Opeth recorded two albums last year. In March they'll release the less evil twin, the supposedly mellower Damnation. But what we have on our hands now is Deliverance (Koch), which finds the Swedes gnashing their death-metal fangs. Like its fantastic predecessor, 2001's Blackwater Park, it was coproduced by Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson (who also contributes backing vocals, guitar, and mellotron) and combines a progressive sensibility (mellotron!) with a primal metal aesthetic that burns away all the twee paid-by-the-noteness for which prog is dreaded. Drummer Martin Lopez guides even the smooth, lovely interludes forward with surefooted Viking momentum, but he's not afraid to use a light touch when needed (on "Wreath" he plays hand percussion). This frees up front man Mikael Akerfeldt to follow his furious flights of fancy as far as they may lead, which can be quite a ways--of the album's six tracks, only one short instrumental clocks in under ten minutes. Opeth's tourmates Paradise Lost take a more straightforward approach on the new Symbol of Life (Koch); armed with riffs and synths (and a Dead Can Dance cover) they patrol the zone where goth and metal meet. Their songs are far less intricately structured than Opeth's and lack the mystery that leads to long replay value: by way of compensation, they offer big hooks. Bloody ones. Monday, January 27, 6:15 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mick Hutson.