on May 2, 2003
Opeth: one of the most acclaimed bands in progressive metal, because of (despite?) their shifts between heavenly atmospheres and brutal heaviness and death growls -- a band that has won over metal fans, progressive metal fans & metal prog fans, and critics alike -- a band that continues to prevail over expectations and mature in various respects.
And so we turn the page to another chapter in the Opethian saga, _Damnation_. If Opeth has any doubters remaining, this album will reverse their opinion or at least dice their credibility. As almost everyone knows by now, _Damnation_ is the "mellow" counterpart to _Deliverance_, which was their heaviest album to date. Its songs therefore converge entirely in the softer side of Opeth's sound. However, I would like to emphasize that this is _not_ a collection of typical mellow Opeth songs, which most people were seemingly expecting. You should not assume this is an album of songs like "Credence" and "Harvest" -- _Damnation_ establishes a different sound but maintains their identity. This is still unmistakably Opeth, from the atmosphere to the production (Steven Wilson is a genius) to the pristine excellence that is Mikael Akerfeldt's voice.
Even though it is the shortest Opeth album (eight songs, 43 minutes), it is probably my favorite. My reaction actually surprises me, since my allure to Opeth is largely their dynamic of light and shade. The symbiosis of those roaring black slabs of surreally powerful metal fluidly merged with the warm embrace of their placid, elegiac side is no small part of what makes them so powerful. But despite leaning entirely to one end of the Opeth spectrum, _Damnation_ is just....perfect -- unspeakably well-crafted -- preternaturally beautiful -- enthrallingly poetic.
Of course, it _is_ a "mellow" album. There is no metal, no growling, not even any parts that would be considered heavy by anyone but Grandma. Even though most people associate "mellow Opeth" with "acoustic guitar Opeth", _Damnation_ is primarily an electric guitar album (with Steven Wilson's enchanting mellotrons and pianos appearing at times). The difference, obviously, is that the soul-withering crunch of _Deliverance_ is replaced with a distortion soft as falling leaves and chilling as a late summer rain. Akerfeldt's acoustic guitars still convey that sylvan atmosphere, but they usually supplement the electric guitars rather than replace them. Arrangements can be gorgeously transparent and light, sometimes little more than cellophane pulled over vocals. "Weakness" is a prime example of this crystalline sound in viscous minimalism.
"Mellow" it may be, but the music does not lack ntensity. "Death Whispered a Lullaby" has a tortured, silvery solo that sounds like a mix between Tool and old Norwegian black metal. "Closure" is in my opinion one of the heaviest sounding Opeth songs yet, even though it is far from metal. It is heavy because of the plodding, extreme density of whole arrangement. Even the first stanza, just acoustic guitar and voice, is nerve-racking on its own. The middle and closing instrumental sections involve a frightening, devilishly soundscape. The guitar figure remains mostly the same but galloping drums, crunchy bass, and pallid distortion build and shift according to some twisted orchestration. Since this is one of the heaviest Opeth songs, the transition into the gorgeous "Hope Leaves" is all the more effective. This is probably the most beautiful Opeth song to date. A languished, frightened Akerfeldt sings over a simple funereal chord. It hits with an added sadness when you think the line "And I know you will never return to this place" is directed to "hope."
"Windowpane" is one of the longer songs and phenomenally gorgeous. Spirit-melting guitar solo, complex yet beautiful chord harmonies -- with some measures more beautiful than any the finest Sigur Ros soundscape or the most enchanting King Crimson. Haunting lyrics and lush vocal harmonies a la Porcupine Tree. "Ending Credits" is an instrumental that sounds like the continuation of "Epilogue", from _My Arms, Your Hearse_. A harrowing melody possibly influenced by Eastern European folk, supplemented by keys from the shadows, with mellotron here instead of Hammond organ.
