Opeth - My Arms, Your Hearse

Posted By: Sega

Opeth - My Arms, Your Hearse

A good review (excerpt from Ama_zon):
Reviewer: Michael E. Finnegan "bmaniii" (Pawtucket, RI United States)

Opeth is probably one of the world's best-known progressive metal bands (they're up there with Dream Theater), and for good reason: they're amazing. Not all bands can make sweeping 12 minute compositions with the greatest of ease, and even though many are turned off by the death, screamy vocals, if you listen enough, you come to get used to them and even enjoy them. Opeth is creative beyond words: they are the masters of the hard-soft-hard, in which they incert a very hard, heavy section right next to a mellow acoustic passage, then revert back to hard metal again. They've even done this inter-album: Deliverance is some of their heaviest music to date, and Damnation, the succeeding album, is all mellow, and beautifully gray. My Arms, Your Hearse, the third Opeth "observation", is one that is rather unique: they opted for more normal song structures for their recent albums (Blackwater Park, Deliverance, and Damnation), and for much more complex for their first two (the sweeping epics Orchid and Morningrise), but My Arms, Your Hearse and even Still Life mark the transition from the earlier, more progressive sounds to the less progressive, more mainstream recent sounds.

The album begins with the beautiful Prologue, which begins with rain, and then goes to slightly unsettling piano. Up next after this beautiful piano piece is my favorite song on the album, April Ethereal. It begins with a male chanting intro, then suddenly, BAM! In-your-face heavy, bass-oriented metal. Akefeldt uses a wonderful blend of screaming and clean vocals in this song, and both styles are fantastic. This song has a great guitar melody, with great riffs and a wonderful solo about halfway into it. It indroduces the mood of the album: heavy, bombastic, but not without beautiful acoustic passages.Of note are Opeth's lyrics; take this passage from April Ethereal as an example:

"The rain was waving goodbye,
And when the night came the forest
Folded its branches around me
Something passed by and I went into a dream
She, laughing and weeping at once:
'Take me away'
I don't know how or why, and I'll never know WHEN."

You'll note that the next song's title is When, and indeed, each song with lyrics features the next track's title as the next song. In all, this is one great song.

When opens up with another soft section of acoustic guitar, and once again explodes into bombastic heavy metal and screaming. Akerfeldt really sounds otherworldly screaming like this, and it adds to the mood of the album. These interesting juxtapositions are evident in all of Opeth's music, or at least the majority of it, but especially on this album: with Prologue, Madrigal, and Credence being soft songs, they launch into the next songs with surprising accuracy and precision. The same goes intra-song as well: an acoustic passage won't last long without some metal coming up after it. Madrigal is a short guitar passage that's very tinkly and only acts as a bridge between When and The Amen Corner.

What you'll hear next will jolt you out of the stupour caused by Madrigal: The Amen Corner features it central riff right at the beginning of the song, and it's one of the most evil sounding on the album, which is a good thing. This is one fantastic progressive rocker, and it's one of the more straightforward tracks on the album. Demon Of The Fall is seen as THE My Arms, Your Hearse song. With some fantastic lyrics, a wonderfully distorted screaming intro, and great riffs for the whole song, it's easy to see why. Some of my favorite lyrics on the album come from this song; an example:

"Silent dance with death
Everything is lost
Torn by the arrival of Autumn.
The blink of an eye
You know it's me
You keep the dagger close at hand.
And you saw nothing."

My Arms, Your Hearse certainly doesn't feature my favorite Opeth lyrics (that honor goes to Orchid or Morningrise), but all of their lyrics are to note, from the complex ones on Morningrise to the simple, more mainstream-oriented Damnation. At any rate, this is one fantastic prog rocker, with Akerfeldt's unearthly scream presiding over all.

Credence is the only mellow lyrical song on the album, and it is beautiful: it hides away between two of the heaviest songs on the album. It lulls you into a false sense of something like security; but you slowly realize from the minor chord progression in the song that there's something slighly unnerving around each corner, and this is no exception. Just when you think there's nothing wrong and that all is well and soft, you're slammed backwards with the intro to Karma. Another song of evil riffs and the darkest lyrics on the album, this is one rocker, with a beautiful acoustic passage right in the middle of it. It's one great song that never really lets up: even the acoustic passages unsettle you and give you a feeling of such unease, it almost seems heavy. The last truly death-metal heavy song on the album, this one grabs you and never lets go.

Let's have a look at Opeth's albums that could be classed masterpieces in their own right....

The whole catalogue

Thats right. Every album from Orchid('95) to Damnation ('03) is worthy of the title. Therein lies the dilemma, just which album is Opeth's crown jewel?

