Painting a gothic scene with their blend of progressive rock and metal, Opeth was nine albums deep with the release of Watershed that ended the era of death growls and a shift toward a more clean vocalist style. With Watershed, however, the darker vocals stack up and create a strong enough barrier that can mix with the organized, completely systematic destruction that Opeth brings to the table for nearly an hour.
On the opening piece, “Coil” recruits Nathalie Lorichs to gracefully introduce the listener with subtle, but gorgeous results. Mikael Åkerfeldt is the main vocalist on the record, but the two mixing together is almost heaven-sent before the madness that comes following. “Coil” is the lovely handshake that extends before the hand turns cold and suddenly shifts to become non-human.
As Opeth makes the transition to “Heir Apparent,” the movement is seeming as if a weighted grouping of stone is cast onto the listener with these marches of blackened instruments coming forth. The dichotomy that develops between “Coil” and “Heir Apparent” orchestrates a dive into foreboding waters where the bottom is creatively non-existent. From the guitar work deliberated by both Åkerfeldt and Fredrik Åkesson. To the auxiliary work of Per Wiberg on the keyboards and synthesizers. Both Martín Méndez on bass and Martin Axenrot on percussion are able to boost this rhythm section that acts more on syncopated mayhem that leads their own way.
Six of seven tracks all have a length over seven-minutes that transfer into these longwinded curtain calls of exasperated anguish painted through. Shown well on “Heir Apparent” for bringing in this dread with the first introduction of the track and then moving into something more fast-paced where the band transitions flawlessly. Even between each track, there are moments where it flows without any hesitation and creates essentially this 55-minute long song of mountains and valleys.
Pieces like “Burden” can be noted for how it is a cleaner approach to an often muck-filled record, for the guitar is balled-esque and relies on these vocals to push the track along. A far more dramatic track is the following with “Porcelain Heart” that explains, “I lost all I had, I turned to my friends. I wrote down a name, I wallowed in shame.” Then the band picks up to bring all the instruments in once again during the lyrics, it is just Åkerfeldt and an acoustic guitar which making for this isolated and broken emotional tone that then has flashes of life between each verse.
Before fading off the might of their ninth record, Opeth extends a skeleton hand out and tries to clutch at the light before it is dampened away. Whether the growls that appear or the clean style, Watershed shows a beautiful but shattered reflection of the last moments of over a decade toasting to metal foundations.