No question about it, the musical metamorphosis from "Watershed" (2008) to "Heritage" (2011) has cost Opeth a lot of fans who didn't want to follow Mikael Åkerfeldt's personal preferences like psychedelic, krautrock and obscure progressive material anymore. For this Åkerfeldt was acclaimed at last year's "Night Of The Prog". All the more the announcement let listen up, the band strives now for a sound like Dio on his first albums. Some people even imagined a return to earlier Death Metal songwriting behind this announcement. But far from it: the Swedish quick-change artists also continue their search for traces in the sixties and seventies on studio statement number eleven, but again take an even more progressive, harder, but at the same time more melodic and motivically ordered path. The psychedelic jazz influences still cultivated on "Heritage" take a back seat on "Pale Communion", and Åkerfeldt (unbelievable vocal performance!) was able to realize his vision of an emphatically organic, powerful hard prog sound. In return, Opeth entrenched themselves in the rural idyll of the legendary Rockfield Studios in Wales. Once again Åkerfeldt's brother in spirit, Steven Wilson, provided the congenial mix. All eight songs are captivating compositions overflowing with emotions, especially the multi-layered elfminüter "Moon Above, Sun Below". Opeth have once again skinned themselves, producing fresh facets on the assembly line, such as the Seventies-Poprock elements in "River" (Attention: the real fireworks of ideas are only ignited at the back). The exciting instrumental "Goblin" conjures up odd Italo Prog or Giallo vibes (matching the title), while "Elysian Woes" (which would have had its justification in this form on "Damnation" as well) emphatically proves that the acoustic sounds of Opeth are now absolutely equal. For the first time Åkerfeldt uses real strings on an album in "Voice Of Treason". And also the sad as death, extremely moving conclusion "Faith In Others" relies entirely on orchestra bombshell, for which Dave Stewart is responsible. Prog nostalgics will pay attention here, since Stewart was a member of Canterbury legends such as Egg or Hatfield And The North in the early seventies. "Pale Communion" in its entirety is an album of the master class, a highly exciting trip in any case and certainly a contender for the title "album of the year".
Top track: Moon Above, Sun Below