“Wheel of Prog” is an engaging series in which The Prog Report crew take turns spinning a digital wheel that’s loaded with panels representing each record by the episode’s feature group. One at a time, and in random order, the albums are slotted into a tier ranking hierarchy of (from best to worst) S, A, B, C, D and a discussion ensues.
In the video further down the page, Portnoy joins Roie Avin, Dan Levy and Vic Giol and spends about one hour dissecting Opeth’s 13 full length albums, the band’s career arc and all of the sonic developments and changes, notably, their switch from progressive death metal to progressive rock. He even reveals his all-time favorite Opeth song!
What Is Mike Portnoy’s Favorite Opeth Song?
“It’s everything I could ever want out of an Opeth song,” Portnoy says of the Ghost Reveries track “Baying of the Hounds” (transcribed by Loudwire).
“Before [Dream Theater’s] Progressive Nation [tour], I told Mikael [Akerfeldt] he could only come on the tour if he puts that in the setlist,” he mused.
Opeth, “The Baying of the Hounds”
What Opeth Albums Did Mike Portnoy Have to Rank?
“I’ll admit, I have a real problem ranking these last four prog albums,” a candid Portnoy assesses, citing the band’s shift to prog rock which is devoid of Akerfeldt’s distinct death metal growls.
“[Those albums] all have a lot of stuff that I love. There’s also some stuff that I’m not so crazy about as well. I could easily rank the middle period — that’s easy. But these last four, in reviewing for this, I really had to spend most of my time with the last four because I have a hard time gauging which I like better than the others,” he explains.
Looking back at Opeth’s early career, Portnoy notes, “The first two albums are another band. It was just Mikael and [guitarist] Peter [Lindgren] and then a different rhythm section. The production is so much drier, so much more black metal/death metal.”
Although he’s not a huge fan of this era, the drummer acknowledges that he quite enjoys hearing this early material live. Even so, Morningrise falls to the bottom of the ranks.
“For me, this is a D-tier. It’s such a different band than what they were about to become. And I think a lot of it has to do with the different rhythm section as well,” he offers.
- My Arms Your Hearse (1998)
- Tier: B
On his third spin, Portnoy again lands on an earlier record, but one he’s more fond of.
“I really like this album and this is my favorite of the original three,” Portnoy enthuses, continuing, “This is where they started to sound like Opeth. It’s the first album with [drummer Martin] Lopez on drums. [Bassist Martin] Mendez was in the band even though Mikael plays bass on this album. This is filled with classics — “April Ethereal,” “When,” …”Demon of the Fall” is a staple that they still play.”
He slots in in the B-tier, but acknowledges, “I would understand if it got knocked down [in the ranking.”
With only one album remaining on the wheel, Portnoy winds up having to rank Opeth’s first three albums. He was looking forward to discussing some others that lean closer to his favorites, but, always the pro, gladly carries on and reiterates a comment from earlier.
Portnoy bumps Heritage from D-tier to C-tier and slots Orchid, Opeth’s debut, into the D-tier alongside its followup, Morningrise.
“They’re just not who they are yet, they’re still finding their sound. For that reason alone, Heritage belongs above it. Whether or not you like Heritage, whether or not you like the prog and the fusion side, you at least have to give the band credit for being more developed 20 years into their career. So, you have to put it higher,” the drummer reasons.
Watch the full episode of “Wheel of Prog” directly below to see how The Prog Report tier ranked the remaining Opeth albums and follow them on YouTube.
Mike Portnoy Tier Ranks Every Opeth Album With The Prog Report
Mike Portnoy’s 10 Favorite Albums When He Was a Teenager
Legendary prog drummer Mike Portnoy takes us through the soundtrack to his teenage years.