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OpEd

Opeth Still Heavy Despite Lack of Death Metal on "Heritage"

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Update: For the opposing view of this Op/Ed, head over to this location.

“Heritage” is the slowest album in Opeth’s discography, but that doesn’t make it a bad album. Opeth has never made a bad album, and every Opeth album contains slow parts. This time the group just decided to make that the focus of the recording. I’m not turned off by a band playing slowly. In fact, some of my favorite artists are known for playing slowly. These bands carry the “doom metal” modifier. While nobody with the knowledge of descriptive metal tags would categorize Opeth as a doom artist, they take a similar approach, especially mood-wise, to their music.

Opeth has established itself as a moody or atmospheric band since debut full-length “Orchid” and follow up “Morningrise." The group got its career in the mid-‘90s on Century Media Records—a label that understood the beauty in darkness motif (see Tiamat “Wildhoney” and Moonspell “Wolfheart”). Said recordings used acoustic guitar and folk melodies to convey somber and serene feelings, connecting their music with the depictions of nature adorning their covers. As the group progressed, prog rock melodies took the place of folk harmonies, but the approach remained the same, marrying dark with light and heavy with soft.

Starting with “Damnation,” the group made keyboards a prominent part of the music. Keyboards helped envision the evil vibe of “Ghost Reveries.” When we make the leap from that album to “Heritage,” we still see keyboards playing a major role in Opeth’s atmosphere. Whether joining dynamically rising and falling rhythms or being used as a solo instrument, keys definitely help shape the album’s mood. Take the title track as an example. Piano notes move too slowly and ring out too long to relate any feelings of joy or happiness. Keys create a dreamy transition on “Folklore,” and bring another layer to “Häxprocess.” On the latter-named track, Per Wiberg even produces a flute-like sound that brings back the woodsiness of their older material.

Starting with their tour with Porcupine Tree in 2003, Opeth has added more and more elements of ‘70s progressive rock, which is exemplified by Per Wiberg’s playing of the Hammond Organ on “Heritage.” The organ is a major component of “Slither.” I’m not fond of the Hammond Organ sound. I find myself wanting to sing “Let’s Go Out to the Ballgame.” However, I’ve come to like the track because Mikael Åkerfeldt wrote it as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio’s time in Rainbow. Now, when I hear the organ, I imagine Rainbow playing this song. Åkerfeldt’s singing surely would have impressed the man who gave us the horned-hand salute!

Other than no death metal vocals on this album, I can’t think of Åkerfeldt’s voice ever receiving criticism in a review. “Heritage” is no different. He has a beautiful voice, regardless of genre or style. The album seems to have fewer choral parts than some of the group’s other albums, but expect “The Devil’s Orchard” to become a live staple. The group perfectly outlined the song’s catchy hook “God is dead!” Also of note is the deliberate phrasing on “Nepenthe," a technique recalling "In My Time Of Need" from the "Damnation" album.

Composition and melody are other facets that make “Heritage” worthy of being listed in Opeth’s catalog. Åkerfeldt meshes the tones of his acoustic guitar so brilliantly on “I Feel the Dark” that two instruments seemingly become one. Of course, the group doesn’t ride this one rhythm to the end, the song goes through multiple twists and turns. The softness and simplicity of these opening acoustic notes transform into a loud orchestra of electric guitar, bass, drums and organ. “Famine” features many lull points that enhances the heaviness and volume of a trudging, doom-filled passage. “Heritage” works like any other Opeth recording, constructing and deconstructing rhythms.

With “Heritage,” Opeth dove deeper into prog rock sounds, while taking away Åkerfeldt’s death metal growls. I enjoy Åkerfeldt’s hollow tones, but as drummer Martin Axenrot told me in a recent interview, growling vocals don’t necessarily make a song darker or heavier. I agree with this statement. Opeth is still loud where it needs to be loud, riffs are still meaty and gloomy atmospheres still persist. I have always preferred Åkerfeldt’s singing voice to his extreme vocals. Although I think his harsh tones do create a better contrast to his singing, I’m not going to give up on the band for this reason. I’ll remain a fan as long as Opeth remains heavy, dark and melodic like “Heritage.”

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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11 Comments on "Opeth Remains Dark and Somber on 'Heritage'"

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Anonymous Reader
1. WtfIsthis writes:

Whats with all this Opeth stuff? Is MU getting paid off for this?

# May 9, 2012 @ 3:38 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

2. Diamond Oz writes:

Nope. We just like Opeth.

# May 9, 2012 @ 4:13 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
PorcupineTreeFan's avatar

Member

3. PorcupineTreeFan writes:

^ agreed. (lol we are even now)

# May 9, 2012 @ 4:26 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
xFiruath's avatar

Content Manager

4. xFiruath writes:

Sorry about the Opeth overload for anyone who isn't too interested in the band - when the subject came up of doing a Sunday Old School on the band I thought it would be cool to have opposing articles on the divisive new album to along with it, and then Mikael had to go and slice his head open on the Mastodon bus, so it's been a bit saturated lately. Don't worry, the blitz is nearing it's end :) And if Swedish prog/death isn't your thing, we post news on about 40 other bands a day, so there's plenty other genres to read about.

# May 9, 2012 @ 4:39 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

5. Diamond Oz writes:

xFiruath: Good, I can't stand Swedish prog/death, I only listen to post-Norwegian glam folk ragga metal. You've probably never heard of it.

PTF: Great minds...

# May 9, 2012 @ 5:11 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Overlord's avatar

Member

6. Overlord writes:

Well written article! I should have read this before commenting on the other one, I would have conveyed my point much better.
:P

# May 10, 2012 @ 12:00 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
7. Not Opeth, super MIKE writes:

Come on, this is not Opeth, not the Opeth I enjoyed, not the Opeth I saw in '99 during their first North American tour with Amorphis and Paradise Lost.

This is super mike's indulgence, plain and simple.

Yes I am very able to skip article, no problem, but an article proclaiming indirectly that the new is in fact like the old is a big bull's eye to me... a ugly demonstration of stupidity, and being a fan isn't a good reason to be stupid!

BOOM

# May 11, 2012 @ 6:38 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

8. Diamond Oz writes:

^Translated: Stop liking what I don't like.

# May 11, 2012 @ 7:05 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
OverkillExposure's avatar

Writer

9. OverkillExposure writes:

^^Alternate translation: I don't like it; therefore, it's not Opeth.

# May 11, 2012 @ 8:20 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
10. bob freebirt writes:

another year at metalunderground.com another year of over indulging in a conversation about a band that is mediocre at best.
Thats what the forums are for.
The site is decent, but for some reason has a hard on for this band.
There are a billion bands out there to cover.
Enough already.

# May 11, 2012 @ 9:38 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
11. hewhoshallnotbenamed writes:

^ troll alert

# May 12, 2012 @ 2:22 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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