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HERITAGE

Opeth

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.89 | 844 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

JJLehto
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Perhaps Opeth's most controversial album yet.

There was a lot of talk about it before we even got a listen, how it was going to suck, how could Opeth just rip off 70's prog rock, how it was going to be either a totally mellow album or jazz fusion (something I'd like to see)! Sure enough upon its release there was plenty of criticism thrown at it, either due to the lack of growls and death metal, that you might as well just listen to 70's prog, that it's aimless and incoherent and even that you shouldn't bother because Opeth has been a "hipster band" ever since after Still Life.

I only say all this because it pains me to see that one of my all time favorite bands has gotten to a point where so many seem to have stopped really listening/look to find reasons to hate it... but onto the review.

"Heritage" is the superior clean Opeth album,(and I really like "Damnation"). If you need growls and death metal heaviness, well you won't find it here. However, this is NOT a Damnation 2, it's quite different from it actually. There is still heaviness, in a 70's way, and sometimes even outright (though never death metal levels). There is even double bass drumming and lots of rocking out.

Musically, Opeth has done it again, with great guitar work from all over the map. The keyboard/mellotron is quite prominent as is the bass, (usually not high in the Opeth mix). Mendez can really be heard on pretty much every song. Also the drumming is quite good. Axenrot had a tough seat to fill replacing the awesome Martin Lopez, but his work on Watershed was just too straightforward. He is much improved here, with flavorful jazzy tinged drumming and there are quite a few drum breaks, like Akerfeldt made a point to defend and showcase him.

I personally don't find the music aimless and incoherent. With all songs under 9 minutes, and 8 of them under 7 minutes, I'd think they'd be a bit more direct actually. Opeth fans are used to the clean/heavy/clean/heavy format, which has been abandoned on "Heritage" and instead the songs are more genuinely progressive.

I'm glad, because while unique and successful, by the time "Watershed" came around the band could use a change of pace. Some songs do indeed sound drifty, but I like that. I guess if you crave structure and obviously crafted songs you may feel a bit lost, but the driftyness is relaxing and often beautiful. Also, be certain that all these songs are definitely composed and move somewhere.

I'll admit, on first listen "Heritage" can be sound a bit underwhelming, especially with it's pretty prominent use of silence at times, but there is a lot going on. Not only are the songs more progressive, they are pretty textured. The song structures are good, with great melodies, rhythms and sections, and shorter lengths actually allow it to get to the point a bit quicker and not ramble.

So, "Heritage" is still Opeth but just a bit cleaner and lighter, but with songwriting just as strong. There is no weak song, but some standouts are the awesome and progressive "I feel the Dark" and the rocking "The Lines in My Hand". There is good variation as "Slither" is more up tempo while "Nepenthe" is quite mellow. The album starts with the piano ballad title track, and ends with the light, acoustic guitar ballad of "Marrow of the Earth" (which unless in name only, does not appear to be a tribute to Agalloch).

A different, but strong output by Opeth. Fans of the band, I urge you to listen with an open mind and keep any talk/rumors out while you form an opinion, and do give it some time. Most fans of Opeth should be pleased. Now if they would just make a jazz rock album my dreams would truly be granted.

Four Stars

JJLehto | 4/5 |

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