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Album Review

by Opeth

Roadrunner Records

Review Date
4th October 2011
Reviewed by
Imogen Reid

Three years after Watershed and Opeth have released their tenth album. Heritage will surprise old fans of Opeth, challenge others, and invite new fans. The music is as colourful and evocative as the album cover by Travis Smith which is symbolic of the present situation of the band. Unlike the rest of Opeth’s albums, with the exception of Damnation in 2003, there are no death growls. In general, this album is more progressive rock than heavy metal, and inspired by Akerfeldt’s favourite music from the 1970s.

Along with the influence from 1970s bands, which is most clearly heard in the track ‘Slither’, a tribute to Rainbow’s Ronnie Dio, there is the influence of Swedish folk-music in the opening track; also called Heritage. This is an instrumental for piano, performed by Jan Johansson and sounding both Classical and jazz-infused. The influence from folk music is also heard in Folklore where an almost jaunty guitar starts the track off before it develops into something else. The single The Devil’s Orchard will please the old Opeth fans instantly with a complex drum beat from Axenrot and Akerfeldt sings that “God is Dead’. A distorted guitar together with the mellotron create the 70s feel which will be felt many times in this album. The Lines in my Hand is just as upbeat and the combination of styles make this track strangely uplifting despite the pessimistic lyrics.

Throughout this album, there are solo instrument breaks but every track changes and turns into something unexpected. I feel the dark starts with a Spanish-style guitar playing a melancholy melody till it is joined by Akerfeldt’s voice singing haunting lyrics. After a duet from a flute and piano with the backing of a mellotron, this song suddenly picks up in the middle and eventually develops into a steady metal beat. In the same way, ‘Haxprocess’ surprises the listener from start to finish in a way reminiscent of many of the songs from King Crimson. This is also true of ‘Nepenthe’ which starts off as a quiet love song to a personified anti-depressant, complete with stunning chord changes that move with Akerfeldt’s voice.

However, the true masterpiece of this album is ‘Famine’ where the vocals from Akerfeldt are stronger than ever. This has an intriguing start with the distant melody played by a flute, then joined by a percussion set played by Alex Acuna, and finally picking up with the sound of a hammond organ. I would even go so far as to suggest that this song was inspired by Jethro Tull after hearing the instrument break with the flute, which is fantastically performed by Bjorn Lindh. The result is the most complicated, impressive and powerful song on the album. This album will make you feel both soothed and haunted. You will discover that one listen is not enough.


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