OPETH — Heritage

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OPETH - Heritage cover
3.73 | 100 ratings | 11 reviews
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Album · 2011

Filed under Metal Related


1. Heritage (2:05)
2. The Devil's Orchard (6:40)
3. I Feel the Dark (6:40)
4. Slither (4:03)
5. Nepenthe (5:40)
6. Häxprocess (6:57)
7. Famine (8:32)
8. The Lines in My Hand (3:49)
9. Folklore (8:19)
10. Marrow of the Earth (4:19)

Total time 57:04


- Mikael Åkerfeldt / vocals & guitar
- Fredrik Åkesson / guitar
- Per Wiberg / keyboards
- Martin Mendez / bass guitar
- Martin Axenrot / drums

About this release

Release date: September 20th, 2011
Label: Roadrunner Records

Steven Wilson - mixing
Jens Bogren - engineering
Travis Smith - album artwork

Special edition bonus tracks:

11. Pyre (5:32)
12. Face In The Snow (4:09)

Thanks to bartosso for the addition and UMUR, adg211288, bonnek, diamondblack for the updates


More places to buy metal & OPETH music

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Specialists/collaborators reviews

OPETH stirred a great debate among their loyal fans by creating something wildly far from the growly prog/death touch and incorporated more classic prog elements and I can safely say, distorted instruments are rarely used here, so if you're looking for something heavy, 'Heritage' might not a good choice, but on the other hand, there's a trace of OPETH's heaviness in some of the songs, it's just that it's done in an unusual way that non-metal fans do not feel threatened.

After a calming jazzy intro, OPETH breaks out with complex-built riffs on the first single, 'The Devil's Orchard'. Though I can say that it's not really my fave track here. 'I Feel The Dark' feels very psychedelic and evil with its gloomy atmosphere. This is a good one but my personal fave is on the next track, 'Slither'. A straight forward heavy metal tune, perhaps the fastest song here and less-prog than the rest. 'Nepenthe' is also slow and the old progrock element sounds thick here, I love this track, quite similar to 'Haxprocess' but I think this one's better.

'Famine' is grand, spooky, and the tempo was built slowly and eventually you can hear the original classic OPETH style in it. 'The Lines In My Hand' is energetic but not as heavy as 'Slither'. 'Folklore' is amazing, just like 'Famine', OPETH push the tempo upward gently, infused with vintage jazz touch, and another personal fave, together with the closing track, 'Marrow of The Earth', a very soothing song and a great pick to end the album.

I think OPETH has done something marvelous here. Many has said it's not original, but I'm not really familiar with 70s prog so I don't think it matters at all. Steven Wilson probably helped to create the vintage mix and he did a great job too. 'Heritage' is a brave idealistic attempt to do something that you really want to do without being dictated by labels or anything irrelevant. Not many people will like it, but I know I do.
"Heritage" is the 10th full-length studio album by Swedish progressive metal act Opeth. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in September 2011. There´s been much speculation about how "Heritage" would sound after the band made it clear that they would drop the growls and focus on playing progressive rock. Of course we´ve heard Mikael Åkerfeldt talk about this before, being the prog rock head he is, but he has talked about other projects before that hasn´t materialized yet. For instance I remember he talked about releasing a black metal oriented Opeth album once, and that project certainly hasn´t surfaced yet. With "Heritage" it turned out to be more than words though as the band have completely left their progressive death metal roots behind and focus on playing a 70s influenced progressive type of rock.

...especially keyboard player Per Wiberg, is given a lot of space and opportunity to flash his vintage keyboards (ironically Per Wiberg left the band before the release of the album), but everything from the jazz rock influenced drumming, the warm bass sound to the dynamic and structurally challenging compositions, to the fuzzy distorted guitars, scream 70s progressive rock/hard rock.

The album starts out with a piano intro and then "The Devil's Orchard" kicks in. It´s one of the more energetic tracks on the album even though it´s quite dynamic too with some mellow sections thrown in. "I Feel the Dark" and "Slither" are pretty great too but "Nepenthe" is kinda dull to my ears. From that moment on it´s like the album only captivate me in glimpses. The last track "Marrow of the Earth" is quite the beautiful instrumental piece though. My issue with many of the tracks is that they don´t sound like fully developed compositions, but more like a lot of ideas put together to form tracks. The interesting thing is that the earlier material by the band is also structured like that, but that type of songwriting approach works much better within the context of a progressive death metal album than in does on a full blown progressive rock album.

...so while the playing is excellent (I´m especially impressed by drummer Martin Axenrot, who really shines on the album) and the production is warm and organic, the songwriting simply isn´t strong enough. "Heritage" is loaded with great ideas and for the most part the album is very enjoyable but the full promise is too seldom fulfilled. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is warranted.
Phonebook Eater

"Heritage" is one of the most radical retro-Progressive Rock albums ever.

With a little bit controversy accompanied by a bit of confusion by the fans, here comes, after three years, “Heritage”, Opeth’s tenth studio album already. An almost dramatic turn of direction is why people are confused really: instead of the Progressive Death Metal album, we have a soft, retro prog rock release. Comparisons are thrown to “Damnation” which was considered the softest Opeth album, and still is. But “Heritage” is one of those rare retro-prog albums that gives just as much impact as a good Prog Rock album of the seventies, feeling like one of them, instead of “Damnation”, which didn’t at all feel that way, even though the two albums end up being approximately at the same level.

