As you venture around the net, this album will certainly see it's share of criticism. Some will say it was the wrong move at the wrong time. Others will refer to it as a "work of art." While the difference of opinion will be wide, it will only refer to the decision to do an album of this nature. The musicianship will not be questioned. The quality of the release will never knocked. This may, in fact, but the most polarizing album of the year.
Things begin with a short, but stunning piano track. Lightly played combinations of keys slice through the air, and tickled your inner ear. A fitting intro for a classical work, but even moreso for a metal album of this arc. The lead single follows, with a lightning burst of guitars giving way to a loud gong. Every note carries a hint of evil, from the guitars to the haunting organs that play beneath. That guitar melody winds away, punctuated by syncopated drum hits, so precise they may seem off time. You will wait for the signature scream to emerge, but therein lies the glaring omission. The vocals are clean, melodic passages strung together. Not a scream to be a had. Not a growl. Clean, concise, and lyrically powerful. This is more about atmosphere and delivery, rather than how heavy it can be. Each instrument shines through in earnest, crisp and clean.
The opening to the third track will excite any fan of progressive guitar work, with a delicate melody to play you in. The soft, sometimes chilling vocals are right at home, full of emotion and pain. The true beauty of the track is the simplicity with which it was created. A midway outburst of demonic guitars changes the pace, if only slightly. The use of synthesizers throughout the track helps to create an underlying feeling of fear, even if the vocals remain soothing. Track four ignites a fire under your ass, with the introduction of some faster paced guitar work. The uptempo drumming kicks in, but not in the heavier sense. This is a progressive rock exhibition, in the vein of the greats, such as Deep Purple. The vocal pattern actually seems to carry a lighthearted feel this time around, even giving way to a ripping solo. Things fade, and a fragile acoustic guitar takes you home.
The next track is a combination of so many styles, so many influences. The first half is little more than lightly played guitars, backed by a soft bass and the almost buried tapping of drums. There is no mistaking the soulfulness in his voice, with no sign of chugging or distortion to force his hand. Even in a momentary eruption of guitars, there is never more than a low rumble of energy. Everything is subdued, controlled by the concept of the album. As quickly as the bursts come, they are gone, changed in favor of the sublime. This continues through track six, with some brilliant jazz guitar work. It certainly reaffirms the theory that metal and jazz are merely a stage apart. The guitar melodies intertwined with the bass and sizzle of the drum kit, in a harmony like no other. Now, six tracks in, you are still waiting for that blood curdling scream. Keep waiting.
Things may begin to seem formulaic at this point, with each track having the same sort of pacing. The seventh offering begins, like the others, as a fluffy cloud in a dream. The flutter of a flute, the light tapping of almost tribal drums.That flute sound permeates the entire track, even in the evil outburst of distortion and darkness. It winds up and down as things get heavier, and heavier, then stop. Back to beauty, back to the heavenly sounds of acoustics and piano. Arguably the most rock oriented track on the album follows, a four minute ride of rapid drum progressions and guitars. While it may not get your hair swinging, it will certainly start your foot tapping. The album concludes with a pair of glorious tracks. The first dips back and forth between emotionally heavy and musically heavy. The deep, rich vocals take the lead so often, giving off a warm feel. The second track, the albums closer, is merely beauty incarnate. It is a summation of what this album is, what it was meant to be. A departure from the rest, a soft mesmerizing journey.
There is no simple way to describe this album. There are not enough adjectives to link together that will make my words as impactful as the music itself. This is a gamble, a giant leap outside of the "box" that their fans have come to expect. It may even be a step into a realm that many hoped they would never see. Either way, this is a dazzling journey through time and history, all with a demonic tone that few could attain without a single scream or growl.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the new Opeth album. Enjoy "Heritage."
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