Opiate: Reflection

October 2, 2011 - Self-released

Scandinavia. When I utter this word, what images and ideas enter your mind? A serene, pre-historic wilderness, unscathed by man? An urban landscape, with shards of grey piercing dark, troubled skies? Or the numerous bands that pioneer the advancement of modern metal? Well, 'Reflection', debut release of Danish band Opiate, paints a near-perfect picture of all of these concepts, despite being only three tracks long.

Right from the start, the ability of this band to convey emotions and scenery with their music is obvious. The opening guitar lick and riff pattern of the first song, 'Palace of Sand', lay down the gauntlet: "we are here to play heavy and intense music: what is your response!?" At 0:32, a brief pause allows reality to catch up. Then the vocals come in. This is what caught me about this band from the first listen: Anders Høst is like a caged animal, tearing madly at his restraints. It is energy like this which drives each song forward. The lyrical themes which are tackled in this release are similar to those prominent in the works of bands like Textures and Meshuggah, and the striking vocal work manages to do them real justice.

Alongside this, rhythmic devices such as polyrhythms and hemiolas are very well used and executed: it is variation such as this which prevents these songs from becoming a stagnant pool of "brutal" riffs and constant double bass pummeling, and actually propels this release into a new realm. The use of simple harmonic devices keeps the release well grounded: there is a very fine line between a good song and over-extravagance, one which is easily crossed in debut releases and can result in an amazingly technical sludge of sound. As a result, the melody lines' clarity conveys a huge amount of emotion and tells a true story: not one note is out of place, not one second is wasted.

The overall feel of these three tracks is that each one has taken the only logical musical path available to them: the EP as a whole is like a journey across a strange land, with each passage of music effortlessly intertwining to create a definitive image of what may be encountered. Some sections are full-on and heaving with brutality (the final part of 'Convergence' is a technical onslaught on the ears, with no breathing space), whereas others shine with a simplicity and beauty which is not always effective in this shade of metal; yet here it adds a further element of compassion to the music, as the section after 0:52 in final track 'Mirrors' demonstrates. I love the ending of this track: the unresolved final dissonance suggests that the musical journey is not over, and leaves the listener in wonder as to the fate of the music.

Overall, this is a very complete (but also short) work of great energy and passion, and leaves a lasting first impression. The potential is there for this band to go a long way in music, and I would love to see whether the energy captured here can be transferred to the stage too. I hope that this attitude to music will be carried forward into their next release (hopefully a full-length), and look forward to it greatly: "the steps are within your reach, now it's up to you to unleash it." A true reflection of what is to come.