“Heritage” has a very impressive atmosphere that truly captures those magical moments that obscure Prog bands of the golden age were able to create so wonderfully, instead of perhaps influences such as Yes or Genesis, even though admittedly there are more than a few hints to King Crimson. The fuzzy guitars are far from the distorted ones of the previous Opeth albums, the keyboards much more abundant, as well as flutes, acoustic guitars, organs, spacey mellotrons, and all the typical elements of the genre. Because, looking at it musically, it’s a pretty standard Prog Rock album, but it unfolds so much more with repeated listens.

What seemed to be the most impressive about this album is how the band can perfectly create a vintage and magical sounding atmosphere, especially in their mellower, creepier moments. The more lively moments can be a tiny bit disappointing in a few spots, but mostly, even these are almost always top-notch. Not only the melodies for the most part tend to be beautiful, but the arrangements and the instrumentation are always extremely ambitious and complex. Behind the quasi-biblical theme that echoes in every song, there is a strong, earthly feel to the music, especially in my beloved mellow moments, where you feel like it is music that comes from the inner parts of the earth, it’s so visceral.

Many of the songs here require multiple listens before they can be swallowed properly, that said even for the single “The Devil’s Orchard”, a multi faced six minute piece that almost always maintains great quality. The claustrophobic and sinister “I Feel The Dark” is just as great, with impressive performances by all the musicians. The more Jazzy songs like “Haxprocess” and “Nepenthe” don’t quite deliver as much as the previous tracks in their softness, but the other more lively songs do: “The Lines In My Hand” and “Slither” sound like old, mystic Hard Rock songs, extremely catchy and once again boasting great musicianship by each member. The two longer songs of the album are very different from each other, “Famine” and “Folklore”: while the first one is darker, more tense, and has a unique Oriental-esque section in the beginning (with the percussions and everything), “Folklore” is much more lively, epic sounding in many spots, especially the mighty presence of the mellotron at the end of the piece.

With “Heritage” Opeth have massively changed their sound in a way that I didn’t at all expect. This is one of the most radical retro progressive rock albums I’ve heard, remaining extremely faithful to the sounds of the seventies. If they should go on with this kind of music, I personally wouldn’t complain, even though I miss the metal passages.
Conor Fynes
'Heritage' - Opeth (5/10)

Opeth is a band that is famous for turning metalheads into prog rock fans. It was the other way for me; these Swedish titans introduced me to the world of extreme metal, a sound that I found myself averse to at first, but have since come to embrace as a realm where some of rock music's most visionary talents dwell. Although 'Morningrise' and 'Ghost Reveries' in particular have since engrained an indelible etch on my heart though, the past year saw my appreciation for this band has waned, virtually leading me to renounce my Opeth fandom; while brilliant at first, their style wore thin for me, perhaps from one too many listens to the now painfully familar soft-heavy dynamic. With that being said, let it be known that this reviewer may have had a slight bias against this band's work now. Hopefully however, my fatigue of Opeth hasn't stopped me from judging their latest album 'Heritage' on its merits.

While Opeth is best known for epic progressive death metal with strong acoustic elements and melancholic atmosphere, they are also known to deviate from that course, albeit only once in a while. The first shift away from metal was heard on 2003's 'Damnation', a mellow and depressing interlude between the heaviness of 'Deliverance', and the refined mastery of 'Ghost Reveries'. Although this was certainly a step away from what the band was used to doing, there was still the distinct Opeth-y vibe to it; the riffs were definitely the creation of Opeth main man Mikael Akerfeldt, and the feeling of the music remained relatively unchanged from the band's earlier incarnations. After 2008's 'Watershed', it was clear to many fans that Opeth was on the brink of another change- after all, only three of that album's seven tracks featured any death growls at all. Let me cut to the point; it came as little surprise that Opeth was now going to do something different with their sound. I loved what they did with 'Damnation', but as far as hearing that Opeth was planning on doing a '70s retro rock album, I was disappointed, even months before the album came out. All too many bands already in prog were looking back to the 1970's for their sound, and I was not enthralled by the news that Opeth was following suit.

After hearing 'Heritage' finally, I have a lot of things to say about it, and simultaneously I am both impressed, yet immensely disappointed. I am impressed for the fact that Opeth has been able to make a new style here while maintaining many of their trademark sounds, and the music here does not sound nearly as '70s derived as I feared it would be. On the less positive note, I have been immensely disappointed by the fact that- above and beyond, this is the most unbalanced thing that Opeth has ever done, and hopefully ever will do. I cannot see myself ever having the same appreciation for this record as I do for anything else that Opeth has done. Even still, amidst all of the confusion and disappointment that this record has created for me, there are still things that pleasantly surprised me along the way.

As far as their style goes, we still hear the interplay between acoustic parts and heavier moments, but the big change here is that all traces of death metal have been extracted out of the formula. Unlike 'Damnation', Opeth can still be heavy here, but it is heaviness in the same way that a band like Uriah Heep was heavy; gritty and over the top, with all the bombast but lacking the extremity. It is clear that- true to the reports- Opeth aims for a vintage proggy hard rock style, with pros and cons included. Even by looking at the cover of this album, it looks to me that Mikael Akerfeldt is giving a tongue-in-cheek tribute to his prog rock idols with this one, and it is reflected in the music as well; bluesy rock riffs, jazzy drumming, and plenty of keyboard textures. All the same, Opeth is clever enough here to lean towards a certain sound, without necessarily copying it note for note.

