Heritage review by Opeth

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  • Released: Aug 31, 2011
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 6
  • Reviewer's score: 6.7 Neat
  • Users' score: 8 (138 votes)
Opeth: Heritage
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Sound — 7
They've received a lot of accolades in their time but the greatest compliment to Opeth is in the fact that they've been the vanguard for a whole new generation of kids, opening the door and pointing them in the direction of extreme and progressive music without letting the limelight move an inch away from themselves. Recent years have seen frequent movement in and out of the lineup and the music's changed with the faces but this, their tenth album, holds the biggest change of all. This time, the only door Mikael Akerfeldt is opening for us leads through to a dusty back room where we can admire his record collection. The frontman is a well known lover of '70s prog rock and "Heritage" is one part homage and two parts indulgence in the man's rather particular taste.

Let us start with the obvious consequence of that: metal is gone. The blazing intensity of their past is (correctly) deemed too obtuse for the blues-drenched riffs and surrealist melody on show here. That means no growls, no compressed distortion and no double bass. Even the loud-quiet dynamic that's been their bread and butter for twenty years has been left behind, making this quite a refreshing listen if a difficult one to stomach at first. Keyboards finally make a significant contribution to proceedings with the now-departed Per Wiberg enjoying unprecedented free-reign on "Nepenthe" and the brooding climax "Folklore," sounding every bit the prog rock revivalist that Akerfeldt must have envisioned when he was hired in 2005. Indeed each of the instrumentalists seems to be having a lot of fun with their parts, exercising true freedom and transforming Opeth into an ensemble, where previously it was a guitar band.

Each little rebellion against the metal scene will stir a degree of controversy as was intended, if the bizarre and incongruous cover art is anything to go by - but let us not forget that this big, bold statement was whispered in our ears three years ago, on Watershed'. The jangly riffing, whimsical clean vocals and smokey-room jams remain the same, while the marginalisation of metal and utter disregard for structural coherence is amplified many times over, making for unpleasant listening on the bloated and pretentious "Famine" in particular. Akerfeldt applies his utterly unique, chromatic writing style in the esoteric fashion more true to his biggest influences, which falls in line with the fun element of the rest of the record but sacrifices the weighty melodrama of previous albums; that may prove to be the greatest disappointment to Opeth fans.

Lyrics — 7
"Heritage" is a real musician's album; a haven for YouTube guitarists, bedroom bassists and any drummer with a set of ears but vocalists may be left out in the cold a little, as our Mikael seems to have exorcised a few demons on "Watershed" and prefers to take a supporting role this time. A couple of songs including leading track "The Devil's Orchard" harness something dangerously close to attitude but for the most part vocals are unusually reserved. The absence of harsh vocals contributes to this, of course, but that leaves room for a more versatile clean voice which Akerfeldt just so happens to possess.

Overall Impression — 6
The band have said repeatedly that they needed to make this album to continue as a unit and the liberation oozes from every pore. Only a portion of this jubilation is passed onto us as listeners however. Like so many of the forgotten classics sitting in Mikael Akerfeldt's house, "Heritage" may unravel over time, taking years or even decades to reveal all of its details - for now, it is enjoyable but not unmissable.

47 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Hexagram
    dak101 wrote: This is without a single doubt the best album Opeth have ever released.
    completely incorrect
    dak101
    The problem with Opeth is that when they started they attracted a lot of, sorry to say this guys, mindless metal heads. They are now evolving into something much greater than the growls and double basses people are used to. Their fans should start evolving along with them soon, and stop moaning about how soft they're getting. If you think that growls and double bass is the only way to be metal, then sorry but you don't really know music. Bash ahead.
    dak101
    This is without a single doubt the best album Opeth have ever released.
    whalepudding
    Has a few really really great bits, but for the most part is ****ing Hex Omega stretched out for a whole album.
