You’ve got to hand to Opeth, there aren’t many bands who forged their success on their own terms. “Blackwater Park” was the band’s big breakthrough and their success was solidified by subsequent albums like “Deliverance”, “Damnation”, “Ghost Reveries” and “Watershed”. Their combination of death metal and influences from obscure seventies progressive rock was a winning one. However with “Watershed” I got the feeling the band’s formula has reached its outer limit. Let’s see what Mikael Åkerfeldt and his merry men come up with their latest album, entitled “Heritage”.
“Heritage” is a genuine Opeth album with a twist, or better put, a very big musical twist. The band’s trademark progressive influences are still very much present, however the death metal tendencies are all but gone. Mikael Åkerfeldt ditched his powerful death metal roar altogether and used his soothing clean vocals exclusively on “Heritage”. Apparently he listened a lot to Weather Report, King Crimson and Manuvishnu Orchestra lately, because the jazz and fusion influences are more present than ever. A change will do you good , so they say?
Unlike Morbid Angel’s recent effort, Opeth’s yearn for change is a largely successful one. Compositions like ‘The Devil’s Orchard’, ‘I Feel The Dark’, ‘Nepenthe’ and ‘Famine’ are still vintage Opeth, even without the familiar death metal outbursts. The songs are still complex, multi-layered and are still filled with nifty progressive twists and turns. The typical haunting and melancholic atmosphere that made “Blackwater Park” and “Ghost Reveries” so memorable are still present on “Heritage”. ‘Häxprocess’ and ‘Folklare’ are other two brilliant examples of what this album has to offer in terms of quality and musical adventure.
Steven Wilson left his mark on “Heritage” as well. The vintage and analogue sounding production underscores the seventies prog influences and it’s jazzy character.
“Heritage” will certainly please the more progressive minded part of the Opeth audience. It’s also good to see Mikael Åkerfeldt and Co. dare to let go of their musical formula that served them so well in the past. “Heritage” didn’t click with me so much as “Blackwater Park” and “Ghost Reveries”, but all things aside it’s still a great Opeth album.