Damnation


Opeth – Damnation
Released: April, 2003
Label: Koch Records

Tracks:
1. Windowpane
2. In my time of need
3. Death whispered a lullaby
4. Closure
5. Hope leaves
6. To rid the disease
7. Ending credits
8. Weakness

Mikael Akerfeldt (vocals, acoustic & electric guitars);
Peter Lindgren (guitar);
Martin Mendez (bass);
Martin Lopez (drums, percussion).
Additional personnel: Steven Wilson (guitar, piano, Fender Rhodes, mellotron, background vocals).
Recorded at Nacksuing Studios and Studio Fredman, Gothenberg, Sweden.

Before you proceed:
metalheads looking for some brutal death metal might wanna steer clear of this album because this one is mostly acoustic and mellow outing in its entirety that Opeth had done in parts before.
If you really appreciate good music, without any hangups about the genre-specific favourites, you can go ahead and read this post.

Alright, you made a good choice.

Before listening to this album I was not new to Opeth. Even after Deliverance that was released a year before that left me with my metal faith stronger than ever, Damnation just left me awestruck!
This was almost acoustic album with just the melodic moments that the band had done in some parts of the songs in their earlier outings.
Getting to listen to all the Opeth records in a series is not an easy task if you ask me.
As with every Opeth records, you should respect the album first and give it some time to grow on you.
If you are new to Opeth or death metal genre in general, you may start from here. You wont be disappointed.
That doesnt in no way mean that it is easy listening or something.

Why?
Because this abso-fucking-lutely melodic music that you cant categorise to any genre in particular.
First of all it is better to understand Opeth as a band before coming down on this album.
Opeth started as a straight death metal band with proper growls (no cookie monster vocal, thank you) and enough crunchy guitar riffs to leave skid marks on your sides.

If you listen to their catalogue in the chronological order, you'll be forgiven for thinking that they have released albums of contradictory genre like stright death, prog, melodic, folk metal and stuff.

Were they in a process of re-invention or is it just a way of 'prog thing'? I have no answer.
It doesnt matter since their releases have never been less than epic.
Last year there was some kind of outcry in the metal forums regarding Opeth's major label debut with Roadrunner Records. There were some words like they might 'sellout' or something.
Fear not, Opeth are not the ones to betray metal faith, something that is hard to find in the current scene with corporate whoring and what not.

Their Ghost Reveries is considered as the best release of 2005.
Somebody hold a torch to that.

Previously been called as Pink Floyd of death metal (erstwhile also referred to as Dream Theater of death metal) and many comparisons made with Porcupine Tree, Camel and all, Opeth make a big statement with Damnation album.
You simply can not compare this band with anything you might have heard before.

There is another excellent band from Poland called as Riverside if you want to explore a similar sound of Opeth as on this album.
So?
Nothing.
Thought you might be interested.

As i had mentioned earlier in this post that this album is made of mellow tracks and serious metal ass kicking, it doesnt mean it is devoid of any metal elements.
Ok one piece of info, brit proggies Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson has once again was called in to produce this album. So it is easy to find his touches.


In fact Deliverance and Damnation both the albums were recorded at the same time. But the heavier numbers were put in Deliverance and followed by Damnation the next year which had mellow side of Opeth.
There's a weird story on how these 2 albums were recorded at the same time and how Steven Wilson happened to produce this album. Steven Wilson by this time had become the '5th Beatle' for Opeth.

With this album, he's firmly seated in the place of a keyboardist becoming an integral part of the sound of the band, so might as well be considered as the full time member of Opeth from now on.

Here it goes the story behind Damnation:
Opeth were recording what was supposedly a traditional record when the equipments in their studio started breaking down one by one. Eventually every piece of hardware bit the dust!
So the Opeth camp moved to Steven Wilson's studio on some kind of deal that entire album would be recorded at his studio, one traditional record and another softer, mellow record.
Opeth as a band was not sure whether it is the worst idea in the world, they were not sure how the audience who were used brutal yet melodic sonic assault of Opeth would accept an out-and-out mellow record.
But the band respected Wilson and they agreed to put Damnation out.

Well it wasnt that easy, band was sceptical about performing material from this album on the support tour.
But perform they did, in front of hardcore metalheads!
The result?
Wanna know?
Eh?
Really? (Do I ask too many questions?)

Alright, it was mind blowing!
Simply.

