Review Summary: Meandering upsets...
Opeth is held in the music community with great esteem by nearly anyone with a cornucopia of musical insight. They have long been seen as innovators and original thinkers pertaining to the creation and evolution of progressive death metal. These long-standing leaders from Stockholm Sweden have proved countless times that they can keep their particular niche unique and interesting over the course of nine preceding "observations". From the raw and budding minds of "Orchid", to the hauntingly beautiful "My Arms, Your Hearse.", to the brutal yet expansive "Deliverance", Opeth have seemingly never failed to deliver.
The leader has becoming the follower amidst the hour length of their most recent effort. Mikael Akerfeldt, a self-proclaimed 70's progressive enthusiast, delves into the realm of odes and re-interpretation. Though there are several new ideas brought to the table amongst the ideas present on "Heritage", they die off at the stem more so than they blossom.
In the vein of early progressive metal, the arrangements have been stripped down considerably from the sleek production of their past efforts. In exchange for diminished chord progressions and death metal vocalic, there are now sparse offerings coated in lukewarm singing courtesy of front man and mastermind, Mikael Akerfeldt. These ideals have been used once before throughout Opeth's discography with their offering "Damnation". Where "Damnation" succeeded in setting moods and tones, "Heritage" fails with underdeveloped transitions and meandering moments of multi-layered noodling.
All musicians involved deliver their own brand of musicality to the end product of this record. Guitarist Frederik Akesson attempts to shine on track such as Slither and The Devil's Orchard. Though a skilled and talented guitarist, his playing on the record as seems to be lacking in emotion and sincerity. The solo within Slither seems to be yawn-worthy when compared to previous outings in the Opeth discography where he wasn't present. Martin Axenrot, love him or hate him, offers a new take on old ideas. Though his playing wouldn't be considered the greatest of all time, he does seem to be one of the few members to truly shine on the album. His mixture of jazzy beats and lush fills speak of a time which is normally missed by the masses who enjoy "simpler" music. Martin Mendez fills out the rhythm section just as he has done for quite some time now. His bass-playing works in the favor of the music for most of the record, but this doesn't say much seeing as there is not a lot of music worth mentioning on this record in the first place.
Per Wiberg gives his swan song performance as a member of Opeth on "Heritage", and though his playing will be missed on subsequent releases, his offerings on this record fall short along with the mainframe of this dismal structure. Wiberg uses the direction given to him by Akerfeldt on all the other releases he has taken a part in thus far, and the same could be said about his playing on this record. One cannot truly fault a talented musician under uninteresting direction and dictation.
"Heritage" can be seen as an offering which is progressive for the sake of being progressive. It was an album that Mikael Akerfeldt wanted to make, and so he went along making it. He may be proud of his output on this record, and the band members may be as well. Taking the time and patience to evolve as a band is something that should be admired, as well as taking risks. However, there are times that are called to mind that risk-taking yields unfortunate results with mixed outcomes. This is quite simply one of those times. The failure that this album has garnered says nothing to the fact that it is void of harsh vocals or heavy riffage. It's failure speaks to the lack of direction and meandering attitudes portrayed within tenfold.