The recent news this week that Swedish progressive rock/metal band Opeth had signed to Nuclear Blast Records and would be releasing their new album Sorceress this fall took the metal community by surprise as we hadn’t heard anything from the band in a while. I know that I personally felt myself swell with excitement as Opeth is one of my favorite bands.
Because of this news, I found myself revisiting their older material and marveling in their brilliant songwriting and sometimes horrifying lyrics. It’s that latter part that inspired me to write this piece, which highlights several songs and their lyrics as they sound like something right out of a horror novel that would rival Poe, Lovecraft, Stoker, Shelley, King, Barker, etc…
Venture forth to marvel in this band and the glorious music they put forth, as well as the nightmare-inducing words that erupt from vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt.
“In The Mist She Was Standing”
Coming from the band’s first album Orchid, there’s a section in these lyrics that makes me wonder if James Wan and Leigh Whannell didn’t use it as inspiration for the Bride in Black. Just read these lyrics and tell me you don’t get a little bit of that feel:
I saw her shadow (standing) in the darkness
Awaiting me like the night
Awaits the day
Standing silent smiling at my presence
A black candle holds the only light
And the candle seem to expire
In her cold, cold hand
And as a forlorn soul
It will fade away
Touching her flesh in this night
My blood froze forever
Embraced before the dawn
A kiss brought total eclipse
And she spoke
Once and forever
I am so cold
In mist enrobed the twilight
She was standing…
“Eternal Soul Torture”
This 1992 demo was featured on the 2000 reissue of the band’s second album Morningrise. Essentially a lyrical representation of zombies rising from their graves in search of their next meal, it’s pure horror incarnate.
The descriptions given here remind me of both Ken Foree’s comment, “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth,” and the zombies seen in Zombi. These aren’t clean looking creatures with a pale pallor. These are decomposed monstrosities roaming the land, their bodies falling more and more apart with every shuffling step they take.
The deceased awake from beyond their sleep.
Search for blood and mortal meat.
Maggots crawl out from their eyes.
Feel their pain, it’s mournful cries.
Pull your veins, tear out your heart.
Consume the blood, feast on flesh.
Torn apart, intestines scattered.
Alimentary canal ripped and shattered.
Pieces of your body eaten.
Painful death as time stands still.
Where your mind bursts in torture.
Feel your soul be torn apart.
Demons crawling through your system.
Hell has risen, the gods of pain.
Rip your skin, burn your bones.
Internal organs torn and drained.
Smell of flesh burnt to ashes.
Cries of death from hell.
Pain is all you revolve around.
Where the souls of Satan’s grounds.
Rooms of eternal torture, reveal endurance of endless pain.
Disintegrating mortals, bodies burn.
There you feel the hellish torture.
Hellish torment, brutal butchering.
Demonic creatures revolve in torment…
“Demon of the Fall”
My Arms, Your Hearse, the band’s third album, is a concept album about a man who dies yet whose spirit remains because he is desperate to stay with the woman he loved. However, he begins to harbor suspicions that she never truly loved him, her grieving not enough to convince him of her devotion. Because of his presence, she herself is unable to move on, and so creates the cyclical nature of the album, which ends at the beginning and begins at the end, forever stuck in a loop.
It wouldn’t shock me at all if Crimson Peak was inspired by this album. Both are romance stories at heart but are heavily saturated with death, fear, and horror.
Silent dance with death.
Everything is lost.
Torn by the arrival of Autumn.
The blink of an eye, you know it’s me
You keep the dagger close at hand.
And you saw nothing.
False love turned to pure hate.
The wind cried a lamentation
before merging with the grey.
Demon of the fall.
Gasping for another breath.
She rose, screaming at closed doors.
Seductive faint mist forging
through the cracks in the wall.
I shant resist.
In tears for all of eternity.
She turned around and faced me for the first time.
Run away, run away.
Just one second, and I was left with nothing.
Her fragrance still pulsating through damp air.
That day came to an end.
I have to admit that one of the biggest reasons I’m including this song, which appears on Still Life, is the cacophony of demonic howls that erupt forth at 3:27. That is what I imagine Hell sounds like on a regular basis. Still, the following lyrics are haunting as they show a person who is outcast and reviled with no chance at redemption. Everyone turns their back on him, revolted at his very presence.
I was foul and tainted, devoid of faith
Wearing my death-mask at birth
The hands of God, decrepit and thin
Cold caress and then nothing
I was taken away from my plight
A treason bestowed to the crowd
Branded a Jonah with fevered blood
Ungodly freak, defiler
Pale touch, writhing in the embers
Damp mud burning in my eyes
All the faces turned away
And all would sneer at my demise
“Serenity Painted Death”
Another track from Still Life, this song and these lyrics are as eldritch as they come.
