Thomas Feiner's old band Anywhen dissolved under the pressure to finish Opiates, leaving Feiner stranded with an unfinished album to plough through alone. It took two years, but eventually Feiner drew the project to a close, revealing an end result that Samadhi Sound boss David Sylvian would come to regard as a much overlooked classic. It's surprising to think that the Gothenburg-based band didn't find a wider audience with this record in the first place: by merit of its sheer sense of scale and dramatic poise Opiates is a feast for the ears, and a dark, cinematic listening experience to be reckoned with. The production is over-brimming with the densely layered arrangements of the Warsaw Radio Symphony Orchestra, present in all their gloomy splendour on tracks like 'Betty Caine' and the hugely ambitious 'The Siren Songs', which rubs shoulders with the Scott Walker-channelling sounds of the Last Shadow Puppets album, or even the soundtrack work of John Barry in its impressive coda. For all the album's bluster, Feiner's voice proves to be more than a match, and you can certainly see why David Sylvian holds the album in such high regard. Feiner's stately baritone set against the profound sense of melancholy that presides over the album isn't actually too far removed from the kind of emotive core at the heart of Sylvian's own work. Since its initial release the album has been lovingly re-packaged and remastered, supplemented by a further two songs from Feiner as a solo artist which capture the same vein of upscale balladry that characterises the original set of recordings. Highly recommended.
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