Review Summary: For the first time in a decade, Opeth seem imbued with freshness and creativity.
The word hyperbole was invented for institutions like Opeth. Oh yes, critical acclaim seems to follow the Swedish metal collective wherever they may go. And why shouldn’t it" After all, the band somewhat revolutionized “progressive metal,” morphing it into a household genre name. However, despite the band’s unfathomably consistent track record, for the past decade there’s been a nagging bit of knowledge in the back of many metal fans heads—Opeth peaked with Blackwater Park
Deny it as you may, the fact remains the same. Yes Blackwater Park
was excellent, almost perfect even, but therein lies the issue. Said album was the absolute height of the band’s sound; a stunning refinement that took a sound as far as it could go. Yet Opeth weren’t content with that, instead opting to continue treading the same road for the duration of the 2000’s. While Ghost Reveries
were both great in their own right, they still felt like a re-imagining of 1999’s Still Life
. Thus, many feel like the band have stagnated, and really, it’s difficult to argue after listening to album after album of copy/pasted material.
This is where Heritage
, Opeth’s tenth proper album comes in. Heritage
is the band’s boldest, freshest, and most inspired album since the 1990’s. It retains that wonderful familiar feel, all while taking a bevy of chances, resulting in something new, but decidedly Opeth. The band is still wonderfully proficient, with Mikael Akerfeldt’s always excellent vocals being a major highlight. Sure, there’s a bit more “prog cheesiness,” but as always the instrumentation is solid and fantastically executed. That being said, despite the fresh approach taken, it can’t help but be felt that the band are definitely out of their element, hitting a few snags along the way.
sounds fantastically fresh, it should come as no surprise. It’s absolutely mired in old school progressive rock, taking cues from the seventies acts who defined the genre. As stated earlier, this should come as no surprise, as Opeth have been infusing their solid death metal roots with seventies progressive rock ever since their inception. It’s a logical step forward really, and for the most part it feels incredibly natural.
The album opens up with a lovely instrumental suite, which gives way to one of the heavier selections, “The Devil’s Orchard.” It’s more bombastic than most of the album, and features and overall heavier tone. From then on out it’s a maddening descent into metal tinged progressive rock. At times catchy, while at others, beautiful, Heritage
is without a doubt Opeth’s most intriguing release. Dark, somber tracks like “Nepenthe” and “Marrow of the Earth” parallel the longer, more exciting pieces, such as “Folklore” and “Famine.” It may not flow perfectly, but the album always has something new and interesting up its sleeve.
is a breath of fresh air, and a welcome change of pace for a band who’s been all too comfortable with themselves. Yet the album’s major failing is its consistency, or lack thereof. Sure, it’s filled to the brim with great ideas, and the band seems more invigorated than ever, but overall the entire effort seems aimless. Songs seem convoluted, and gimmicks such as the flute and acoustic guitar feel shoehorned in just for the sake of artificially diversifying the sound. Stylistic transitions come off as contrived as well. For example, it often feels as if a song ends and another begins; only it is the same track with a jarring transition bludgeoned in the middle. Whether this be an attempt to extend playtime or a hackneyed bout of experimentation remains to be said. Regardless, the end result is a largely choppy, uneven, and stylistically schizophrenic album with an identity crisis.
, more so than any other Opeth record to date, has its faults. A lot of this is forgivable, simply on the basis that the band have stepped outside their comfort zone and tried something new, something different
. There will be much contention from fans in regards to the new direction, and it’s difficult to blame them, but this is an album that needs to be approached with an open mind. Metal fans have come to expect what an Opeth album should be, rather than what it can be. And while, at times, Heritage
leaves a lot to be desired, it is still a fun, engaging, and wholly enjoyable listen from one of the finest acts in modern progressive music.