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As A Metal Fan, It Left Me A Bit Flat
on April 29, 2004
I've always been a bit curious about Opeth, what with all the media hubub and critical ecstasies that seem to arise every time Mikael Akerfeldt lifts his little finger. After seeing their "Windowpane" video on TV (which is an excellent song and is performed live on "Lamentations"), I was curious enough to give this DVD a shot.
Perhaps it would help if I were a bit more familiar with Opeth's material beforehand, but after viewing the DVD in its entirety I have to say that it leaves me a bit unimpressed. To be sure, the "musicianship" -- that is, the technical side of playing music, moving one's fingers quickly and whatnot -- is amazing here, and if that's what floats your boat then you'll feel plenty buoyant watching "Lamentations." The performance of the entire band is practically flawless -- unbelievably tight rhythms, spot-on guitar harmonies, soaring solos galore, and Akerfeldt's classy (and rather impressive) vocal range (from touching lilt to full-on death metal roar in less than 6.66 seconds guaranteed!) are all on display here. To that extent, if you're already a fan of Opeth -- and this goes double if you're into their more "mellow" side -- you'll probably enjoy this DVD as a clean, no-frills document of your favorite prog-death chameleons at the top of their game.
However, I must protest that there is definitely something missing here. As is unfortunately the case with many "virtuoso-centric" groups (by that I mean bands who tend to focus more on music as music -- guitarists like Vai & Malmsteen, "prog" groups like Dream Theater, your average jam-band, etc.), the compositions tend to be exceptionally complex and drawn-out, but they lack that certain substantive (emotional) quality necessary to qualify as truly "epic." So the riffs are serpentine, the drums are acrobatic, and the vocals are perfect, but none of it is particularly memorable. Remember how 1980s Metallica or Iron Maiden could write an eight-minute song with 500 riffs and after hearing it a couple of times you would find yourself involuntarily humming every single part, Beavis-and-Butthead-style? That's the memorability aspect that I find lacking here. ("Windowpane" and "The Drapery Falls" being notable exceptions.)
This ties in to my major criticism of this DVD and Opeth themselves, insofar as I have experienced them: this stuff is way too clean and nowhere nearly aggressive enough to satisfy my tastes. Even at their "heaviest" moments (and I use that term loosely here), Opeth just don't seem to generate the sort of energy and presence that the greater death/black/doom/thrash metal bands deal so excellently in. To put it succinctly: you can headbang (slowly) to Opeth, but you won't grind your teeth at the same time. To put it even more succinctly: NOT ENOUGH CHAOS!
So I have found recent DVD releases such as Slayer's "War at the Warfield", Converge's "The Long Road Home," and (especially) Lightning Bolt's excellent "The Power of Salad" to be a great deal more entertaining, energetic, and enjoyable than "Lamentations," although none of the above bands come close to Opeth's level of professionalism...
Which is probably the point. If professional, sensitive, and somewhat antiseptic musicianship-on-display is what you're looking for, then "Lamentations" might be for you. But if, like me, you want aneurysm-inducing screams, breakneck tempos, and pitched battles in the moshpits in your metal DVD experience, this is probably a pass. 5 stars for the musicianship and 1 star for the intensity gives me an overall rating of 3 stars. (But add one if you're already a big Opeth fan.)