This is their third album produced by Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson. Wilson's talents as a musician are also used for in the ghostly keyboards throughout the album -- no synthesizers, however. They are organic, warm instruments: mellotron, grand piano, and Fender Rhodes. "In My Time of Need" is like dreamy symphonic rock due to its mellotron and slow harmonic rhythm. Wilson also wrote lyrics to one of the songs here, "Death Whispered a Lullaby". Wilson may as well be a member of Opeth, because I believe he has become essential to their music (those background vocals!). The Wilson/Porcupine Tree influences in Opeth's music have a lot to do with *sound* (the guitar tones, vocal harmonies, and vocal recording especially), but Akerfeldt himself is also adopting some of Wilson's singing characteristics. Otherwise, I'd say the influences -- like Camel and other Akerfeldt favorites -- and ideas are too well-assembled with ingenuity to reduce _Damnation_ to a mere homage. In the end, it can only be defined as Opeth.
The rhythm section shines like never before on _Damnation_. They have always an impressive rhythmic mainstay in this quartet (especially on _Deliverance_), but here they are given more breathing room and eloquently add to the music in more ways. The bass of (severely) underrated Martin Mendez remains deep and heavy despite the music's overall lighter tone, but he beautifully engages the low-end to beautifully enhance the sound rather than encumber or merely follow it. Martin Lopez understands the needs of the music perfectly, and his hammering death metal drumming is stripped down to something that enhances the music in a more subtly articulate way.
This masterpiece leaves me quivering like a post-coital concubine. This is ranked highly among my most beautiful music ever, but it is a unique beauty -- a silent lacuna between rock and metal -- the eye of the storm -- complex and haunting and unforgettable. Whether you are an Opeth fan or not, you MUST check this out. It is a special treasure. If it doesn't resonate immediately, continue exploring (it didn't do much for me on the first several spins). Like all of Opeth's albums, _Damnation_ reveals many secrets as its complexities unfold. I think _Damnation_ is probably the vastest of all their experiments, which is an exemplary feat. Opeth is a mythic band worlds beyond metal. Together with _Deliverance_, _Damnation_ reveals Opeth's finest work to date.
Note: The limited edition digipak is WAY nicer than the jewel case.
on April 22, 2003
After six albums of establishing connections between the seemingly contradictory genres of extreme metal, folk, and progressive rock, Opeth have finally decided to devote an entire album to exploring their classic folk/prog influences with "Damnation." As such, this isn't a metal album, but Opeth's creativity and top-notch musicianship are still in evidence. Anyone who's heard "A Fair Judgement" from the band's last album "Deliverance" knows just how good Opeth is at weaving together intricate fabrics of music and vocals to create something captivating. Haunting atmospheres and painstaking arrangements pervade the eight tracks here, ensuring that any open-minded Opeth fan will be more than satisfied. Even though they're largely acoustic, and the vocals are all sung cleanly, the songs on "Damnation" contain every bit as much power and emotion as those on any previous Opeth album. While some songs build to massive crescendos ("In My Time Of Need" is a prominent example), mellowness is still the order of the day. Mikael Akerfeldt's entrancing singing voice is ideal for inducing hypnotism, and his and Peter Lindgren's guitar interplay is stunning in its eloquence. Anybody who doubts these guys' ability to pick with the best of them needs to hear this album. Drummer Martin Lopez is, as always, a monster on the kit; it's the complexity of his work, more than anything else, that keeps "Damnation" from being just another light-rock album. With most Opeth albums I make an effort to comment on specific songs, but on "Damnation" the beginnings and ends of the tracks seem rather arbitrary. Each one bleeds into the other, creating an "album" in the truest sense of the word. This samey feeling is both a blessing and a curse: those expecting the sudden, dramatic shifts of Opeth's previous work will be sorely disappointed, but if you want to settle into one listening mode and stay there "Damnation" is an excellent choice. I happen to prefer the heavier approach of such albums as "Still Life" and "Deliverance," but "Damnation" is still more than worth adding to your collection.
