt’s perhaps most evil sounding delivery as he growls “Ghost of Perdition!”

After this assault on the senses, the song comes down in intensity for a while with an acoustic guitar and a Mellotron. The music is still incredibly haunting. There’s a short vocal line from Åkerfeldt which is then followed by the band coming in with electric guitars and drums playing more haunting music. A guitar solo then comes in followed by Mikael’s growled vocals.

The beautiful acoustic guitar picking from earlier in the song then comes back after a quick intense segue with plenty of chromaticism. The vocals sound more distant in this iteration compared to earlier. Electric guitars, drums, bass and Mellotron then come in and the whole band play the vocal melody.

This song has such a good flow, which is perhaps even more important for long songs than shorter songs. “Ghost of Perdition” is one of Opeth’s most popular songs, and I completely understand why. It’s also a great album opener as it gives an idea of what the listener can expect from it; unrelenting brutality, dark and mysterious atmosphere and beautiful acoustic passages.

The Baying of the Hounds

“The Baying of the Hounds” starts with a distorted 70’s Hard Rock feel. Wiberg’s Hammond organ part has the same kind of drive and rhythm that Uriah Heep’s “Easy Livin’” has, except it feels more Metal than Hard Rock. Of course Åkerfeldt’s growled vocals roots this song firmly in Death Metal. A slightly different part comes in at around 0:50. This part sounds quite demented compared to the preceding part. The Uriah Heep – sounding part comes back again after a while. Lopez’ bass-drum pattern in this part is quite bouncy and sounds like something John Bonham or Jeff Porcaro would play.

A short instrumental section follows which features a riff that’s repeated while Wiberg provides a Hammond organ backdrop that shifts ever so slightly. Åkerfeldt’s clean vocals then enter in a major-sounding melody sung over the same riff. A new section is then introduced with close vocal harmonies that then gives way to a very cool instrumental section with a short and very atmospheric guitar solo. The solo section climaxes in a brutal section with a barrage of double bass-drum and descending chromatic lines on guitar and bass.

The song then transitions into a mid-tempo atmospheric part with what sounds like a vibraphone sound on a keyboard. When Åkerfeldt’s vocals enter, so does a guitar that plays some very cool chords that to me conjure up images of dark haunted swamps or mires (perhaps this is also due to the fact that he sings the line “beneath the mire” at several occasions).

A very dark and gothic part follows the previous part. What makes it sound gothic to me is the choir sound from the keyboard. Next up is short guitar solo played by Åkerfeldt or Lindgren.

The song’s dynamics shifts dramatically as a beautiful picked acoustic guitar pattern enters and the drums and bass play a steadier and calmer groove. Eventually Wiberg brings in an acoustic piano and then a Mellotron as well.

Once again the song’s dynamics changes rapidly as Åkerfeldt announces the departure from a calm and tranquil mood to an instense mood with a deep growl. This heavy part transitions seamlessly into a very triumphant sounding major-key part which makes excellent use of acoustic guitar and Mellotron.

For a final time, the mood shifts once again to the previous heavy part. The fact that the song almost ends on a triumphant note is very interesting as it tricks the listener into thinking that there is perhaps salvation for the character at the end of the song.

The title “The Baying of the Hounds” is taken from a lyric in the song “Diana” by Brittish Progressive/Psychedelic Folk band Comus.

Beneath the Mire

“Beneath the Mire” begins with a cool drum fill from Lopez which segues into a Mellotron- and guitar driven part. The guitars in this part play a rhythm that is somewhat reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. The melody played on Mellotron sounds like what I imagine would be played during a ballroom party hosted by ghouls. It’s so weird, dark and quirky that I can’t help but love it. It’s actually quite similar in feeling to a part in the Opeth song “The Lotus Eater” from Watershed.

This part is followed by a guitar-driven part which sounds incredibly epic. The Mellotron- driven part comes back again, and Lopez plays around with the rhythm more than in the first iteration.

