Still Life released on October 18th, 1999.
Below write-up is eleven years old, and slightly edited for my present sensibilities. But the album is still timeless.
Opeth’s ‘Still Life’ – that perfect arrangement of death, progression and blues. Always listen to this record uninterrupted from “The Moor” to “White Cluster”, the band simply extends the boundaries of progressive death. There is always that one album which defines the artist and forms the cornerstone of their whole music. But with “Still Life”, Opeth has pushed their own creativity to insane heights — of near impossible emulation.
Here the band actually transcend the normal decorum of mathematics, high (means progressive) and low (means death metal) mixed together isn’t a big nothing. Akerfeldt must have been simultaneously strung up on Alcohol and grass when he wrote ‘Still Life’. Mind you, the record doesn’t hit you hard, instead it methodically seeps into every iota of musical nerve and gets ingrained there. Been listening to this band for over fifteen years and can convincingly claim this is the pinnacle of their prog death years.
“Still Life” has an ambiance which perfectly blends contrasting elements — those dank deathly growls, progressive riffs, bluesy folk acoustic melody, and clean vocals. It’s a sort of a real life musical analogy to Speedball – in other words, these songs simultaneously stimulates and depresses your brain. The beauty of this torment is simply beyond comprehension.
Lyrics are mostly grim, and when combined with the growls create an ambiance of a cold winter morning – probably spent in retrospection about lost life. It might be illegal to make music this inscrutable; it’s not easy when you are unable to comprehend how melancholy “Benighted” can effortlessly transition into the aggressive “Moonlapse Vertigo”, and end in a mournfully poetic “Face Of Melinda”. When the guitar slowly fades, you wonder if it can get any better.
Traces of early black metal are still felt in the last two tracks; otherwise the record sticks to good progressive death and progressive metal. One of the high points is the sheer quality of riffs that literally form the backbone. Compared to their early works, Still Life has lot more clean vocals and acoustic guitar, and integrates even more of a number of transitions between the textures they usually exhibit. This was also a quantum leap in terms of production quality and can perfectly satiate the musical appetite of any progressive metal fanatic.
Could never confront the idea of reviewing ‘Still Life’; no vocabulary prowess can do justice to such a complex form of musical expression. A rather obvious infatuation with this music might just heave me into a cavalcade of clichés, which I have hopefully refrained from ’til now.