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Opeth 

Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner)

The hard and soft sides of this Swedish metal group's dark, enveloping sound were showcased separately on its last two albums, Deliverance and Damnation. On Ghost Reveries, the band's Roadrunner debut, they've been merged.

Keyboardist Per Wiberg, previously part of the group's touring lineup, but now a full-time band member, is a major presence on this record. On "The Baying of the Hounds," he slams the keys as Jon Lord did in Deep Purple three decades ago. On "Beneath the Mire," his soft, eerie playing lends the track a horror-film atmosphere. And on the breathtaking "Atonement," his piano perfectly complements the band's delicate guitar figures, creating a mood like that of David Bowie's Berlin-era albums.

Ghost Reveries is occasionally hard and heavy, but the relentless intensity of Deliverance is mostly gone, replaced with a meditative gloom (as the title indicates). The album often feels like a prog-rock suite, with tracks blending into each other. "Beneath the Mire" and "Atonement" could be the halves of one epic song. Lovers of Opeth's hardest, fastest material might be put off at first by this more subdued, melodic disc, but by the second or third play, they'll realize that Ghost Reveries is Opeth's best record yet.

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