Opeth – Heritage

Roadrunner Records

Review by Simon Edwards

I’ve been a Opeth fan for many years now, so when this album came around it was always going to be very interesting. Mostly because it would be fascinating to see how they could boldly claim this was a new direction, after it seems they have already covered every direction at some point in their career!

Starting with the front cover it’s… striking to say the least! A bit of controversy to put an ex-member (who was fired) falling from the tree. Maybe it wasn’t the most subtle move, but along with that the whole cover is symbolic. It serves a purpose to visualise what this record is about. It represents the new direction of the music with a homage to those early prog bands that have influenced it. Though it would be unfair to say this was a complete departure, as there is plenty for the typical Opeth fan to get into.

The opening track of the album sets the pace and is very nice and smooth. I would normally then expect it to burst into life with brutal Opeth riffs and destructive vocals. However what it does do is slowly unfold into a Rush-esque prog intro before moving onto some classic Opeth moments. Once you are a few songs in you will find it to be a pure prog album. But as always what makes any Opeth track are the awesome vocals from Mikael Åkerfeldt.

Of course as this is not a heavy record, it doesn’t mean it’s just an acoustic record like Damnation or totally down-beat. It feels like all the nice parts of previous Opeth records put together. The sound of this record has always been in Opeth’s music, but just not previously exposed like this. It’s a good example of how to progress the feel of a band without dismissing what they used to be (see Unseen by The Haunted)

Certainly not an album for all occasions, but that’s never really been the point of Opeth. If you have time to let your self be indulged by the record, you will take away a lot more from it. It is like a classic Opeth record in most ways and whilst listening, it’s easy to forget they have such brutal songs in their back catalogue.

It’s a shame that the really heavy stuff has been left behind as the music doesn’t quiet have the same dynamic change as before. For me the best part of listening to Opeth was how they could seamlessly merge a death metal passage with an acoustic break down. It probably won’t go down as the greatest record that Opeth have ever produced but they do have such high standards to live up to. Some fans may even by upset by Heritage, but Opeth has always been about being musically open and not being limited to one style.

The album flows very well and is definitely should be heard as a full album. This is in the respect that the songs feel they are meant to be together, rather than a bunch of singles with filler between. However the down side of that is none of the tracks particular stand out much of their own accord. It’s more of an experience rather than a collection of songs.

Ending on an acoustic instrumental brings the album full circle and sums it up nicely as it feels like a reprise of the first track. Like the end to a long journey, this album doesn’t go out with a bang but just leaves you breathless and in deep thought.

Very good and in the right moment could be excellent. However a slight amount of that special Opeth magic that could only be created by them is missing. If you haven’t made your mind up whether or not to buy the record yet, then the answer I would give is a definite yes. Even if it’s just to fill your curiosity! It’s still Opeth and their musical mastery doing what they’ve always done, just without the death metal parts… and this can be easily forgiven as Mikael’s voice is simply one of the best in the business.

Rating ***1/2

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