Review Summary: Opeth takes us on a journey, but this time in a different direction and they suceed quite well. This album still has the familiar feel of Opeth but with a different, warm sound that takes inspirations from jazz and 70s Progressive Rock.
For many metal fans, the band Opeth doesn’t need an introduction because during their 21 year long career they have managed to captivate the audience with their familiar sound. The band has always been known for a great mixture of the soft and serene with the aggressive and fast complemented with Mikael Åkerfeldt’s fantasticly diverse vocals and a great usage of synth and church organs. During these years they have managed to keep things fresh and diverse but not straying too far away from their signature sound.
It has been a 3 year long wait for Opeth fans since the last album “Watershed” was released and this time around Opeth have decided to take a turn when it comes to their sound and go for sound that can only be described as 70s Progressive Rock with their new release “Heritage”. This has definitely been hinted at before with their previous albums and does not come as a huge surprise considering a lot of the band’s inspirations come from this genre of music. Another line-up change has also occurred this time where the long time member Per Wiberg has been replaced by new keyboardist Joakim Svalberg. Meaning that this was Wiberg’s last Opeth record.
“Heritage” clocks in at about 57 minutes having 10 tracks including the intro track “Heritage” and outro “Marrow of the Earth”; the special edition of the album will however include 2 bonus tracks. The record is set to be released at September the 20th 2011.
The most notable thing about this album is that it does not feature any of Mikael’s famous growls and only the clean vocals are present. For some Opeth fans this may be a disappointment, for others a blessing. However with the sound the band has chosen to take up with “Heritage”, the usage of growls could have easily taken you out of the experience so not using them was something was probably a good idea. That being said, Mikael’s vocals on this record do not disappoint and definitely surprise you at times, take for example the track “Slither”. He does manage to keep it diverse using his clean vocals only which is much appreciated, even if there are parts of the album where you would expect a growl to come in.
During the recording of this album, Åkerfeldt mentioned that they wanted to go for a more “earthy” sound this time around, going against the grain from a lot of modern metal filled with overproduction and triggered drums. This does show in “Heritage”, it radiates with warmth and the feeling of comfort. It feels like you are listening to real instruments being played by real musicians.
Speaking of instruments, the musicianship on here is fantastic and there is a track on the album where every member of the band gets a time to shine. There is a great usage of both the bass and the keyboards on a lot of these tracks. The acoustic guitars are most definitely not forgotten on here either and grace us with their appearance splendidly on tracks like “Haxprocess” and “I feel the Dark”. What gives off the most “70s Prog” vibe is the guitars, there are great melodies thrown around the tracks as well as wailing softer guitar notes echoing about.
What Opeth have managed to pull off with “Heritage” is the atmosphere, it is bathed in echo and makes you feel like you’re lying on an ancient grassy field, the sunlight drowning your whole body in warmth while the comforting feeling spreads throughout your chest and face all the way down to your legs. It is a great experience as a whole album, but the tracks on here manage to stand on their own two feet and can be enjoyed outside from the group.
“Heritage” may have worried some fans and it could definitely be scary when a band takes a turn and embraces a new sound and can lead to a complete disaster. When it comes to this record, it is a new chapter for this band that wasn’t yet fully explored before. That being said, this is still Opeth and they are still great. They do deviate from their core sound on here, but there is no doubt in my mind that you would ever confuse this with another band.
After a 3 year wait they have delivered us once again with a fantastic album that takes us on a journey away from this dreary September weather.