Deliverance picked up where Blackwater Park had left off. Damnation is a different story altogether. It is hard to imagine it is the same band playing on this record.
Clean electric and acoustic guitars and soft, clean vocals dominate this record. Wilson's keyboard adds more vibrant colors to the bleak Opethian soundscape. Casual listeners might not even recognize this as the same band. Opeth continues to force changes to the definition of metal as we know it, as DAMNATION may as well be the quietest metal album you've ever heard before.
The album was well embraced by hardcore Opeth fans, non metal dudes were added to the list as well.
So far this is one of the albums that has always remained in my playlist, I can never get enough of this record and beauty of melancholic, heartbreak melodies on every number.

I still can not make up my mind what to write about this album. This is really difficult to put my appreciation for the songwriting, musicianship, production on this album into words. Undoubtedly the first album since Cynic's 'Focus' that has left me trying to figure out the details in the musicianship and weird time signatures.

Dont let the minimal instruments, simple sounding song structures fool you, Opeth is still in the prog territory in terms of arrangements and also one foot firmly in their classical leanings in terms of odd time signatures and stuff like that.

Alright coming to the masterpiece du jour, this record converted some of my non metal friends into listening Opeth full time.
Lets get down to bissness, shall we?

The album cover:
Looks like a continuation of truly 'Opethisms' that they had displayed on their previous album art.

Producer:
Steven Wilson! This guy doesnt require any more introduction.

Gothenburg, Sweden.
Not to be mistaken with the Gothenberg scene of In Flames, Dark Tranquility, Evergrey and all, Opeth is miles away from any of the Gothenberg touches. But something about the melodic metal scene in this place that never ceases to amaze me.

Tracks:

'Windowpane'
pain and loneliness poured into a wonderful composition.
Before I continue dissecting every song closely, let me make a point here that most of the songs on this record are about loneliness, loss and pain. Pretty much.

'In my time of need'

"I can't see the meaning of this life I'm leading
I try to forget you as you forgot me
This time there is nothing left for you to take, this is goodbye
Summer is miles and miles away
And no one would ask me to stay
And I should contemplate this change
To ease the pain
And I should step out of the rain
And turn away"

somebody tell those shrieking divas that they dont need to put a self respecting frog to an earth-shattering inferiority complex wailing about pain that this is a better song when it comes to expressing genuine feeling.
'Death whispered a lullaby'
a bit of info, Steven Wilson has handled the backing vocals on this one. It is easy to miss his singing on this one but it is there.
A well handled song without indulging in the excesses that seems to creative minds once in a while.

'Closure'
It starts off with weird sounding arrangements before long you realise that you are in Opeth territory in fact there's a sudden change in pace and arrangements. Almost at the last part of the song there is this eastern sounding section (may be swedish folk, I dont know for sure).
It is one of my favourite songs on this album. Awesome. In a crazy Opeth way.

'Ending Credits'
Mikael Akerfeldt gets down to a Santana-like instrumental on this one. Well, not exactly.
This actually sounds like the Epilogue part II.
This is a brilliant arrangement.

'To Rid the Disease'
I listen to this song every time I reach my place from work and listen to this at least once after getting up in the morning. Listen to this song and you'll know.

I have no idea how I would be able to conclude this post.
This surely was not a review or something. It is more of an appreciation piece to brilliant Swedish band called Opeth who have managed to gather major respect from metal underground and the critics alike.
Now Opeth is a big band with their major label release and hailed as a bestselling album of 2005, playing in front of a packed houses of crazed fans at all major metal festivals from Download@Donnington alongside Metallica, and verious other European gigs, series of American concerts in proper place.
Opeth is a happening band now as I write this post.

The time has come.
I was always found complaining that a band like Opeth was not getting wider audience away from European scene, while some bands become overnight sensations it took 15 years for Opeth to reach this point. Metal is experiencing a major acceptance in the mainstream, it doesnt mean the death of underground scene.

By the way many people ask me why Metallica is metal and Guns n Roses is hard Rock (Alice in Chains is metal by the way).
I'll answer this in my forthcoming posts, it is really interesting to go back and revisit the beginnings and stuff.
For now, beg, borrow, steal or kill – get a copy of Damnation. This will remain in your CD player for a longer time before well, Opeth conjures up another gem of a record.

external links:
Official site
Wiki

The last time I heard, Martin Lopez (drums) is leaving Opeth owing to health problems I guess.
His contribution to Opeth will surely be missed…

keep the good music coming. and leave comments if you care.

\m/

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