Two years ago, Stock-holm's premier death-prog metal band released Ghost Reveries, an album that could only be described as one of this decade's most stunning releases in any rock genre, metal or otherwise. Bandleader Mikael Åkerfeldt may continue to consider his music death metal, but don't let that deter you. This is intelligent and passionate music. Period. Over the course of 17 years and eight studio albums, Åkerfeldt and company have evolved into what is probably the best metal band on the planet.
The Roundhouse Tapes, taken from a November '06 show at London's Camden Roundhouse club, is the band's second live album. Earlier that year, Opeth did a few select shows that featured one song from each of their many albums, and this recording seems to have followed that format. Given that the average length of their songs is about eight minutes or so, the nine tracks collected here offer a 90-minute set that delivers an impressive mix of metal, prog and folk elements, with sublime musicianship throughout. For novices, this is probably as good as any place to get a taste of what the band is all about.
Finally, for those who can't stand the "devil screaming at ya" black-death metal vocal style, well, that is by no means the dominant voice in Opeth's music. Åkerfeldt mixes the screaming with a very lovely "clean" vocal style that usually takes precedence over the heavier singing. Hell, one of their prettier tracks even appeared as background music in an episode of TV's Criminal Minds last season. The fact that the notoriously picky prog-rock crowd has taken Opeth to its collective bosom is evidence enough that this is an uncompromising band, complete with a unique vision.
A new studio album is due later this year, and most longtime fans can hardly wait.
Mike Villano writes about music for Metro Times. Send commentst to [email protected].