While I was pleasantly intrigued by the fresh take on the '70s prog style that Opeth crafted here, the songwriting that presents this style was another matter entirely. Even devoting several intent listens to the music on 'Heritage', I cannot describe the compositions here as anything but lackluster, underwhelming, aimless, synonyms, synonyms. The songs felt like a continental breakfast buffet at some second-rate chain hotel; there's plenty of variety to choose from, but they don't provide half of the equipment to cook the damned stuff. Much of these ideas felt like gimmicks rather than heartfelt musical observations, with a few moments making me wonder if Akerfeldt's only goal here was to sound strange or obscure to his fans. With a band of this talent, there's definitely aspects to the sound that score, but 'Heritage' is filled with a lot more misses than otherwise. Highlights of this album included the eerie title-track introduction, 'Nepenthe', parts of 'Famine', and the rather enjoyable climax 'Folklore'. While I might even say that each track on 'Heritage' has at least one interesting aspect about it, none of these songs stand much against the true greats that Opeth has churned out in earlier years.

Like most of this album, the performances and production here is given a largely mixed result. The first thing I really noticed about 'Heritage' that impressed me was actually the drumming, provided here by Martin Axenrot. While drums are usually something that takes me several listens before I start really listening in on it, I was immediately struck by both Axenrot's incredible jazz-tinged performance, and the richly organic way the drums sounded. I would even say that this is the best drumwork I have yet heard on an Opeth record. Coming in as my other favourite aspect of 'Heritage' is the keyboard wizardry of Per Wiberg, who doesn't necessarily wow audiences with technical skills here, but instead makes his mark by using a wide variety of vintage key sounds (think Mellotron, or Hammond organ) and using them tastefully. This gives a nice layer over the otherwise disappointing, grimy, and dull-sounding guitar riffs, which- once again- are among the worst that I have yet heard on an Opeth album. With Per's keyboard performance here being so vivid, it's a real shame that this is the last we'll hear of him with the band.

As I've said, the guitar riffs here are boring for the most part, and whatever pleasant aspects of 'Heritage' there are, are usually left to keyboards, drums, or other less expected instruments, like the flute. Lastly is Mikael Akerfeldt's voice on 'Heritage', as well as the lyrics. I'm beginning to sense a pattern in my disappointment here; Akerfeldt's performance here is mixed, with some moments benefiting from his warm tenor, and others feeling more like he's forcing himself to sound like some obscure hard rock singer than making a necessary artistic choice. And the lyrics; while I considered Mikael Akerfeldt to be something of a death metal poet with opuses 'Still Life' and all else, I cringed once or twice with the contrived rhymes that Mikael was trying to pass here; take a look at some of the lyrics on 'The Lines In My Hand' and you might see what I mean.

So there you have it; with another year comes another Opeth album, and for the first time in my life, I've been really let down by them, the band I once thought could do no wrong. There are plenty of interesting ideas on 'Heritage', but while listening to this, I get the recurring image of sifting through Trail Mix when I was a kid; having to rummage through the nuts and berries to get the chocolate crisps. Opeth can certainly be hailed for trying something new with their sound, but as far as experiments go, I would consider this as lukewarm, rather than the dazzling masterpiece some may have hoped it to be.
Time Travel

In the year 2008 Opeth, my favourite ever rock band, have released WATERSHED, album of such a variable artistic quality, that I often had problems with listening to it in its entirety. It is, therefore, small wonder I was worried about their future. When I read that Opeth leaves extreme metal for 70s prog rock I really didn't know what to think. On the one hand, it ruled out the possibility that I would waste my money for another mediocre prog death album. On the other hand I was afraid that Opeth would lost its identity. The second one turned out to be partly true after all. Don't worry though, HERITAGE is much better than their previous record, and what's more, it shows that Mikael Akerfeldt still has a lot of musical tricks up his sleeve.

There's a tendency in Mike's songwriting, tendency that made itself noticeable in GHOST REVERIES to become almost intolerable in WATERSHED. What I mean is his gradual leaning towards conceptual(banal) atmospherics("Porcelain Heart") and technicality at the expense of musical/emotional value, known from such albums as MY ARMS YOUR HEARSE or DELIVERANCE. If you've noticed the same thing, I have good news. While HERITAGE is dripping with synthetic atmospherics more than any other Opeth album, it doesn't really sound cheap. In fact it is an extremely eclectic blend of 70s progressive rock and Opeth signature atmosphere. Prog rock means abundance of vintage synthesizers, mellotrons, rhode pianos etc. It also indicates multi-layered structure, in HERITAGE taken to extremes at times. As for Opeth signature atmosphere, it means dark, a bit gothic/chamber feel known both from GHOST REVERIES and WATERSHED. There are also distinctive vocals of Mikael A., who experiments with his voice more than ever before. As a result we've got a modern sounding prog rock record in the vein of King Crimson and Jethro Tull, with distinctive, still quite emotional, feel of Opeth.

