Album Review- Heritage- Opeth
Posted by RiffRaff
Ever since their first album Opeth have been constantly evolving their sound and tossing bits of inspiration from different forms of music into their sound on each album. One thing that can be said about Opeth is they have never grown stale nor unoriginal. While each album has a different feel from the one preceding it, they have all maintained the “Opeth” sound and one can listen to any of their albums and say, “Yup, that’s an Opeth album.” This year they have put forth their tenth studio record, Heritage, and it is the largest departure from their core sound, and while it may have taken a turn away from the well-known “metal” side of Opeth it is still very much an Opeth record through and through.
If you have been following Opeth for some time you may have noticed that they have been adding a more of a 70’s prog/psychedelic rock sound into their music over the years, and on Heritage those three decade old influences really come into full bloom to make an album that sounds as if it could have been released in that time period. If you are familiar with some of the music from that era you will most certainly notice hints of Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant, Black Sabbath, Rush, Yes, and Camel just to name a few. Whereas they do take much influence from the bands of that decade Heritage stands on its own and sounds like nothing else, just Opeth.
The songs on Heritage have a very mellow and laid back mood to them and often have sections that would feel right at home at a low lit jazz club. Track such as “Nepenthe”, “I Feel the Dark”, and “Famine” have heavy jazz influence to them especially heard in the drumming, bass playing, keyboards, and on “Famine” the flute playing. While there is all this jazz and psychedelic stuff going on on the jazzy parts of the album, Opeth doesn’t let you forget that they are a metal band at the roots, but instead of using distorted guitars, double bass drumming, and harsh vocals, they go about it in an often subtle way. On “Famine”(probably my favorite track on the record), the song starts off mellow and a bit haunting and slowly picks up steam and when it hits its apex around the five-minute mark the organ sounds mixes with slightly heavier distorted guitar playing a riff that would sound right at home on a Black Sabbath record play out over-layered with jazz flute playing. When the heavier section lightens up for a guitar and vocal passage the haunting sound of the trilling flute continues extending a heavy and dark feel over them maintaining a “metal” feel until the heavy guitars and drums kick back in. It’s the subtleties like these that really make certain songs on the album really stand out.
And at times Opeth is less than subtle. “The Devil’s Orchard” and “I Feel the Dark” are prog rock fests chock full of sounds that harkens many reminders of early 70’s metal bands such as Rainbow and Black Sabbath(again). On “Slither” they make a nod to their passed on hero Ronnie James Dio for the most straight up rockin’ track on the album; on “Folklore” while there isn’t hard drumming or highly distorted guitars there is a consistent heavy feel throughout the entirety of the track, especially as you reach the final movement of the song. So, in the end there is “metal” on Heritage but it’s not the brutal kind that many Opeth fans have become accustomed to.
There are only a couple negative things that I can say about Heritage. On a couple of songs and sections I felt that they could have explored more and added more of a payoff for when the song hit its high point; a couple of times I felt a bit “blue balled”, especially on “Häxprocess”(“Witch Trial”) where it just kinda peters out at the end after such a wonderful build up. A few times throughout the album I felt that there were some sections that were too minimalistic for a bit too long and my attention slipped away for a bit notably on the intro in “Nepenthe”(which does do a great job redeeming itself).
All in all Heritage is a rock solid release by Opeth and I certainly recommend it to fans of Opeth, prog rock, 70’s music, and jazz. There’s great singing, interesting passages, and the lack of heavy distortion really showcases how good of guitar and bass players the members of the band really are. For those that want immediacy in their music, then I would say give a second thought to this record as it does take a few spins with an attentive ear to really get into. It may not be the “best” Opeth album, it is certainly not their worst(honestly, there is no such thing as a worst Opeth record). While there may be some faults here and there I am really enjoying this direction that they are taking and feel Heritage is the start of a new era in Opeth. With some ironing of the wrinkles they are primed to release yet another mind-blowing masterpiece in the future, albeit this time being a prog rock masterpiece instead of a metal masterpiece.
P.S. The Special Edition of the CD is worth checking out as it is included with a bonus DVD with a 5.1 surround sound mix of the album(mixed by Steven Wilson, whose won a few awards for that kind of thing) as well as an hour-long video documenting the recording of the album and thoughts by the band as well as two really good bonus tracks. Oh, and the cover has is one of those cool pictures where it moves a bit when you view it from different angles and has a 3-D effect.