Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Review: Opeth - Heritage

 As an amateur music reviewer and constant reader of Kerrang!, I've come to be inspired by the various writers and reviewers the magazine employs. One reviewer I really look up to is Paul Travers. He has a very effective way with words and makes lots of good points regarding an album that many wouldn't put much thought into. This week, I've felt particularly inspired by Mr. Travers, since discovering our feelings on Heritage, the tenth album from Swedish prog practitioners Opeth are very much adjacent.
 First thing to say that this album is very much a must for fans of progressive rock of the 1970s. Heritage shows a mass influence to this era of music an influence to Rush, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple can be heard throughout. The guitar playing on Slither is reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's Babe I'm Gonna Leave You and Per Wiberg's keyboard and mellotron playing often has a familiarity to the kind of keys heard in Deep Purple's Speed King or Child in Time
This progressive style is very much laid back and relaxing but very emotionally demanding. Much of the music carries a feeling of tragedy and despair within it's mellowness which is very gripping, while much of the guitar playing conducts much awe and grandness, notably the guitar solo heard in Nepenthe. The relaxed jazz inspired sections are often eerie and melancholic. And so in terms of emotional dwelling, Heritage sets out to do Opeth's frequent goal and make listeners feel a little colder inside.
 However, there is a point to be made about Heritage and it is a big one. There is a crucial element that is missing on the album and that is the brutal and hard hitting death metal that Opeth's fans have come to love over the years. Now, granted this album isn't the first time Opeth have made an album not to feature any elements of death metal. 2004's Damnation was a critically acclaimed piece of work, however, Damnation was an album that served as a partner album to 2002's Deliverance. Between the release of 2008's Watershed and Heritage, frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt has spoken against death metal and it's wonderful to see Opeth doing what they're wanting. It shows an extra sense of passion. However, what the band like to do now is music we've heard on their albums before. Only on those albums, the laid back sections served as, to quote Travers "calm-before-the storm moments" before receiving a deathly pummeling that featured Åkerfeldt's wonderfully bleak guttural growling, rather than playing the centre role.
 As I say, it's great to hear Opeth doing what they want to do now and as a prog rock album, Heritage is really great and contains all the qualities that made the genre so good in the first place. However as a metal fan who has really come to love Opeth's melodic death metal sound, to hear this is a little disheartening, granted better than hearing a death metal album that had no passion to it. But I think many fans across the globe will feel a little upset when they hear this and realize that they're likely to stay with this sound. The Opeth we've come to love over the years may be gone forever.

 Opeth's Heritage is out now via Roadrunner. The band tour the UK in November.

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