THE OPETH REFERENDUM MMXXI: Results -> Blackwater Park wins again!

Night Prowler

Customer Deathcycle Manager
Staff member

Welcome to the Opeth Referendum MMXXI!
This time we're starting with the two most recent albums: In Gauda Venison and Sorceress. Note that I'm not going to include the English and Swedish versions of ICV songs separately and I'm also not going to complicate it with listing both titles. Just pretend the version you prefer is in the game. Also, the vinyl only bonus Cirkelns Riktning is not included as it only exists online in a shitty YouTube vinyl rip. I was hoping they'll release the new version of ICV with this one and 2 other bonuses before the game, but they are probably waiting to continue touring first. So that's gonna have to wait for another game.

Also @JudasMyGuide, as you insisted on this game happening, I'm gonna need you to help out rally the people to vote :p
That's just an estimate, I'll be extending rounds as needed.
Yeah I’m really hoping your NPisms come out in full force because I definitely want to play but also I’ve gotta find the time to spin these albums multiple times. What may happen is my rejoining a couple of rounds down the road, lol.
Tonight I start with Sorceress. Hope to listen to ICV on wednesday. After a week Senjutsu it´s nice to expose my old ears to some other music.
So far my first impression of In Gouda 2 years later is fairly positive, better than I remembered at least. Only halfway through the album though.
The intro track on In-A-Cauda-Venenum-Baby and the intro and outro tracks from Sorceress are easy first round eliminations for me. Nothing else on their latest album is weak enough to vote off this early, as I actually think it's one of the band's most consistent albums to date. I'll talk more about these songs in the coming rounds, but this album never hits the lows that Sorceress does.

Sorceress is easier. The 3-pack of songs that truly open Sorceress are among nu-Opeth's finest group of openers in a row, rivaling perhaps only the opening trio of tracks from Pale Communion. Era is also excellent due to the chorus and epic guitar solo. Strange Brew and A Fleeting Glance are pretty much filler to me, as while both are certainly unique, it's like the band threw a bunch of sections into a bowl and out popped an underwhelming brew. The minstrel music of the latter also worked better when accompanied by the darker moodiness of the first few albums.

The bonus tracks didn't do much for me, either. The Ward has some unique ideas and that busy bass line, but it doesn't really hold my attention. The other bonus track is six minutes of blues, which is not what I listen to Opeth for.

The more controversial tracks for me are in the middle. Chrysalis kicks up the speed, and if this song had growlies it would be right at home on Ghost Reveries. It loses me a bit in the middle, but the groovy ending is awesome. It's a cool tune, and I let it slide this round (and maybe even next), but they've done this sound so much better on their deathier albums.

I like Sorceress 2. The title is beyond dumb - but it's a creepy, unsettling groove that the band has mostly abandoned lately in favor of good-time blues jams.

The Seventh Sojourn is one of the most unique-sounding tracks the band has ever recorded. I like this song, and I wish it were longer and had proper verses and such. I used to dislike the ending, but with some good headphones that's some haunting stuff.
The intro and interludes here are obviously the first that need to go: Garden of Earthly Delights (a pretty boring soundscape), Persephone (which sounds like Battery but with some lame voice FX), Sorceress 2 (no thanks), and Persephone 2 (not even worth the track space).

I also threw a vote to Strange Brew for being the most Heritage-style song of the bunch and just not enjoyable for me. The two bonus tracks are actually a little more fun than much of the album, but both feel incomplete (and Spring sounds more like Deep Purple than Opeth).
This was my first time with ICV, and I think it's very good. Much better than Sorceress which I've listened to quite a bit. So almost all of those songs are better than most of everything on Sorceress, but I still picked three tracks:

Garden of Earthly Delights - just a fine intro ambience.

Charlatan - what is this, djent? It's a good song, but what does Newpeth have to do with djent...

The Garroter - yeah, I voted for the outside tracks first. Sue me. Certainly the name fits, because the first thing I imagined was some musical about a...garroter... But I could do without it.

Moving to Sorceress, which I've had more experience with:

Persephone - I really like the guitarwork, but intros and outros go first.

