The whole thing about this album has been amusing me, I confess. All the warnings about the absence of cookie monster vocals and the usual heaviness of the riffs, obviously trying to prepare the hard-death-metal-fringe-of-fans; the indirect and humorous statements of Akerfeldt in the live concerts (as I witnessed in early August); the first presented song (The Devil’s Orchard). So why bother trashing the album when the facts were known already before hand?
Maybe it’s me who is just fortunate enough to be a metal fan as I am a progressive rock fan. My musical experiences have been merging these two factors since my adolescence, so I am very luckily able to appreciate the many faces of this band.
Heritage can, perhaps, be read in two directions: this is Opeth tribute to some of the bands or aesthetics that have always accompanied them and have served as major influences, meaning the 70’s prog/fusion stylings; or the legacy that the band wishes to leave, mastering both sides of the fence, either entwined and totally differentiated. They had already tried this sort of approach with Damnation, and even in selected tracks that are to be found in most albums of their heavier catalogue. But with Heritage they have taken a huge step forward into the paths of uncertainty. An uncertainty as valid, conscious and strong as any other step they could have taken.
When we’re talking about prime musicians, no matter what kind of music they play, we are bound to be amazed with the same ease as we are dazzled and confused. The trick must always pass by learning to appreciate what the playing has to offer. And man, does this album offer!!!!
So Opeth has released a totally progressive album with jazzy interludes and tremendously strong 70’s hard rock reminiscences. Any problem with that? Yes? Even when the band is in the top of its capabilities and demonstrates it in an almost Gentle Giant meets Deep Purple with Zappa framing kind of way? When the band expands and contracts and experiments new venues or revisits old vibes and proposals? What is wrong with you, troll?!
Let’s be focused and honest here. Heritage presents Opeth has they’ve been since the start of their career. Simply the overall building has been architected differently here. Dark/light contradictions? Check. Complex playing? Check. Emotional singing and playing? Check. Total ability to create different moods and vibes? Check. Inventive and challenging musicality? Check. So what is missing that makes an important fringe of its usual supporters bashing this particularly brilliant album? The metal angle of the band, which is completely and absolutely absent in the release. The question is: should this be the turn-off for the discovery and the reckon that all the other usual ingredients are there, with sufficient doses to amaze the listener, and with the fact to ice the cake that the band has ended up releasing their most challenging album to date? In my honest opinion, No way!
After a few listens I think I got there where the band wanted me to go. This is an album that grows at each listen and with the almost impossibility to comprehend at first listen. It is an album where the band turn explicit some tendencies that were already there, even if buried below that heavy clothing. And it is certainly something that adds tons of new things and especially experimentations that had not been tried with Damnation, their other non-metal album. In this aspect, and besides the fact that Damnation is a killer melodic album, Heritage will end surpassing it in every aspect: the obvious and the ones that I haven’t yet got to. And by the rate that this album has been growing on me, it will surely make its mark in my reference albums of progressive rock.
Refusing to stay still in a ground-breaking musical world that they have built, and especially unwilling to sit comfortably in the shadow of their previous conquests or take directions from outside sources, Opeth are simply continuing building their path…one that is built in black macadam encrusted in lightly diamonds…and they just can stop bettering it. So learn to enjoy the ride and let them just be what they are: Opeth!