Opeth - _My Arms, Your Hearse_
(Candlelight Records, 1998)
by: Pedro Azevedo (10 out of 10)
Looking at the remarkable bleakness of the cover for the first time, I knew this album had everything it needed to be great. And it is. Once again, no band logo, not even an album title on the front cover, just a bleak picture, even moreso than those of the previous Opeth albums. (Candlelight(?) did place an ugly sticker on the outside, though.) What's next, then? The lyrics. Awesome. Displayed as a single block of text upon the booklet's center pages, Mikael Akerfeldt has offered us a story, rather than a set of separate song lyrics, and it is indeed appropriate for the music and the album title. (All song titles are embedded in the story.) This is the kind of lyrics that actually strengthen the music; and with Akerfeldt's usual vocal performances... Anyway, my CD player tells me the album is "just" 52:36 long, which is rather disappointing for an Opeth album. The songs are about eight to nine minutes long, a couple even around six, not counting the instrumentals (but Opeth still don't use any choruses, fortunately). However, as you might tell by the lyrics' structure, this can almost be regarded as one 48 minute song: every song does merge into the next (the only silence between songs happens before "Epilogue"), often through fade-outs. And so the album starts: ambient sounds of rain, then a sombre piano, followed by a short crescendo... and Opeth tear into the powerful start of "April Ethereal". Shortly after, Mikael does not disappoint and screams his way into yet another superb vocal performance, the growled/clean vox balance not having suffered any significant changes. There are less acoustic sections than on _Morningrise_, and the album is overall a bit less melodic than its predecessors. Being recorded at the Fredman studios may have influenced this, but the fact is that the music is heavier and more powerful than before -- "Demon of the Fall" being the best example of that. Also, not a surprise considering what I wrote so far, the atmosphere on _My Arms, Your Hearse_ is very sad and doomy. Though some parts of the drum sound are somewhat awkward at times (new drummer and bass player, by the way), the instrumental performance is as great as one would expect, and Akerfeldt's vocals are again amazing. Top quality sections just flow throughout the album, making it truly -excellent-. _My Arms, Your Hearse_ is a indeed a brilliant proof that Swedish metal isn't entirely stagnant.

(article published 8/7/1998)

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