As Opeth invade U.S. shores, The End serves up reissues of band’s classic titles

I love reissues. Actually, let me back up a bit. I love sensible reissues. I’m not terribly down with putting out some expanded version of a record that just came out a year ago just to do a cash grab. Victory Records is notorious for this, and considering the average age of their audience is like 12, there’s no sense in it. The idea’s just really mean.

But a true reissue project, such as Metal Blade’s efforts to reintroduce and repackage works from Amon Amarth (the tacked-on live goodies were worth the price of admission) and Primordial, as well as Relapse’s Death stuff and Earache’s recent Carcass project, are fun, help new fans catch up, and give older listeners a better version of what they already own. Along with some new stuff to make parting with your money a worthy cause. Those types of things I generally eat up, and I am pining for reissued versions of the old Testament and Overkill albums so that I can update those aging discs that don’t exactly come to life if I put them into my car stereo. I have to turn it up to about 40 to get any firepower.

So this all leads us into an effort from The End Record to get some of Opeth’s works back into circulation again. Through their acquisition of the Music for Nations catalog (a purchase that got us fresh versions of stuff from Witchery, Lost Horizon and Firebird, among others), we get a renewed look at some of the band’s work from early in this century, when they really hit a creative stride and put out some mesmerizing, challenging work. In that collection is an expanded version of one of the progressive death metal band’s finest albums ever, and one of the best pieces of work in the history of the genre.

Now, depending on what’s included in your personal Opeth collection, you might not require every piece of this new wave of product. But if you weren’t tuned into the band yet in this era or just never got your hands on some of these albums, this is a great time to do it. And not to sound all salesman and all, but The End has an awesome package (seen above) where you can get all of these pieces together, along with a vinyl bag. We’ll include that link at the end because you might want to get on that.

The highlight of this project is a gorgeous new version of “Blackwater Park,” often cited as the band’s best record (I would agree, though I also love “Orchid” a great deal). It was Opeth’s first-ever North American release (came out in February 2001) and marked the band’s first collaboration with Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree. It’s a gorgeous, sprawling masterpiece that marks the apex of the band’s fusion of death metal, prog rock and ’70s-style folk rock. The band has put out some excellent music since then, but they’ve never quite captured the magic of this incredible album. Along with the music is a case-bound digipak, a 28-page, full-color booklet, and a bonus DVD. Even if you have this album, getting this “legacy edition” is worth spending the money all over again. I’m thrilled to have this new version on my shelf. As weird as this may sound, I’ll treasure it.

“Lamentations” also gets a great new repackaging, as the DVD and double-disc version of their live performance at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in September of 2003 is combined as one for the first time. It mostly covers the terrain they traveled on the dual “Damnation” (played in its entirety) and “Deliverance” albums, along with some nuggets from “Blackwater.” Both the DVD and CDs sound incredible, though some of the camera work on the DVD is a little wacky. But that’s no big deal, really. Plus, if you’ve never experienced the band live, you get the treat of Mikael Akerfeldt’s weird stage ramblings that sound half-gentleman, half-smart ass. He’s so low key and unassuming, it’s comical. There also is a documentary of the making of the “Damnation” and “Deliverance” records that also is pretty interesting to watch and gives you a better understanding of how these records came to be. Speaking of which …

The reissues of “Deliverance” and “Damnation” don’t differ at all from the versions that were released in 2002 and 2003 respectively. “Deliverance” is one of Opeth’s heaviest records ever, and there are points of savagery the band has come nowhere near matching since then. That’s not a criticism, mind you, just an observation that this record was the band’s decibel tipping point. But as usual, the band colors the chaos with some cleaner passages, some acoustics, and a ton of atmosphere. This album also holds a special place in my heart because it was the first Opeth album I really fell in love with, and I worked backward from there almost instantly.

“Damnation,” at least in 2003, was the oddest record the band ever released. A companion piece to “Deliverance,” this was an album full of moody ballads and mid-tempo pieces, with zero strains of death metal. It was a new look at the band, one that actually hinted to what was ahead (put this alongside “Heritage,” and you can see the path clearly). It also features some of Akerfeldt’s most soulful vocal work and some truly haunting music that would prove just how talented and flexible these guys are as musicians. And let’s face it, this is an album Opeth naturally had been progressing toward for years, and to hear it come out in its glory had to be cathartic both for the band and its listeners, who have embraced Opeth’s many colors and nuances throughout the years.

All of this also comes out at a very strategic time, when Opeth are launching a North American tour alongside Mastodon and Ghost, one of the year’s most anticipated adventures. If you don’t own any of these pieces, definitely put some money aside and grab these next week because they’re well worth your time. Opeth is one of death metal’s greatest treasures, and all four of these documents are all the proof you need to back up that assertion.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.opeth.com/home/

To buy the entire bundle, go here: http://www.theomegaorder.com/OPETH-4CD-Reissue-FREE-Bag?sc=16&category=398342

For more on the label, go here: http://theendrecords.com/