As I have already hinted above, the songwriting seems to be a little bit abrupt at first and even if the impression mostly fades away with subsequent listens, it doesn't completely disappear. That's another thing I have already noticed in WATERSHED and didn't really like it. It's pretty strange to me, but as Mikael is a musician who doesn't have to prove that he's able to write well flowing 10+ minutes epics, I'm inclined to forgive him this time. Especially as it suits the eclectic nature of the record.

The only thing that makes me a bit sad, is that Opeth lost a big part of its identity. It's the first time that they abandon their musical core and replace it with a whole, pretty much unchanged, genre. That's why I think it would be better if HERITAGE was a side project album, a tribute to progressive rock of the 70s. Yes, it is still Opeth in a way, yes, it's well performed and well written but... But being unpredictable, what Mike is so proud of, is not a good thing when you abandon your own style, almost completely, and start to experiment with this and that. And no, I don't mean growls and I don't mean heavy riffage.

TRACKS BY RATINGS: 9/10: Häxprocess; The Lines in My Hand; Folklore 8/10: The Devil's Orchard; I Feel the Dark; Slither 7/10: Heritage; Famine; Marrow of the Earth; Nepenthe || OVERALL = 79/100
A stunning tribute to the 70s.

No death metal growls! Okay, now we have got that out of the way we can commence (I loathe the over abundance of death growls in metal). Allow me to get personal for a moment. I love this album for the same reason I loved 'Damnation'. Akerfeldt has a great voice and he uses it well on this album, and the band are inventive virtuoso musicians and they are incredible on this release. I discovered Opeth on 'Damnation' and adored every part of it. I was completely dismayed after this that 'Deliverance', my next Opeth album, was infested with death metal growling. I had discarded that style years ago, it simply is not for me. I don't mind that others like it, I used to also, but I can't stand it now. So I decided that Opeth was not for me. Opeth get rave reviews such as the incredibly diverse Watershed and Ghost Reveries that I had to dip my toes in again and I was actually quite pleased with what I heard, thinking perhaps Opeth is for me, I just have to skip the tracks that don't appeal. Not ideal I know but they are excellent musos and deserve recognition. Anyway, I read the reviews for the new album and all of them said the same thing ' no death metal vocals. Okay, here we go. I had no idea I was going to encounter a throwback to the 70s! Here are the tracks.

1. Heritage and 2. The Devil's Orchard - After a quiet melancholy piano intro accompanied by bassist Martin Mendez.

Track 2 seamlessly begins with the gorgeous Hammond sound of the 70s. Then we are treated to a King Crimson guitar polyrhythm ' The Black Sabbath dark lyrics and atmosphere is unmistakeable.

3 I Feel the Dark - An acoustic intro, a steady beat, inspired singing, spacey effects, time sig changes, lots of beautiful flute.

4 Slither - A heavier sound but still no metal distortion. More classic Sabbath guitar and keyboards, awesome riffs, a Hammond organ shimmering, an excellent lead break and some minimalist acoustic.

5 Nepenthe - Begins with soft acoustics, and weird jazz improvised drums, very slow pace and key pads. Akerfeldt is great with clean vocals sounding like like Camel. There are Psych prog embellishments, and reflective lyrics; 'in my darkest hour, yes, trust me with the light'. A King Crimson style guitar riff locks in, with soaring lead guitar, then more jazz drums. This is a real oddity, but quite entrancing, then a screaming killer lead solo breaks in, but suddenly drops out for an ambient passage of keys and guitar with those brush drums. Vocals return, singing, 'She would haunt my dreams,' and after a verse it's over. Opeth are a new animal here, and I love it. It's not prog metal, its eclectic mixed with jazz fusion.

6 Haxprocess - This incredible track features some very strange time sig that almost feels improvised, and thee is a very strong dark atmosphere. Akerfeldt is extremely quiet, and sounds like the early 70s. Ambient effects of acoustic and dark sustained key pads create a bleak feeling of despair. Finally a rhythmic guitar begins and some Gothic lyrics with surreal imagery focussing on 'one eternal winter' and 'one forgotten season, secrets in the mire, moon is riding high, save your children, drenched in poverty, tracks in the snow,' The guitar solo is completely devoid of any rhythm, and all other instruments drop out. There is beauty in the playing, and I am in awe of how much this sounds like Latimer or Hackett. The sound of children's playful voices is heard and later a haunting piano in the distance. The atmosphere is uninviting but very Opeth.

7 Famine - This is a long song at over 8 minutes beginning with a Jethro Tull flute, strange crying effects, a low drone and then African tom tom drums. Sad vocals and lyrics sing slowly over a lonely piano, 'I can't see your face and I can't breathe your air, so I wonder why I get caught inside when I hear your name.' Immediately a Fripp like guitar chimes in, and then blasts of drums and a massive Hammond crashing on the chords, sheer prog bliss. Akerfeldt's voice rises in pitch and it is a stand out moment on this album. The musicianship is unrepentant of the 70s sound, it seems it is designed to pay tribute to those classic 70s prog bands. The lyrics are even as weird as the 70s psych prog, 'Into the fire of my youth comes the devil again, when you feel your way, feel your way'. The song gets surreal and detours into new time sig territory, with very sporadic metrical patterns and crazy freakout Hammond and flute. There is a dissonant jazz feel and a bizarre riff that is impossible to pin down at first but it settles into an ethereal warbling flute over acoustic flourishes. The music draws me in as Akerfeldt sings with longing and pain, 'I would die, my heart was empty, come a ghost in perpetual void and neglect our reasons why'. Cue an echo and Ian Anderson must have channelled his presence as that is his flute. The droning organ caps off one of the best Opeth tracks, certainly the most experimental. The sepulchral laughing voice at the end is downright creepy and preternatural. How could you not be mesmirised by all this high strangeness? Opeth are going out on a limb and just taking too many risks but it actually works. Check this track out as it typifies the new Opeth approach.

