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Opeth - Heritage CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.82 | 1183 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars DON'T PANIC

Ten tracks. The instrumental intro. The one with a little bit of everything. The one with not very much of anything. The one with Jon Lord. The one with the filthy bass. The one which gently weeps. The one with the major key. The one with Nick Drake. The Latino epic. And the instrumental outro.

To say this album has split the metal community in two would be a lie. It split it in three. There were those who heralded Heritage as Opeth's best work to date, there were those who saw it as neither here nor there, and then there were those that ran around shrieking in tongues, setting fire to babies and jumping out of fifth storey windows. To them, Heritage was nothing short of sacrilege.

Whilst I understand how this different approach might alienate certain factions of their loyal fan-base, the transition itself was far from unexpected, in fact, it was almost inevitable. Deliverance and Damnation aside, the progressive elements of Opeth's musical output have been growing more prominent with each release since Still Life. Heritage brings this evolution to a peak as their instrumental style is turned on its head.

What started off as crushing death metal, broken up with tastefully placed interludes, is now dominated by intricate breakdowns, '70s references and the odd heavier movement. That said, the overall sound is still instantly recognisable as Opeth, and whilst others have criticised it for being too derivative of 'classic prog', I personally don't think this detracts from the listening experience.

The vocals are clean throughout, a characteristic only shared with Damnation, but the thing that really sets Heritage apart from the rest of the Opeth back-catalogue is its departure from dichromatic artwork. This too has kindled mixed opinion, but I happen to think it looks jolly good and if the tree were beheaded it would be one of my favourite album covers of the year.

The question remains, is Heritage comparable to previous Opeth outings in terms of quality alone? Not quite. I have no complaints about the style of the album, merely that some of the songs ain't all that. The Devil's Orchard was released as a single some time ago, I saw it as a good starting point and hoped the album would build on it. It actually turned out to be probably the most consistent track on the album and several others, whilst having great moments, are not particularly great songs. My personal favourite is Famine which sounds like a cross between John Zorn and Jethro Tull. I'm also partial to the screaming guitar of Nepenthe, and the breakdown of Folklore, but like I said, these are musical events rather than entire compositions.

There is a certain level of subtlety on Heritage, but this also leads to an underlying feeling of emptiness, both in the music and the production. It lacks power and means that potentially grandiose passages fall a bit flat. I appreciate that this approach to audio mixing may be an attempt to emulate the production values of yesteryear. But it also makes me wonder how albums such as Larks Tongue in Aspic were able to achieve both clarity and impact.

The Verdict: It may not be Opeth's finest hour, but it's certainly worth listening to.

Starhammer | 3/5 |


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