Opeth astounds me with another album! It goes to show how they have progressed to their current sound. For being as underground as Opeth was in 1997, the disc is suprisingly well produced. I think they intentionally kept the sound a bit raw to reflect the heaviness of the album.
When you look at the cover, you'll have a good indication of the album's mood! Very bleak, heavy, and evil. Unlike Morningrise, there are few acoustic parts, much like Deliverance...which I think is a tad bit heavier than this one. In contrast, "My Arms Your Hearse" is a concept album. The story to me is vague, but the common interpretation is that its about a man who dies and comes back as a ghost. As a ghost, he tries to be with his former love but she is in love with another man...and he goes mad. Its a great story about a man discovering how evil he became. MAYH has very dark, poetic lyrics by a master lyricist....Mikael Akerfeldt.
The lyrics aren't separated from song to song, its a whole story. The last word/phrase in the last song is the title of the next, which is pretty neat especially since the title has context in the song. In the instrumentals there is even parts of the 'story' written out to fill in the gaps.
It all begins with sampled rain and delicate piano of the 'Prologue', seguing into the crushing riffs of 'April Ethereal'. This tells of his death and the grief of his wife. 'When' starts without an acoustic part before launching into a black metal burst of energy. Calming down, Mikael sings:
"Once inside I heard whispers in the parlour/The gilded faces grin, aware of my final demise/And I cried, I knew she had lied/Her obsession had died, it had died"
'Madrigal' is an eerie acoustic piece, that leads into 'The Amen Corner'. This song begins with a two minute riff fest (four amazing riffs in that space of time), with the first one related to the chords from Madrigal. This is when he is trying to accept that his love is gone. But the lyrics turn more evil for the next song, 'Demon of the Fall'. For me 'Demon of the Fall' is the ultimate metal song. It starts off heavy, with some of the greatest riffs and vocals coming in, chanting of "Demon of the Fall":
"Gasping for another breath/She rose, screaming at closed doors/Seductive faint mist, forging through the cracks in the wall" But then after a short acoustic break, it turns really suddenly sad, with Mike singing "Run away, run away...run away". It shows how he confronts her and then he sees how evil he's become. The next song, 'Credence', is up there with mellow songs like 'To Bid You Farewell' and 'Harvest'. At this point in the story, he 'confesses his hope' and 'recognizes his loneliness', and with the crushing number, 'Karma' he accepts that he is in fact gone.
Epilogue features hammond organ by Frederik Norstrom. Its a really 'inspiring' piece with beautiful guitar solos and a memorable riff to close the album off.
Overall, I think this is one of the greatest albums I've ever listened to. I'm sure Opeth fans will love this release (if they haven't heard it already).
PRO: this album also has the best 'atmosphere' of their albums I've listened to.
PRO: The songs on MAYH are ALL GREAT, not even a 'good' song. Just great songs!
CON: The bass sounds a bit wierd in some spots. It isn't as prominent either, probably because Mikael Akerfeldt had to play bass on this album!
CON: The album is also 'shorter' the longest song is just over 9 minutes. And most other songs are around 5-8 minutes. But thats just a preference to have a few long songs