Opeth - 'Heritage' (Roadrunner) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by David Whistance   
Friday, 23 September 2011 04:45

OpethBack in 1995 Opeth arrived on the death metal scene with their debut album 'Orchid' and during their ten album history since they have continued to redefine and reshape the extreme metal scene, bringing something different to the genre, whilst taking metal fans into unexplored territories of musical experimentation.


The first thing I have to reveal to any Opeth fans craving their fix of deathly snarls and crushing guitars with this their tenth studio album, is that 'Heritage' is frankly not a heavy metal album in any sense of the word.  Although if like myself you cherished their last album 'Damnation' then the bands decision to further modify their musical style won't be too much of a shock. I mean 'Damnation' had already begun to display a far mellower side to the band than their previous albums, so 'Heritage' in many ways is simply a natural progression.


Opeth have for many years crossed their brutal heaviness with a more progressive edge, combining two different musical journeys seamlessly, and I guess by and large this is the reason for the band's worldwide appeal. However here Mikael Akerfeldt and co have moved away completely from their death metal origins and instead delivered a hugely impressive progressive rock album.  Just admiring the almost trippy seventies style artwork of the album sleeve compared to the more dark offerings of their previous albums artwork clearly shows the direction the band are heading with the album. In fact this is an album that wouldn't have sounded out of place in your parents record collections from over three decades ago.  And 'Heritage' as an album owes as much to experimental jazz rock as it does to progressive rock.


The album opens with the title track 'Heritage' a gentle, echoing piano piece that leads gently into 'The Devils Orchard' a 70's inspired full on prog rock number.  It's only when we reach the next two numbers 'I Feel The Dark' and Slither' that you enter a more familiar territory, okay it isn't metal but there's definitely a more recognisable Opeth vibe to the proceedings here. 'I Feel Dark' in particular is an atmospheric number slightly more weighty than the other tracks on 'Heritage' with added touches of flute, and along with 'Slither' deliver the more foot to the pedal stomper than the rest of the album.


The album slows down once again with the psychedelic vibe of 'Nepenthe'. However it's when the album reaches 'Haxprocess' that I begin to head for the skip button, finding the number a touch too overindulgent. 'Heritage' continues in the same slow, ostentatious vein, concluding as it began with an instrumental number 'Marrow Of The Earth', featuring some rather fine classical guitar work.


I have to confess to finding Opeth's musical output quite difficult to judge from a reviewers point of view as I can honestly say that in the past I've never fully appreciated an Opeth album on first listen, they are a band that I have to listen to over a period of time, each listen grabbing something new and discovering some hidden gems along the way, which is what I believe makes them so unique and special a band.


I've read in the press that lead vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt has expressed his dissatisfaction with the extreme metal scene, and I hope that doesn't mean the band have left their metal roots for good, as what I've always loved about Opeth compared to other death and extreme metal acts is that a majority of bands in the genre sound far too similar to each other whereas Opeth have always possessed that fantastic divide between deathly growls and their far more gentle musings.


In 'Heritage' I have to commend the band for taking such a major risk in their career, as this is an album that's going to take time to be truly appreciated, butt stick with it and I think the rewards are going to be plentiful.  This is an album that is going to split opinions in the metal fraternity but I believe it's an album that will be considered a cult classic in years to come.  'Heritage' may not have the heaviness of Opeth's past albums but across the ten tracks that make up the album, Opeth have proved once again that they are still the masters of melancholy.