I am a fiercely practical person regarding shredding and such...Jeff Loomis and Christian Muenzner are good enough composers to pull it off. Nitro's guitarist shredding across four necks...pure ego-mania haha. I just want function in my art, and it can be towards extremes (Shpongle and Blotted Science) or just an overall sense of fun (Twelve Foot Ninja) or balanced seriousness (Spock's Beard.)
As far as free form goes...well, I often joke that Phish is the best that can be done with improvisations haha. You mention Miles Davis, but I can't say I understand how jazz can be enjoyable. The music theory aspect is good, but I prefer intensely composed tracks by technical death metal like Blotted Science and Spawn of Possession for that. I have audiophile traits, but I'll work with clipping if it actually sounds heavy (but it often doesn't lately.) Opeth never had particularly great production, to be honest...for all their '70s prog rock influences, their death metal influences are what get emphasized even on my favorite albums by them: Morningrise and Ghost Reveries. It's good production for death metal, but it doesn't work nearly as well if they're going for purely melodic neo-prog in my opinion. If you like jazz though, can I recommend the movie Space is the Place? That movie was batshit crazy haha
All very valid points; I admit, bipolar 2 affects my interpretations since I'm a more emotional person than many...I'm rather fortunate in some ways. Because of my skill sets, I can listen to music from a listener, musician, satirist, progressive rock/metal composer, lyricist and production standpoint. Very rarely do bands work for me on every level the way groups like Rush do (even if their production has been widely variable, I consider CLockwork Angels the most gorgeous release they've done thus far. They even made YYZ better by adding a classical strings section!) This album doesn't quite work as ambience to me since ti has vocals (though I know that isn't an issue for some) and has the bland Steven Wilson chord progressions that would damage Opeth from this point onwards in varying degrees. It just seems like when Opeth goes entirely soft, they often lose the dynamics that make them such a joy to listen to, analyze, play along to, etc. Maybe it's just my love of layering speaking.
OK NO LAST POST FOR REALSIES: I just remembered this, though I can't remember which Porcupine Tree song it was, it had this lame breakdown-esque section where the guitars and bass were simply strumming open 6th strings in some weird and campy attempt at being heavy. To me it sounded like a really bad attempt at trying to have a little metal in their song, so musically it was very derivative and bland and the impression it left on me in a more mental sense was extremely unaffectionate. Then one fanboy pops up and defends it by saying something along the lines of "but it helps contribute to the atmosphere" ..........and even if that's true, this is part of my point from before, that atmosphere/emotion are not always necessarily good things all the time, just as they are not necessarily pretentious. It's the fans who consistently prove themselves to be pedantic.
And last post because I tend to triple post on this site: Free form Jazz is often loathed by rock/metal fans as they can see it as the epitome of pretentious wankery. Like with what I've seen with Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (an album I describe as extremely intricate and emotional), they can't process what they're hearing and it leaves them with a monotonous feeling. Albert Ayler doesn't normally care for portraying human sensibilities in his music, he cared about experimenting with the boundaries of collective improv and discovering new harmonies in the process. It can sound like a mess but I enjoy and respect the journey he chose and it has shown me some very interesting and enjoyable things. Pharoah Sanders has made some of the most intensely emotional music I've ever heard yet someone not used to his style (he is still pretty technical himself) can easily brush it off as wankery garbage.
I've heard very emotional songs that were terrible (looking at you, In My Time of Need), either because of bad musicality or just because the intuitions and notions they were portraying to me on a more "human/emotional" level were vapid to begin with. And then I've heard unemotional songs that have been fucking brilliant, whether because of great musical attributes or because they opened my eyes to possibilities not bound to human feelings. Treating music like it has to be emotional only accomplishes the exact opposite of what it advocates, promoting open-mindedness and an enlightened understanding of music itself and the human soul. Both parties in this war are ostentatious to me, because music is much more profound than merely pandering to our senses of joy, melancholy, etc.. Music should strive to do a little more than just be super fast and technical, or just stimulate your limbic system. Music and emotion are not even processed in the same parts of the brain anyway.
Well of course atmosphere isn't necessarily pretentious, that was never the idea. It's just a word that's used to replace an actual concrete description or opinion that people are too lazy to develop and thus comprehend nowadays. I also wasn't saying that music is never nor should never be emotional. This is a bit of a different topic entirely now but people seem to be stuck in a false dichotomy when it comes to music. If it's super technical and fast (or maybe there's something else to that stereotype that I'm forgetting), it's branded as pretentious and soulless and wankery nonsense. These are the popular terms we have all seen. It's just a war waged on a specific kind of musicality in order to validate another. Pretentious uber fast guitarists have no feeling or emotive qualities "pretending" to be elite and smart when really it's all about "emotion" because that's the "real way" to understand music.
If music isn't emotional, what's the point? I like my fair share of more relaxed bands (like you mentioned, recent Katatonia,) but Steven Wilson's influence tends to water things down below elevator music level. Maybe if this had symphonic elements...those tend to develop atmosphere a lot more. Atmosphere isn't pretentious, it adds impact for progressive rock/metal. Doesn't have to be Wintersun level, but I welcome ambition. The Tea Party does a lot with 3 instrument layers and a vocalist.
That appraisal of this album is extremely accurate, especially in light of the new album for which "long-time fans" have to justify their hatred of new Opeth with "I liked Damnation! That was prog rock!" and meaningless musical buzzwords like emotional, passionate, and atmospheric in a weak attempt to explain why, beyond the fact that it isn't extreme metal, the new album is shit and should be a side project instead of an Opeth album.
Sanity_Theorist, it took me exactly 6 tries to fall in love with this record; I truly hated it before then. There's still hope. As for why it's their most listened to record, that's much easier to explain: 1) It's not metal. So rock/pop fans who hear about this band will listen to this one the most. 2) Female metalheads - the kind who listen to a lot of Katatonia - love melancholic/bleak soft music more so than the genre of music they advertise themselves as being tr00 fans of. 3) It's probably their catchiest album, and I mean that in a bad way. As much as I like most of this record, In My Time of Need has arguably the lamest chorus the band has ever done. 4) 16-24 year olds new favorite trendy gimmick is calling music emotional and/or atmospheric when they want to sound intelligent or sophisticated, and Damnation is an easy target of these 2 elements. I care about them too but not pedantically to the point that I overuse these words to seem deep and mature to myself and others.