For many, loss of old-style Opeth is one of the great tragedies of modern metal. Though entirely justifiable, the transition of one of the genre’s most outstanding progressive voices into ’70s prog rock pastiche remains widely mourned, a full seven years since its occurrence. Regardless of whatever promises are made in the interim, with each record, it seems increasingly unlikely that fans will ever see a return to the more extreme, forward-thinking style that garnered the Swedish outfit such reverence in the first place. Thankfully, there are bands like Brazil’s Piah Mater, and their brand new album The Wandering Sister, ready to pick up the discarded progressive death metal torch, and carry it forth into the modern era.
Brazil might be known best among heavy circles for its more extreme (thrash and death) metal output. However, Piah Mater stick more closely to early Opeth’s softer, more wistful moments than their devastatingly heavy ones—think more along the lines of Still Life (1999) and Morningrise (1996) than Deliverance (2002) or My Arms, Your Hearse (1998). That’s not that the band are not without their heavier moments. The album’s centerpiece, “Sprung from Weakness”, sounds like a mash-up between Enslaved and later-day The Faceless, and each of the surrounding tracks have more than enough of a kick to them to keep them firmly rooted on the extreme side of the progressive metal spectrum. Nevertheless, the album’s emphasis lies primarily on the folkier and acoustic side of Opeth’s sound, as compared to its traditional death metal aspects, and there’s even hints of fellow prog-death progenies Ne Obliviscaris to be found within the record’s softer sections—especially during its lofty second track, “Solace in Oblivion”.
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Piah Mater have released one other album, Memories of Inexistence (2014), which was recorded when the band were still only a two-piece. All the elements that would show up on The Wandering Daughter are still very much in play. However, their application feels a bit more scattershot and there’s much more of an extreme edge to their sound this first time around. “Anticipation”, for instance, is by far the heaviest track the band have in their arsenal, by quite a considerable margin—blending those aforementioned Enslaved vibes with something altogether more Gojira-esque.Those looking for something a touch harder-hitting may wish to start there, but there’s an undeniable refinement to the band’s sound on The Wandering Sister—not to mention the authenticity that comes along with the addition of drummer Kalki Avatara to the ranks, amid other substantial guest and session musicians—that ultimately renders it the greater of the two records.
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The numerous references to progressive metal pedigree made here might suggest something of a progressive death metal soup. However, Piah Mater remain primarily dedicated to recapturing the classic Opeth aesthetic. Causes for further compassion are flourishes more so than they are complete additions to the band’s sound, which remains rooted in everything Opeth accomplished up to, and including, 2001’s Blackwater Park. The band’s sound therefore walks a fine line between true “progression” and pure nostalgia. Yet, they say immitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and if Opeth themselves aren’t going to bother making music of this style anymore then certainly an act as accomplished as Piah Mater deserve a chance to take the reins.
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The Wandering Daughter is out now. Both it and Memories of Inexistence are available via Piah Mater’s bandcamp page.