My reviews have been few lately, but not for lack of material. I was really excited about this record when it came out, and wanted to give it the proper listening it deserved before writing about it. and of course, it definitely needed the beer pairing it deserved.
THE RECORD: Opeth Pale Communion 2014 Roadrunner Records
I think that I like Opeth more and more with each record they make. At least, I feel that I appreciate them more. Every choice they make in writing and recording and producing just seems like a good one to me. Opeth is continuing to exemplify everything that I want progressive rock to be right now.
Organs on a record is usually a selling point for me. The first track “Eternal Rains Will Come” really just gets down to business. And makes me think that there had better be plenty of awesome organs on this record. It really sets the stage for what to expect for the rest of the album.
Mikael Åkerfeldt mentioned in an interview that this would be a more melodic record. The vocals do get heavier on songs such as “Moon Above, Sun Below”, but they are not growling, death metal vocals. They are dark in a different, more beautiful way. Heritage, their previous release, began to move away from the death growls of albums past, and Pale Communion seems to bring that journey to a new level. There are vocal effects that create a sound reminiscent of a Gregorian chant taking place inside a massive cathedral.
“Goblin” is entirely instrumental, and gives the listener a chance to appreciate each instrument as it stands out. We can all thank Steven Wilson for that- he mixed this record and has done some really amazing work. My first experience with him was through his band Porcupine Tree, whom I love. Wilson is no stranger to Opeth record production; he produced Blackwater Park, Deliverance, and Damnation.
On Pale Communion, Wilson is meticulous to the craft. He uses the finest tooth comb over each of the tracks. After so many years of working together on different projects, Steven Wilson has the production process of an Opeth recording down to a science that they have perfected on Pale Communion.
Folk metal is certainly a genre, but I do not often hear Opeth’s music described as such. However, the song “River” has a really interesting folk element to it. Driven mostly by an acoustic guitar and harmonies, it fosters my imagination that I am walking around a Swedish fjord in springtime. It’s serene for the most part, but about half way through the song the organ returns and introduces a gorgeous electric guitar riff. That is incidentally how I imagine Scandinavian countries; ethereal for the most part, but also full of heavy metal bands.
I include a larger image of the cover art so that you can see the detail in it. It reminds me of an exhibit in a museum. Opeth’s music truly is a work of art, and seeing it portrayed as visual art is fitting. Travis Smith, who has done cover art for the likes of Death and King Diamond, designed the cover for Pale Communion. The inscriptions in Latin translate to quotes that really stuck with me, and are from a Swedish statesman, a Roman/North African playwright, and a Roman poet respectively.
“Don’t you know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?”
“In these days friends are won through flattery, the truth gives birth to hate.”
“He grieves truly who grieves without a witness.”
I am going to end on those, because I feel like between those quotes and the record itself, long conversations are destined to happen. All you need is a beer or two…
THE BEER: Deliverance- Lost Abbey- San Marcos, CA
I had this beer during my trip to San Diego last month, which was around the time that this record was released. What a gorgeous ale. There are so many “epic” beers coming out and I usually scoff at them or quote this internet meme. But I just tried this beer and loved it. Yes, it is ridiculous. It is a blend of bourbon-barrel aged Serpent’s Stout and brandy-barrel aged Angel’s Share. It’s heaven and hell that you can pour into a snifter and consume. It definitely tastes boozy, but not in an offensive way. I tried this during one of the events at the Beer Bloggers’ Conference, and I remember I really just wanted to stop whatever else was coming next to take more time to talk about this amazing beer. It tastes like a chocolate covered fig that someone let sit in a cabinet for a few years. I like the idea of blending beers too, and witnessing the ways that flavors and ingredients work together. I’m sure it does not always work out so deliciously, but I am glad that it has for this Lost Abbey offering.
Opeth has an album called Deliverance that was released in 2002, but I actually wasn’t thinking of that when I chose this beer to pair. I thought Deliverance the beer was dark and beautiful, much like Pale Communion. I also liked the religious undertones to both the record and the brewery. I believe that 12 years of attending Catholic school has a direct relationship with my love of metal and beer, but that’s just me. Honestly, this is a record that you really need to sit down and listen to on a quality set of speakers with a delicious beer in proper glassware at the right temperature. Yes, both the beer and the album are tasty at their core, no matter what. But it is worth the extra effort to consume both of them carefully, and with an eye for all of the details.