Opeth will be releasing Pale Communion, their 11th studio album, later this year — and in the meantime, I’ve been (im)patiently awaiting any snippets or singles like a famished dog begging for scraps. It was worse for Heritage in 2011 because I had no job, no girl, and little motivation to do anything but play video games and count down the seconds until the new Opeth album hit stores. My adult life timeline can be read by Opeth releases, and Pale Communion marks a much more stable epoch for me. Stable, but still ravenous for music; I wasn’t a happy camper when Mikael announced the album would be delayed.

Now, several weeks after the original date, the band and label Roadrunner Records have finally thrown fans a bone and released “Cusp of Eternity,” the first single off the record (you can find the song here). Here are some of my quick thoughts after a half-dozen listens, for those who actually care about that sort of thing:

  • The music journalist who was given an early listen to the album (and whose name I can’t recall) said the album sounded like Heritage if it had been written directly after Ghost Reveries. This man is either (a) very astute in picking up Reveries’ special brand of darkness in Opeth’s new, ’70s rock-inspired sound, or (b) an asshole who put that damn idea in my head so now I can’t stop myself from listening for Reveries.
  • I’m really warming up to the idea of Fredrik Åkesson playing guitar solos in this band. I’ve always thought Mikael and Peter Lindgren were very inventive in their phrasing but, in many cases, lacked the skill to bring their solos to the next level. Fredrik has the skill, and his solo here is quite impressive.
  • Heritage was such a pleasant surprise from a instrumental perspective: there is flute, Latin percussion, and many different keyboard sounds. In “Cusp of Eternity,” the only prevalent keyboards are an organ part at about the 4:30 mark. I’m curious if this track will be the rule or the exception for Pale Communion when it comes to keyboards. I actually couldn’t care less either way — I enjoy Opeth’s guitar-driven sound.
  • For me, vocalized “Ooh Ah” sections are generally horrific, but I am a huge fan when Opeth does it (see The Drapery Falls or The Lotus Eater). The “Ooh Ah” sections in “Cusp of Eternity” continue that strong tradition of non-lyrical vocal excellence from my favorite band. I’m such a homer…