It almost seems a shame that Opeth are routinely saddled with the divisive "progressive" tag, as the Swedes' music is so consistently refined, vivid and sincere that it's hard to fathom anyone rejecting it wholesale. In contrast to 2011's Heritage, which veered off in a number of esoteric directions, this is an admirably coherent collection of songs that are as uncompromisingly intricate and strange as they are incisively melodic. Mikael Åkerfeldt's voice has become a thing of wonder; his ability to tug at heartstrings while singing the most wilfully hazy of lyrics is matched only by these songs' beautiful arrangements and pin-sharp ensemble playing. But Opeth's leader is an awkward sod, and can't resist indulging his CSNY harmony fantasies on the country-tinged first half of River, getting his Italian-horror groove on for the self-explanatorily titled Goblin and peppering the air with perverse folk-rock curveballs during the languorous Moon Above, Sun Below. It ends with Faith in Others, which is at once the most profoundly moving song Åkerfeldt has ever written, and a tantalising glimpse into one possible future for this peerless band.
Writer. Musician. Metalhead. Dad. Twitter: @Dom_Lawson