Opeth have never concerned themselves with populist adoration – that is not the snide attitude of a cynic, merely an honest reaction to the reality the Swedes face. Their music has always looked inwards, even as their sound branched out towards ambrosia above and the underworld below. At this stage there is little-to-no chance of Opeth and their progressive odysseys becoming popular or cool (in the traditional sense). Instead, Stockholm’s broodiest stars appear forever destined to drift aside pop culture, even as their nous for melody becomes more attuned.
It’s hard to imagine Mikael Akerfeldt losing too many nights sleep at his outsider status. But that comfort in Opeth - their brilliance and their standing (or lack thereof) in mainstream culture – should not allow the critics of this world to overlook their continued evolution. There came a time when, after the phenomenal mid-career run that ended with 2005’s Ghost Reveries, Opeth started to be taken for granted. Great playing, unbridled imagination and amorphous atmospherics became par for the course – too easily assumed and too rarely appreciated.
Pale Communion might be light on new ideas, but it exudes majesty. The elegant phrasing of “Moon Above, Sun Below” astounds, Mikael Akerfeldt and Fredrik Akesson are masters of high and low art alike; switching between the lavish prose of Mary Shelley and the gleeful schlock of Hammer Horror in half a second, their guitarwork affords Opeth stately grandeur, psychedelic wonkiness and camp subversion in celestial unison.
2014’s Pale Communion is best viewed as a glorious culmination. The drawing together of experiments that both failed and flourished. Proof that the disparate strands of Heritage could be controlled and made coherent; Opeth’s 11th studio album did not offer innovation in a modernist sense; instead it brought two decades of evolution and experimentation to heel. For one glorious hour there was no odyssey too audacious nor sound too seditious, to escape Opeth’s imperious control.
Enter Shikari renew their archly political assault while expanding their sonic horizons on The Mindsweep.
Brutish, brazen and ungodly satisfying, Royal Blood rode a barrage of chugging bass grooves all the way to the top of the charts in 2014.
Opeth may preach exclusively to the converted, but to overlook the Swedes’ staggeringly consistent brilliance is foolhardy.
Soothing and sorrow-laden in equal measure, Lost In The Dream by The War On Drugs left Guitar Planet speechless.
Guitar Planet has had a love/hate relationship with Slash since Velvet Revolver split, but it remains impossible to deny his freewheeling riffs and slippery solos.