Opeth - 'Heritage' (roadrunner records) 4.5/5
Swedish outfit Opeth have been around for over 20 years now, and time can change a band, but time has changed few bands as much as it has changed Opeth. With only vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt surviving since the bands formation, they have evolved from a full on death metal outfit via various forms of metal and progressive metal until at last they have arrived with Heritage, an album that can only be described as full blown prog rock, with the metalisms reduced to almost non-existence.
Now this isn't necessarily a bad thing, for although my inner metalhead feels a little let down, my inner hippy is chuffed to bit's with whats on offer on this Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) produced opus.Opening with the title track, (in effect a short 2 minute piano piece) it soon cuts into The Devils Orchard a cracking little track that manages to blend a riff that sounds a little like 'Pictures At An Exhibition' era Emerson Lake and Palmer. Then we have I Feel The Dark that starts off sounding a bit Jethro Tull before moving into King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator territory. In fact the whole album is dripping classic progressive rockisms. Tracks like Slither and Haxprocess explore the same territory Pallas and Pendragon have been probing on recent albums, whilst other, such as Famine and The Lines in My Hand are in the Focus, Nektar and Eloy vein. There are snatches of Yes, Genesis, Porcupine Tree, Twelfth Night, PFM, and the rest in the mix, but yet at the same time it manages never to sound generic or dated. What's more there isn't a death grunt vocal or blast beat drum pattern to be seen.
The performances are first rate, especially the guitar work of Fredrik Åkesson, who manages to do pull off the expected Andy Latimer-U-Like soaring solos and the Steve Howesque twiddly bits with a perfection few can muster. And on the closing instrumental Marrow Of The Earth, his playing can only be described as sublime.
Now I can see this album not impressing many of their older fans who preferred their death and progressive metal stuff, but equally I can see many hardcore progressive rock fans embracing this new sound. Especially in light of the wave of hippy-trippy-away-with-the-fairies female fronted neo-folk stuff that so often gets passed off as prog these day.
This is a good album, a brave album and one that Opeth should be proud of producing. Buy it Now!!
For fans of... Pallas, Pendragon, Porcupine Tree, Camel etc...