Friday, November 11, 2011

Heritage by Opeth – Have they gone mad??

Absolutely not. Although Heritage is different & somewhat surprising, it’s still Opeth.
The band clearly reached it’s maximum potential on the album Blackwater Park (2001), probably one of the most influent records of the past decade. After that masterpiece, Michael Åkerfeldt tried some different things but you could tell he really wanted to switch to something completely different.
I remember that after Deliverance/Damnation, he was already speaking in interviews about making a drastically different record, only back then, he was thinking about a totally Black Metal record! That gave birth to the very dark and occult Ghost Reveries, probably Opeth’s vision of Black Metal.

Now let’s get back to Heritage. The artwork is completely 70’s, like a homage to Deep Purple, a band Opeth had already referred to on the cover of the Royal Albert Hall DVD. The message here is clear though, no more Death Metal. A shocker for the fans! The most appreciated thing in Opeth was the mix between heavy and melodic music. And it was extremely interesting to see how the band was going to manage to stay attractive without it’s “heavy” component.

The Hommage

The Original

First thing you need to do is to erase Damnation from your mind, almost completely. Heritage is totally new Opeth, not just the Opeth you know stripped out of it’s heavy riffs and growls. And that precisely is what I like about Heritage. The guys (I mean Michael Åkerfeldt) really dared to blow everything away and to start over. Heritage is an occult 70’s rock/hard-rock band. With the typical psychedelic elements and sense of humor bands used to have back in the day.

 Damnation = Opeth - Heavy side

The songs sound like a mix between prog-metal, hard-rock, psychedelic-rock, the older Opeth and…Nick Drake! And that is what’s so cool about Heritage. It really sounds clumsy, a little naïve, full of ideas and stuffed with free inspiration. Wow, we’re talking about a 20 year-old band sounding so fresh! Hats off to the band guys, they DARED!

The music itself is also good. Not a masterpiece, as I was saying, Heritage is still too clumsy to become a reference, but it really has its moments. Personally, I prefer the second half of the record. Things really start to become exiting with the song “Nepenthe”, really love that refined beginning. After a few minuets the songs switches electric and goes totally prog’. “Haxprocess” is awesome as well, more typically Opeth and psychedelic. Very cool drumming by “Axe”, and fantastic singing by Michael Åkerfeldt on this one. But my favorite song is without a doubt “Famine”. The heavy guitars that come out of nowhere will tear you apart, and the crazy keys & flute are simply mind-blowing. Ironic that my favorite song on Heritage is the one with the heaviest part! I also love "Lines In My Hand", the dancing groove on that one is deadly and it underlines another inspiration for Opeth: scandinavian prog-folk bands. Everybody knows Michael is friends with the guys from Anekdoten, but on that song, it's definetly  Landberk I first thought about. 

Can you believe a band sounds so fresh and inspired after 20 years?

All in all, Heritage is a good album, albeit being a little bit confused AND confusing. It’s amazing that such an established band dared to release such a courageous record.

What’s even more encouraging is that now that the door is open, there is a sea of possibilities for the band. Their inspiration is free, and knowing their talent, we should have some fantastic things to come. After over 20 years of activity and several memorable records, Opeth are opening a new chapter that looks at least as promising as their first one. Wow.

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