by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

Opeth - Deliverance
(Music For Nations/Koch)

The product of hair-pullingly intense work that saw the partial completion of a second, mellower batch of material (to be released a few months hence, as Damnation), Deliverance delivers the no-nonsense, slashing progressive metal persona of the band to balance the next record's purposeful commercial side. Comprising five tracks over ten minutes long, standing like great pillars around a barely audible bit of jazzy guitar introspection called For Absent Friends, the album gets right down to business with Wreath, Mikael death-growling immediately over one of the band's signature, evil, Voivod-angled riffs. The title track pounces quickly as well, more almost Fear Factory-clean double-bass announcing the track, which, near the end of its 13 minutes of funky, double-helix, Aerosmith-meets-Tool, offers the record's highlight, an instrumental bit of heavy hypnosis that recalls the mathematical formulae of King's X's We Were Born To Be Loved. With no big changes from last album, and production from band, Andy Sneap and Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson that is just there, competent, maybe too clinical, the album will please fans and alas, is another canny masterpiece of sinewy pan-world melodies twisted into doom-shrouded metal riffs. I dunno, there's no doubt that we all hold Opeth to crazy high standards that would incinerate mere humans, but I personally like both Blackwater Park and Still Life better than this one, although it sounds like this is an album that will be a grower, given patience from the listener to find and cultivate the hooks, if indeed there are any. Maybe they're all on the "rock" album to come. I can tell, come album after Damnation, or two or three out, these guys are going to be talking about how this album was rushed and they weren't happy with the songs or the sounds blah blah blahÉ Still, it's Opeth. There is an admirable singularity of purpose here, Mikael and Peter finding dozens upon dozens of exotic and ornate riffs that pour like sylvan mercury into a single alchemical, emotional brass bowl, all manner of circuitous wiring sounding mournful yet academic, as if too much deep thought on the tiring act of living can only lead to the elevated enlightenment that continuing to breathe in and breathe out is not intellectually sound.
Rating 8.5

Spiritual Beggars - On Fire
(Music For Nations/Koch)

Michael Amott continues to prove his deep dictionary, encyclopedia and instruction manual literacy with respect to the meticulous task of making tasteful metal of all flavours with this trouncing record of retro metal that incredibly, brings new/old sounds to the genre and to Spiritual Beggars simultaneously. The shift is to a pushing and shoving southern metal sound, beer bellies in collision, pool cues swung and rarely connecting given the boozy fog of their parking lot wielders. Grizzly bear of a vocalist JB is the perfect new addition to the band, Amott, of course, breaking acrimoniously with Spice who has resurfaced with his own excellent retro act The Mushroom River Band. On Fire offers moving mountains of grooves, big dirty guitars, each instrumentalist blasting away at a rootsy vibe that puts the entire catalogues of Molly Hatchet or Point Blank or Down to shame, also knuckle-dusting all of Skynyrd's heavy tracks out in that, er, same parking lot the next hungover morning. The very best old music crafted by top-flight archeologists, rock-lifters, fakers and shakers is here now; unravel and time-travel with the Spiritual Beggars for a boozy night of rock 'n' roll you will remember forever.
Rating 9

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