Band Website: www.opeth.com
Label: Roadrunner Records
Label Website: www.roadrunnerrecords.com
Release Date: 2011
Never having been a big Opeth fan, when Heritage made it to the top of so many reviewers “Best of…” lists I felt I better get with the program and see what I was missing. After listening to Heritage a couple times I can certainly hear what all the fuss is about. This is the band’s 10th studio release and was mixed by Steven Wilson who’s relationship with the band dates back a ways now. The band is made up of Mikael Akerfeldt (vocals, guitar), Fredrik Akesson (guitar), Per Wiberg (keyboards), Martin Mendez (bass) and Martin Axenrot (drums). I’m intrigued at the amount of controversy this release stirred up within the band’s fan base. Seems that some of the more hardcore in the bunch felt Heritage was a little “light” but there’s no denying the band picked up a lot of new fans…me included.
Heritage is composed of ten tracks, the shortest being just over two-minutes and the longest being just under nine. First off I have to say this is, to my ears this is the most classically prog sounding material I’ve heard from the band. Gone are the death growls; here there is a different focus. We start off with soft, halting piano on “Heritage” [2:05]. More than soft, it’s warm and even inviting, playing a melody that appears in various forms later on. After the brief pause between tracks we launch into “The Devil’s Orchard” [6:39] with its driving bass and drum lines supported by wonderful organ and buzzing guitar before the vocals appear. Nice. The tune is a structured roller-coaster ride up and down but with a steady intensity. If you are unfamiliar with Opeth’s sound and need a couple reference points; think of Beardfish crossed with early King Crimson. At times the music will feature soft lightly plucked acoustic guitar that again has a warm feel and then shift over to icy angular chords crashing into one another. A little flute here, a little Mellotron there provide pastoral waves of shimmering textures underpinning the more angular guitar efforts. All of which makes those busy crescendos that much more electrifying. It’s all good stuff.
If like me you’ve never taken the time to check the band out, Heritage is definitely the place I would recommend you start with. It’s certainly the closest to traditional symphonic prog and I’m liking it a lot. While I’m late off the mark in recommending Opeth let me just say there is much to enjoy and appreciate here.