on May 13, 2003
I got this album on the day of its release here in the USA (which was April 22nd I think) and not a day has passed that I haven't listened to it. I wrote a review for it after my first listening, But I don't think it was posted because I used a *gasp!* bad word, and if it was posted well then here's another review from me. Anyway, it's impossible for me to say "favorite album," when it comes to Opeth, but Damnation is really something special, even for this band. Opeth truly is the best rock band, that is actively making music, on the planet today. In the past Opeth has weaved acoustic interludes throughout their raging extreme metal infernos, and in my opinion those mellow passages are the best part of Opeth's 15+ minute epics. That's not to say that I don't like the heavy parts too, I love them. The sonic brutality that only Opeth can deliver is staggering. But now I have a whole album devoted to mellow songs, and the masterpieces on Damnation are so eerily melodic and haunting, that just hearing them in my head sends shivers down my spine. Opeth is so much more mature than many of the bands they tour with, with the exception of Lacuna Coil and Porcupine Tree. I've seen them live twice and both times they sounded like the voice of God! Unfortunatly they didn't play any songs off of Damnation, but I'm sure they will be amazing live. This band is so far ahead of everyone else that it's staggering. They don't indulge in all the corpse painted, satanic BS so many bands conform to these days.They're all about the music, not their image/hype, and Damnation is no exception. This album reminds me of the folk-rock bands of the late 60's and 70's. Bands like Forest and Spirit, both being excellent bands. Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree produced this album (and also performed in some pieces) along with Opeth, and they have done a phenomenal job together. Steven Wilson has become a big part of Opeth's albums in the last few years (I think he's been their producer since Blackwater Park) and their alliance works very well. Mikael's voice is so beautiful and moving, and when you hear it over Wilson's fantastic mellotron work it's spectacular. The guitars have excellent timbre, and the melodies are brilliant. Mendez's bass work really stands out on this one. He's done an amazing job on all the other albums, but this time you can really hear his genious. Lopez's drumming is truley awe-inspiring. It's very fast and energetic, but still fits in perfectly with the mellow vibe set by the rest of the band. Everyone shows mastery over their instrument, and all turned in a truley wonderful performance. I'm not going to talk about the songs on Damnation. They're all great. All strange, eerie, beautiful, surprising Opeth phrasing. Bottom line is, this is a must have. If you're new to Opeth, or a die hard fan (like me) I'd highly recommend this album. You won't regret getting it. Get all the Opeth albums because they're all breathtaking.
on August 21, 2003
Let me start by saying that I am not particularly a big fan of "Death" metal. I prefer heavy music with SINGING, as opposed to the growling that bands like Opeth are known for. BUT, I heard about Opeth in a chat room, and decided to sample a few songs from "Damnation". After hearing "Death Whispered A Lullaby", "Closure" and "Weakness", I knew I HAD to have this album. Now I've listened to the whole thing several times, and I have to say that this is one of the most intriguing, hauntingly beautiful albums I have ever heard. This band's unbelievably incredible musicianship shines through in every single song. It's obvious that these guys take their craft VERY seriously, and work very hard to be the top-shelf musicians that they are. Tbe next time someone tries to tell me that metal peformers aren't good musicians, I'll pull out this album and prove them very wrong! A MUST HAVE for true music fans.
