Well, here we are again at year’s end. I can’t quite believe that another year has passed and that I’m embarking upon another end of year countdown. Much has happened over the past 12 months and in many ways I’m surprised that the blog is still going. External pressures and a growing family has meant that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the time to update the blog. However, I view it very much as a labour of love and will therefore make the time somehow until it becomes apparent that the interest from readers is no longer there.
As with previous years, I will bring you my ‘Album of the Year’ in the form of a countdown from 20 to 1 over the next couple of weeks. I toyed with doing it in a less intensive manner but in the end, dismissed that idea. The reason is simply that I enjoy being able to offer mini reviews of the albums to explain my choices. The other benefit is that some of the featured bands may not receive that much exposure elsewhere and so I like to offer them their moment in the spotlight. After all, my blog is designed to talk about and expose great music.
I have given my list a lot of thought and I have wrestled with it for days. I might not have got it right and I may wish to alter my list the minute that it’s published. However, I can’t keep changing it and so I will finally commit. Without any further procrastination, here goes…
This is one of the biggest names in this year’s countdown and is sure to be a choice that divides opinion. ‘This should be higher’ will inevitably be an accusation thrown at me. But those who know me will actually be more surprised to see Opeth in this list at all.
As previous posts have explained, despite being, in theory, a band that I should love, I have never been a big fan of Opeth. Consistently, I’ve dismissed the band’s output as ok, but nothing special. Not this time though and, with album number eleven I have finally ‘got’ Opeth. The irony is not lost on me that, as I finally take an Opeth album to my heart, many long-term fans are beginning to lose heart and lose interest with the quintet.
Beginning life many years ago as an extreme metal band, it does not sit comfortably with large sections of the fan base that Opeth have decided to gradually plough more of a 70s inspired prog rock furrow.
However, whatever you think of this ‘new’direction, you cannot fault the musicianship which is once again of the very highest order. And I happen to think that ‘Pale Communion’ is a cracking album. In keeping with the 70s approach, the album feels organic, warm and extremely inviting. The melodies are sublime throughout, making this record one of the most instantly accessible in their catalogue; ‘Eternal Rains Will Come’ and ‘Faith In Others’ being great examples of what I’m talking about.
Most definitely rooted in prog rock it may be, but if you listen carefully enough, Michael Akerfeldt and co. have not entirely abandoned their metal roots as the closing segment of ‘The River’ ably demonstrates.
This album is wonderful and has achieved what I thought was impossible: a desire to go back and explore the Opeth back catalogue to see if there’s anything I’ve missed first time around.