White faced, haggard grin
This serenity painted death
With a halo of bitter disease
Black paragon in lingering breath
Saw here fading, blank stare into me
Clenched fist from the beautiful pain
Darkness reared its head
Tearing within the reeling haze
Took control, claiming my flesh
Piercing rage, perfect tantrum
Each and every one would die at my hand
Choking in warm ponds of blood
At last, weak and torn, I went down
Drained from strength, flickering breath
Came with the moon
The wayward in conscious state
Flanked and barred in destiny’s end
Underneath with hope in latches
Swathed in filth, any would betoken
Starlit shadows on the wall
Finally there to collect me
From the bowels of sin
“The Leper Affinity”
Ah, time for Blackwater Park, perhaps the band’s most acclaimed album and definitely one of my favorites of theirs.
When an album opens up with a track as fierce as this, it’s hard not to take notice. The opening swell is a terrifying siren that explodes into their iconic Swedish prog metal ferocity and Akerfeldt’s demonic growls nearly vomit forth the following terrors:
We entered Winter once again
Naked, freezing from my breath
Neath the lid all limbs tucked away
This coffin is your abode from now and onwards
Your body is mine to avail
Such a tragic sight you are
Slave under my creed
Spurring me with those tears
I am beyond death
Midst a dreaming affinity
Saving strength now, faint whispers
Come erotic communion in its splendour
Fever mirrored ghosts
Night time consolation, cross the line
Draw murder into art
Sleep inside through days
In the wake of this relief
Shivering, longing for more
Insanity at it’s peak
Love me to my death
The title track of their fifth album, this song takes the look of the album’s artwork and paints the picture with words. (Yes, I know it’s done the other way around where the artwork comes after the album is completed about 99.999% of the time.)
A dying forest, the shadows of people lurking underneath, a sense of disease running throughout, the utter lack of life and color… Absolutely beautiful and descriptive lyrics that call to mind, at least for me, the Hammer Films of yore.
Of the tragedies in man
Lurking in the core of us all
The last dying call for the ever lost
Brief encounters, bleeding pain
Lepers coiled neath the trees
Dying men in bewildered soliloquies
Perversions bloom round the bend
Seekers, lost in their quest
Ghosts of friends frolic under the waning moon
It is the year of death
Wielding his instruments
Stealth sovereign reaper
Touching us with ease
Infecting the roots in an instant
Burning crop of disease
I am just a spectator
An advocate documenting the loss
Fluttering with conceit
This doesn’t concern me yet
Still far from the knell
Taunting their bereavement
Mob round the dead
Point fingers at the details
Probing vomits for more
Caught in unbridled suspense
We have all lost it now
Catching the flakes of dismay
Born the travesty of man
Regular pulse midst pandemonium
You’re plucked to the mass
Parched with thirst for the wicked
Sick liaisons raised this monumental mark
The sun sets forever over Blackwater Park
“Death Whispered a Lullaby”
Something about this song, which hails from their gorgeous album Damnation, gives me the creeps. There is a very Lovecraft-ian feel to this particular passage, which portends of things hiding in the darkness of a fog. It’s deeply unsettling the more one thinks about it.
Under the fog there are shadows moving
Don’t be afraid, hold my hand
Into the dark there are eyelids closing
Buried alive in the shifting sands
Sleep my child
“The Baying of the Hounds”
Hailing from Ghost Reveries, the second track is an absolutely terrifying description of what I can only imagine is Satan himself. But not only does it describe him and his filth, it describes the devastation that he brings upon everything around that he touches.
I hear the baying of the hounds
In the distance, I hear them devouring
Pest ridden jackals of the earth
Diabolical beasts and roaming the forests
In wait and constant protectors
Calling you to sit by his side
Your self loathing image in his flesh
A revelation upon which you linger
His words are flies
Swarming towards the true insects
Feasting on buried dreams
And spreading decay upon your skin
His eyes spew forth a darkness
That cut through and paralyze
Casts light upon your secrets
Forced to confront your enemies
His mouth is a vortex
Sucking you into it’s pandemonium
Fools you with a helping hand of ashes
Reached out in false dismay
His body is a country
The cities lay dead and beyond despair
Friends turned enemies unable to come clean
In a rising fog of reeking death
“The Grand Conjuration”
Another from Ghost Reveries, this track falls into the loose concept that runs through the majority of the album, where a man is wrestling with himself, both emotionally and psychologically, after murdering his own mother. Many believe that act was the result of him being the Antichrist and this track symbolizes his acceptance of his evil fate, as evidenced by asking Majesty, aka Satan, to pour himself into the main character.
If The Omen fills you with fear, this track should haunt your nightmares.
Wield your power
Stare me down
To the ground
The eyes of the devil
Fixed on his sinners
Slake my thirst
Round my neck
Know the sounds