My review of Opeth - Damnation


Sea of Tranquility
Nov 1, 2001
I wrote this a few weeks ago on Amazon. Feel free to let me know what you think of it.

Damnation is Opeth's "mellow album" that was spoken of a lot during the release of their previous disc Deliverance. When plans to release both discs at the same time failed, Damnation was released separately which was a wise move in my opinion. Reason being, if it had come out as a double album it would have gotten compared to the heavier album way too much and also it would have been a bit difficult to listen to the album at one go. As a separate release, Damnation stands on its own and has its own traits. And, that's definitely what it deserves.

This is a different Opeth album. It is also most likely going to stay that way as Mike Akerfeldt has pointed out several times that, in the future, they are going to explore different directions incorporating both their heavy death metal roots and the softer moments. The album is mostly acoustic and demonstrates Opeth's softer sides without ever relying on their heavier and more aggressive style. Hence, the originality and uniqueness of Damnation. For so long I always wondered what it would sound like if Opeth did an all acoustic record with Mike's almost angelic clean vocals, I always believed it would draw a lot of fans' attention, including those who do not listen to metal but only the late-60's and early-70's psychedelic and progressive rock releases. On Damnation, Opeth delivers its earlier 70's roots utilizing mellotrons and post-psychedelic atmospherics of bands like Camel, Yes and King Crimson. Some of the songs like "In My Time of Need" even employ similar production techniques thanks to Steven Wilson that is reminiscent of the old 70's LPs.

Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree is once again at the helm of production and needless to say he's done a flawless job. It feels like he and the Opeth guys understand each other perfectly. Although the tunes are still penned by Mikael himself, the final touches of Steven Wilson are undeniable. Apparently the mellotron work and some of the atmospheric keyboard textures are his creations. As Opeth has a specific sound that is immediately recognisable, this advantage is taken to a higher level of sophistication with Wilson's awesome production job.

Damnation sees Opeth experimenting a bit further with vocal harmonies and arrangements. They have found a unique sound for every single tune yet managed to maintain the almost perfect unity all throughout the entire disc. The lyrics are mostly inspired from loneliness, despair, regret and depression caused by the end of a relationship. Needless to say they come across as deeply moving and heartfelt. The songs earn their dark tone not just through regular keyboards and synths, but moreso through Floydan guitar work that is layered as a warm texture on the compositions. In "Closure" some people may get the misconception that this is just one of those typical goth tracks with heavy keyboard work thrown in... well it's not. There's not a single keyboard work in there! It's the looped guitars that are playing notes next to each other without getting the least bit forced. The album consists of a culmination of incredible moments of beauty and brutality. Mike has a great voice for melodic singing. He sounds deeply emotive and affecting, and the overall vibe of the songwriting seems very natural and spontaneous. It's like they've all opened their doors and let whatever's inside flow out. I am fully convinced that this is one of those albums that only the Opeth guys could have pulled off. It's indiscribably beautiful yet still very dark, intense and moving. This may not be the best starting point to get into Opeth, but it has already taken its place in their never-disappointing catalog. Here's a band that has yet to do something that I do not appreciate and Damnation actually ranks very high in my favourite Opeth discs.