Opeth are unique with their vastly divisive fan-base, they do not seem to be influenced by this however; it’s clear that musical direction is governed by Opeth alone. Some fans want a more death metal sound whereas others embrace the softer approach. “Pale Communion” sets itself heavier and proggier than precursor “Heritage” but not as heavy as the likes of “Watershed” and “Blackwater Park”. The opener ‘Eternal Rains Will Come’ seems to pay homage to Blue Öyster Cult in it’s opening verses before diving into the proggier territory Opeth are so desperately swimming into. It actually demonstrates brilliantly the direction the album will take in most of it’s dynamics with regards to composition and levels of intensity in each section.
Steven Wilson‘s ever delicate touch can be heard on this album being one of the best members who works behind the scenes. The production partnership between Wilson and Åkerfeldt is one of the best in the music industry, few others have managed to create such inspiring music that widens the imagination to such an extent.
‘Cusp of Eternity’ surfs through and is followed by the epic ‘Moon Above, Sun Below’ which is a haunting piece that encapsulates what Opeth will sound like from here on out. Because of this it is the stand out track on the album, not a single but definitely the best representation. This is followed by ‘Elysian Woes’ which in itself is beautiful, more pushed towards the spiritually dark folk music than the other tracks.
‘Goblin’ is a spiraling prog song that constantly adds to itself throughout and ‘River’ flows fast and builds up aggression, culminating in what seems akin to “Blackwater Park”. The remaining two tracks, ‘Voice of Treason’ and ‘Faith in Others’ follow the familiar suit “Pale Communion” sets out and closes the album well, in their quarter of an hour course.
All in all it is really something special. After repeated listens, peeling away at it’s surface, it seems like “Watershed”‘s softer but cleverer brother. It’s expansive but unlike “Heritage” pays a greater homage to the band’s roots without settling for a simple death metal track amidst all this change. Those who don’t like the Opeth direction will probably not like it but if you can put that behind you or merely enjoy your music then “Pale Communion” is definitely one for your album list this year.