Opeth
In Cauda Venenum


3.7
great

Review

by Benjamin Kuettel STAFF
September 26th, 2019 | 1081 replies


Release Date: 09/27/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Renewed inspiration makes Opeth’s latest their best since Heritage.

In typically unpredictable fashion, Opeth have established an unexpected new phase of their existence this past decade. They controversially shed their unique brand of metal that earned them high praise through the 2000s with Heritage, and thus began a new journey into the realm of folkish progressive rock and a more traditional approach to hard rock and heavy metal. This new style has wavered between new sounds and innovation, and drawing inspiration from groups like King Crimson, Yes, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and countless others.

The releases following Heritage were solid, but the songwriting in places felt more straightforward and less unique than usual. In Cauda Venenum continues this phase while correcting some of those pitfalls along the way. The album thankfully brings back a punchier sound reminiscent of Ghost Reveries and Watershed while continuing in the trajectory of where the band are now. “Garden of Earthly Delights” lulls the listener in with a hypnotic electronic throbbing and field recordings, something the band have never done before. It doesn’t last long though, as it transitions into the explosive intro of “Dignity,” a more traditional example of what Opeth bring to the table in the 2010s. Vintage riffing, acoustic guitar strumming, and soloing occur before calming down at a serene bridge section that sounds like a soundtrack to a medieval storybook. Things gets loud again and builds to an almost operatic finale, with the track laying out all the different moods the album has to offer in one surprisingly cohesive six-minute song.

One of the longest the album has to offer, “Heart in Hand” is next, launching with one of the most wickedly heavy intros the band have recorded in quite some time. The epic continues in this fashion until a deliciously psychedelic bridge that ends too soon. The track closes with an acoustic outro not dissimilar to a slightly more optimistic take on the style from Damnation. Only three songs in, the band are already displaying their best qualities and sound self-assured and compelling without any awkwardness to be found. While not sounding like their classic period from the turn of the century, those strengths are felt and harnessed in an exciting new way.

Sorceress contained some offbeat, at times disjointed sensibilities that were able to achieve more unpredictability than the straightforward Pale Communion, but In Cauda Venenum is able to maintain the rewarding and unpredictable qualities of it while improving the songwriting and feeling more inspired overall. The production and mixing is also at its best and fullest since the 2000s records. A whole host of ideas are explored throughout, with more of a lush, orchestral presence similar to “Hessian Peel” and “Faith in Others.” “Lovelorn Crime” for example uses varied instrumentation to sound like a lost Victorian-era prog rock ballad. “Continuum” sounds massive as it traverses some classic Opeth moments before ending with a soaring, mysterious sounding outro and some of Akerfeldt’s best singing of the album. “Universal Truth” is Opethian majesty at its finest, with enchanting acoustic work and swaying string melodies that recall the atmosphere of Heritage. This music feels like it was dreamed up in another time or world while blended with the imagination of these musicians that are always intent on exploring new musical realms.

Despite all the impressive elements to be enjoyed, there are some experiments that don’t fully succeed. “Charlatan” is an exercise in bombasity and indulges in the band’s penchant for sometimes going over the top in their newer albums, in this case with Meshuggah-esque guitar riffing and prog wankery for four straight minutes. They thankfully kept it brief, and the track can be an entertaining listen when one is in the right mood. Other moments on the album go overboard as well, and Mikael Akerfeldt’s more recent penchant for oversinging crops up from time to time, despite him being an excellent vocalist in general.

Many elements give In Cauda Venenum a good case for the link between Watershed and Heritage. A higher level of ambition and a confident balance of the various changes in tone is felt all over the record. While not all of the flaws from the new Opeth are gone, the band are giving their full effort and showing off how creative they have always been, and still are without doubt. Renewed inspiration and a fine balance between the dark and light sides of Opeth’s music make In Cauda Venenum their best work since Heritage.



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user ratings (343)
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
Robert Garland CONTRIBUTOR (3.5)
Like a jaunty old clock that leans ever so slightly to the right....

PsychicChris (4.5)
Their most focused since Ghost Reveries...

TheMoonchild (3)
Opeth stops trying to please everybody, and in doing so, finally takes a step forward....

Philip R. Anderson (4)
Opeth finally finds equlibrium...


Comments:Add a Comment 
TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
September 26th 2019


18825 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

"Heart in Hand" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ko4_eO2tiU



"Dignity" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GF5FXYmBrc4

Digging: We Lost the Sea - Triumph and Disaster

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
September 26th 2019


10394 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

And there it is. Well done Ben

Willie
Moderator
September 26th 2019


17871 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

Great review. I definitely agree about this being the best since Heritage. I just haven't managed to get into one of their pure prog albums yet. It might sound odd to say, but they were catchier during their death metal phase.

Digging: Leprous - Pitfalls

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
September 26th 2019


18825 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

Thanks! I think this is finally a satisfying middle ground between Watershed and Heritage. Parts of this sound surprisingly modern.

Lucman
September 26th 2019


3365 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Ah here it is! Beautiful album. Could be their best since Watershed, which is saying a lot considering how much I adore Heritage.

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
September 26th 2019


16800 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Finally made it to the first page of what surely would be a 200 thread.



Now, unto the review!

Digging: Chelsea Wolfe - Birth of Violence

Source
September 26th 2019


13719 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

bet this sucks

Observer
Staff Reviewer
September 26th 2019


7111 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Ill give it a spin. Typical "I cant stand their prog rock shit though" statement.

Digging: Caracara - Summer Megalith

Lucman
September 26th 2019


3365 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I gotta be the first to say "Better than Tool."

Faraudo
September 26th 2019


3182 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Probably their best since Watershed, it reminded me of Damnation and Watershed in particular. Great stuff.

Digging: Scalene - Respiro

conesmoke
September 26th 2019


6037 Comments


Where are you getting the entire album from?

Trifolium
September 26th 2019


10297 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hype! Tomorrow!



But didn't people say "their best since Watershed/in years" for Pale Communion and Sorceress too when they were released?

conesmoke
September 26th 2019


6037 Comments


Look... I just finished work, crammed myself onto a light rail like fkn human sardine...and I wanna listen when I get home.

conesmoke
September 26th 2019


6037 Comments


Leak it Ben. Think mike, just do it

beefshoes
September 26th 2019


7554 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I can't say that this is anything above being average, but it is definitely better than the last two albums. Not a high bar to cross though.

Digging: Boris - Love And Evol

Davil667
September 26th 2019


3838 Comments


Damn, totally forgot release date is today! Need a copy asap, quite a bit stoked.

Davil667
September 26th 2019


3838 Comments


Lol tomorrow not today. However, really looking forward to it.

And a really good read! Fuels my anticipation.

Scheumke
September 26th 2019


1270 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Release is tomorrow right? Can't stream it yet in any case. Good review, wasn't all that excited about it, but its getting there.

Digging: Type O Negative - October Rust

Wubs
September 26th 2019


956 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

omgomg

Pikazilla
September 26th 2019


4956 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I'm kinda scared to listen to this



But the singles were nice



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