Opeth - _Heritage_
(Roadrunner Records, 2011)
by: Aly Hassab El Naby (4 out of 10)
Fact: _Blackwater Park_ was released ten years ago.

I deliberately used the number ten because it sounds more official than saying 2001. Of course in a few months, this statement will make me look ridiculous, because it won't be true anymore. Numerals aside, 2001 was a long time ago, and the Opeth that opened our eyes to something exciting and expansive with its seminal album _Blackwater Park_ unfortunately does not exist anymore. What we have now is Opeth.2011, which is hardly similar to Opeth.2008 but doesn't sound anything like Opeth.2005. See where I'm going with this?

There seems to be a huge amount of emotional attachment to Opeth among many fans, and that is partly due to the fact that mid-era Opeth actually introduced a lot of listeners to a "harsher" sound that they just couldn't get into through other more direct metal bands. As the years went by, the sound evolved gradually under what can now be adequately called the "classic" line-up. When four guys make music together, evolution is quite slow; but when it's down to just one person, things move a lot faster. That is the case with Mr. Mikael Åkerfeldt now. As for other members of the band, long-serving bassist Martin Mendez didn't really shine anywhere on _Heritage_ -- in fact it was Martin "Axe" Axenrot who sounds a lot more versatile behind the drumset compared to his first few months on Opeth drumming duty.

"The Devil's Orchard" comes off as the first legitimate track after the fairly OK two minute piano intro "Heritage". As "The Devil's Orchard" and "I Feel the Dark" go through your ears, you'll find yourself wondering when the harsh vocals and thick distorted chords will come into play. They unfortunately never do, because Mr. Åkerfeldt has decided to box up his growling abilities and lock them away; a decision that finds me hugely disappointed. The decision to fundamentally decrease how "metal" this record sounds shines most strongly on "Slither", which sounds like a sub-par track that Iron Maiden would reluctantly have on the re-issued B-sides for _No Prayer for the Dying_.

In addition to the complete absence of harsh vocals, thick chords and intriguing transitions, Axe's use of the double bass is highly conservative and hardly audible. The band's iron grip on varying time signatures in earlier works is another thing that withered away before this record's conception. "Häxprocess" has a shy 7/4 riff that doesn't have much support and "Folklore" has a few oddly timed bars but otherwise doesn't have anything engaging except for its guitar solo. You'd expect "Famine" to be a good Opeth track, since it's over eight minutes long, but you find yourself subjected to a one minute middle eastern percussion intro then treated to the same neo-prog wankery you've been listening to for 32 minutes.

Comparison to the non-metal but awesome _Damnation_ would embarrass _Heritage_ and make it appear flat and uninspired, because _Damnation_ was like an expansion of the softer sections from the older, much better Opeth tracks. So despite how impressed I am with Axe's performance on _Heritage_, I can't shake off the fact that this album may be the beginning of a sharp departure from the Opeth sound that I've grown to love many years ago. Most of the musical elements that have made Opeth such a favorite for me in the past are absent on album number ten, and that just doesn't sit well with me. This draws me to the conclusion that we may have just witnessed the death of a great band and the birth of a controversial band from the old one's skin. Opeth.2011 is absolutely nothing like Opeth.2001. Take that however you like.

Contact: http://www.opeth.com

(article published 30/9/2011)

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8/9/2008 J Ulrey 8.5 Opeth - Watershed
3/11/2008 P Azevedo 9.5 Opeth - The Roundhouse Tapes
8/24/2005 P Azevedo 9 Opeth - Ghost Reveries
1/30/2004 P Azevedo 10 Opeth - Lamentations - Live at Shepherd's Bush Empire DVD
7/24/2003 P Azevedo 8.5 Opeth - Damnation
5/31/2003 Q Kalis 10 Opeth - Deliverance
5/13/2001 C Flaaten 8 Opeth - Blackwater Park
12/9/1999 P Azevedo 9 Opeth - Still Life
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10/11/1996 D Schinzel 8 Opeth - Morningrise
5/8/2009 P Williams Motorhead / Arch Enemy / Opeth / Chimaira / August Burns Red / Nervecell / Hatred / Scarab Dubai Desert Rock Festival 2009
6/11/2008 A Lineker Opeth / Arch Enemy / Devildriver / 3 Inches of Blood Before the Watershed
12/26/2006 P Azevedo Opeth / Amplifier Everything Ends
3/21/2003 P Azevedo Opeth / Madder Mortem / Kormoss Morningrise in the Deadlands
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