on June 27, 2003
I've heard 'Damnation' being called folk metal, progressive rock, psychaedelic rock a la the 70's, and a few other labels that don't do Opeth's latest release a bit of justice. The first word that comes to mind when listening to Damnation is 'beautiful'. If sound is nothing more than the arrangement of sound waves into patterns that create harmonies which are pleasing to the ear, then Opeth has succeeded in mastering the art of creating beautiful sounds. A complete break from Opeth's previous releases, Damnation features little distorted guitar and no growling death metal vocals. The vocals always carry a harmony that is well thought out and fits perfectly with the guitar work. No instrument dominates the recording and the atmosphere created by the haunting subtlety of each song's melody combined with the gloomy art work and title of 'damnantion' makes this cd a near-perfect listening experience. Damnantion was recorded at the same session as Deliverance, but I feel that Damnantion is the true jewel that arose from the recording session. The theme of the cd seems to be loss, as in the loss of a loved one, but the theme of death never seems to leave the picture with Opeth as is seen in many of their previous releases. The only part of the cd that I will dare to criticize is the drum sound. The actual performance on the drums is excellent and demonstrates Opeth's drummer's ability to switch between blazingly fast metal drumming to calm percussion that sits in the background of the music. However, the drum sound leaves something to be desired. The toms do not have the sort of sound I enjoy and nor does the snare. drums are not only a beat keeping insturment, but also an insturment that produces a tone through resonance of the drum skins, and the drum tone on Damnantion sounds more like pieces of plastic than anyhting else. I was able to move past this 'problem' and it bothers me no longer. If anyhting, I was simply searching for some flaw in this cd which seems about a perfect as one can imagine. If you are expecting fast, thrashy metal with hints of folk-like melody that can be heard in Opeth's previous releases, do not be disappointed when you hear no such genre of music. Damnation might be calssified as acoustic rock/metal/progressive/whatever you want to call it, but I think that the only worthy way to classify 'Damnantion' is by using the word 'beautiful'.
on July 20, 2003
The best non-death metal CD I've ever heard comes from the best death metal band I've ever listened to; Opeth. The disc contains eight wonderful tracks, all of which are hauntingly beautiful. Akerfeldt is great on vocals, and you wouldn't believe this was the same guy growling on Morningrise if someone had played both CDs for you for the first time without informing you.
All of the songs are great, but I love "Windowpane," "Closure," and "To Rid The Disease."
I saw Opeth play at Irving Plaza on July 17th with Porcupine Tree. This was the greatest concert I've ever been to. As it was their Damnation tour, they played only mellow stuff. They flawlessly played pretty much all of Damnation and did a wonderful job of older songs, "To Bid You Farewell," "Benighted," and "The Face of Melinda."
You may also like Porcupine Tree's "In Absentia" which Steven Wilson (Opeth's producer, who wrote the lyrics for "Death Whispered a Lullabye") and company were touring along with Opeth to support.
Damnation is a great CD and everyone should be forced to listen to it.
on April 25, 2003
The beauty of Opeth lies in the band's ability to conquer many different styles of music. This album, while it lacks the variety of their older releases, maintains a constant flow of mellow songs that prove to listeners that Opeth can master these as well as they can master the heavier material. The first track, "Windowpane," is the best (in my humble opinion) and is one of my favorite Opeth songs to date. "To Rid The Disease" is another good song. In all honesty, they're all good songs, but those two stand out to me. If you're looking for anything heavy, then this is not the album for you, as the vocals are all clean and the heaviest parts are about as heavy as what you'd find on a Genesis album. But if you need a nice long break from the maelstrom of metal, then this album is definitely for you. Nothing extreme, but nevertheless, Damnation is pure musical mastery.
on February 12, 2004
I had first heard Opeth last year through a friend's copy of Blackwater Park. While I could appreciate their ample musical talents and skill at blending soft acoustic passages with potent death metal, I couldn't get into them. Mikael Akerfeldt's growling ruined it for me, turning some incredible music into what I though at the time was over the top and abrasive (that opinion has since changed).
However, when I heard that the band was coming out with an all-soft album (on the heels of their heaviest album yet, no less), I was definitely interested. I bought Damnation not long after it made it to the 'States. The verdict? Well, this is definitely a satisfying, moving, and beautiful album--however, Damnation will disappoint some Opeth fans due to the absence of the dynamics that were shown on the band's other albums. While that's not an entirely unfair criticism, this was never supposed to be just another Opeth release. It's an experiment, and overall I think it paid off. Of course the one-dimensional metalheads will dismiss this album as wimpy, but that's their loss. Opeth was never strictly about death metal anyway. Opeth is Opeth.
