With the release of Blackwater Park Opeth did something that has damaged the careers of many other bands: they released a perfect album. Other bands release what is often considered their greatest work and then spend the rest of their careers trying to recapture that moment. Opeth, wisely, refuses to do that. They have continued to evolve, to experiment, and to craft excellent music. Each new album since that time has been unique, and the excitement for their newest, Ghost Reveries, was very intense. Fueling the excitement and speculation were three major changes for the band. First was the addition of Per Wiberg on keyboards. Opeth has had keys in the past, but never a full-time keyboardist. Second was the absence of Steve Wilson as producer on the album. Third, in the interim between Damnation and Ghost Reveries, Opeth signed a deal with RoadRunner Records, a label known for angry, angst-driven 'nu-metal' bands. These factors, along with the fact that Damnation was such a singular album in the Opeth catalog, resulted in many rumblings about what the new album would bring.
Reaction to the first single "The Grand Conjuration" was mixed. Some thought it a new level in Opeth metal. Others thought it too accessible. Whichever side of the battle you stand on though, this song gave clues of what was to come with the release of the album, but nothing more. Ghost Reveries stays true to Opeth's recent records, while still treading some new waters. Don't expect a reinvention of the wheel here. Rather, we are treated to a refining and retooling of the sound that has defined metal's most brilliant band for years now.
Ghost Reveries starts off with the title track, a beautiful and brutal epic that blends the different styles Opeth is known for. Mixing aggressive metal with acoustic passages, guttural growls with excellent clear vocals, pummeling double bass with hints of jazz fusion, Opeth carves out their place in metal history even more with this album. While individual songs on the disc have less calm acoustic passages, the inclusion of three full songs that could have come straight off Damnation more than make up for it. They serve nicely to balance the album, adding depth to the experience.