The Wilde Flowers - always thought it's too long. Don't really like the verses and the entire outro stretch, but that solo is freaking good :) Just a weaker track.

Sorceress 2 - quite like it for what it is, and also Mikael's soft singing. It is emotional, but overall less important to me.

A Fleeting Glance - it was always the filler song for me, although it has grown on me a lot. I guess it just takes too long to really open up. The MVP is easily the acoustic guitar, both in the intro and in the phenomenal outro at around 3:34. Love that part. But, not on par with some of the others.

Persephone (Slight Return) - I mean come on, this literally exists just so it doesn't exist in Era because I'd totally vote Era if it had this tucked at the end. Nah just kidding :) I think it's pretty cool on the album...

The Ward - it's a pretty chill track, but nothing too special.

Spring 1974 - good and it could have been on the main album if it wasn't so different. Same deal as with the ICV tracks, though I do enjoy this one less than them.
My first impression of ICV was pretty negative. Felt like the band were on autopilot and nothing really stuck with me. I even saw the tour and felt pretty bored by the new material. Turns out the problem was that it just wasn’t the right time for me. Listening to it now 2 years later and it holds up a lot better, right off the bat I think it’s a stronger album than Sorceress. Dignity by itself wipes the floor with that entire album. Lots of great folky melodies and awesome instrumental sections. Feels much more colorful and interesting than the previous album.

One thing that sets this album apart from really any of the other Newpeth albums is that the long proggy songs actually feel like musical journeys, akin to the classic prog rock that Mikael is obsessed with. Also reminiscent of the way they used to write songs. Lots of different parts, different vocal sections, heavy sections and soft sections. A lot of times, the recent longer songs have been kinda noodle-y and very instrumental focused but lacking in interesting vocal melodies. Songs like Hand On Heart feel way more balanced in this regard and capture my interest the entire time. Another thing I felt that Newpeth was missing was the dark folky ballads. Stuff like the middle of Ghost of Perdition, virtually any song on Damnation, Harvest, Hessian Peel. This was all over Opeth’s early catalog, I always felt like they were missing out on the opportunity to bring in more of that sound since abandoning growls. ICV has a lot more of that and a lot of awesome downright creepy sections. Lots more atmosphere than the other albums.

Also I’ve listened to the album twice this week, once in English once in Swedish. I prefer the Swedish version. Better vocal performances and it feels like the phrasing is less awkward (not that I understand any of the words).

Garden of Earthly Delights is a cool intro but an obvious early vote.

Next of Kin didn’t grab me right away, so it gets a knee jerk vote, but it’s growing on me

Those were the only two I wanted to vote for at first, would like to give the music more time to sink in although I expect I’ll be voting more for songs on the back half and pushing for at least Dignity and Hand on Heart to move forward. So far every song feels very strong though and this may turn out to be my favorite Newpeth album.
This week has been crazy, hoping to listen to the albums tomorrow, worst case scenario I listen to 1 and only vote against songs from that album.
Sorceress is a mess. I’ve tried to appreciate what they’re doing on this album, but it has been five years and I think it’s safe to say that this is Opeth’s weakest effort by a long shot. First of all, it sounds like an identity crisis. Chunky heavy riffs, down tuned guitars, heavy drums, but it’s mixed like a 70s prog album. I think I said this back when the album first came out, but it really sounds like Mikael was gravitating toward a Metal album on Sorceress but stopped himself from going all the way because of his ego. I don’t think he wants to give in to fans constantly clamoring for more metal, which is fair, but at a certain point you have to go where the music takes you. You can’t convince me that Chrysalis and the title track weren’t written as Metal songs. Heck, you don’t even need to have growls. Just produce it like a Metal album with heavy drums and crunchy guitars. The overcompressed drums suck all the life out of the music and the guitars just sound weak. Even the 70s prog albums that Mikael is trying to emulate have more bite.

Even at its best, a lot of the songs don’t really go anywhere. Lots of noodle-y middle sections and drawn out chord progressions that don’t build into anything. I used to really like Strange Brew, but listening to it twice this week it felt like a really cool beginning and a really cool ending with a lot of nothing in the middle. Also, so many instrumental interludes! At times it feels like this album hardly has any real songs. I like the attempt to tie the album together and create an atmosphere, but at a certain point it feels like the songs are in service of that atmosphere rather than the other way around.