    GBcommander
    dak101 wrote: GBcommander wrote: dak101 wrote: The problem with Opeth is that when they started they attracted a lot of, sorry to say this guys, mindless metal heads. They are now evolving into something much greater than the growls and double basses people are used to. Their fans should start evolving along with them soon, and stop moaning about how soft they're getting. If you think that growls and double bass is the only way to be metal, then sorry but you don't really know music. Bash ahead. That's kind of a generalization. If you actually come to the Opeth thread in the metal forum you'd realize that most people who enjoy Opeth, also enjoy all types of music. I honestly do not care if there aren't any growls, double bass, or heavy distorted riffs. Damnation was fantastic, and you know why? Because the songs had STRUCTURE. There was focus. Heritage is a giant mess of ideas, strung together without any apparent transitioning. Listen to any of the 70's prog rock bands that Heritage takes it's influence from. Why bother with Heritage when you can listen to an album with fantastic songwriting and cohesion? Opeth is my favorite band of all time, and will continue to be just because everything before Watershed is amazing to me. I wouldn't be listening to half the bands I did today if it wasn't for Opeth. But to say this is Opeth's best album? That seems kind of a stretch... Yeah, I might have generalised a bit. But it seems that every review I read, or comment I hear about the album has to do with them getting soft and by their terms "not being metal". "Progressive metal (sometimes known as prog metal) is a subgenre of heavy metal, which blends the powerful, guitar-driven sound of metal with the complex compositional structures, odd time signatures, diverse philosophical lyrics and intricate instrumental playing of progressive rock." Strait from wikipedia, it's the genre man. Personally I found most transitions understandable.
    But most of the transitions are just fading in and out of silence. There was literally no thought process going into them. It seems like it's just *piano solo* fade into silence *start random distorted guitar section* Look at the transition at 4:17 of I Feel the Dark. It's just so random. Heritage has a few good songs, but for me it's definitely Opeth's worst album.
    ernasty10050
    Despite not really liking the album..."The Devil's Orchard" is one of my favorite songs from the band ever.
    Paramecium302
    silly hats wrote: I kind of regret getting the deluxe preorder. Have heard more negative reviews than praises.
    Form your own opinion of it - reviews are merely insight, not a representation of your own thoughts.
    Megalomaniac46
    This album is amazing! ...People just need to get over the fact that it isn't Blackwater Park and accept it for what it is.
    qrEE
    I guess I didn't give Heritage it's due reading off of what I thought about it. I just kind of mentioned it being good. After everybody was saying "transitions suck", or "it's just Hex Omega for an hour", or "it's just not interesting". My response is that it's NOT a mess of ideas. It's just a bizarrely paced album. Watershed had the same thing - a soft song followed by the heaviest song in their career followed by a weird blast beat song followed by a ballad. The way each song went into another in Watershed, and the way each song transitioned between moments was also very bizarre. Like the entire ending of most songs on the record was bizarre, cutting off all of a sudden (like other songs by Opeth have done), or ending with detuning acoustic guitars, or a random section of completely different sound and tempo at the end of Heir Apparent (I think different tempo). Simply put, Opeth's Watershed was just a weird album. I remember when it first came out, hearing everyone say it wasn't that good. But with time people loved it. And that brings me to Heritage. The pacing in Heritage is excellent, as it transitions logically between illogical sections of music. It's what I've always liked about Opeth or Devin Townsend, they can take completely different sounds and styles and combine them in a way that makes sense (ever heard Deconstruction?). Devin Townsend's work in Strapping Young Lad was really straight-forward in the sense that it all flowed as one strict idea. The song "Skeksis" changes pace and such but never changes tempo, and keeps a thematic connection. But "The Mighty Masturbator" off of Devin Townsend's "Deconstruction" is a "mess" of ideas that works perfectly because of the atmosphere Devin Townsend allowed himself to create. It doesn't have to make sense but it does. It's a rationalization of irrational music, due to his ability to pace it flawlessly. Opeth's Heritage is the same, it's a bizarrely paced record that combines different