Released: 2011, RoadRunner
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Any band that has been going for around for over 25 years, releasing an extensive discography of progressive music, (some of the best within their genre) would certainly be subject to change. Such is the case with Opeth. With this in mind, if ever there was album to come out in 2011 that would divide a band’s fan base, Heritage would be it.
Entering this latest offering with an open mind, there are two things that are worth noting: the production of this record seems to have strayed away from the polished and clear sound that has come from the more recent albums. Instead it feels as though it was produced back in the 70’s and judging by the heavily infused prog elements throughout, it would appear to be a deliberate ploy to authenticate the overall experience. Secondly, it is their second album in which Mikael Akerfelbt’s distinctive death metal growls are entirely absent.
Upon first listen, the Heritage may feel incomplete and at times devoid of any of the qualities that Opeth have become so renowned for. The piano intro of the album’s title track could indeed serve as a worthy intro into something more sinister (in the way that ‘Coil’ and ‘Heir Apparent’ did on Watershed). However this ceases to be the case as ‘The Devil’s Orchard’ opens with clean vocals, sung fairly well, swamped in progressive layers of guitar melodies and gritty bass guitar grooves, before bursting into its solo led closure.
‘I feel the Dark’ is a straight up improvement with an acoustic intro, lightly sung vocals and slightly heavier riffs that become interwoven, although never straying too far into death metal territory. Meanwhile, the hard rock edge of ‘Slither’ feels misplaced and even slightly “up-beat” for them, a song which falls short and never quite recovers.
However, this does not condemn the rest of the record. There are junctures in which the true essence of Opeth can be felt, the hypnotic blues in ‘Haxprocess’ is a reminder that no one does it quite like these guys. Meanwhile, in ‘Famine’ you’ll find yourself pulled into a rich landscape in which a flute and piano led intro carries you on an exotic voyage. The euphoric last two minutes of ‘Folklore’ shows the band at their peak, before subsiding into beautiful ‘Marrow of The Earth’.
In short, this record is not necessarily weaker than their previous albums, it’s just more subtle. Clearly Opeth have dug deep within to bring this piece of music to light and what they have excavated is something new and old, beautiful and obscure, rich and barren. Although there will always be My Arms Your Hearse loyalists and Blackwater Park fanatics, and even though this record lacks the immediacy of both it does have a greater replay value for its buried treasures.
Review by Ben Spencer