A very dark riff and an unusual growled vocal melody from Åkerfeldt then enter. This is followed by a part with clean vocals. As far as I know, Lindgren plays the guitar solo that follows.

A clean electric guitar melody played over piano chords then comes in. Wiberg’s piano and Åkerfeldt’s lead guitar end on a major chord. Lopez then plays a short but calm drum fill which serves as the beginning of my favourite part of the song. The highlight of this calm section is a unison solo by Åkerfeldt and Wiberg on guitar and synth respectively. The solo is incredibly cool and unusual, and it took a while for me to realize that Wiberg also doubled the solo on synth. According to Åkerfeldt, this part was inspired by the Brittish Progressive Rock band Camel, specifically their album Moonmadness (1976).

Anyone who has heard King Crimson’s song “Circus” can probably tell that the next part of the song sounds like it was inspired by an acoustic guitar picking-pattern in said song. This short acoustic interlude bridges the unison solo part with the heavy part that follows this part.

In this new heavy part of the song, Åkerfeldt sings a melody that sounds like it’s derived from the diminished scale.

After the line “In his shadow I am choking, yet flourishing. Master!” the song becomes heavier still as he growls the remainder of the lyrics. Lindgren plays the final guitar solo in the song. Towards the end of his solo, Lopez starts playing a cyclical drum loop along with a downwards cascading riff. Eventually Wiberg’s electric piano comes in. I love the sound of this piano and it fits the mood of the song so incredibly well. It has an “underwater” sound to it, and this whole outro section feels like it takes place beneath a mire. The outro section is another highlight of the song for me as I love the atmosphere provided within it. “Beneath the Mire” also segues very neatly into the next song.

Atonement

“Atonement” serves as a peaceful reprieve from the first 3 (predominantly) intense songs. The drum part was purposefully “stolen” from The Beatles‘ “Tomorrow Never Knows” from Revolver (1966). The main groove of “Atonement” sounds like it’s straight out of the psychedelic mid- to late 1960’s, and I love it.

In my opinion, I think that “Atonement”, “Reverie/Harlequin Forest” and “Hours of Wealth” is the strongest consecutive string of songs on the album. I really like the first three songs, but these other three songs just fit so well together. As stated before, “Beneath the Mire” also transitions very smoothly to “Atonement”.

“Atonement” starts with a droning A-note played on a keyboard. Just like “Tomorrow Never Knows”, the drums and bass are cyclical. The guitar part is based on the Mixolydian mode, just like The Beatles’ song.

Wiberg’s Mellotron eventually enters in the second round of the intro groove, doubling the lead guitar melody. Right before the main groove of the song is about to give way to the verse, a Vox Continental organ (commonly associated with The Doors) enters and plays a descending Mixolydian melody. The Vox organ adds a lot of warmth to the song. This intro (and indeed the whole song) gives me summer vibes. There’s just something about a droning and calming psychedelic song that puts me in a summer state-of-mind.

All instruments then die out, except for the droning keyboard. Lopez then starts playing a groove on hand percussion. Åkerfeldt’s vocals enter, and they are very subdued. His melody sounds like it’s based on the diminished scale and there’s a keyboard that doubles his melody. This melody is haunting and dark and fits the mood of the album perfectly.

There’s a short interlude between the verse and the main groove of the song which features acoustic guitar, Mellotron, hand percussion and vocals. The vocal melody in this part soars and is really beautiful.

This part leads into the main groove of the song which is structurally similar to the first time it was played.

Once again, the verse follows, which in turn is followed by the short interlude with acoustic guitar, Mellotron, percussion and vocals.

The main groove comes back one last time and continues playing longer than before. Wiberg adds some marvelous Mellotron, Vox organ and piano textures here. Listening to what he plays, I feel like he really understands psychedelic rock and how to use the Mixolydian mode to its greatest potential. There are instances where a backwards piano chord can be heard (a trick used by The Beatles for instance). Wiberg also sneaks in some bluesy chords on the piano towards the end. This is definitely one of my favourite moments on the album.

