Opeth - Heritage review
|Release date:||September 2011|
02. The Devil's Orchard
03. I Feel The Dark
08. The Lines In My Hand
10. Marrow Of The Earth
11. Pyre [DVD bonus]
12. Face In The Snow [DVD bonus]
Heritage poses more questions than answers. Have Opeth reached a creative cul-de-sac? Have they chucked their "Extreme Progressive Death Metal" for good? Have they finally shed their "Underground Garage Band" (I am quoting Akerfeldt from an earlier interview) and have ventured out into the Pantheon of the "mainstream" Gods from their hallowed underground temple so frequented by hordes of reverent worshipers?
Heritage has undoubtedly made many fans skittish who are in denial mode. "Remember Damnation? They are gonna come up with something killer next time!" But Heritage is no Damnation. Let's face it, Opeth are one of those great bands who never repeat themselves, and after nearly twenty years of their inception, and after eight "heavy-as-hell" albums (excluding Damnation); Akerfeldt and Co. have had enough.
This opens up several new avenues for the band and closes several other doors. Heritage is somewhat an acquired taste. It has a warm, fuzzy retro feel compared to their other albums. The guitars have a crunchy vintage feel to them, the drums are more humane (compared to the "Drum Machine" like sound in other albums), and Mendez's bass creates more havoc than ever. Akerfeldt's singing has considerably improved but is not perfect. He fails in bits and parts ("Slither", "Famine") but makes it up in his side project Storm Corrosion. Nevertheless it doesn't change the fact that he is one of the greatest voices in metal around.
Coming to the album, it does have some great tracks. The opening track is an exquisite piano piece which leads to "The Devil's Orchard" which is a standard track on its own. But add the Opeth logo to it and it becomes something pretty average. "I feel the Dark" is a deeply emotional track with beautiful guitar picking and mellifluous vocals, but then the song can be neatly split into two distinct parts which is somewhat odd as songs are supposed to be continuous no matter how "progressive" they are. However the main highlights of the song are "Haxprocess" and "Folklore". "Haxprocess" has an unconventional song structure which actually works and "Folklore" is somewhat inspired from Rainbow's "Gates OF Babylon".
Heritage is obviously a tribute to the obscure progressive bands of the 70's whom Akerfeldt greatly idolizes; it is his grand homecoming . The unveiling of his roots, which made him what he and Opeth are. The band still continues its show of dazzling musicianship and brilliant production, but most important of all; they have retained their soul. They have taken a huge gamble and have consciously sailed away from their comfort zone and that too at the peak of their musical carriers, which is admirable.
|The general consensus when a great band dares to move away from their original Death Metal sound is usually not positive. However Opeth have done it before masterfully with Damnation in 2003. They are back at it with one of the year's most anticipated albums, Heritage.
Cutting to the chase: Compared to their previous releases, Heritage lacks character. Despite the song structures being very progressive rock and the vocals being crazy good, the absence of catchy guitar riffs or memorable growls is a downer. One can positively recognize Opeth as the artist, especially since a lot of the songs borrow tidbits straight from the Ghost Reveries period. Certainly they manage to perpetuate a dark atmosphere throughout the album, but the mellowness of the whole thing is borderline irritating to someone expecting their trademark sound. I know we have been forewarned by Mikael Åkerfeldt himself about this being a throwback kind of release. Still, I believe this would be either catchier or more aggressive. Nevertheless the album does feature good moments, mostly from the jazz-infused portions of the songs.
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