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OPETH - CD
BLACKWATER PARK
20th ANNIVERSARY EDITION 

Sony Music Japan - Out now

Every band that achieves success and longevity can look back and pinpoint the album that put them on the world stage and for Opeth, that album was Blackwater Park. Released in 2001, it was their fifth studio album but their first with Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson in the producer’s chair who turned Opeth’s songs into something more accessible and fluid. At the time the critics loved it as did the Metal fans; their audiences tripled and it has gone to be sited as one of best Metal albums of all time in several respectable highly reputable music publications. 20 years on – literally as the original release date was July 16th 2001 – comes the anniversary issue and I began by playing the original release for comparison and a question in my head: Is it worth the upgrade?

 

Absolutely and I have to say that it’s all down to the Blu-Spec mastering. The slow fade in at the start has more atmosphere, more space than the old one and when the instruments crash in with the first chords, well let’s just say you may need a stiff drink to bring your heartrate down to normal. As the album progresses, each one of their compositions reveals new dimensions of the playing and Steven Wilson’s production most notably where the acoustic guitars give way to Metal as on The Funeral Portrait and the monolithic moments, a good example being the opening to The Drapery Falls. As for the vocals, they jump more to the fore, more in-your-face, the growling a bit deeper and more powerful. It’s kidney scrambling stuff and every moment of the album sounds fresher.

This re-release has added a track as well which is a live version of The Leper Affinity.  As for the Japanese release, it contains the international 24-page booklet with nice photos, updated artwork and some new liner notes from Mikael who reflects back on that time and additional notes by music journalist Dom Lawson. These are translated for the 16-page Japanese booklet and a third set of notes are added about the Japanese release. The CD also includes a commemorative matchbook size sticker.

 

Answering my own question then, yes, it is worth the upgrade to your collection and I will repeat that the reason for that is the mastering. It’s great to have all the additional packaging but when all is said and done, it is the music that is the most important and this edition has revitalised Blackwater Park and given it a new lease of life and for any of you out there who are just getting into or want to get into Opeth’s music, there is no better stating point than here.

Track List

The Leper Affinity

Bleak

Harvest

The Drapery Falls

Dirge For November

The Funeral Portrait

Patterns In The Ivy

Blackwater Park
The Leper Affinity (live)

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PAUL GILBERT - CD
WEARWOLVES OF PORTLAND 
Sony Music Japan - Out now

Guitarist’s solo albums can be a bit tricky. For a start, the ego often gets in the way which tends to lead to unnecessary guitar gymnastics in the music but putting that aside, just how do you sustain someone’s interest in a guitar album who is not a guitarist? Well, if you happen to be Paul Gilbert, it seems very easy.

 

Werewolves Of Portland (his 16th solo album) is first and foremost a guitar album but it is so much more than that most notably in that this time, he plays all the instrumentation himself. What this gives the album is a kind of telepathy between his three other roles on drums, bass and keyboards which in turn gives him a very familiar backing to put his guitar over the top; an analogy would be that whereas he usually has someone else bake a cake and he decorates it, this time he’s baked the cake and decorated it.

 

A fanfare opening launches the album and then we are a succession of Paul’s typical lovely melodic lead lines, tasteful solos and little quirky bits that punctuate and colour the album throughout. No tune ever bores nor changes for the sake of changing and each track flows naturally into the next. Of course, there are some weird timings and the occasional impossible zillion notes to the bar moments but they both contrast and compliment with the soaring emotion put into his playing on Meaningless or the quite simple Blues based I Wanna Cry; It’s the perfect balance of technique, dexterity and emotion all the way through, highlighted by the last track on the standard release which shuffles along and pleases without bragging.

 

The Japanese edition comes in a digipak with a six-page fold out insert which contains the lyrics but of course there are no vocals on the album so have fun matching up the words to the guitar! Also included is a twelve-page Japanese book containing the Japanese liner notes with Paul’s notes and the lyrics translated. The bonus track (neither Japanese nor English lyrics for this one) is well worth splashing out for. This is no tacked-on for the Japanese release outtake but a beautifully crafted track that moves into yet another area of his music with a floating bassline, 70s Hammond organ and Paul soloing to his heart’s content before slipping into an ending that comes straight from his roots. Not to be missed.

 

Ranking Paul’s albums is impossible (and pointless!) but I will say this; Of the sixteen, Werewolves Of London is in my top three and is currently No.1.

 

Track List

Hello North Dakota!
My Goodness
Werewolves of Portland
Professorship at The Leningrad Conservatory
Argument About Pie
Meaningful
I Wanna Cry (Even Though I Ain't Sad)
A Thunderous Ovation Shook the Columns
Problem-Solving People
(You Would Not Be Able to Handle) What I Handle Everyday

Young Guitar People*

 

*Japanese edition bonus track