I’ll keep three songs and throw away the rest. Wilde Flowers is really cool, great riff and some awesome vocal hooks. This song is pretty much immune from the criticisms above. It flows really well, it’s very dynamic, and super melodic. Good Opeth. Chrysalis, despite my frustrations with the production, rocks hard. Era is easily the best song and strikes a nice balance between rocking hard and fitting the style of Newpeth. Wouldn’t feel out of place on the previous two albums (which both fit this sound more naturally). I am voting to promote those songs, although I won’t really be that invested in any of them.
Very much agreed, though I’d still rank it higher than Heritage. I think the title track, Wilde, and Wisp are all great (and actually composed like songs…mostly). Chrysalis and Era are next in line. The rest is just a complete and utter mess.

Identity crisis definitely suits it.
So, here we go... I'm probably going to split this in two, one post for each album, it's going to be long as it is.

In Cauda Venenum (2019)

I actually recall the last album being anticipated quite a bit and besides a few positive and mixed responses, it was soon forgotten and left behind, as if it landed with a thud, but not really for me. I remember being excited and I still am - I'd say that it's quite possible that ICV has dethroned Heritage (yes, you read that right) as my favourite Newpeth album. Well, maybe nowadays I wouldn't deem it necessary to buy the deluxe edition with the Swedish version, as I don't really see the use for it.

And you'll see me also writing solely about the English version of the album. Now, I know that there's been much talk about how Mikael considers the Swedish version the proper or "main" one and there were people on this very forum who stated their preference for the Swedish vocal delivery in particular, but I don't see enough differences in quality music-wise (in the inflections etc.), and the resulting strangeness (when I can hardly type the titles of the damn songs all right) is not really a plus in my book. Personally - and remember, this is just my own taste - I don't like the sound of Swedish all too much (hey, wife doesn't like the sound of Portuguese, I guess we all have our quirks) and especially in some contexts ... I mean, in Dignity where there's that "no, no, no" part, so dramatically sung, it just sounds clichéd in English, but downright silly in Swedish, IMHO ("Åh, nej, nej, nej, nej, nej!") Again, IRYO if you love it, but I'm mostly putting the Swedish version on very rarely, as a curio of sorts.

So, having that out of the way, why do I love the album so much? I'm going to admit a certain amount of shallowness here and say it might be because of the atmosphere. You see, among other things, like the jazz harmonies, the riffs etc., Opeth have always been this Romantic, autumnal thing - no surprises here, it's been repeated on this very forum so much it became almost a cliché. And although I like all of the Newpeth album, this is definitely the vibe I haven't been getting from them fro quite some time. So yes, ICV is once again an album that gives you that "rustling-leaves-smoke-from-chimneys-days-shortening-etc." feel. (Some might say PC was also like that, but not enough for me.) It's not everything but combined with the improved production (the sound levels and ... well, the sound of the instruments isn't as 70's and I mean it in a good way, despite me usually being a dead-on 1970s connoisseur) and overal aesthetics (finally they sound more Black Sabbath than Camel) makes it my favourite Newpeth listening experience. Probably.

And without further ado, let's go through the individual songs:

Garden of Earthly Delights

A good intro track, IMHO. I like how the monotonous drone slowly builds up, love the synth bubbling and generally even the sound snippets, oscillating between haunting and mysterious and a slice-of-life banality. Though I don't get why of all the methods and sounds of bells they used this warm, optimistic chime instead of for example a funeral toll. At three and a half minutes it's probably a tad overlong, but I appreciate the build-up it creates before Dignity. I indeed do get these Exorcist (the original) vibes from it.

However, what's with all the bloody spoken word snippets? It's one thing to try to give your album an "old movie feel" (I guess?), but this dives straight into that latter, "CNN era" of Dream Theater, as someone (I think Detective?) already said some time ago. It's not just here, but elsewhere on the album as well, but I'm picking this track as the embodiment of that tendency.

Not only because of that, but also because it's an intro track it gets my vote. It's to be expected with these tracks, methinks (though I'll make an exception later on, you'll see).