8 The Lines in My Hand - This one returns to good old classic rock with cool riffs and spacey psych synthesizer. Akerfeldt sounds great on vocals and the verse is repeated over and over speaking about 'dying in the wake'. The acoustic breaks are well executed and there are so many various time changes and instrumental breaks to indulge in. The song changes mid way through with a kind of Camel style, as Akerfeldt sings 'the writing's on the wall'. I loved this track, and perhaps this would be the one to check out along with Famine to find out whether this album is really for you.

9 Folklore - Guitarist Fredrik Akesson presents a wonderful clean guitar for an intro, but it sounds great and the riff is missing a beat or two which is unsettling to the ears but very progressive for that reason. The vocals sound like the effect on Sabbath's Planet Caravan processed through an effects vocoder, very 70s, 'Hey you, will you, be true, when you can.' The shimmering Hammond waits around the corner and blasts now and then like an old friend. I like the melody that is consistently out of sync, if that makes sense. I like the part with the lyrics, 'lost control, call your name, left me home, pouring rain, in the sea, of guilt and shame, we just stay'. The music even feels uplifting for a change, and the guitar solo is excellent old classic rock style. It fades away like an old 70s vinyl album.

10 Marrow of the earth - The last one may be one of the highlights in terms of beautiful guitar playing for Opeth. It is a dominant acoustic feel throughout, and very mellow vibes are created so well, the finger work is excellent.

So now we have two Opeths - the heavy death metal Opeth such as on 'Deliverance', 'Still Life' and 'Ghost Reveries', and we have the other Opeth that is full blown progressive such as on 'Damnation' and now 'Heritage'. You will perhaps be a fan of one or the other, but not both so this will be a test for Opeth's fanbase and how they will incorporate these tracks with the likes of those on 'Ghost Reveries' is beyond me, but they will. There were always quiet proggy moments on Opeth albums but this is their most progressive album I would suggest. It actually goes to great lengths to be as progressive as eclectic and symphonic bands of the 70s and even reminds me of Pain of Salvation and Riverside and of course Porcupine Tree, as Steven Wilson helmed the mixing again. This will no doubt alienate the huge fan base, but Opeth were never going to remain in one genre, they never have and that is why they are so endearing. I for one am pleased with this new approach and hope they stick to it as they do it so well. This is my favourite Opeth album hands down, and I am an Opeth convert if they continue on this path.

Since their formation back in 1990, Swedish progressive death metal band Opeth have never been a stranger to experimentation. After establishing themselves as one of the most unique bands on the metal scene with Orchid and Morningrise, the band constantly pushed the boundaries of their sound with every new release. 2003's Damnation even saw Mikael Åkerfeldt's brainchild abandon all of their metal influences in favor of a mellow progressive rock sound. Heritage, the tenth studio album from these extreme progressive metal legends, is sure to be met with more controversy than any of their previous releases. Not only has the band entirely shifted away from their death metal roots, but they've seemingly abandoned their melancholic and bleak style of progressive rock as well. Unlike Damnation - an album that had Opeth's trademark sound all over it - Heritage is a radical departure from everything we've come to expect from the band. This is retro 70's progressive rock in its purest form, and whether or not it is enjoyable entirely depends on the listener. Don't expect any growls, death metal sections, or crushing dynamics of their earlier releases - if you come into this album expecting a progressive death metal masterpiece, you'll be in for the disappointment of a lifetime. I personally miss the bleak atmospheres, crushingly heavy death metal portions, and light/dark dynamics of their previous releases, but there's no denying that Heritage is an exceptional observation.

The most important thing to mention when discussing Heritage is that it is not an easy album to get into. The compositions (for me, at least) initially felt rather disjointed and lifeless, and the true beauty of the pieces didn't begin to shine through until about seven or eight listens. Even then, Heritage still leaves you with plenty of room to explore the deep soundscapes that Opeth have created. My biggest initial complaint was that all of the songs seem to jump from one section to another without any warning - something that still holds true even with a greater understanding of the album, but things do eventually begin to make more sense. The seemingly random electric piano lick in "Nepenthe", for example, does eventually feel less jagged than it does during your first spin of the CD. All of Opeth's albums can be considered "growers" to some extent, but Heritage is possibly their most inaccessible and demanding work to date. The death metal purists may dismiss this album after a mere few listens, but people looking for a deep musical experience should make sure they give Heritage all of the attention it deserves before reaching any conclusions.

