Opeth’s Deliverance & Damnation, a double album almost 15 years in the making, finally arrives in its ‘complete’ form. Music For Nations have repackaged these albums – a beauty and the beast moment that showcases each and every facet of Opeth’s ever evolving sound – in the manner they were conceived and to rediscover these two defining moments in Opeth’s formidable back catalogue is a joy in itself.
Separated at birth, these albums were originally released within 5 months of each other but now find themselves reunited and revamped. Opeth chief Michael Akerfeldt has stated that the new 5.1 surround mix for Damnation – the prog rock ‘beauty’ of the package – “was done a while ago by [his] buddy and co-producer for both albums, Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and it’s simply stunning!” Mikael adds that “Bruce Soord, has done a fantastic remix for Deliverance, literally giving new life to the record and making me start loving it.”
This in itself is an interesting admission as there was plenty to love about the original incarnation of Deliverance; a beast of an album that plunders Opeth’s (then) love for classic death metal in a progressive manner that can only be described as quintessential Opeth. Mikael growls expressively, he sings seductively and the 6 songs meander through desolate pathways of progressive metal majesty while still packing a sizeable punch, a punch that certainly hasn’t softened with time. Home to some truly epic compositions, the likes of opener “Wreath” and the ethereally barbarous “A Fair Judgment” pummel and pacify in equal measure while the grinding central riff of “Masters Apprentice” – an all time classic Opeth death-fest that only grows in stature as the years pass – provides ample proof that when Opeth chose to be heavy, they were heavier than most.
In contrast, Damnation was an early indication of the path Mikael Akerfeldt still needed to travel, his first major dalliance in releasing an entire album devoid of death metal’s trappings and an effective precursor to what would follow a decade later. Clean, focused, stripped bare and stocked with the kind of progressive rock songs considered lost to the 1970’s, the likes of “Death Whispered A Lullaby” and “Windowpane” offered a glimpse into a world Mikael Akerfedlt truly wished to inhabit. The writing appeared to be on the wall and while it would take Opeth another 8 years – and the intervening release of two exquisite progressive death metal masterpieces in the shape of career highlight Ghost Reveries and the mesmerising Watershed – before again choosing to immerse themselves solely in prog rock’s tranquil waters, Damnation was a warm-up for the equally serene Harvest and the experimental yet pure sound of Pale Communion that defines Opeth in 2015.
Separately, these polar opposites were unique snapshots of Opeth literally splitting themselves down the middle. From the pugilistic nature of Deliverance – a prog metal tour de force that refused to leave Opeth’s death metal/black metal roots behind – to Damnation predicting the future with a lightness of touch and scant consideration for what the ‘purists’ might say, these two albums couldn’t be more different and yet the bringing together of these disparate styles feels right and long overdue.
Opeth envisaged Deliverance and Damnation as one movement and it’s as one that they can now be fully experienced; a double album that delivers an engrossing insight into Opeth’s past and present and one that fully justifies their well-earned status as modern rock/metal’s most fearless entities. 9/10