C. Recommends: “The Lotus Eater” by Opeth

You are stuck in a route of confusion
Changing and waiting and seeking the truth of it all

The balance between brutal and beautiful is the element that best defines Opeth. And perhaps, even us humans. Though the journey to find even ground often lies within miserable, unknown valleys. We must claw to climb out of the depths to see the sun.

The Lotus-eaters were written about by Homer as a tribe that lived off the narcotic-laced flowers of the lotus plant. When Odysseus’ men ate of it, they reveled in a rather apathetic state of existence. The same sort of existence in which I found myself, in the early 2000s, regarding music. I was burnt out and hoped to find something new to me, something to set ablaze those wooden rooms in my mind that remained cobwebbed and cold from being unnoticed, unremembered.

I bought Opeth’s record, Deliverance, on a whim thanks to a fantastic little review calling them the best metal band in the world. I put on my headphones, eased back against the foot of my bed, and I listened.

And then promptly freaked the fuck out.

It was at once terrifying and lovely, and at all times glorious. Now, for the uninitiated, Opeth records bounce between growl and clean vocals (though their latter releases focus solely on the clean). The growling style is something I never enjoyed, as it generally lacks any semblance of melody. The closest I ever got to enjoying that type of sound was the aggressive and throaty howls of Max Cavalera of Sepultura. But the music — oh, the music of Opeth!

Weaned on the American 80s thrash bands, I was used to fast playing, double-kick drums, lurching low-end bass. That sort of heavy metal band became very mainstream throughout the 90s, as the style of thrash turned more groove- and melodic-oriented. But I always knew of the underground: those bands that you knew spat blood on their audiences while kicking kittens and literally burning down churches. They were at the fringe of what I wanted to hear. The music, usually yes. The vocals, generally no.

But there was something about Opeth that night. They were heavy, riffing like madmen, with elements of progressive idealism. A song would change on a dime, from frenetic and ferocious to lush and lovely. It was as if Mozart wore a leather jacket and pissed vodka. The instrumental passages were complex, they challenged me. The contrast between the harsh vocals and the ones of elegance made for a philosophical listen. I saw two paths converge into one. I walked and came upon the Bodhi Tree. And it’s there I’ve sat ever since.

“The Lotus Eater” combines the heavy, the growl, the progressive, the gorgeous, the perfection. At times you dont know where you are, as if shot into space, with cosmic moments of jazz, blues, classical, even funk. But always metal. And then there are melodies that hum in those wooden rooms of mine, bursting them open!

I implore the adventurous to journey as I did: headphones, empty room, open mind. It’s a fantastic voyage into a new world.

(Song recommendation by C. Aloysius Mariotti)