Oh, the beginning to that track! It starts with a blast and fits perfectly after the intro track. Heck, the whole song is just great, including the beautiful first solo on the album, the mysterious melody and affection in the first vocals, the Sabbath-y riff right after that, the "no-no-no" melody, the sense of journey it has, from the beginning to the very end. On the other hand, the latter is also my biggest peeve about the track, that is - a lack of proper repetition. At least in my book, if any of the themes was reintroduced later it the track (even in a different context), if the song returned to some of the ideas, it'd be a bit better. This is something that they actually improved upon after the earliest albums (which used to be a lot of incoherent hodge-podge of ideas, with the progression not always logical, no repetition, just an idea after an idea) and perfected throughout their golden years and then forgot it again in the Newpeth era (Moon Above, Sun Below, while great, also suffers from this a bit).

Yes, I already anticipate the sed contras, liking these tracks to a journey - like I did above - and so on. Yes, it is true, it has its place, I can accept it if the progression is at least logical (which is indeed the case of Dignity) and I'm not even detracting any points for it here, I just wish some of the parts were repeated + the song (as quite possibly the best one off the album) could have been a bit longer, especially since it has such a massive introduction (again, in this case it's not as weird as with Eternal Rains, where the "intro" is more like a half of the track already, but still). The ending feels a bit abrupt (I mean, mood-wise, it doesn't stop suddenly, it's just when you realise the song is ending with the calm part you can't help but feel "wait, is that it?") and the closing snippet with the laughter... I get what they were aiming at, but it felt more natural (maybe it was a better picked sample) when Floyd did that with Welcome to the Machine... wasn't it?

As for the lyrics themselves... why, I don't particularly feel as strong about arranged marriage as Mikael does, but whatever, he's just following the extended Romantic Zeitgeist with that (oh, passion of my passions! Loveliest of all my loves! What good is life if I can't marry for hormones, right?) and the lyrics are (as usual) otherwise vague as fuck. Doesn't even matter all that much if he's singing in English or Swedish, honestly, it's just that the English feels more familiar.

Heart in Hand

Again, a killer intro, with an ominous mood, giving a different feel than the first song. Honestly, I feel this is what Cusp of Eternity should have been - and the tracks do have a similar feel and even melody, I stand behind that. You know, with the "poppy-Oriental" chorus, the pushing, nervous verse, it's a second proper track on the album... This was actually my first impression when I heard it, btw.

Absolutely love the busy section at around 2:15, feels very DT-like to me. Combined with the following section ("The parody is real...") it already leaves Cusp in the dust. And then you get the slower, softer ending, Symptom-of-the-Universe-style. Very nice, also love the Beatles quote (I had a hard time recognising where the fuck is that quote from, which only goes to show how important the particular context is).

These two songs by themselves are already the best quarter of an hour you get with Newpeth and possibly even with some Oldpeth. Don't see myself voting against these two in the foreseeable future.

The lyrics... well, some more hard to decipher poetic critique, it seems to throw everything in the pot and there's a lot to agree with - though with Opeth being these "old-style" band (I mean, the Oldpeth and Newpeth alike, they always seemed like the blokes from the Victorian mansion or at least from the 70's hash den) it's kinda funny to hear them singing about "dopamine" ... and of course then there's some modern, popular sentiments as well ("Intolerance disguised as a faith" - *rolling eyes * - however this is not the place nor the time for dismantling this sentiment and why it is stupid) - but overall, the general feel of the lyrics is more appreciated than not.

Next of Kin

Along with Cusp of Eternity, one of the rare instances of an Opeth song that doesn't grow on me at all, quite the contrary. I praised the Sabbath influence and stylisation above, but here it all amounts to nothing. The song is slow, plodding, at first I appreciated the weird-ass mode in the chorus, but the novelty has worn off already and the song does next to nothing now for me. I admit that the verse melody is definitely not bad and I guess you could also praise the fact that overall they've returned to the playing with the dynamics and it is so on this very track as well... but that's really not enough. I wouldn't think about skipping the track, definitely not, it's okay by itself, but especially on this album it feels rather fillerish.

So while it's definitely not the worst thing ever, it certainly gets my vote as probably the weakest track off ICV.