The Spotify version of “Atonement” incorrectly features the instrumental interlude “Reverie” which in fact should be part of the “Harlequin Forest” song. For that reason, I’ll talk about “Reverie” in the next song “Reverie/Harlequin Forest”.

Reverie/Harlequin Forest

The short interlude “Reverie” is another one of my favourite moments on the album. On Spotify, it starts at around 5:24 on the song “Atonement”. This 1 minute long interlude is a fantastic way of bridging the hopeful and tranquil psychedelia of “Atonement” with the incredibly moody, atmospheric and dark Magnum Opus that is “Harlequin Forest”. I don’t know how Åkerfeldt did it, but he somehow managed to write music that sounds like a dark and haunted forest with “Reverie”.

“Reverie” is as mentioned an instrumental interlude that only features rhythm guitar, bass, a keyboard and a lead guitar. Even though the same musical idea is repeated throughout the interlude, there’s something so captivating about the chord progression and melodies from the guitar and keyboard that it never gets boring. What makes “Reverie” better is that Mendez plays a steady bass line, but adds variations to it, like sometimes playing a higher note than the previous time.

“Harlequin Forest” is a song I wish I had written. It speaks to me on so many different levels; lyrical content, instrumentation, the flow and the many brilliant musical moments.

It starts with a great riff that once again somehow manages to conjure imagery of dark haunted woods. The vocal melody is also great in this part. The riff is then played without vocals once and features a lead guitar melody that’s dark and melodic. Just like in “Ghost of Perdition”, the tone of the lead guitar is amazing.

Åkerfeldt’s vocals enter again over a new albeit not too different musical idea. The riff from the intro comes back again and is then followed by the related musical idea from before.

A cascading riff and Lopez’ double bass drum action pulls us into a new part which is also announced by Åkerfeldt’s deep growl. The band plays a Uriah Heep-like riff (complete with distorted Hammond organ) while Åkerfeldt delivers the vocal melody with growls. This part is played again and segues seamlessly into my absolute favourite part of the song (it could also be my favourite part of the entire album, and that’s saying something!).

This favourite part of mine starts around 3:28 and last until 7:19. (4 minutes and 10 seconds of pure bliss). Around 3:28, an incredible acoustic guitar pattern with a slight Latin vibe to it plays as Lopez does some amazing and subtle work on his various cymbals. Mendez switches up his bass part in each iteration of acoustic guitar pattern, adding a different feel to each cycle of it.

Suddenly everything goes quiet and a single electric guitar comes in and alternates between two chords. Åkerfeldt’s clean and soothing vocals enter. You can really hear what a nice voice he has in this passage.

His vocal melody goes down in pitch as a new picked acoustic guitar melody enters. This picking pattern alternates between two chords and Wiberg also comes in on a spooky sounding electric piano. This part is really beautiful and  sounds haunted in a sorrowful way.

A new picked acoustic guitar pattern enters alongside Lopez’ steady mid-tempo drum beat that reminds me of John Bonham’s drums in the Led Zeppelin song “No Quarter”. Åkerfeldt’s vocals come in again with a great melody as he sings about trees (!). I absolutely love this. The “No Quarter” connection gets stronger as Wiberg plays an electric piano part that is reminiscent of John Paul Jones’ playing and sound on said song.

The interplay between the acoustic guitar pattern, the keyboards, the vocal melody and the drums is just phenomenal. There aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to express my love of this part. As if I wasn’t already in heaven, Åkerfeldt and Lindgren then play a God-like harmonized guitar melody starting at around 5:59. Lopez and Mendez play their rhythm instruments with an understated groove and the strummed acoustic guitar in the background adds so much beauty. This is the definitive soundtrack for a walk in autumnal woods (yes, even more so than “Forest of October” from Orchid!).

At around 7:19 a distorted Hammond organ and Åkerfeldt’s clean vocals enter and break off the heavenly music, but I don’t mind, because this part is also so good! After a few instrumental bars, a new riff enters as does a growl. This new heavy riff is played a few times with heavy guitars. The same riff is then played for a few bars with a very processed clean electric guitar.

