With Fall came a shit ton of big new metal albums. Mastodon, Machine Head, Dream Theater and Trivium, among others, released new albums in the span of two months, forcing me to dub Fall 2011 as the Season of Metal (or Metal’s Fall, I can’t decide which is cheesier). However, one particular album has made me more wet with anticipation than a Thai hooker in Bangkok. Heritage (which came out three days after my birthday. Coincidence? I THINK NOT) has once again proven that Opeth is arguably the most diverse group out there in not just the metal genre, but of all genres. However, with all that diversity comes a straining of the fan base that Opeth has culminated over the past 20 years of its inception. Which makes this album even more impressive. Heritage shows that Akerfeldt just does not give a fuck. He writes what he wants to write. End of story. So, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s start picking apart this engorged piece of art.
As a whole, Heritage is a teeny bit shorter then the average Opeth album, unless you count the two bonus tracks, Pyre and Face in the Snow, which rounds it out to about one hour. This is also the first time since Damnation there hasn’t been a track longer than 10 minutes, much to my chagrin. On the plus side, there are more tracks than usual, with 12 (including bonus tracks), giving Opeth more room (or songs) to work with. The album in its entirety isn’t your conventional Opeth; this is more of a tribute to 70′s prog than anything else. The riffs, beats, and synth are all inspired by the psychedelic bands of the past, with a little of Opeth’s magic thrown in there.
One thing all metal fans should be aware of is the fact that there are no hard vocals (i.e. death growls, screaming, etc). It’s all smooth, harmonic lyrics, which, depending on your preferred style, is for better or worse. Speaking of lyrics, I’ve never listened to Opeth for their “unique” lyrics, and this album won’t change my mind, and shouldn’t change yours either. For example, the main chorus in The Devil’s Orchard consists of Akerfeldt proclaiming that “God is dead”, something similar to what I’ve heard many a time in numerous metal albums. However, they are unobtrusive, more so than in most albums (because of the lack of death growls), which is all that is needed when you have someone as talented as Akerfeldt that’s writing all your music.
Which brings me to my next awesome point: the drumming. When Watershed came out, I wasn’t overly impressed with then-new drummer Martin Axenrot (partly because I have a man crush on ex-Opeth-drummer Martin Lopez) but he’s certainly improved his style over these past years. Throughout the entire album, Axenrot never ceased to impress me with his jazzy fills and complex beats. Being a drummer myself (albeit not very good), I look for more than just speed in drummers; it’s the technique that you usually find in jazz and funk drummers that really set them apart. Heritage showcases Axenrot’s techniques to their fullest, something which makes me even more excited for the future of Opeth.
Pros: Great drumming, unique sound, shows Opeth has massive balls
Cons: No long epic tracks, album cover (those faces scare me)
Best tracks: Nepenthe (#5), Famine (#7), The Lines in My Hand (#8)
There’s certainly much much more to this album than just what I or anyone else has to say. The only way you’re going to figure out this album is if you actually listen to it. And, ya know, you should probably listen to it.