In the world of progressive metal, one band who surface more than any other as a major influence over the last fifteen years is Opeth, their standing at the pinnacle of a highly technical genre un-refuted.“Heritage” the 10th album of an illustrious career, finds them moving forward in a backward fashion. For the second occasion, 2003’s Damnation the original outing, the metallic growl is omitted, incorporating clean, almost tender vocals throughout. Mikael Akerfeldt providing surely the finest and most distinct contrast between his lilting melodic voice and the gruff, harsh aspects associated within the genre.
As the album title suggests, Akerfeldt refers directly to his influences, his musical “Heritage” producing 57 minutes of unmitigated prog rock, even incorporating that most pretentious of instruments within rock......the flute. The title track opens with a lilting delicate piano melody, backed by simple reverberating bass announcing this as no ordinary Opeth album……. if such a thing exists. “The Devil’s Orchard” lyrically hints towards earlier Black Metal leanings, Akerfeld proclaiming “God is Dead” although musically, transported to the 70’s King Crimson style, jazz rock inflections and time changes to the fore. “Slither” proves a sheer homage to Deep Purple, a more straightforward classic rock guitar and Hammond organ intro, before Akerfeldt joins in Ian Gillan mode, prior to one of the best Richie Blackmore solo’s, Blackmore never played on. “Nepenthe” evokes an amalgamation of Yes and even Little Feat within certain passages whilst “Haxprocess” again transcends jazz territory, particularly around the shuffling drum rhythms and bass lines. And here lies an integral aspect of “Heritage,” the rhythm section exceptional, pummelling and bludgeoning discarded in preference to subtle, intricate drum patterns and bass lines, “The Lines in My Hand” a definitive illustration.
I’m unsure how this album will be received by the majority of Opeth fans, although an open mind is pre-requisite to aficionados of Progressive Metal. Whilst still ignored by the majority, metal provides some of the most inventive music around, compositions which constitute rock symphonies and concertos. If Mozart or Beethoven were around today, they would play in metal bands, not writing jangly pop, indie rock or R ‘n’ B tunes.
“Heritage” is a self indulgent and in many ways, ostentatious album, which few, if any other bands could release without derision. It’s testament to the musical majesty of Opeth, it manages to work at all.
The album can be streamed in full at the link below and is released on September 19th.