DEAD ON ARRIVAL: Opeth Is No Longer Opeth.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011 Leave a comment
I just want to start off by saying that I have a bit of a bias in this review: Opeth is my all time favorite band. I even have their logo tattooed on my right forearm to prove how much I obsess over them. There has never been a Progressive Metal band with such musicianship and talent like these guys. When people think of Opeth, they think of masterpiece albums like Ghost Reveries and Blackwater Park, which included equal amounts of ear-raping death metal and somber acoustics with beautiful clean vocals. These Swedes have been doing that for over 20 years, and we still can’t get enough of it. In 2008, they released Watershed which was still metal as fuck, but leaned a bit more towards their softer side — but even still, it was goddamn amazing. We couldn’t wait to hear what their new album would bring. After three years of waiting, they finally released Heritage… and it wasn’t exactly what anyone expected.
If you skip the first track, which is simply 2 minutes of a piano playing a somber tune, you’ll get to the the album’s first single “The Devil’s Orchard.” Instantly you’ll notice a remarkable change in their sound. Rather than having heavily distorted guitars, they have a bluesy, warm and fuzzy sound. The opening riff in the song is also quite bluesy, but it sounds awesome when mixed with the keyboards and quick drumming of Martin Axenrot. Mikael Akerfedlt, the band’s vocalist, rhythm guitarist and lead songwriter, comes in with his distinct clean vocals. “Hmm, a good song,” I thought when I first heard it. “Let’s see what the rest of the album will sound like.”
Sadly, the rest of the album has that same style, more or less. Some songs are purely acoustic with very soft drums and keyboards, but others, like “Slither,” are fast-paced and incredibly catchy, with a good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll feel. And that’s…pretty much it. From the fifth track on, every single song has the same basic routine: start off with a very quiet acoustic riff or piano tune (and even flutes with tribal drums), then add some drums and vocals, then add the guitars and solos, then go soft again. And I’m not exaggerating. You’ll become weary of the album’s repetitive nature. At least they decided to use heavier distortion in the final tracks, which makes for a more intense sound. But that doesn’t stop the songs from sounding the same.
My problem with this album is that it doesn’t quite feel like an Opeth record. If you’re going to buy this album expecting the vintage, angry and cathartic Opeth, don’t bother. Half of the album sounds like background music from the Spyro games. I want some freaking intense death metal, melancholy acoustics and depressing lyrics. This album had none of those things, and those things are truly what define Opeth. Therefore, I’ll conclude that either Mikael Akerfeldt doesn’t give a fuck anymore, or someone held a gun to his head and forced him to write wildly different music than what we’re all used to. However, if you listen to this album with a completely unbiased opinion and just want to hear something different, you might like it. Their musicianship and talent are obviously still there, I feel they just focused too much on being obscure, rather than staying true to their metal roots. So, I was let down by Heritage, does that mean I’m going to denounce Opeth? Hell no. I just hope that these guys put out some more metal in the future, because I already miss the old Opeth.
Standout tracks: “The Devil’s Orchard,” “Slither,” “The Lines In My Hand.”