The album begins with the tranquil acoustic piano title track that segues right into the heavy progressive rock of "The Devil's Orchard". This song kicks things off in high gear, and is filled with complex riffs, soaring Hammond organs, and jazzy drumming. King Crimson is a very obvious point of reference on this track - very different from anything Opeth have done before. The highlights of Heritage are the very moody "I Feel the Dark", the fusion-influenced "Nepenthe", the stunning "Haxprocess" (one of my favorite Opeth tracks of all time), the epic "Folklore", and beautiful instrumental track "Marrow of the Earth". "Slither" is a more straightforward heavy metal piece, and sounds like something straight off of a Deep Purple or Ronnie James Dio album. The fast riffs, soaring Hammond organ, and blinding guitar solo characterize this song until the serene acoustic outro begins. "Famine" is the longest track on the album, and features a rather eclectic mix of sections - just listen to that Jethro Tull-influenced flute section in the middle! I find this to be the most incoherent song on the album, but it isn't without its strong points either. "The Lines in My Hand" is a shorter track that features some nice keyboard playing from Per Wilberg and excellent vocal work from Mikael Åkerfeldt.

From a purely objective point of view, Heritage is one of the most impressive Opeth albums to date. The sheer strength of the musicianship and the retro-sounding production show a band at the top of their game, and the strong music to go along with it makes this one hell of an album. The first two things that jump out to me when we're talking about the musicianship are the remarkable retro keyboard tones from Per Wilberg and the jazz-influenced drumming from Martin Axenrot. Both deliver the performances of their careers on Heritage - it's a bit of a shame that Per Wilberg parted ways with Opeth shortly prior to the album's release. Martin Mendez's fluid bass playing is also excellent, and Mikael Åkerfeldt and Frederik Åkesson's dual guitar work is spectacular. The acoustic guitar sections are especially impressive here.

So there you have it - one of the most controversial albums in 2011, but also one of my favorites. Opeth may have abandoned a large portion of their fanbase with Heritage, but this just shows that these guys are always willing to experiment with new sounds and never succumb to treading on previously covered territory. Fans of retro progressive rock will find plenty to love here, and I think the more open-minded metalheads should be entertained as well. Opeth have really taken a risk with Heritage, and I'd say that they've succeeded for the most part. These Swedish legends have done much better than this throughout their twenty-plus year career, but there's no doubt that it is an excellent addition to their catalog. 4 stars are very well-deserved in this case. I do hope that Opeth eventually returns to making bleak progressive death metal, but as a one-off experiment, Heritage is a refreshing change of pace.
The Angry Scotsman
Perhaps Opeth's most controversial album yet.

There was a lot of talk about it before we even got a listen, how it was going to suck, how could Opeth just rip off 70's prog rock, how it was going to be either a totally mellow album or jazz fusion (something I'd like to see)! Sure enough upon its release there was plenty of criticism thrown at it, either due to the lack of growls and death metal, that you might as well just listen to 70's prog, that it's aimless and incoherent and even that you shouldn't bother because Opeth has been a "hipster band" ever since after Still Life.

I only say all this because it pains me to see that one of my all time favorite bands has gotten to a point where so many seem to have stopped really listening/look to find reasons to hate it... but onto the review.

"Heritage" is the superior clean Opeth album,(and I really like "Damnation"). If you need growls and death metal heaviness, well you won't find it here. However, this is NOT a Damnation 2, it's quite different from it actually. There is still heaviness, in a 70's way, and sometimes even outright (though never death metal levels). There is even double bass drumming and lots of rocking out.

Musically, Opeth has done it again, with great guitar work from all over the map. The keyboard/mellotron is quite prominent as is the bass, (usually not high in the Opeth mix). Mendez can really be heard on pretty much every song. Also the drumming is quite good. Axenrot had a tough seat to fill replacing the awesome Martin Lopez, but his work on Watershed was just too straightforward. He is much improved here, with flavorful jazzy tinged drumming and there are quite a few drum breaks, like Akerfeldt made a point to defend and showcase him.

I personally don't find the music aimless and incoherent. With all songs under 9 minutes, and 8 of them under 7 minutes, I'd think they'd be a bit more direct actually. Opeth fans are used to the clean/heavy/clean/heavy format, which has been abandoned on "Heritage" and instead the songs are more genuinely progressive.

I'm glad, because while unique and successful, by the time "Watershed" came around the band could use a change of pace. Some songs do indeed sound drifty, but I like that. I guess if you crave structure and obviously crafted songs you may feel a bit lost, but the driftyness is relaxing and often beautiful. Also, be certain that all these songs are definitely composed and move somewhere.

I'll admit, on first listen "Heritage" can be sound a bit underwhelming, especially with it's pretty prominent use of silence at times, but there is a lot going on. Not only are the songs more progressive, they are pretty textured. The song structures are good, with great melodies, rhythms and sections, and shorter lengths actually allow it to get to the point a bit quicker and not ramble.

So, "Heritage" is still Opeth but just a bit cleaner and lighter, but with songwriting just as strong. There is no weak song, but some standouts are the awesome and progressive "I feel the Dark" and the rocking "The Lines in My Hand". There is good variation as "Slither" is more up tempo while "Nepenthe" is quite mellow. The album starts with the piano ballad title track, and ends with the light, acoustic guitar ballad of "Marrow of the Earth" (which unless in name only, does not appear to be a tribute to Agalloch).

A different, but strong output by Opeth. Fans of the band, I urge you to listen with an open mind and keep any talk/rumors out while you form an opinion, and do give it some time. Most fans of Opeth should be pleased. Now if they would just make a jazz rock album my dreams would truly be granted.

