For 20 years, Opeth has been tantalizing metal fans with a style of music that creates its own boundaries. It’s death metal/prog rock with a number of unrelated influences thrown in for good measure…or is it? Every Opeth movement (album) provides the listener with something new from the previous work. Before the release of Heritage, their latest offering, word had been circulating that frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt would not be summoning his demonic growls on this album. To Opeth fans, this is not new, as Damnation (2003) also had no death metal vocals. Although Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree had a very noticeable influence on both albums, Heritage is certainly not Damnation 2.0.
Heritage starts with a airy, soothing intro by pianist Joakim Svalberg, then breaks right into the album’s first single, “The Devil’s Orchard.” It’s not “heavy,” so to speak, but it’s monstrous with now-departed keyboardist Per Wiberg adding nice atmospheric flourishes to lighten the feel just a bit. Another great track is the up-tempo “Slither,” which was written in tribute to the legendary Ronnie James Dio. If any Opeth fans were looking for a metal song, this as close as you’re going to get. One thing about Heritage to note is how Åkerfeldt really pushes his vocal range. He’s always had a great singing voice, but he really explores his limits here and it’s quite fantastic to hear.
On every Opeth album, someone has a performance that really stands out. One that immediately comes to mind is bassist Martin Mendez’s divine performance on 2005’s Ghost Reveries. Fredrik Åkesson accompanies Åkerfeldt with some absolutely fantastic guitar work of his own, but on this latest effort, it’s Martin Axenrot who really steals the show. Axe, as he’s affectionately known, conjures up some of the best drumming to ever grace an Opeth album. The previous album was his first with the band and it’s now blatantly obvious that he wasn’t fully comfortable in his role. Although his prowess can be heard all over the album, no track demonstrates it better than arguably the best track on the album, “The Lines In My Hand.”
Opeth have hit a new level with Hertiage, although there is nothing that screams progressive death metal on this album. It explores new musical planes for a metal band that has spent their entire career navigating numerous genre-bending landscapes. Opeth has a long line of excellent releases throughout their career. If they keep creating music like this, it’s hard to see why they couldn’t go another 20 years.
2. “The Devil’s Orchard” *
3. “I Feel the Dark” *
4. “Slither” *
8. “The Lines in My Hand” *
10.”Marrow of the Earth”
* Editor’s Choice tracks