ideas into an assortment of songs that all flow correctly, but just in weird ways. Opeth's earlier albums were correctly noted by my family members as being like "a journey". The Grand Conjuration was one example where I really felt that Opeth was taking me to Hell, which is what the song seems to be about. The entire Ghost Reveries album is a genius of a journey. But the journey felt consistent. Watershed felt all over the map... and because of that, it feels like a mess of ideas that are about to lead up to something bigger. So is Heritage. It feels like a mess of ideas that are about to lead up to something bigger. The reason why I think people don't like Heritage is because it came after Watershed, and has yet to be followed up. Watershed felt like an experimental phase in Opeth's career, and if you didn't like the individual ideas that made up Watershed, you wouldn't like it. The lack of balance in Watershed made it so that it didn't flow in a way where you could appreciate the album despite parts being not as great. Basically, what I mean is that Watershed was an album where the ideas were random, and the placement was random, and if you liked the random ideas, the placement worked, and if you didn't, you probably didn't like the album. It's a masterpiece of incoherence, and coherency is not essential to being good, nor is consistency. Watershed was a mess, which was supposed to pave way to a more consistent usage of the same ideas. Instead, Opeth went for a more even flowing album that changed pace completely from Watershed. It was not a logical continuation of Watershed's random ideas. It was more random ideas creating less coherency. This is becoming hard to understand, but what I'm saying is that Watershed's mess of ideas worked in a way that made most people expecting the next Opeth album to be a masterpiece (subconsciously). But what we got instead was a complete halt in the progression Opeth seemed to be taking, and instead getting an album that feels like a complete curveball to Opeth's progression as musicians. Both albums feel like they're leading up to something better. But sometimes that is in itself a masterpiece. Heritage struck a chord with me, and I liked it a lot. But it's simply the Orchid before a Morningrise, or an SYL before an Alien, or an Ocean Machine before an Infinity. It's the masterpiece that paves way for an even greater masterpiece to come. But many people don't think that way. Second huge comment over.
    kurtshapedbox
    This is a side of Opeth that has been aching to be properly explored for a very long time now. They did so with class, and this record withstands the high standards of everything else they've done for me. Don't be a mindless metal forum junkie and hate this album simply because it's too far out of the box of what your comfortable hearing. After all this a band that has built a career out of pushing the comfort zone of metalheads in the first place. This album does prog like no one does prog these days, and has some amazing song structures. If you fail to appreciate it, just go listen to the opeth record you do enjoy and let this creatively bottomless band to continue to make amazing music in peace i guess.
    Kämpfer
    I read in an interview today from Mikael Akerfeldt something along the lines of "The growls and death metal have always been a core part of our sound and will probably return on the next album" (the next album after Heritage)
    dak101
    GBcommander wrote: dak101 wrote: The problem with Opeth is that when they started they attracted a lot of, sorry to say this guys, mindless metal heads. They are now evolving into something much greater than the growls and double basses people are used to. Their fans should start evolving along with them soon, and stop moaning about how soft they're getting. If you think that growls and double bass is the only way to be metal, then sorry but you don't really know music. Bash ahead. That's kind of a generalization. If you actually come to the Opeth thread in the metal forum you'd realize that most people who enjoy Opeth, also enjoy all types of music. I honestly do not care if there aren't any growls, double bass, or heavy distorted riffs. Damnation was fantastic, and you know why? Because the songs had STRUCTURE. There was focus. Heritage is a giant mess of ideas, strung together without any apparent transitioning. Listen to any of the 70's prog rock bands that Heritage takes it's influence from. Why bother with Heritage when you can listen to an album with fantastic songwriting and cohesion? Opeth is my favorite band of all time, and will continue to be just because everything before Watershed is amazing to me. I wouldn't be listening to half the bands I did today if it wasn't for Opeth. But to say this is Opeth's best album? That seems kind of a stretch...