If you are considering Damnation and think it's going to be an album of full acoustic ballads like Harvest (from Blackwater Park), you'd be wrong. Damnation is soft, yes, but it features clean electric lead guitar lines by Peter Lindgren and the occassional metal-informed parts--listen to the solos between verses in Death Whispered A Lullaby and at the end of Closure. While I wouldn't call it straight-up metal, the sound occassionally edges closer to it than you might think. Still, there are no growls, blastbeats, or loudly distorted guitars and the overall sound is a lot closer to Nick Drake than it is to your typical Gothenburg death metal.
Also present are jazz and progressive rock elements; the former in Martin Lopez's drumming (which is complex but never overwhelming) and the latter in Steven Wilson's mellotrons. Wilson also produces the album (this is his third album with Opeth) and provides backing vocals on Windowpane.
As for the music itself, Damnation is full of beautiful electric/acoustic guitar harmonies, wonderful clean singing by Akerfeldt, hauntingly sad and wistful lyrics, and crystal-clear production (you can even hear the bass, yay!). The 7-minute opener Windowpane is the best song here, offering up pretty mellotrons and chiming guitars. In My Time Of Need features a transcendent chorus, while Closure builds to a deliciously ominous climax. Hope Leaves and To Rid The Disease are delicate and gorgeous, while Ending Credits is a nice little instrumental. The creepy Weakness ends the album, with Akerfeldt's overdubbed vocals over a dark backdrop. My only complaint is at a mere 43 minutes, I am left wanting more.
I give this album a four-star rating, not because of any actual faults with the music, but because this is only one side of the Opeth experience, and I'd be remiss if I didn't point that out. However, this is a good place to start with the band, since it is by far their most easily accessible offering. After buying this, I recommend purchasing Morningrise, Still Life, and Blackwater Park (in that order). If you still strongly dislike the growled vocals, Damnation will still be pleasing, though if you don't explore their other albums I feel that you're really missing out on something great.
on July 9, 2015
Wow!!!!!! What a beautiful album by an amazing death metal band!!! Opeth is obviously one of those bands that seriously needs to be listened to and recognized in the national and international spotlight! What makes this particular album great is unlike most of their other albums, Damnation does not dig deep in the guttural singing. It's void of that. However, this album is a must have because of where they took this direction. It works. It works beautifully. Yes, there are other albums that feature that great growling contrast in singing as opposed to the softer, cleaner singing. And that is awesome, too! But, Damnation shows a pure clean, deeply intense performance of an awesome band that usually features heavier and guttural singing. The message of the album though is very deep and disturbing, (in a beautifully done way), and I'll just let you buy the album to figure out what that is. Buy it. You'll love this album.
on December 29, 2014
I came across Opeth by way of Steven Wilson's solo work and Porcupine Tree. This group is very talented and I only wish I would have known about them sooner as I have now since purchased additional recordings from them. This is both edgy and dark with some beautiful melodic passages thrown in for good measure. I really have to say that all the members of this group possess a high level of skill and the vocals of Mikael Akerfeldt are a highlight as you can clearly understand him and he has a terrific voice. The guitar work from him and from Peter Lindgren is sublime. The drummer Martin Lopez and bass player Martin Mendez are totally in sync with one another and they bring it all together. This is a departure from some run of the mill groups out there as their music is thought provoking and very engaging. I known they have some more serious metal tinged recordings with the growling vocals and I have not ventured down that road as I am pushing 60 but this is some really good stuff here. I do not have friends in my peer group who get this so I will enjoy this in my own way knowing that they are the ones missing out. I heartily recommend this whether you are young or old if you appreciate quality musicianship and interesting, well written songs.