Opeth have always been considered a difficult band to listen to. As their music meanders in and out of complex phases, the casual listener could be immediately put off by the sudden changes in tone. However, for a long-time listener of the band, their 2011 release Heritage proves to be the biggest hurdle to overcome.
We are not greeted by Mikael Akerfeldt’s growling voice on this album, the guitars lack that electric vibrancy so common in recent releases and instead we’re taken back to the height of progressive rock of the early 70s. It is difficult for me to accept this as an Opeth album. To say it is lacking in brooding atmosphere would be completely wide of the mark. But you can certainly sense that the excitement of Blackwater Park or 1999’s epic Still Life is no longer present.
…interesting riffs aplenty.
The album never really seems to kick off, instead chugging along in first gear to a backdrop of ‘70’s tie-dye and bell-bottoms. But then again, that is the desired effect here. The album’s opener is the hauntingly catchy Heritage, a two-minute piano introduction to set the mood for the rest of the album. The real opener The Devil’s Orchard is a straight-to-the-point signal of where the band was heading with this album; back to the days of King Crimson and early Genesis.
As with any Opeth album there are interesting riffs aplenty. Little interludes which seem to toss the reader into the air and bring them back down with the calm before the storm that is so common in previous albums. Much of the music continues in this same vein, plenty of interesting guitar work and, for those in the mood, enough to keep listeners intrigued as to the rest of this album may be going.
Folklore – possibly the album’s finest moment…
Folklore may be one of the band’s most interesting tracks. Some very familiar introductory guitar-work and a few more wonderful surprises in this eight-minute opus – possibly the album’s finest moment, with a hint of Akerfeldt moving through the gears as the song winds down to a close.
Is this an album more accessible to those who chose to dismiss the death metal genre? Certainly. But it is not an album we should be surprised by as we were given ample to time brace ourselves for the change in direction from Akerfeldt himself. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the album is a disappointment, nor is it a bad release by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, had it not been for the masterful accomplishments of the band’s previous work and the high esteem I hold those albums in, I may put this album forward as one of the best of the year.
One of the most consistent bands of the past 15 years…
It’s not to say that Opeth have never incorporated other musical elements into their releases. Ghost Reveries was laden with jazz and early prog-rock elements. But you still knew well enough that you were listening to an Opeth album.
One of the most consistent bands of the past 15 years, this is either their most frustrating piece or it is Mikael Akerfeldt’s most progressively groundbreaking moment as he says; “this is my music, I’ll do as I please.”
Images courtesy of Opeth