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Opeth - Heritage CD (album) cover

HERITAGE

Opeth

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.81 | 1280 ratings

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Lewian
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I'm one of those who don't like death growls and by implication didn't like Opeth in their beginning, although I have some respect for what they did there. I still don't know all of their catalogue, so I can't say Heritage is my favourite of them (it surely is of those about six I know), but I was motivated to write this review by its somewhat lowish rating compared to other Opeth albums. Obviously my four stars are not going to improve this a lot, however I recommend this album warmly to listeners who come from a different direction than most Opeth listeners, namely neither from Death Metal/earlier Opeth, nor from Neoprog or say Dream Theater or PT, nor from the more symphonic and mainstream prog of the seventies (although I love quite a bit of the latter), but rather from a more experimental, RIO-like angle.

Actually this one came to me later than 2018's "Collaborators Album of the Year" A Drop Of Light by All Traps On Earth, but in fact it achieved something quite similar and in my opinion even better seven years earlier than the (also Swedish) Traps, admittedly without the Zeuhl element, but still dark, complex, and adventurous. "Compensating" for the lack of Zeuhl, we get a good dosis (if somewhat less than on some other albums) of Opeth's well known delicate acoustic guitar work that I admire, and that has always set them apart from their Death Metal roots. Although the album has obvious links to 70s prog, there are some clear characteristic Opeth elements in this. It is certainly not just a nostalgic album based on elements of prog's golden years, but an album that stands confidently on its own feet.

A problem with much new prog is the sometimes routine and soulless seeming showing off of instrumental skills and complexity. A problem for me as a reviewer is that I find it hard to pin down what makes the difference between a superficial showing of skills and some musical magic that really grabs me. Anyway, Opeth manage to do that here. I can connect to much of the music emotionally and things seem to be properly in their place despite no lack of virtuosity, harmonic and rhythmic complexities etc. There is tension, relaxation, vulnerability, sudden outbreaks of energy, beautiful melodies, you name it. Apparently the contrast between heavy and delicate acoustic parts is something of an Opeth trademark, and both is still there, but far more elements are mixed in. which makes the whole thing far less predictable and more interesting than what I know of their earlier material.

The album has been called "messy" for a reason, and indeed you find a dazzling and sometimes bewildering variety of different parts. One valid criticism is that rather than the 5-6 minutes average official song length in fact there are far more "microsongs" here, as cohesion within a song has obviously not been their first priority. However according to my taste they give the different parts enough space to breathe and show their beauty, and I don't mind much that traditional song structures and the notion of coming back to the main theme to remind the listener that it's still the same song are sniffed at here. Another tiny criticism is that the singer may not be the most exciting one in the world, but I think he is largely OK for what he does here, so no complaints really.

If you like some traditional prog virtues combined with an experimental approach that gives you something that is still tonal and accessible but at the same time delightfully unpredictable and more on the dark side of things, even if you haven't liked some other stuff by Opeth, check this one out. A special recommendation goes to those who love A Drop Of Light. This Heritage is a rewarding listen and shows Opeth in proper and successful progression. 4.0 stars.

Lewian | 4/5 |

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