A heavy, melodic and dark guitar riff then enters with a great vocal melody over it which Åkerfeldt growls. I love his delivery of the lyrics. The growls sound fantastic and he plays with the dynamics in his voice, especially in the line “Useless blackened remains! Still pyre smoldering”.

This sees the entrance of the outro which is heavy and rich in atmosphere. A jagged and syncopated riff is repeated, and Lopez follows the rhythm. There is also an eerie lead guitar playing a slow and dark atmospheric melody. At the end, all that’s left is the riff, the matching drums and what sounds like a piano note being played backwards getting progressively louder until the music suddenly stops.

Hours of Wealth

I feel like “Hours of Wealth” is the song that people overlook on this album. This is the type of song you could play to anyone and they would probably find something they like about it.

It starts with a clean electric guitar playing a tender melody. The same melody is played once again and towards the end a Mellotron adds harmonies.

A new guitar melody then enters as does a Wurlitzer electric piano. This new melody fades away as the sound of a distant Mellotron slowly fades in. An acoustic guitar playing a beautiful 2-chord progression enters as does Mendez’ bass. The Mellotron gets louder but never overbearing. This part is absolutely beautiful and sounds like something from a film score.

The Mellotron adds movement to the progression by moving between notes but still sticking to the chords in the progression. Eventually the guitar-picking melody modulates up for a while. It then modulates back down again and Wiberg adds arpeggiated chords on an acoustic piano.

This part then suddenly ends, and a chord played on the Wurlitzer enters at the same time as Åkerfeldt’s clean vocals. The chords and melody in this part features line clichés more prominently than “Ghost of Perdition”. There is also a Soul aspect to this song. In the second verse, Åkerfeldt adds some gorgeous vocal harmonies on the line “But I’m alone, and far from home”.

After the last vocals, a soulful, slow and emotional guitar solo enters over the soul-influenced Wurlitzer-driven chord progression. A Mellotron flute comes in quietly in the background during the solo. In one instance of the solo there is some Wes Montgomery-style octave-based playing.

This song is gorgeous and deserves more attention.

The Grand Conjuration

“The Grand Conjuration” is perhaps the heaviest song on the album, and definitely tied for the most evil- sounding song along with “Ghost of Perdition”.

It starts with an evil riff and a Mellotron later enters and doubles the riff melody, adding more malice to the sound. A distorted Hammond organ eventually also enters. The song slows down and Åkerfeldt sings the verse melody in a subdued voice. Later on in the verse, an acoustic guitar can be heard in the background playing a fast picked melody.

The chorus is very heavy and features Åkerfeldt’s growled vocals. The Hammond organ adds a lot to the “evil” feeling of it.

A second verse follows the chorus.

The second chorus is much the same as the first chorus, except that it’s twice as long and features a Mellotron playing a counter melody to Åkerfeldt’s vocals.

A fast guitar solo then enters after the chorus. A sinister variation on the intro riff is then played, which then gives way to a dissonant- sounding vocals melody. Lopez’ drumming in this part is heavy and relentless.

All of a sudden the whole band stops playing and Wiberg plays the dissonant melody on a keyboard that has a similar sound to the one used during my favourite part in “Harlequin Forest”.

A long scream introduces a new fast section with great drumming from Lopez and some eerie Mellotron by Wiberg. Åkerfeldt then growls the title of the song over this music.

The main riff of the song comes back, and it hits so hard. There is also what sounds like a synth adding a high melody over the riff. A fourth verse then comes. It’s followed by the main riff played slower and with unintelligible whispers in the background. Eventually the band plays the riff in the original speed, and the drums and heavy guitars come in. The song ends with the riff being played one more time and having the last chord ring out. Lopez adds some tribal hand percussion as the final chord fades away, giving the song an even stronger feeling of being a pagan ritual.

