Hell Bent for Metal's latest special reimagines Opeth's classic 'Watershed' as a queer concept album

Hell Bent for Metal's latest special reimagines Opeth's classic 'Watershed' as a queer concept album

- By Tom Dare

The latest special episode from the LGBT+ heavy metal podcast is an extended version of the Camp Classic feature from the regular show. It explains why Opeth's album 'Watershed' could be interpreted as a concept record about the life of one queer person.

Hell Bent For Metal's fourth special looks long and hard at 'Watershed', the 2008 masterpiece by Swedish progressive death metallers Opeth, in a much more in-depth version of the Camp Classic feature you can hear on the main show (nearly) every week.

Much like how Matt went really off piste in seeing Anaal Nathrakh's 'Endarkenment' as a gay concept record, Tom has gone completely off into the weeds in what he sees in 'Watershed'. Because, whatever Opeth are actually singing about, Tom's managed to view this as a very particular period of the time in a very particular queer person.

It's a varied journey, taking in experiences from queer life that cover sorrow, joy, self-discovery, loss, love, betrayal, sex, and shame. Which sounds heavy, but there's a surprising amount of laughter too.

Going track by track, the hosts dig into every song, find lyrics the real meaning of which are hard to find, so they've read their own interpretation into them – and found an awful lot of ways in which those songs are painting a partial biography of a very specific queer life situation. The topics digressed into as a result of these interpretations also offer many insights into queer issues.

The discussion of "Coil", for instance, touches on the lies that can be told both by people in the closet, and by those around them who want to be able to ignore the obvious queerness of their family member because they want to believe they're straight or cis. It also digs into the profound, damaging power of internalised homophobia on homosexual men and women.

"Heir Apparent", on the other hand, provokes conversations about impact on the partners of closeted LGBT+ adults when that partner comes out, and the effect internalised homophobia and cultural attitudes to certain sexual practices govern how those who engage in same-sex activity view their own sexuality. There's also some very NSFW chat about how gay couples who think they're perfectly matched in every way can encounter certain sexual compatibility issues later in life.

The discussion of "The Lotus Eater" becomes both funny and highly juvenile almost immediately, with Tom's initial attempts to keep the conversation clean and mature lasting barely seconds before they both descend into giggling. But it does eventually return to the serious, with the wibbly wobbly route to coming out, and the effects of the actions of those around you on when and how you do it. The hosts both offer examples of how their routes were helped and hindered by their friends and family.

Each song manages to inspire similar insights and reminiscence on the life of queer folk, and Tom and Matt in particular, from the painful to the joyful, and from the closet to being in a stable, mature relationship that will last for the extreme long term (hopefully!).

And, if that nice Mr Åkerfeldt is reading/listening, yes, they know that's not what it's really about. But the listener being able to find relevance to their own experiences is a sign of good lyrics, so the range of relevance the hosts have been found is intended as a massive compliment. Their discussion of 'Watershed's musical merits, and Opeth in general, should indicate this (even if Tom "has some opinions" about their recent direction), as there's a big chat at the beginning about both hosts love the band, and why.

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