Release Date: Sep 20, 2011
Record label: Roadrunner Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Heavy Metal, Progressive Metal, Neo-Prog, Prog-Rock, Scandinavian Metal
Stockholm quintet Opeth have been gradually opening up their sound, inching away from deathmetal terror and toward old-school prog rock. On Heritage, they could almost be a jazz-fusion band conjured up by a Renaissance-faire magician. They exhibit unexpected energy and rhythm – "Slither" charges forward with the most optimistic overdrive they have ever allowed themselves.
There was a moment on 2008’s Watershed that showed just how much Opeth, a deeply progressive band, had progressed over eight records. The song, entitled “The Lotus Eater,” was mentioned in nearly every review written for the record, and rightfully so. After three minutes of intense blastbeats and one of frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt’s harshest vocals, the song drifts into a quiet, sparse midsection.
Sufficiently admired in the UK that they were able to pack out London's Royal Albert Hall in April 2010, Opeth have long been a potent antidote to the notion that prog rock and metal are genres bereft of substance. The Swedes' 10th album, Heritage, is a brave, melancholic and often beautiful heavy rock record that revels in the warm, analogue tones and shimmering mellotrons of the pre-punk 70s while still exuding a sense of wonder at new ideas. Band leader Mikael Åkerfeldt has confessed to a peevish rejection of the modern metal scene, but there is still plenty of rugged oomph amid the labyrinthine riffing of The Devil's Orchard and the Rainbow-like clatter of Slither.
Heritage, Opeth's tenth studio offering, finds the Swedish band abandoning death metal: no growled vocals, no blistering fast power riffs, no blastbeats. Mixed by Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson) and engineered by Janne Hansson, Heritage is easily Opeth's most musically adventurous -- and indulgent -- recording. Written primarily by vocalist/guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt, these ten songs are drenched in instrumental interludes, knotty key and chord changes, shifting time signatures, clean vocals, and a keyboard-heavy instrumentation that includes Mellotrons, Rhodes pianos, and Hammond organs -- ironic since keyboardist Per Wiberg left the band after Heritage was completed.
It's Opeth, but not as you know them... We suppose it was only a matter of time before Opeth delivered an album like this. Mikael Åkerfeldt has long given the impression that he’s more into his weirdy-beardy 70s prog than death metal, and now the Swedes have an album to reflect that. It’s not the first time the frontman has ditched the growling - see 03s ‘Damnation’ for earlier proof - but ‘Heritage’ is an infinitely more audacious beast, full of jazzy noodling, serpentine guitar leads, folky introspection and general acid-drenched freakiness.
It's not as if Opeth needed to reaffirm their place among prog metal's elite, but the Swedish quintet's 10th studio full-length gets it done effortlessly. Heritage, free of growling vocals, isn't "heavy" by Opeth standards. Instead, it luxuriates in psychedelic jazziness, '70s rock organ aplenty, and exquisite acoustic passages that recall 2003's Damnation.
In a review of the special edition reissue of Opeth's 2005 collection Ghost Reveries, I quoted band leader Mikael Åkerfeldt as saying that what his group does is "more than metal." At the time, the forward-thinking Swedish group was still very much performing within the metal tradition. On their 10th album, Heritage, they aren't. For longtime fans, the shift from progressive death metal to full-on progressive rock won't be a surprise: 2003's Damnation gave a good idea of what Åkerfeldt sounded like doing clean vocals sans death growls, and since 1995's debut, Orchid, he's never been afraid to stretch the templates of all the genres they incorporate.
Review Summary: Opeth is as Opeth does.The last time we saw Opeth, they were admittedly in a bit of a creative slump. Coming off of the high that was 2005's Ghost Reveries, their follow up, 2008's Watershed was more than lacking, it was a wee bit stagnant. That's not to say that it wasn't another quality addition to Opeth's canon, but after nine albums it was clear that Opeth is as Opeth does.
Just as the protagonist in Kafka’s Metamorphosis wakes up to find himself in the wrong body and the wrong species, Swedish death metal pioneers Opeth have realised they’ve been in the wrong genre all these years. Journalists like to call Opeth’s work 'progressive metal' – a genre invented for them simply because 'metal' doesn’t begin to describe the apocalyptic death metal, mournful acoustic soundscapes and even dark jazz that makes up the band’s eclectic career. (A metal aficionado friend, whose judgement on such matters is beyond reproach, advises me that Opeth's 'first four albums are death metal, the next four progressive death metal, the last two progressive metal'.
Review Summary: Having a dream doesn’t necessarily mean you can execute it.All of the praise surrounding Opeth’s stark transformation has left me confounded. Here we have one of the greatest metal behemoths in the world taking a look at their vast empire and deciding that they no longer want any part of it. First came the announcement from Akerfeldt that the album would be the band’s second to completely forego the growling vocals, then came the release of ‘The Devil’s Orchard’, a rather aimless ditty weighed down by its own pretentious posturing.
Heritage will surely be seen as one of their most accomplished works. Raziq Rauf 2011 News about Opeth ditching metal for the prog world for their 10th album has been greatly exaggerated. Yes, it’s an eye-catching story that reflects their progression, but the Swedes are as heavy as they’ve ever been. Whatever you may have been led to believe, a band does not need death metal vocals to be heavy.
It has finally happened. The writing was on the wall all along, of course – Opeth titled their third album after a Comus lyric, their fifth after German hard-proggers Blackwater Park, and even stole a song title, 'For Absent Friends,' from Genesis. But it's taken until Heritage, the band's tenth release, for Mikael Åkerfeldt to truly succumb to his long-bridled lust for the heady days of 70s prog.