Opeth - _Damnation_
(Music for Nations, 2003)
by: Pedro Azevedo (8.5 out of 10)
_Damnation_, the second half of Opeth's ambitious twin album project, is likely to surprise those who expect an entire album of typical Opeth acoustic bits sewn together. Although there is a fair amount of variety to be found here, Opeth consistently manage to avoid falling into said trap. They seem to have approached the making of this tranquil album from an interesting angle, which becomes apparent right from the opening chords of excellent opener "Windowpane" and onto the intriguing yet powerful "In My Time of Need". At this stage the warm melancholy of the music is nearly mesmerizing, as _Damnation_ captivates the listener in a smooth, almost intimate way. It certainly doesn't sound anything like some left-over acoustic interludes from previous albums, or even the product of a band struggling to meet its promise of a near-acoustic album. Instead, it comes across as honest and inspired -- the sound of a band comfortably expressing itself in a different but nonetheless adequate form.

Back to the album, "Death Whispered a Lullaby" may not be as great as its predecessors during the acoustic sections, but the haunting distorted guitar work that twice takes the lead achieves a much increased impact through its contrast with those quieter bits. "Closure" then goes into a more rhythm based approach that, while entertaining, seems vaguely out of place in the album. "Hope Leaves" passes by in a pleasant but not particularly stirring manner, and introduces "To Rid the Disease": a slowly evolving guitar line and a memorable chorus weave their way into a fine piano-lead conclusion. The electric guitar soloing of "Ending Credits" is sorely misplaced for the most part; not a bad track in itself by any means, but in spite of boasting a superb passage, a lot of the song is hardly able to match the overall melancholy of the album. The subdued "Weakness" finishes the disc in a passable way, which contributes to the unfortunate fact that _Damnation_ is one of those records that starts off extremely well but fails to either peak later on or even stay at the same level. At its best, throughout virtually all of the early section of the disc and only occasionally in later stages, the music can be quite wonderful, carrying a deep sense of melancholy and keeping the listener comfortable through many a rainy day. About midway through the album interest starts to wane, however, and while there aren't any bad tracks as such on the disc, _Damnation_ never quite recaptures the brilliance of its first few songs.

The first half of this project, _Deliverance_, was a very good album with some cracking moments, but in the wake of classics like _My Arms, Your Hearse_ and _Blackwater Park_ (not to mention the band's earlier work), it failed to conquer the crown of Opeth's discography. _Damnation_, on the other hand, plays in an entirely different league and cannot be objectively compared to the band's previous work. It proves Opeth's outstanding quality once again, though it ultimately falls short of fulfilling all its immense potential. It also lacks a stronger connection to _Deliverance_ for this dual release to gain some more meaning beyond the similar packaging and close release dates, but remains a very worthwhile record in its own right. In addition to some excellent tracks, _Damnation_ leaves the promise that Opeth are likely to create another masterpiece next time around: if only they can put together an hour long album that's as good as the best thirty minutes from each of these two, then _Blackwater Park_ will be under a very serious threat.

Contact: http://www.opeth.com

(article published 24/7/2003)

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