    Yeah, I might have generalised a bit. But it seems that every review I read, or comment I hear about the album has to do with them getting soft and by their terms "not being metal". "Progressive metal (sometimes known as prog metal) is a subgenre of heavy metal, which blends the powerful, guitar-driven sound of metal with the complex compositional structures, odd time signatures, diverse philosophical lyrics and intricate instrumental playing of progressive rock." Strait from wikipedia, it's the genre man. Personally I found most transitions understandable.
    GBcommander
    dak101 wrote: The problem with Opeth is that when they started they attracted a lot of, sorry to say this guys, mindless metal heads. They are now evolving into something much greater than the growls and double basses people are used to. Their fans should start evolving along with them soon, and stop moaning about how soft they're getting. If you think that growls and double bass is the only way to be metal, then sorry but you don't really know music. Bash ahead.
    That's kind of a generalization. If you actually come to the Opeth thread in the metal forum you'd realize that most people who enjoy Opeth, also enjoy all types of music. I honestly do not care if there aren't any growls, double bass, or heavy distorted riffs. Damnation was fantastic, and you know why? Because the songs had STRUCTURE. There was focus. Heritage is a giant mess of ideas, strung together without any apparent transitioning. Listen to any of the 70's prog rock bands that Heritage takes it's influence from. Why bother with Heritage when you can listen to an album with fantastic songwriting and cohesion? Opeth is my favorite band of all time, and will continue to be just because everything before Watershed is amazing to me. I wouldn't be listening to half the bands I did today if it wasn't for Opeth. But to say this is Opeth's best album? That seems kind of a stretch...
    larrytheguitar
    I really don't see it as much of an Opeth record. I think the fact that it IS an Opeth record with distort other's opinion of the record. Based purely on music, this is nothing special, but so many people have this "Everything Opeth touches is gold," mentality, I'm sure this record will have a lot of fans. That said, the drumming on Heritage is some of the best I've ever heard from the guy. Mikael's clean vocals are better than ever, and I'm glad to hear more prominent bass lines. I'm still not liking Fredrik kesson's lead style. He's very talented, and his solos are cool, but they hardly fit the song. I have more thoughts on this, but don't want to write at essay at the moment. I can say I'm very mixed about this record... I'll give it another week. I do like the album artwork, though.
    kmal415
    Metallica-MAsta wrote: I love that Akerfeldt would release an album like this. He knew many people would be weary of it, yet stuck with his vision of what he wanted to do.
    so did hitler[/quote] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_... w Anyways, I'm going to give this album a try. It's nice to see them doing something different, it's what they've done their whole career. That being said, I do hope they stay faithful to their metal roots because they do it so well.
    ernasty10050
    It's different from other Opeth albums but the music itself is just not very interesting.
    NothingRocks
    I prefer this album to most of Opeth's other albums. The whole loud to quiet structuring got really old to me. I rather like the odd structuring, it adds to the surreal atmosphere of each song. I prefer when Opeth focus more on the atmosphere of song rather than just jumping between death metal and quiet acoustic sections.
    Denjario
    One of my favourite albums by Opeth, if not my favourite overall. It does play like an LP rather than a CD which is why it would seem to be disjointed. The track arrangement on the LP makes the album a whole lot more interesting than a straight playthrough on my iPhone or iTunes. I tried adding a few seconds of silence between the tracks that would require a switching over on the turntable, and it made a huge difference in how the whole album was played. I can't wait to get the actual vinyl in my hands, it'll be great to hear it in all it's warm glory on my stereo.
    Endrue
    i have any disagreement with this album. its not hard as albums before, but i like very much this musical creations. nice!
