Big Al's Metal Review

Artist: The Lovemakers and Opeth

Label: Time of Romance

First off, this week is the Lovemakers? new disc, Time of Romance, on Interscope records. Yeah, it ain?t metal; but hey, nobody?s perfect.

As if they were living up to every ?80s cliche, synth and Anglo-tinged vocals trade off with the more than competent backbeat on tracks like ?Shake That Ass? and ?Prepare for the Fight.? If I were a betting man, I?d say the dudes here would probably run from any fight, given their physical appearance, but maybe I?m just being mean. They are snappy dressers, though.

Romance is a nicely produced slab of layered, modern pop. One could very easily trace a direct line from Duran Duran to Franz Ferdinand and place this album somewhere in between. Lisa Light?s violin adds to the atmosphere, and her voice shines on ?Hypnotized,? my vote for the best single on this CD. Still, the musical highlight for me is definitely Josh Freese?s drumming on four of the tracks. A true renaissance man, Josh has lent his skills to everyone from Guns N Roses and A Perfect Circle to Poe and the Indigo Girls. Monsieur Freese sets a restrained tone with his drumming on ?Is It Alright? and the title track, ?Times of Romance,? adding nicely to his portfolio. By the way, Josh isn?t the only drummer to have worked with both GNR and Poe ? any idea who else? Send me an e-mail if you know ? first one gets a copy of this disc courtesy of the fine folks at Interscope.

Speaking of superior musicianship, Opeth has released a
masterpiece in ?Ghost Reveries,? out now on Roadrunner. Yes, they are metal, but much much more is revealed in their songwriting. Not since Metallica has anybody carved out their own niche like Opeth.

Just as Lars and co. transcended thrash, so have Opeth surpassed being the Swedish death metal band with a little prog/folk/jazz fusion in their songs. 2001?s Blackwater Park was a landmark release, and the beginning of their collision course with the mainstream. With their dual release of Damnation (light) and Deliverance (heavy) in ?02?03, Opeth cemented their place in the consciousness of the music press. Being name-dropped by hipsters everywhere, metal fans or not, hasn?t affected their choice of styles one bit. In fact, with Ghost Reveries, Opeth have returned to their original vision.

The separation of Opeth?s talent into light and shade, although making it easier to turn your parents on to this band, wasn?t a complete representation of the talent of these musicians. Many can try to meld styles X or Y with metal, and take credit for starting a new genre. But no one can make it seem as natural a transition between styles as Opeth. In the process, they have shown the world that heavy music, whether angry outburst or dirgy lamentation, all comes from the same place: emotional release.

As an example, the transition from ?Atonement,? the fourth track into ?Reverie/Harlequin Forest? is seamless. Gentle keyboards give way to the crunch of Sweden?s best riffing. All while Mikael Akefeldt croons in the foreground. With the song winding into darker territory, Akerfeldt?s voice turns to growl and scream. Then, as the storm quells, acoustic guitars lead the
listener out of the fury and back into Mikael?s soothing voice. Stellar work, gentlemen.

Check back in the next few weeks for reviews of Machine Head?s newest DVD and Anthrax?s releases since reuniting with Joey Belladonna. Cheers!