Heritage, the title of the new Opeth record successfully sums up the musical content in one word. This is a complete tribute to the music that inspired songwriter and band leader Mikael Åkerfeldt in his youth and up to this point in his life. It basically unfolds like a trip through his record collection, covering folk, psychedelic, jazz and progressive rock in a way that Opeth have touched on before, but haven’t created a whole listening experience until this point. The production from Åkerfeldt really brings out the vintage tones of the guitars and drums, and the superb mix, courtesy of past collaborator Steven Wilson allows the keyboards room to breathe. There is little resemblance to past Opeth records, but if you have been a fan for a while, Heritage isn’t much of a surprise. The biggest change is the absence of heavy growling vocals. The music also covers more of the ground that they normally only strayed into for small sections at a time.
The title track starts the record – a short, free time, jazz piano and upright bass number, which really isn’t unfamiliar for an Opeth opener.
Heritage’s first single, ‘The Devil’s Orchard’ is the first full song, which covers quite the gamut of material. ‘I Feel The Dark’ really amps up the 70’s vibe, with a nylon stringed acoustic arpeggio cementing the first couple minutes, which then gives way to a massive riff, and then somber and quiet mellotrons. Åkerfeldt’s lyrics are quite personal here, as they are on most of Heritage. ‘Slither’ is a tribute to recently passed rocker Ronnie James Dio, who was a major influence on the band. ‘Nepenthe’ and ‘’Häxprocess’ could almost be sister tracks – they ebb and flow right into each other. ‘Nepenthe’ begins with a very Hendrix style guitar piece courtesy of Åkerfeldt. Martin Axenrot has really stepped up his drumming on this album, especially compared to their last record Watershed. The middle part of ‘Häxprocess’ has to be my favorite moment on Heritage. It is a beautiful riff that really opens up when the acoustic guitars come in underneath the bass riff. This song really showcases Åkerfeldt’s vocal prowess as well. ‘Famine’ begins with some guest drumming, and has some excellent heavy riffs towards the middle, along with an oddly mesmerizing jazz flute (a first for Opeth). ‘The Lines In My Hand’ was actually the first song written for the record according to a recent interview with Mikael. After he showed the song to the rest of the band, they decided to continue with that style for the whole album. It really picks things up after the slower pace of the last couple songs. ‘Folklore’ is sounds as it is named, with heavily effected vocals, acoustic and electric guitars. It ends with a nod towards late 70’s hard rock with a couple guitar leads and an anthemic vocal arrangement. ‘Marrow of the Earth’ quietly closes out the record, with the band coming in at the end for a beautiful finale reminiscent of 70‘s British group, Camel.
I feel like I can’t give this album a proper score, but I would recommend it to anyone who even remotely likes music from the 70‘s, even if you weren’t previously a fan of Opeth. This is the style of music that really got me into writing and recording music, so I am enamored by Heritage. I will say that ‘Slither’ really
feels out of place, and really hurts the pacing of the record as a whole. Overall, it is a listening experience like no other from Opeth (or many other modern bands) and I would highly recommend to catch them on tour this fall. Come back to Columbus Wired after September 26th for complete show review of Opeth live at The Newport.