Picking the best Opeth albums is a challenge. Opeth are a band that has constantly pushed their musical boundaries. Their sound has changed and evolved over the years. Beginning as a death metal band, they eventually got more progressive and moved away from death metal growls. Their catalog is diverse, with the 11 studio albums showing their growth and development. Here are our choices for Opeth’s best albums.
6. Deliverance (2002)
It was fun delving back into Opeth’s catalog, revisiting some of their albums for the first time in a while. Deliverance and Damnation were released within six months of each other, with Damnation overshadowing Deliverance because of its lack of death metal vocals and a mellower style. In retrospect, Deliverance may be one of Opeth’s more underrated efforts.
It has plenty of heaviness, but also melodic and quieter moments such as “A Fair Judgement.” The arrangements are long and complex, with every song but one (“For Absent Friends”) clocking in at more than 10 minutes. It’s engaging and diverse effort that’s a good bridge between their earlier and later styles.
5. Watershed (2008)
Watershed is an apt title for Opeth’s ninth studio album, as it truly was a watershed moment for them. They moved in a much more progressive direction, and it would be their last album (as of now, at least) to feature death metal growls. It also marked the debut of guitarist Fredrik Akesson and drummer Martin Axenrot, who make their musical mark on the record.
With most of the opening songs on previous Opeth albums clocking in at 10 minutes or more, the streamlined three minute “Coil” was quite a departure. The acoustic duet with Nathalie Lorichs is contrasted by the ominous “Heir Apparent,” which has moments of aggression tempered by progressive interludes. The songwriting on Watershed is excellent, resulting in some memorable tracks like “Burden” and “The Lotus Eater.”
4. My Arms, Your Hearse (1998)
Like many bands, Opeth were extremely prolific in their earlier years. Their first seven albums were released in less than eight years. But even though the time between albums was relatively brief, Opeth managed to continue to grow and evolve. Their third release, 1998’s My Arms Your Hearse, is their earliest album in this list.
The songs on this album were more focused and sharp than on their first two releases, which had many tracks longer than 13 minutes. This time around everything is under 10 minutes. My Arms, Your Hearse is Opeth’s first concept album, and also the first to feature drummer Martin Lopez. His style is heavier and more aggressive than his predecessor, with the entire album being heavier than their first two. Highlights include “Demon Of The Fall,” “When” and “The Amen Corner.”
3. Ghost Reveries (2005)
Ghost Reveries was the end of one era, but the beginning of another. It was the last album for guitarist Peter Lindgren and drummer Martin Lopez. It also saw the start of a much more commercially successful era for Opeth. It was their first album to crack the top 10 in their home country of Sweden and first to land in the top 100 in the U.S. (peaking at No. 64).
After the mellow Damnation, Ghost Reveries saw the return of brutality and death metal growls. Opeth brought aboard keyboardist Per Wiberg as a permanent member on the album, making the progressive influences even more prominent. “Ghost Of Perdition” and its balance of heaviness and mellowness, darkness and light, set the stage for a dynamic and engaging album.
2. Still Life (1999)
While many fans put Still Life ahead of Blackwater Park, to me Blackwater Park slightly edges it out. They are both fantastic albums,with Still Life being Opeth’s second consecutive concept record. While not as heavy as its predecessor, Still Life is much more dynamic.
They transition smoothly between crushing death metal and delicate acoustic sections. Akerfeldt’s death growls are potent, with his melodic singing progressing nicely. Opening track “The Moor” is a tour de force, setting the pace for what follows. “Godhead’s Lament” and “Moonlapse Vertigo” are also strong tracks. Still Life‘s flow and pacing, both musically and lyrically, are spot on.
1. Blackwater Park (2001)
Five albums into their career, Opeth reached a creative pinnacle with 2001’s Blackwater Park. They found the perfect combination of ugly death metal brutality and beautiful melodies. That’s evident from the opening track “The Leper Affinity,” which showcases both Mikael Akerfeldt’s death metal growls and his clean vocals. “Bleak” is another fantastically diverse track.
What makes Blackwater Park Opeth’s best album is the depth and quality of every song. The flow within each song and between tracks is masterful, without any filler or disappointments. Other standout tracks include “Dirge For November,” “The Drapery Falls” and the title track.
What’s your list of Opeth’s best albums?