My Arms, Your Hearse was released in the winter of '97. If you've not heard Opeth, they are for a lot of people, a winter/autumn band. The atmospherics created in this album are dense, the guitars melancholic. If you listen to this album, make sure it's when the leaves are fallen and the snow is setting on the hills. (Trust me, I know you think I'm crazy). Of all Opeth's albums this one took me forever to connect with. The songs didn't have a personality of their own, the acoustic guitars which I loved from Blackwater Park, were few and far between. My Arms, Your Hearse scarcely uses acoustic guitars as much as say Morningrise or even Still Life. But the acoustics that are used are sublime and don't feel a touch out of place. Little by little this monster of an album grew on me and I haven't looked back since.

My Arms, Your Hearse

If Morningrise was a leaf falling to the earth, this album is that leaf exploding on impact. Don't expect the maidenesque riffs that were evident in Orchid and Morningrise. To me Opeth spent the best part of Orchid and Morningrise to truly "find" their sound. On this album the balance of heavy/soft passages is perfect.

So after 17 seconds of falling rain, metal's most brilliant album begins...

April Ethereal 8:41
Again the theme of winter is evident.. Introducing Martin Lopez. He opens this beast of a song with an ominous double kick roll.
It was me peering through the looking glass
Beyond the embrace of christ! roars Mikael Akerfeldt. Using some serious lung-busting growls, he has never sounded this good!

April Ethereal also features some sublime acoustic guitars courtesy of Peter Lindgren. What sounds like an off key riff closes out one of my Favourite Songs Ever

When 9:14
At the longest song on the album (which is still short by Opeth standards) you'd be forgiven for thinking it might wear thin around the 7'00 minute mark. Wrong. I could listen to the beautiful acoustic fingerpicking towards the 7.00 minute mark over and over again.
When continues the concept of a man who has died but can still see his lover.
"She could not see me through the windows"
"In dismay, strangest twist upon her lips. Graven face she said my name".

Demon of the fall 6:13
Heavier than a ten-tonne hammer.
"Silent dance with death, everything is lost
Torn by the arrival of autumn" growls Akerfeldt in his most demonic sounding vocals. For about 70% this song is all out heaviness. It emphasises the character's feelings at this point in the story--ANGER!

"Run away, run away
Just one second and I was left with nothing" sings Akerfeldt who by now is back to his normal voice. How this man pulls off two extreme emotions within the blink of an eye is amazing. I especially love the riff that fades into the next song.

I won't lie, My Arms, Your Hearse can be a harrowing listen. As with moments of brutality comes moments of utter beauty...

Credence 5:26 actually sounds like a mix of Orchid and Damnation. It features only guitars and some real personal lyrics from Akerfeldt sung entirely in clean vocals. God this guy's a poet. Swedish or not.
Man, I don't know if this song carries the same emotion the heavy moments do. I really don't.

Epilogue 4:02. Man, David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) would be proud to call this song his own. Especially the solo during the end. Although there is no singing to be found on this song, the lyric booklet still provides words to the story which is about to end..

Anyway what is happening with the concept? Maybe the character has comes to terms with his own death.
So you can see the cyclical style Opeth have adopted here really adds flow. However if this goes back to the beginning does the character have to go through this all over again?

All of Opeth's albums are so damn consistent. Every staunch Opeth fan has to pick a winner. Tough as it is. Blackwater Park could be the fans favourite. But then again, Still Life is considered one of the greatest concept albums. Morningrise is both loved and despised.. Na. This one is the one. I can feel it. I trust you will too.

Once we get past Epilogue, the album is either over (what a shame! Such a good one too...), or you're treated to two bonus covers. The first one is the eerie cover of Celtic Frost's Circle Of The Tyrant, which begins with a brooding, dark piano melody. It sounds a lot like Opeth despite the fact that it's not, but it really does fit in with the general mood of the album. With a great lead melody and some wonderful drumming, this one will have you bouncing in your seat.

The superior of the two covers is the optimistic Remember Tommorow, originally recorded by Iron Maiden. It begins quietly with acoustic guitar and drums, and says like this for the verses, but it has an explosive chorus and the best two guitar solos on the album. This song gives you a prevalent look at Akerfeldt's clean vocals: when the man wants to sing, he can sing. His beautiful voice is seen all over Damnation, another highly recommended record from these metal masters, even if it is a far shot from their average sound.

In all, this is a stunning album. In reality, it's one of their best and I personally think it's a stunning album, and it doesn't deserve to be missed. If you can stomach the screamy vocals, please, please, pick this one up. It's too good just to sit on the shelves like that. Trust me, you'll love it.

Opeth - My Arms, Your Hearse
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