The latest output from Scandinavian metal kings Opeth, the much-anticipated Heritage, is certainly a beautiful record. No doubt, it’s divided their fan base to an even greater degree now. Main culprit, no growls! While a number of fans enjoy the more mellowed styling’s of this group, there are legions of others that cannot avoid this evil thing lurking in their minds called… tunnel vision. Who can blame them? To go from Opeth’s last album Watershed which in itself an extraordinary metal record, loaded with power and demand, unusual heaviness and compounded arrangements, to a more sombre, calm and elaborate record full of fusion and folk inspired riffs, could be considered quite outrageous. Maybe even a gamble. Some will fall in love with it, some will hate it, and some will even find it to be a difficult listen. I for one, love it!
Sure, it’s weird to come across an extreme metal band whose latest album is heavily influenced by King Crimson, Colosseum, and Joni Mitchell. I wouldn’t exactly call this a risk, but more of a challenge, one they have brought upon themselves and surely they have exceeded their expectations. The band is evolving nicely here. They sound established, self-assuring, and comfortable with what they have achieved with Heritage. Guitarist Fredrik Akesson stated that “this album was a challenging one to record.” I think it’s safe to assume the direction and sound of this record is a credit to front man Mikael Akerfeldt’s extremely diverse and eclectic musical tastes. From heavy gods Slayer, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and Celtic Frost, to obscure 70’s progressive rock, jazz-fusion, and even Vangelis. Quite exciting.
For all the metalheads who range from slightly disappointed to super pissed off with Heritage, hopefully they can seek some solace in the track ‘Slither‘ a tribute to the late, great Ronnie James Dio, who tragically passed away during the albums writing sessions. This is where the era-defining 70’s hard rock sound was once again commemorated. Opeth have great respect for their musical icons and this was a nice homage of sorts. The song has a similar sounding vibe to Black Sabbath, the band Dio once fronted on and off for a number of years, making the whole track even more exceptional.
On a whole, Heritage is a pleasant listen. It can be a great way to introduce people to this fine act. It took about 10 albums to find the ‘people-pleaser’ sound, but I think this will do it. It charted nicely (#19 on Billboard 200), the bands highest effort yet. Opeth was obviously going for a different period here, from an influence stand point. It’s as modern as you can get for this kind of music but there are still those memorable flares of the crucial musical talents in the last couple of decades.
The Swedish legends have now instilled yet another innovative sound, entering into a whole new territory and adding to their already vast musical styles. You know, something most of us want from our favorite performers and then we are completely taken aback when they actually do it…Opeth have become that band.
Rating: 4-1/2 out of 5 stars
Favorite Track(s): The Devil’s Orchard, I Feel the Dark, The Lines In My Hand
02. The Devil’s Orchard
03. I Feel the Dark
08. The Lines in My Hand
10. Marrow of the Earth
11. Pyre (bonus track)
12. Face in the Snow (bonus track)
Mikael Åkerfeldt – vocals, guitar, Mellotron, grand piano, effects, mixing, artwork
Fredrik Åkesson – guitar
Per Wiberg – keyboards, grand piano, Mellotron
Martin Mendez – bass guitar
Martin Axenrot – drums