Here actually the lyrics might be the saving grace of the song - I can't really make much of it, but it does feel like a non-trivial rumination about life, the fleeting nature of this mortal coil, morality... and for once, it shows some actual thinking. However, I won't deny Mikael's floridity, but it's almost frustratingly obtuse, so that's neither here nor there.

Lovelorn Crime

I always liked this ballad... until it happened so I had to turn the album off after Next of Kin and then restarted somewhat later from LC onwards. That made me concentrate on the track by itself, not in the context of the album and I was pretty underwhelmed. It has a good vibe, the chorus is certainly memorable (one of the more memorable/hummable moments off the whole album, no less, it usually stays with me after the album's over), but something's missing for me. Especially compared to Burden, which was emotionally much stronger, with the tragic/despair vibe. However, I admit that I am moved by the instrumental section, there are no really great ideas there, but the (pseudo-?)Mellotron, the wordless vocals and even the solo - which for some weird, inexplicable reason brings to mind Dave Gilmour trying to solo on November Rain ... I mean, WTF? - they all gel in a very nice way and while it's not a highlight here, it's still undeniably solid as an overall song experience. At least in my book, that is.

The lyrics are... just there, I guess. Despite Mikaels loquaciousness they feel... almost banal, too overwrought, it feels like a pubescent trying to paint his (not) writing to a crush to be the greatest thing on this Earth... or is it just me?

I'm not going to vote against it in this round, but I probably will in the very next one. As a change of pace it bores me less than Next of Kin, but from now on, the rest of the album is going to be all just better.


Oooh, now we're sucking diesel. The "weird" track (all basses and no guitar?) with sudden shifts, jazzy keyboard riff that still manages to be memorable, some crazy Axenrot accents and an overall sense of fun, fun, fun. Also, another DT/LTE section after the third minute, with a cool sense of urgency and for once a Middle-Eastern sound that feels integrated and doesn't dominate the track.

Its length is precise, any longer would make it probably annoying, and as it is it gives the album a needed jolt and feels really creative. Vivacious.

Some more voice snippets at the end (sigh) and - suprisingly - a Gregorian chant, which, well, according to Genius: "The monk’s chant sample (5:00 into the song) gave the lyrics their direction." Ugh. I mean, yes, chant has been used in the Mass as well (though Mikael is way too young to remember that, I'd say), but nowadays it's mostly connected in the mind of the majority with ... yes, precisely, monks. I. E. one of the least charlatanesque realisations of spirituality imaginable, probably even for the "modern person of science". :facepalm: However, the lyrics are so out there this time I can't even say if there's any connection between them and the title of the track or even the chant sample or with anything... I guess Mikael's channeling his inner Dickinson here. But like, whatever, it's all allegedly supposed to be in the incomprehensible Swedish anyway, just like those spoken words there.

Actually, now that I think about it, for the longest time I had this tendency to take Opeth... well, instrumentally. That is, there are vocals, but they don't really matter, lyrics-wise. I'm more and more inclined to return back to that. I mean, some of the turns of the phrase are quite nice and Mikael has a good way with words... however not as much with sentences or meanings. :ninja: Anyway, moving on...

Universal Truth

Quite possibly my second favourite song on the album, though to be completely honest, at first the inflections in the opening verses, with Mikael's nasal tone and the particular melody there reminded me too much of something else by Newpeth... but to this day I'm not sure what it is, though I could almost swear it's stealing from something on this very album. However, I really love the abrupt first chorus (and the chorus melody in general) and the slow, "methodically dripping faucet" of a post-chorus. I'd almost say there is something particularly Beatlesque in the first half of the track, with how these parts and their melodies feel like they are answering one another.

I also love how the first part culminates in such an energetic, rocking manner, then you get the pause, the subdued section, but it still builds up back to the beginning, to the verse-chorus-post-chorus. A simple trick, but it works on me.

