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Orchid is 20 years old!

Opeth - Orchid album art
01. In Mist She Was Standing
02. Under the Weeping Moon
03. Silhouette
04. Forest of October
05. The Twilight Is My Robe
06. Requiem
07. The Apostle in Triumph

When I was a kid I used to travel to the UK a lot with my family. Being the nerd that I am, my most anticipated store to go to wasn’t Hamleys or Toys’R’Us, but HMV. There I could not only get video games, but more CDs than I could count. I’d get to pick out a few albums that were dirt cheap because of a great exchange rate at the time, and when I think back I realise how much of my current musical taste was shaped by those childhood trips to HMV. Finding Tool’s Lateralus interesting to look at, and picking up Mastodon’s Leviathan due to it having a song called “Ísland” on it are two fun ones, but the story I’m going to tell you today was the day I found it funny to see a pink flower surrounded by mangled corpses, demons and skulls: the day I picked Opeth’s Orchid as my random HMV purchase.

When we got back to the hotel, before going to dinner, I tore the plastic from the CD, put it in my CD player (remember those?) and pressed play. While reading the lyrics I listened to the longest metal song I’d ever heard at that point (just over 14 minutes) and it changed my preconceptions on what metal could be. Suddenly heaviness and tranquility collided in a way I’d never heard before, all enveloped in progressive songwriting and impressive performances.

That first song, “In Mist She Was Standing“, along with “Forest of October“, are clear standouts on the album, with their intricate guitar playing, groovy bass lines, and especially in the case of “Forest of October“, kickass solos. They’re progressive without being wanky, folky without resorting to polka, and although the songs often reach well beyond the ten minute mark, I never felt bored; there isn’t a single part on the album that returns later in a song; each element gets its time, and is then discarded, never to be heard again until you inevitably play the album again from the beginning. The riffs and basslines also have a strange sort of vibe that make them super catchy – as well as very satisfying to learn, as they sound impressive while not being that hard to play.

While Opeth would change and grow a lot in the following years, and despite the undeniable greatness of Blackwater Park and Ghost Reveries, Orchid remains my favourite. Perhaps that’s partly nostalgia, but it’s also due to the fact that the rough-around-the-edges feel (especially the vocals) feel more intense than on later albums, so twenty years on, it’s still more than worth a look.

Jón writer banner Jan 2015