Four Stars
Heritage is the tenth album from Swedish extreme progressive metal act Opeth. Or rather it’s the tenth album from the once extreme progressive metal act Opeth, as Heritage sees the band moving forward (or maybe that should be backwards), into more of a retro 70’s progressive rock sound, although it still has some metal touches and often some folk and jazz ones as well. It’s a much lighter and completely death growl free Opeth, but the album is certainly not Damnation part II. The album was released in 2011, ending the longest gap between the band’s studio albums to date. It is also the final album to feature keyboardist Per Wiberg, who parted ways with Opeth prior to the album’s release. You’ll notice that on the artwork with the band’s heads on the tree his is falling off to represent this.

Opeth has in my opinion always has a sound that was instantly recognisable as them, even on their previous ‘different’ album Damnation. Heritage therefore comes across as their attempt to break their own mould. Personally I don’t think they quite managed it, although they’ve certainly put a good crack in it all the same. Allow me to clarify further; there are still some sounds here that sound very much like the Opeth I know, but there are also a lot of sounds coming out of the band that I have never heard from them before, more than the sounds I know even, but after getting over the shock of the new direction it’s not too hard to hear some typical Opethian ideas during Heritage. It still sounds and feels like Opeth.

Heritage is easily Opeth’s most progressive album to date. They’ve always been progressive, being at the forefront of the extreme progressive metal movement, but here they’ve given their progressive nature centre focus over their metal side. There isn’t actually that much to do with metal on the album, although overall I do think it can still be classed as such...just, there are many tracks that aren’t metal at all, while those that are only just hit borderline territory. This means that if all you want to hear is their extreme progressive metal of previous releases you’ll be wasting your time with Heritage and can stop reading here safe in the knowledge that Heritage won’t be an album for you. But if you’re interested in what is Opeth’s most unique sounding album to date, then read on.

What’s most notable about Heritage is that the songs have a very different feel to each other, in contrast to earlier Opeth albums where apart from perhaps the odd ballad in the Damnation vein or close enough to it as to not make much of a difference the songs could be considered as being typical for the band. The prior album Watershed could be considered something of an exception to that rule as well as the first step towards Heritage with its major cutting down of Mikael Åkerfeldt’s growls and inclusion of pieces such as Coil and Burden along with more typical Opeth tracks like The Lotus Eater and what I personally consider to be one of their most death metal orientated tracks in Heir Apparent. On Heritage we’re treated to tracks that sound very different to each other, such as the fairly heavy The Devil’s Orchard, the rocky and then suddenly folksy Slither (a tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio), the flute drenched Famine and the beautiful vocal lines in the mostly instrumental Nepenthe. The album is also bookended by a couple of instrumentals, the piano title track piece to open up and the excellent closer Marrow of the Earth.

Heritage is a difficult album to really get into. I feel pretty safe in saying that it takes a lot of listens to really understand and appreciate it, more so than any other Opeth release, even the mellow Damnation. For a long time I just didn’t know what to really make of the album and because of that I’ve given Heritage a lot more listens than I do most albums before reviewing them. It doesn’t matter whether you have an interest in reviewing or not, I’d recommend doing the same before passing any judgement on Heritage. If you’re still reading this review hopefully that means you are actually interested in the direction Opeth has taken here (if you haven’t I did say you could stop reading a couple of paragraphs ago), so my advice is that if it doesn’t manage to click straight away (which it has a good chance not to in my opinion), to have a lot of patience and keep listening to it.

Even if it doesn’t totally click with you at first, I don’t think you’ll hate it either, I certainly didn’t, but neither did I regard it half as highly as I have come to after extensive listening. That’s why I’m glad I’ve given Heritage some intensive listening time. I’ve come to really appreciate the album as Opeth’s most unique release to date. Not their best release you must understand, but it’s most definitely their most unique. As started earlier Opeth have really tried to break their mould here and it’s mostly a success, in fact it may even be fairer to say it’s been a total success, as I do actually like the music retaining some identity to their past works. It just remains to be seen at this point whether they’ll (and yeah by that I mean Mikael Åkerfeldt) repair the mould they just put a major crack in, or break this one all the way and end up in an entirely new mould. Or perhaps neither. If there’s one thing Heritage proves it’s that Opeth isn’t a one trick pony (to be honest I knew that already, but now there can be no doubt), and after this I’m not really going to know what to expect from them in the future.

So ultimately how does one go about grading an album like Heritage? For the extreme metal fan this album scores literally nothing, but for the progressive fan this is potentially an absolute gem of an album. I have to be fair even now this is not my favourite Opeth album (it’s not my least favourite either though, far from it actually), and I can’t say I prefer this style over their typical which is why, like with Damnation, I’d like this album to be a one off in their discography, but as stated above, they could really go anywhere after this, which does give me a few concerns. For what it is I actually think that Heritage is a really great album and like most of Opeth’s work it’s very masterfully done and full of exceptional material. It wouldn’t be right to not give this a very high score, but it is worth noting that it is rated solely from the perspective of the prog fan rather than the extreme metal fan, which I think is the only fair way to rate Heritage, much like Damnation in that respect. Based on this I have to say that Heritage may not quite stand with this very good year’s best albums, it does only just fall short.

