Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: Opeth - Heritage

Band: Opeth
Album: Heritage
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Genre: Progressive Rock/Metal

I thoroughly enjoy Opeth's first 3 albums, along with Watershed. But My Arms, Your Hearse is probably their zenith as far as what I have heard. So lets get this out of the way right now: if you are much more into Opeth's older albums, Heritage is probably not for you. Gone are the growled death vocals, and most traces of even the metal aspects of Opeth are gone, traded in for a retro 70s prog rock sound as hinted at by Akerfeldt prior to the album's release.

There are still elements of metal left here. Especially on The Devil's Orchard and Folklore. But they are mostly what you would expect out of a sort of 70s proto metal band. The guitar sound does have a sort of thick metal sound at times as well.

Now a lot of people are a little pissed that the death metal vocals are missing in action on Heritage. It bothers me to a degree but Mikael has always had an excellent singing voice and he lives up to the hype he gets here.

Heritage begins with a self titled instrumental track. It also ends with another instrumental called Marrow of the Earth. Both of these songs are really good and the piano in Heritage gives it a sort of dark, gothic, depressive sort of sound. It almost seems fitting of a dark dreary rainy October day. Marrow of the Earth is along those lines as well, except where Heritage uses a piano MotE is mainly an acoustic affair though near the end the drums softly enter the song. I really enjoy the soft darkness of these two songs and they do a lot to set the atmosphere at both ends of the album.

The keys evoke probably most strongly the feeling of 70s progressive rock. Look no further than the first proper song, The Devil's Orchard, to hear it. But the keyboards stick a little further in the background so as not to choke out the rest of the instruments. Well perhaps not to far back but the guitars don't have to compete with them anyways. They are present throughout most of the album but the two instrumentals so they are sort of an integral part to the sound of Heritage.

On some of the songs Opeth's influences are worn a little more on their sleeve than others. Like on Folklore, there is a part near the start where there is a flute playing and the whole section of music following that just screams of something like Jethro Tull. In fact Folklore while being the second longest song on Heritage at a little over 8 minutes long is probably my favorite song. Famine also gives off the same Jethro Tull vibe at around the 5 minute mark it could have been taken right out of one of that band's songs.

But there is something wrong with Heritage that I cant quite put my finger on. It's a good album but by Opeth standards, the good of Heritage doesn't really seem good enough. Certain songs like Nepenthe and Haxprocess seem to just drag on and go no where at all. Its missing the aggression that was in almost all those early songs in one way or another. The closest we probably get here is Slither with its more fast paced speed and undeniably metal guitar solo. Stylistically a lot of the music here has an almost happy upbeat sound to it which seems a little out of character for Opeth. An upbeat part will lead straight into a somber acoustic piece or something else and this makes the songs sound a tad disjointed because it doesn't seem to flow just right.

All in all Heritage is sort of a confusing ride. While a good portion of it is pretty good (Folklore, The Devil's Orchard, Heritage, Marrow of the Earth, Famine) there are also parts of the good songs or songs as a whole which are difficult to listen to (Nepenthe, Haxprocess and portions of I Feel the Dark). But like I said there is good, the songs I listed like TDO, Folklore, and the instrumentals are all really great listens. The drumming is jazzy and fun to listen to and Mikael's vocals are right on.

Heritage has many good qualities but it has it's flaws as well. I can see myself going back to listen to certain songs but probably not the album as a whole.

Score: 6.5/10
Standout Tracks: Folklore, Famine, Heritage, Marrow of the Earth

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