Review Summary: 70's prog from the 21st century.
Opeth's tenth 'observation' entitled "Heritage" is likely to polarize fans into two distinct camps. Those who are disappointed that the death metal elements are gone and those who embrace the change towards 1970's influenced experimental progressive rock.
While there definitely were 70's influences apparent in their earlier work, "Heritage" takes it to a whole new level. One can immediately notice the 70's prog vibe just from the album artwork and vintage production alone. This album definitely stands out as being the oddest one of the Opeth catalogue with virtually every track emitting some form of eccentricity not previously heard from the band. It seems that past Opeth is just one of many artists blended into the sound of "Heritage" rather than the primary identity behind the album.
The opening title track, "Heritage" starts off with a very gentle and haunting piano piece accompanied with stand up bass from bassist Martin Mendez. “The Devil’s Orchard” abruptly comes in and provides the album’s first single. Guitarist Fredrik Akesson really shines with his guitar solo towards the end of the track. “I Feel the Dark” is one of the more immediately enjoyable songs employing some pretty interesting acoustic guitar grooves throughout. Next is the most up tempo song on the album, “Slither”, the band’s tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio.
Apart from “The Devil’s Orchard”, “Slither” and “The Lines in My Hand”, most of the album is fairly mellow and laid back with some louder jarring parts in between to prevent the listener from becoming too comfortable with the calm musical climate. This is best demonstrated during “Nepenthe” when a series of very tranquil guitar passages is interrupted by a sudden burst of dissonant jazz energy. There are a lot of ambient and somewhat avant-garde passages in here that are atypical for Opeth such as the middle of “Häxprocess” which features serene acoustic guitar work interspersed with sound effects of children playing in the distance.
“Famine” is the longest and ‘evilest’ track including a memorable Jethro Tull inspired section with a chaotic flute solo playing over a doomy riff. “Folklore” traverses all over the place from a relaxed section with vocal effects to dwelling guitar and piano parts to a very dramatic and thematic outro. The album concludes in a similar fashion as it opens with a very beautiful and poignant instrumental, “Marrow of the Earth”. It is primarily acoustic guitar and electric lead guitar until the outro with the rest of the band as the album fades to silence.
Some complaints toward this album are the lack of an elite discography defining track that most other Opeth albums have and the declining (at times rather cheesy) lyrics from songwriter, Mikael Akerfeldt. The clean vocals are quite a bit more aggressive and assertive than what listeners are used to hearing from Mikael. Sometimes the more assertive style works and other times it does not work as well. Some listeners may be turned off by the old school production that sounds like it may have legitimately been recorded in the mid 1970’s.
Overall the album is recommended for progressive rock fans, especially those into 1970's prog.
I Feel the Dark
Marrow of the Earth