Opeth – Heritage(2011)
Opeth, a name that has firmly established itself as a band that isn’t afraid to experiment, though till date they’ve still played it pretty close to the chest, as the death metal influences have been on the more prominent side, and even albums like Damnation have had a sound that is integrated nicely into the Opeth fabric that has been woven for the last nine releases. Heritage, the latest release is where it all changes.
Strip away most of the death metal elements you’ve gotten so far, add a fair amount of 70’s/80’s prog rock worship, throw in a little eccentric jazz/blues/folk touches, and you’ve obtained a good approximation towards the kind of sound you’d expect to hear on Heritage. Mikael Akerfeldt, brains, guitars and vocals of the organisation decides to refrain from growling entirely, which might come as a bit of a shock to some. Even the artwork has changed from dark, desolate pictures to something a lot more playful and intricate, reminiscent of bands focusing lyrically on fantasy based themes, like Genesis.
Be it the introductory guitarwork on ‘I Feel The Dark’, and the abrupt transition to a heavier section, the short(by Opeth standards) dose of heaviness on ‘The Lines In My Head’ and the groovy opening riff on ‘The Devil’s Orchard’, Opeth hasn’t lost the core of it’s sound. However, the songs on this album, in spite of having relatively fresh riffs and arrangements, tend to sound a little jagged and mashed together. The complete absence of growled vocals leaves the heavier sections a little empty, and comes as a slight let down compared to the majestic climaxes on epics such as Black Rose Immortal. Tracks such as Nepenthe, Haxprocess and Famine have some very interesting sections that seem like Akerfeldt experimenting with ritual/folk music, but might be a little trying if you’re listening to such stuff for the first time. The drums are a lot more subdued, with very little double bass featuring in most, or indeed all songs.
Overall, Opeth has extended it’s musical feelers into new territories while trying not to overly shock their current fan base, though as Akerfeldt says “We don’t care about the opinions of others, if the DM fans cannot handle this, that is their problem”. The result is a slightly confused, yet fairly interesting album that is likely to push Opeth up on prog-archives and down on metallum(not br00tal!!). Also, it might just grow on you if you give it a few spins, so do check it out, though if you like it, there are (arguably) better bands out there playing in a similar framework.