Once again, what Mikael's trying to conceive lyrics-wise is anybody's guess (and I'm more and more convinced that even for him the lyrics are somewhat of an afterthought), but I found the "honesty in the necrology" phrase really funny, especially as death is one of the true experiences connecting everyone (I actually recently used the concept of Totentanz/Danse macabre to make a point in my bachelor's thesis (though its topic was something else altogether), so I might be partial to that, but whatever.) Still, what a funny phrase. And if, if it could be perceived as the key to the whole lyrics (it forms a part of the chorus after all), I'd find that rather intriguing. For the idea that the truth about the person (and for the person as well) is often revealed at the moment of their death is not only a great truth for any Medieval/Baroque thinking person like me (Death Victiorious/the Glory of Death), but also could be seen as an existential notion, a one uniquely Heideggerian at that (all of that "life aimed at death" of his etc) and therefore - although it might not seem that way for a society that learned to shun the thoughts regarding death very recently - also quite modern in the end.

The Garroter

Mood-wise a return to the Heritage album, with the music being this weird fusion of pure jazz, Broadway and Eastern mantras. I like it for the weirdness and the waltzy chorus (and the beautiful jazzy guitar sound) but at nearly seven minutes it's brutally overlong and way too monotonous. Probably my vote in the next round, along with Lovelorn Crime.

Cool lyrics, fitting, comprehensible, for once.


If there is one track on ICV that's often overlooked (even by me), it's probably this one. Probably it's the combination of being sandwiched between the offbeat weirdness of Garroter and the emotional, epic finish of the old tar slut of Allting as well as being the penultimate track on Opeth's longest album + the fact that its charms are more subtle. You get some of the Legacy-style muted strumming, Mikael's vulnerable vocals (I don't recall him sounding like this anywhere else on the album, but I might be remembering it wrong), the almost country-like major chorus, some nice playing with dynamics again, killer instrumental/solo section around the fourth minute and I personally also dig the atmosphere at the end, with the moody (Moody, actually :D ) production and slow winding down. In fact, I could even imagine this one being the closer, on a more subdued, more Americana-tinged album.

The lyrics - at least for me - are probably the best on this album and possibly the most fitting. Again, maybe I'm projecting, but I kinda can't help but feel it describes the atmosphere/concept of Watershed, with a guy mourning the loss of his love and slowly going insane in a progressively more derelict mansion ... or not? However, it expresses both the warmness of nostalgia and the chill of the nearing end quite well. Heck, maybe even on this album this song might be the proper farewell from a distinguished gentleman who still has some poison in his tail. Once again, not seeing myself voting against this one anytime soon.

All Things Will Pass

Some more Watershedisms in the intro (eh, maybe it's just me). Then we get the main riff which is not just Sabbathy, but there's also some King Crimson debut vibes there (it's probably the (quasi-)Mellotron in the background, mostly). The chorus actually brings the earlier Newpeth albums to mind, especially Sorceress, with the acid tones of the guitars being almost drowned in the production... but here, in proper (small) dosage it is quite nice. Not being a huge fan of the vocal melody in the verses, but as a whole the composition works well.

The outro is really emotional, probably making this my favourite ending to a Newpeth track since Folklore. Wow. Just wow.

Lyrically, I had huge expectations, because of the title (and not just because of the Beatle Harrison, but also because I was hoping for some more of that Romantic, ruminating sentiment about death and decay), but I found Continuum's approach scratching my particular itch much better. Thing is, the more concrete imagery probably works for me more, at least without enough context. Yes, one of the works of art that makes me emotional the most would be the "abstract" and high-fantasy Lord of the Rings, but that one gives you more background, more time to get used to the ideas, the characters, the concepts. Here it's all just ... nice. But still, nice and combined with the music, at times almost beautiful.

Overall, a very mature and an actually great album. If this would be the Opeth for the future ages, I'd be quite happy with that. In fact, all those votes and predictions of future votes above are just because I'm trying to be as strict as possible - compared with other bands even Next of Kin would be a tough competitor.

I'll try to do Sorceress ASAP. However, I'll probably send the votes earlier, so that I'm not the person delaying the game. :)
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I probably won't finish my Sorceress write-up today, so I'll just throw in the votes before the poll is closed and post it some time later.

Also, a friendly reminder to @Onhell @Diesel 11 @The Dissident @Midnight @MindRuler (I know some of you said you might vote sporadically or later, but in case you wanted to get your votes in, it's high time! :D )