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Ghost Reveries is 10 years old!

Opeth - Ghost Reveries album art
01. Ghost Of Perdition
02. The Baying Of The Hounds
03. Beneath The Mire
04. Atonement
05. Reverie/Harlequin Forest
06. Hours Of Wealth
07. The Grand Conjuration
08. Isolation Years

As a rule, I tend to find that peoples’ favourite Opeth album is usually the first one they heard. Jón Þór proved that with Orchid, which turned twenty years old earlier this year – and it rings true for me too. Ghost Reveries was not only my introduction to Opeth, but also one of my first exposures to metal in general, and has remained a constant in my repertoire for the last decade.

As an introduction to heavy music, it was certainly a revelation. Next to bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Snow Patrol, almost everything was a shock to the system – but even now, I get tingles when I play it. Beyond the immediately unrestrained opening track, Ghost Reveries shows a remarkable breadth of scope, mixing vocal styles, the aggressive with the melancholic, and enough ideas over its hour and seven minutes to hold the attention of the most inattentive soul.

That’s despite no fewer than four tracks breaking the ten-minute mark. Before Ghost Reveries, I’d also been pretty much unaware that songs could be so fucking long. By the time frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt growls the titular line from second track “The Baying Of The Hounds“, I could have sworn there’d been at least three songs already; not only because of the length, but the sheer variety throughout the course of “Ghost Of Perdition“‘s ten and a half-minute runtime.

Although he’s now dropped the death growls, Åkerfeldt showed on this album just how talented he is as a vocalist. The roars and other ‘dark’ vocal techniques are evil yet always understandable – a quality I admire – but it’s his singing that really stands out. The case in point is track six, “Hours Of Wealth“; a song so butter-smooth in every aspect you could bake a cake with it. Indeed, Mikael’s singing, full of emotion and aided by some beautifully simple but effective lyrics, paints a mournful picture – after two and a half minutes of steadily building, unearthly. I’d never heard acoustic guitars used in such a way before, and the atmospheric keys lend an aura to the song that is so perfectly in keeping with the album’s over-arching theme – of spectral contemplation and personal drama.

The story behind the album is that it was supposed to be a concept album – indeed, several of the songs link together tangentially from the perspective of a man haunted by killing his own mother – but according to Åkerfeldt, he wrote “Isolation Years” and liked it so much that he included it anyway. Nevertheless, there’s a tangible thread throughout Ghost Reveries, even if it’s not the sole focus, and it works well for that. Prog is, after all, fond of the concept.

So whilst there is merit to be found in all of Opeth’s work – all eleven LPs at this point (and potentially not all of them for every fan) – Ghost Reveries remains, for me, one of the most interesting, emotionally investing, and complete of their records. Consistent in quality throughout, it’s a real treat for the ears, ten years down the line.