This may upset some hardcore Opeth fans, but “The Grand Conjuration” has always been my least favourite track from Ghost Reveries. I think the song does an awesome job of conveying a summoning ritual (or grand conjuration, if you will), but there are just so many other great songs on this album. Basically the competition is too strong. I also find that the majority of the other songs feature a lot more variety within them. They always keep the song interesting. “The Grand Conjuration” does this as well, but not to the same extent as “Ghost of Perdition”, “Harlequin Forest” or “The Baying of the Hounds” for instance.

Having said that, I really like this song a lot and it fits the album perfectly.

Isolation Years

“Isolation Years” is the shortest song on the album, being just under 4 minutes. It’s also the most heartfelt and sad song on the album. The lyrics describe a man discovering the suicide note of a woman.

The song starts with a beautiful clean electric guitar playing a picking pattern in 5/4. Åkerfeldt’s vocals in the verse are tender and the music switches to 6/4. In the chorus, Wiberg’s Mellotron and two harmonizing guitars are added to the instrumentation. The chorus is breathtakingly beautiful.

After the chorus, the song slows down again and the 5/4 picking pattern comes back. This is followed by the second verse, which again is in 6/4. The second chorus is similar to the first chorus. The song ends on the 5/4 intro part fading out.

This song ends the album on a somber yet beautiful note.

This is probably the most accessible song on the album. “Isolation Years” would be a good song to introduce someone to the softer side of Opeth or to someone who isn’t into growls or Metal but can appreciate Åkerfeldt’s songwriting.

Production

I think the production on this album is great. All of the instruments sound great.

It may be a controversial/un-popular opinion, but I prefer the production on Ghost Reveries over the Steven Wilson-produced Blackwater ParkDeliverance and Damnation. I think one of the reasons for this might be that the drums just sound more natural on Ghost Reveries compared to the Wilson-trilogy. There are also fewer “production gimmicks” on Ghost Reveries compared to the Wilson-trilogy. Wilson introduced a lot of new ideas to Åkerfeldt that he seemed to like for those three albums. Some of those “gimmicks” are featured on Ghost Reveries, but to a much lesser extent, like the “telephone effect” on vocals.

Final thoughts

As I stated earlier on, I’ve never been a “Metal head”. I do enjoy a lot of different Metal music, but that’s only been the case since 2016. That was the year when I started to want to discover what Metal as a genre had to offer. As the historian that I am, I started with what is usually considered the very first Metal album released: Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut from 1970.

Later on that year, a friend of mine wanted to introduce me to Opeth (who I had never heard of then). I was open-minded to listening to new things so I let him introduce me to their music. The song he picked was “Heir Apparent” from Watershed (one of Opeth’s heaviest and most brutal and unrelenting songs). Imagine my reaction when I heard the beginning and when the vocals first entered. At the time, that was simply too much for me as I wasn’t a fan of double-bass drums and growled vocals. Fast forward three years and I finally give Watershed a proper listen. It turned out to be one of my favourite music discoveries that year.

I feel like the Ghost Reveries line-up was truly special. Åkerfeldt and Lindgren had been in the band since the debut album Orchid (1995) and were great together on guitar. Lopez entered the band for My Arms, Your Hearse (1998) and Mendez was brought on-board for Still Life (1999) as he and Lopez knew each other from before. The Mendez-Lopez rhythm section is probably my favourite one in Opeth’s history. I feel like they really gelled together, probably because they were friends since before they joined the band. Lopez just seemed to have an incredible feel for drums and the dynamics with which he could play with.

The addition of Per Wiberg on keyboards made the line-up perfect in my opinion.

Unfortunately, Lopez left the band after Ghost Reveries due to stress and illness while Lindgren left after the tour for the album. Lindgren is however featured on the excellent live album The Roundhouse Tapes (2007). Current drummer Martin Axenrot is a worthy successor to Lopez. Lindgren’s replacement Fredrik Åkesson is a world-class guitarist who can play just about everything.

Ghost Reveries is a definite career high-water mark for the band and is one of my favourite albums of theirs.

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