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scored at 9.4/10, "Very Exceptional Album")

Members reviews

Here comes another calm and introspective progressive rock record by Opeth. "Heritage" is maybe a little bit more metal orientated than the weak acoustic sleeping pill "Damnation" but cites a lot of influences from famous progressive rock bands such as King Crimson, Deep Purple and Jethro Tull. There are no growls on the album, no fast paced tracks with a bleak atmosphere, no melodic metal guitar solos, pumping bass lines or energizing drum parts. This album really is quite down to earth, spiritual and also has a few folk vibes which adds a new element to the varied sound of this unique Swedish band.

One of the best and most essential songs on this album is the strong "Nepenthe" which truly kicks this album off after some weaker tracks in the beginning like the boring Dio tribute "Slither" and the not very well chosen single "The Devil's Orchard". "Nepenthe" has a great relaxed, floating, almost psychedelic lounge feeling with some progressive changes in style that keep a minimum of tension high. Opeth succeed for the first time to create a mysterious atmosphere without losing their dynamics and sounding too pointless.

Another highlight on the record is the folk anthem "Famine" that has some great tribal drum passages, flute tones, piano interludes and harmonious mellotron sounds. The spacey vocal effects and dominating keyboards make this track sound like a tribute to the legends of progressive rock of the seventies and this song has the special kind of magic and creativity that the others on this record don't have.

This track kicks off the strongest part of the record that continues with "The Lines In My Hand", easily the heaviest song on the album but still rather soft compared to the band's humble beginnings. Once again, progressive sounds and psychedelic vocals meet acoustic guitars but also for the first time some dynamical bass guitar licks. This song is short and sweet, gets to the point but still invites you to dream along while you listen to it.

"Folklore" is the last outstanding track on the record even though it is not as great as the previous songs that I just mentioned. The song is maybe a few minutes too long like many on this record but I like the song's spiritual atmosphere and the beautiful, inspiring and calm guitar solos in the tune. That's what the entire album should have sounded like but the track also creates some wrong expectations with its title as there are no dominating or convincing folk sounds at all in the song and I really expected more and something like a continuation of the amazing "Famine".

The problem I have with this album is that there are too many overlong and calm tracks that have nothing special that distinguishes them from stuff the band had already done on "Damnation" or in the calmer moments of "Blackwater Park" for example. The track "I Feel The Dark" is a good example for this lack of focus as it is divided into two parts that just don't fit to each other and still feel worn-out and come both back to the same tranquilizing melodies in the end. The opening and closing "Heritage" and "Marrow Of The Earth" are too long to be only considered some atmospheric introductions or outroductions and feel stretched and pointless after all. The bonus tracks have also a lack of unique edges and fail to truly convince me.

The most convincing tracks are those that have some guest musicians that play folk instruments and similar stuff or when the band experiments something new. Many things on the album are already good and convincing but some parts could also have been more elaborated, intense and focussed. That's why I would classify this record as a really good one but it's almost as far from being perfect as it is from being a failure. In the entire Opeth discography, I would put this album somewhere in the middle. One thing where this album is easily on the top and surpasses many of the other Opeth releases is the great cover artwork and booklet, though.
I just don't know about this...

"Heritage" is the long anticipated 10th studio album by the very renowned progressive death metal band Opeth. The album recieved generally mixed reviews - older Opeth fans generally disliked it, but some of the more "open minded" ones hailed it as a work of progressive genius. And me, well, I really just don't know about this. I love Opeth a whole lot, and I was drooling over the release of this record for pretty much the entire year, only for me to listen to it and come off this roller coaster as quite dissapointed, in general.

It's not a bad album, at all. It just lacks the "oomph" present on older Opeth albums. This is like a watered down version of "Damnation" - it features the same clean vocals, no heavy sections at all, and progressive rock tendencies. However, while "Damnation" actually sounded like Opeth, "Heritage" sounds more like a shameless rip of older, better progressive rock bands like Jethro Tull and Gentle Giant and King Crimson. Opeth were definetely in an experimental mood with this album.

I know people are likely calling me out right now for not being "open minded enough", but like I said, I absolutely loved "Damnation". It was catchy and beautiful while still managing to be haunting and dark. This album, however, just sounds a bit shallow - like it wants to be "Damnation" but ends up falling flat. The only thing I could think of while listening to this was "If I want Jethro Tull, I'll buy a Jethro Tull album".

Even though the album is, as a whole, mediocre and average, there is a few parts which are just downright terrible. Case in point? "Folkore". It has some of the most God awful vocals I have ever heard in an Opeth song - whiny, annoying, and I just couldn't help to wait for this 8 minute song to end.

A few parts are VERY good, though. The intro title track, "Heritage" is a beautiful piano solo which has a lot of emotion behind it. "The Devil's Orchard" is the closest this album has to heavy, with a very nice drum track. A perfect choice for a single. Setting aside the vocals in the aforomentioned "Folkore", Mikael's vocals other than that are top notch.

Even though this is a mainly disappointing release in my opinion, Opeth's artistic passion still shows here, and even though it let me down, it is an OK album in it's own right. I wouldn't really reccomend it to anyone unless you're a die hard Opeth and prog rock fan. If you're looking for the best prog album of 2011, though, get DT's "A Dramatic Turn Of Events" instead.

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