Swedish death metal veterans Opeth take a bold turn on their tenth studio album, Heritage, that is anything but death metal. On this departure from their normal approach they flaunt their vast arsenal of musical skills and pay tribute to the great prog acts of the 70s. This is a dark, moody journey full of wild twists and turns. While it may be easy to compare this album to 2003′s Damnation, they are worlds apart. The music on Heritage is much more complex and diverse. Each expansive track is extremely deep and layered. Like Damnation though, Heritage entirely lacks growled vocals. This album is a brave move for the band. It may disappoint those just looking for another death metal masterpiece from Opeth, but longtime fans should easily see this as a natural progression for the band. This album has been a long time coming. It is a career defining release, and, for those willing to broaden their horizons, a musical masterpiece.
Musically, Heritage is absolutely amazing. There is so much going on on each track that it’s really easy to miss something the first time through. There’s a lot strange and dark vibes in the songs often aided by acoustic passages and spacious melodies. “Haxprocess” is downright eerie and the creepy atmosphere in “The Devil’s Orchard” is heightened by Akerfeldt proclaiming “God is dead.” The beauty of the music is really highlighted on “I Feel the Dark” and “Folklore.” I love the way Akerfeldt sounds at the beginning of “I Feel the Dark,” and the opening acoustic part is really awesome. One of my favorite tracks is “Slither.” It has a fast, frantic pace fueled by the excellent guitar work and driving beat. And Per Wiberg is absolutely getting down on the keyboard really adding to the hectic nature of the song. The keyboard and mellotron are a huge part of the sound on Heritage. They’re just as vital as the drums or guitars. You can listen to tracks like ” The Devil’s Orchard” and “Heritage” to see why.
The guitar work of Akerfeldt and Fredrik Akesson is top notch. “Nepenthe” is full of groove and a fiery solo. Martin Mendez and Martin Axenrot provide excellent rhythm. There’s a lot of really funky stand out bass lines from Mendez that further define the songs. The bass is one of my favorite things about a lot of the tracks. Axenrot’s drumming really helps a lot of the jazzier moments stand out like on “Nepenthe.” On Heritage every little detail is crystal clear, and it’s obvious that every member of the band brought their A-game. The superb production quality allows you to hear every little intricacy and feel like you’re in the same room as the band. Listening to this album is truly an experience.
I have always likened Akerfeldt to a god in the world of death metal and metal in general. Heritage easily shows why. His attention to detail and amazing musicianship really shine on this album. His commanding growls may be absent, but he more than makes up for that with his fantastic singing ability. “Famine” is a fine example. Having written most of Heritage it’s easy to see that it means a lot to him. It’s easy to see it meant a lot to the entire band as well. Even though it’s a studio album you can really feel that they completely enjoyed making this music.
Opeth have put everything they’ve got into Heritage. It has plenty of soul to show for it. This album is definitely a grower much like all great albums are. You listen to it the first time, and it just seems pretty good. Then, an hour later it’s in your head calling you back for more. So you listen to it some more discovering new things each time realizing just how great it really is. This further proves Opeth to be one of the greatest bands of our time.