    Pho3niXnz
    This album is brilliant, I have loved everything they have put out. I can see why some people wouldn't like it based off of previous albums being almost all death metal but from the start Akerfeldt said that this album was going to be different and I can respect their confidence in making an ambitious album that to me, has paid off.
    futurama_rules
    I definitely consider this more of a progressive rock release from opeth than a progressive metal release. Its good for what it is, but even the distortion is toned down. I don't care what opeth do next, I'll still give it a fair chance...this needs a few more listens from me, but as it stands I can't say I'm not a little tiny bit dissappointed... its not horrible or anything, I just expected them to stay a lil heavier, even without the growls. There's plenty to like/love though, I love the flute solo on this, so jethro tull like.
    thecameronator
    I don't think people have anything to worry about with the whole death-growl situation. It's Opeth, dammit. Don't expect them to make the same album twice. The death growls will return. I for one am keen for this album.
    qrEE
    EpiExplorer wrote: Still waiting for it in the post. But I remain hopeful that this is just a one-off, I'd hate for Opeth to suddenly die on their own feet after 20 years, just to record 'homage albums'. I imagine this album to sound somewhere along the lines of 'Ki' by Devin Townsend but crossed with 'Damnation'.
    Wrong. I'd say more like Damnation crossed with some of Genesis' material, although I doubt that's an accurate description. Great album, I wish people would give it more credit. I mean, I bet a lot of people say that, but seriously, it's Opeth, they've been doing whatever they want forever, and it's been amazing so far. Heritage is no exception. Just because it feels a bit more "old school" doesn't mean it sucks. But I know why people don't like it. Because it's a single album after a long wait. If they had done a double album with the other one being super heavy, everybody would have loved this one. Everybody loved Damnation, and if that was released now, and Heritage released back then, people would have given some crap to Damnation these days too. People like to complain, and since I've come to terms with Opeth's music to the point of being able to almost immediately say what portions of their career I do and don't like, I'd say Heritage is a good album. Just at a point where people didn't want that kind of album. I'd say that Opeth's greatest album is My Arms, Your Hearse, and their worst is Orchid. My Arms, Your Hearse has the most balance of soft and heavy, the greatest pacing of any Opeth album, and a well done concept. Orchid suffers from bad production, generic drumming, and an overall lack of the songwriting greatness of later albums. Still Life suffers from bad drum production and a bit of one-dimensional music. Blackwater Park just has inferior pacing to some of Opeth's other music. Morningrise's only real problems are production related. Deliverance suffers from a slight overall dip in quality from other releases. Damnation suffers from a lack of variety. I can't say Heritage suffers from anything. Everything is just how it needs to be. Just the change in style from normal Opeth material is the only problem, but I like all of the music on it. I guess another problem would be the excess of quiet parts that go on for too long, although Blackwater Park had the same problem. So overall, the best Opeth albums, to me, are Watershed, Ghost Reveries, and My Arms, Your Hearse. But I'd give EVERY OPETH ALBUM a ten out of ten, except for Orchid. That tells you what I think about Opeth's material, and why I think that Opeth is a great band that's always had slight nit-picking problems that make me like certain albums less. Every Opeth album is a masterpiece, but you can find reasons to complain about any of their material. Heritage is a good album, just give it time.
    Ibeanez
    It's called progressive rock because you progress from on section to another, not fade one out then fade another one in.
    LOL what?
    mark3777
    It seems like the reviewer only gave it a lower score because it lacks the brutalz that Mikael delivers that we all love. I can understand how troubling this can be for long time listeners, but you have to understand not every album is like the last. I have only heard one track off this album, but I definitely will be looking forward to listening to more of it.
    peachesenregali
    kmal415 wrote: Metallica-MAsta wrote:I love that Akerfeldt would release an album like this.He knew many people would be weary of it, yet stuck with his vision of what he wanted to do.so did hitler
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_... wAnyways, I'm going to give this album a try. It's nice to see them doing something different, it's what they've done their whole career. That being said, I do hope they stay faithful to their metal roots because they do it so well.[/quote] You mentioned Hitler.... CLOSED
    IRONxPANTERA
    I enjoy this album quite a bit. I will agree that it is a bit messy...but I do not think that it is bad enough to take away from enjoying the music. I am loving what Opeth is doing and I am excited to see them on the 23rd! Anyone know what their setlist will be like?
