Saturday, October 22, 2011

Opeth - Heritage (2011)

The album cover really says it all. Opeth's Heritage is a well constructed idea with some misguided choices throughout that really pull down the over all work. Yes this is a prog rock album sans growls. However the guitar tones are extremely warm and the bass shines through to the fullest, that you don't miss the huge, heavy riffs Opeth is known for building songs around. Like Damnation before it, Heritage attempts to rely on Akerfeldt's singing and acoustic guitar skills (albeit with a lot more distorted guitars throughout). Unlike Damnation, Heritage wears out its welcome by refusing to limit song lengths.

Your regular Opeth song includes a lot of what you might call filler, those slow, mellow interludes that sometimes seem to go on forever between guitar plucks. However, on previous albums, you knew those moments were crammed between moments of extremity, so the band was simply establishing that dynamic. On Heritage, the heavy moments are more rock-oriented, rather than death metal oriented, so those dynamics are not even remotely as jarring, nor is the anticipation there. Unfortunately a lot of those segments really wear out their welcome on repeated listens.

"The Devil's Orchard" and "I Feel the Dark" are both fine songs, with some nice fresh ideas, but, even with this "new" direction, are too Opeth for their own good.

"Slither" is much more compressed and stronger for it. Although you might snicker when you hear the first riff. It may be their most pop-rock influenced riff, although it is fun, and has a nice driving power to it that contrasts nicely with those slow meandering acoustic passages which will follow it.

Around the 3:30 minute mark "Nepenthe" really takes off. Jam segments like these are common on the album, but unfortunately not tightly packed together, there is too much fluff around them. Had Opeth taken a cue from Damnation, they narrowed down their good ideas, they would have taken the faces off the tree, and left the real meat of this album.

For example, "Famine" includes this great moment, perhaps the heaviest riffs on the album that are punctuated by a Jethro Tull-flute solo. Sounds perhaps campy, but it works extremely well, provided you can make it through 3 minutes of boredom to get there.

"The Lines in My Hand" is awesome and exactly where this album needed to go. It kicks off immediately, has a great vocal hook, and does not get old at 3.5 minutes. In fact the song picks up at the end, in the fastest, most forceful moment on the album. I found myself going back to this one most of all.

I enjoyed the album a lot on the first few listens; unfortunately, the weaknesses begin to shine through after a few spins. The songs have so many good ideas, but too much Opeth in them. Normally you can forgive that, but here those long creeping mellow passages are dull, rather than useful interludes between death growls. It isn't a failure, but you'll spend the whole album wondering why there's a burning city and a face full of trees.

Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10]

No comments: