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Opeth - Heritage CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.82 | 1183 ratings

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4 stars For months before the release of Heritage the word from Mikael Akerfeldt was that the next Opeth would be totally different to anything the band had done before - their seventies prog album. It's also their second album to dispense totally with the death metal vocals, the first being Damnation, but Heritage is totally different. Where Damnation was a very mellow and largely acoustic album, Heritage, whilst sharing some of the qualities evident on that release at times is not by any stretch in the same ball park containing heavy elements, though not metal which is dispensed with entirely. How the death metal contingent of fans deals with this I can only imagine! However if you're a fan who was open minded enough to enjoy Damnation then you should have no problem accepting this.

Akerfeldt's love of seventies rock and prog is no secret and has always been an influence on Opeth. That Heritage is influenced by seventies prog is not in dispute - take a look at the cover, but they've been clever enough to not make those influences blatantly obvious and despite the dissimilarity to anything they've done before, strangely enough it still sounds like an Opeth album. In fact the only really obvious inspiration is from Deep Purple and Rainbow, the best example being the excellent up tempo Slither which is Kill The King in disguise. The bulk of the influence being in a feel rather than a particular sound, having a warm organic prescence.

Despite Watershed, their last album capturing them on home turf in prog metal mode, it did stray from the bands formula (upsetting many long term fans in the process) enough to lay the groundwork for some of what we get here. For example, parts of I Feel The Dark does bear a resemblance to the end of Hex Omega and the mood of the mellower parts shares a similar vibe at times. Yes, Heritage does have many mellow reflective moments, something they've always done of course and if I had a complaint it would be that there's perhaps a few too many, sometimes the music taking off only briefly before returning to peace and tranquillity. This however is only a minor complaint as Heritage is a brilliant piece of work, not an immediate album by any stretch of the imagination, requiring perseverance, but the rewards are more than worth it. Its major strength is the subtle haunting melodies that prevail throughout, interspersed between heavier moments, which are not in short supply despite my earlier comment. There's also funk, on Nepenthe for example, something of course that Deep Purple weren't averse to.

The band play brilliantly with drummer Martin Axenrot seizing the seventies challenge and putting away one of his kick drums in the process, rolling double bass patterns not to found anywhere. It's a shame that this is keyboardist Per Wilberg's last outing with the band, his vintage sound and parts being integral to the overall feel. As already mentioned death metal vocals are totally out and Akerfeldt's clean tones, which have always been there of course, are in fine fettle.

Heritage is not an album to dip into, being best digested as a whole. It's a very brave album destined to upset many fans but for the open-minded an excellent piece of work. It probably won't be regarded as their best by many though (but for me it's not far off) and whether the band go further down this road remains to be seen. I for one wouldn't mind and if death metal vocals are gone for good that's also fine by me. This album however is going to, even if only for this one release, gain a lot of new fans for the band. One of the albums of the year for sure. 4 stars.

Nightfly | 4/5 |


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