    Metallica-MAsta
    I love that Akerfeldt would release an album like this. He knew many people would be weary of it, yet stuck with his vision of what he wanted to do. [/quote] so did hitler
    Silky Smooth
    I love that Akerfeldt would release an album like this. He knew many people would be weary of it, yet stuck with his vision of what he wanted to do.
    xIxRocksx
    Idk why everyone is bitching, this is a good album. I love to see random no-ones try to talk big bands like this down like they have released multiple albums themselves. Grow up. Just thank God they aren't burnt out and terrible like Metallica
    Metal_Mesh
    Kmpfer wrote: I read in an interview today from Mikael Akerfeldt something along the lines of "The growls and death metal have always been a core part of our sound and will probably return on the next album" (the next album after Heritage)
    I that's true I can't be happier. I mean: the dynamics in the musics have been their trademark. I don't say their music is bad without the growls and stuff, just less interesting and dynamic.
    silly hats
    I kind of regret getting the deluxe preorder. Have heard more negative reviews than praises.
    Equallizer
    Im gonna buy this because its Opeth. I love the diversity of metal and clean on their previous albums and if this new album is soft im still gonna like it.
    FlyingPirahna
    I found this album pretty boring. It wears it's influences on it's sleeves a little too much, and nothing on it particularly stood out. It just blended into an hour-long mess. I love Akerfeldt's quiet moments, and his singing voice is gorgeous, but Opeth without metal is like soda without sugar. It just doesn't taste right.
    kamjam7
    Haven't heard the album yet, but i'd consider myself one of those fans under the "everything akerfeldt touches is gold" mindset because, to me, all their other material is not only unique, but (transitions aside) intelligent in the structure, riffs, and lyrics. I don't think that will ever change with them, and that's all that i'm looking forward to, no matter what form of genre it comes in.
    Echoplex
    Paramecium302 wrote: Why does everyone talk like Damnation was never released?
    You don't notice all the people in the comments mentioning that very album?
    Thunderstruckmh
    I find it to be really inspiring to know that these guys are doing what they love, and the way they wanna do it. It seems to me that people are making a huge deal about the lack of growling vocals. Mikael has an AMAZING voice, and I'm not shocked that they would want to make an album that utilizes it. I'm not the hugest fan of Opeth, but I do own Ghost Reveries, and it really turned me on to them and gave me respect for them. I'm going to go buy this album too because it sounds really epic and awesome.
    M3AK
    The album was good. Not bad, but not great either. There are lots of great riffs and ideas on this album but as has been stated many times before me in this section, the song structuring is shit. It's called progressive rock because you progress from on section to another, not fade one out then fade another one in. If only they had thought more on the transitions between sections within the songs they could have made this a perfect album. I am a hardcore metal fan but I must say, the metal parts in opeth...I don't miss them at all.
    xicetraex
    I personally like this album significantly more than Damnation, and I like damnation a good bit.
    chimaira033
    I really enjoyed this album, it was a refreshing Change of pace for the band. The only problem I have with the album is that it really will start to divide their fan base.
    Loki_37
    EpiExplorer wrote: Still waiting for it in the post. But I remain hopeful that this is just a one-off, I'd hate for Opeth to suddenly die on their own feet after 20 years, just to record 'homage albums'. I imagine this album to sound somewhere along the lines of 'Ki' by Devin Townsend but crossed with 'Damnation'.
    Eh, they're Opeth. They're not just going to die off after one "different" album. If it does poorly with fans, they'll probably pop another out sooner rather than later. I haven't heard it yet, but I've always enjoyed - if rarely loved - Opeth's albums.
    EpiExplorer
    Still waiting for it in the post. But I remain hopeful that this is just a one-off, I'd hate for Opeth to suddenly die on their own feet after 20 years, just to record 'homage albums'. I imagine this album to sound somewhere along the lines of 'Ki' by Devin Townsend but crossed with 'Damnation'.