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Opeth | ‘Heritage’

It’s like a fond goodbye. Like knowing you cant be together anymore, but knowing you’ll cherish happy memories. Nothing went wrong as such. Still, the time has come to part ways.

That, I’m sure, will be the reaction of many to ‘Heritage’ – the new album from one of metal’s finest and most influential bands.

Opeth have chosen to abandon heavy metal.

Temporarily? Who knows. One can only hope. Yes, many will point to the fact that this record is steeped in classic prog influences, and rooted squarely in 70s psych-rock – making it eminently defendable as the correct exit strategy out of the extreme metal underground. Normally I’d agree. But only if the songs were decent.

The problem with ‘Heritage’ is an almost total lack of objective quality control. Right, so we all know that a bad Opeth tune is better than almost anything most other bands will ever achieve, but the point here is that after the album’s initial burst, Akerfelt seems asleep at the wheel.

To open, many may indeed enjoy ‘The Devil’s Orchard’ and ‘I Feel The Dark’. After your ‘where have the heavy guitars gone?’ reaction spasm, you might genuinely find they do have a certain, limited, charm.

By the time the somnolent ‘Nepenthe’ creeps drowsily in at the half way mark though, this album begins to feel like a lost cause. This song lays bare what can best sum up the album whole: a few good ideas surrounded by directionless riffs with no apparent connection to one another.

Is it atmospheric? Not particularly so. Is it powerful, affecting, emotional, driving? Never once.

You see there is no problem with a band like Opeth writing meandering, difficult music. ‘The Night And The Silent Water’ ably attested to that. And neither this an old hand whinging for early day heroics – ‘Ghost Reveries’ was a fabulously detailed piece of work.

The problem with ‘Heritage’ is simply a lack of any apparent commitment. Tell me if I’m wrong here, but Akerfelt just sounds weary – bored with the whole enterprise. You’d forgive him if he was. He has enough in the favour bank at this stage, having written some of the best metal ever committed to celluloid in his first four years at the helm.

His genius was his songwriting, bar nothing. His quality control. The focus of those great songs.

Yet what’s this in ‘Haxprocess’? It’s like someone left the record button on while Akerfelt noodled around some night at the studio. Yes it’s bluesy, darn it even a touch triste. But it’s not an Opeth standard song, and we all know what that should sound like.

People talk about King Crimson and Camel, as if it’s some sort of get out clause for this new direction. Of course we’ve all known since day one how Mike is an avid fan of all that stuff. Great! It doesnt write albums though. Plus, have any of the people quoting this stuff actually listened to King Crimson’s ‘Red’ lately? It explodes with passion, crackles with ideas, and fizzes with experimental genius.

Putting a confused, and let’s say it out loud, dull album like ‘Heritage’ in the same bracket as that is delusional.

The first chinks in the Opeth armour showed on the ‘Damnation’ and ‘Deliverance’ albums. They pulled it back with ‘Ghost Reveries’, but ‘Watershed’ was a real cause for concern. (Could anyone hum you anything off it? It’s highly doubtful.)

‘Heritage’ seems the clearlest possible position statement-the metal’s gone. This is where the band are now, and you can like it or get off the train.

Personally, it feels ruinous in career terms, but I reckon Akerfelt is past that. The Classic Rock reading brigade – an increasingly important demographic, mark my words – may yet lap it up.

It’s important to reemphasise that this is in no way comparable to a fiasco like Morbid Angel’s ‘Illud’ turd. Far from it. Opeth exit stage left with their musical and reputational integrity completely intact. Yet exit stage left they do.

The exquisitely wrought tarnish of ‘April Ethereal’, the sick undergroove of ‘Serenity Painted Death’, even the byzantine majesty of ‘Ghost Of Perdition’ – these were songs audibly agonised over for every drip of quitessential Opeth magic. They were, and are, purely distilled heavy metal quality.

There is none of that here, on this wearied, dispassionate meander.

So… it’s been amazing. But it’s time to say goodbye. Perhaps they’ll give another metal album someday when all this prog stuff goes tits up. For now, I’m just too sad to listen to an Opeth album that doesnt have huge guitars, the bleakest of melodies, creative fire that that blood draining roar.

So I’ll leave it, and keep the memories.

They just… changed.

3.4 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 11/09/11

  1. Very Disappionted with this record.

  2. NothingRemains Says:

    “Could anyone hum you anything off it? It’s highly doubtful”

    I’ll only disagree with this, The Lotus Eater starts off with a humming melody 😉

  3. Apart from the stuff about Watershed (and Deliverance is great too), the review is spot on, once again. Farewell Opeth.

  4. Tezcatlipoca Says:

    Most of the people defending the album can’t seem to grasp that the songwriting is just poor. All I’ve seen anyone state is that people who don’t like the record either “can’t listen to anything other than metal or anything without death growls” or “don’t appreciate King Crimson and other influences.” I remember somebody on Youtube being confused with how somebody stated that they liked ‘Damnation’ but didn’t like this.

    Apparently just writing a shite album is impossible if you’ve a decent backcatalogue and must be defended by fanboys and girls with simplistic arguments. At least it’s not as bad as some of the ‘Ilud…’ defenders arguments that I’ve seen online.

  5. The only thing good about this review is me checking out more stuff from Camel & loving them.


  6. What a load of dirge this review is. Opeth’s metal aesthetic was becoming increasingly contrived. This feels like their most ‘natural’ record in years. I love the old stuff but I welcome this beautifully crafted release with open arms. It’s wonderful.

  7. Some nice parts in this,but as has been said,no real songs.Feels more like an Akerfelt side project than Opeth with the exception of maybe’Haxprocess’.I thought ‘Watershed’ was a welcome return to form myself (after the disappointing and ultimately forgetable ‘Ghost reveries)and still spin it quite regularly. I suppose there’s enough cool shit in the back catalogue to keep you’re average joe happy.Who knows they may scurry back to their Metalic ways yet after “Getting this out of their system”

  8. is this their worst then?
    same because it’s their best album cover, that’s cool artwork.

  9. same? I meant shame

  10. What makes you think they have given up on metal altogether? All the other members of Opeth are VERY into death metal. I know Mikael is the dude in the chair. But to assume that they’re only going to put out prog albums now is stupid. It’s one album, and it’s called Heritage to show where many of their influences come from. I saw a recent interview where Mikael said that his problems with his growls was purely technical and it is all fixed now. But he admitted he’s not as into growling as he used to be. But also added that doesn’t mean he’s not going to do it anymore.

  11. just streamed it
    I really like it actually, I can see what you mean about songs, but as more of a soundtrack album I think its great,

    I’m not a huge fan of ‘metal’ opeth so maybe it appeals to me more
    I like the mars volta , qotsa, deep purple vibe.

  12. On first listen im open minded and enjoying opeths latest offering. As someone mentioned above, this feels like a natural progression for these guys. We all knew change was coming and its here, and I like it. Its a great listen, I’m not craving heaviness, Opeth have more than enough of that in their collection, this is a wonderful addition to their discography. Maybe its best for the band as a whole to indulge in this progressive exploration and I think its payed off, we’ll sure to see some wonderful acoustic sessions with this material. Its about time Opeth left planet earth and explored the cosmos….

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