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[Review] Opeth ‘Heritage’

A new Opeth album is always a mini holiday for me. When Ghost Reveries came out, I was at the store when they opened, put the CD in my car and I only stopped listening to it when I had to move it from my car stereo to my computer, whereupon I continued to blast it for the rest of the day. Honestly, I don’t think there is a Opeth song that I haven’t heard at least ten times. So hopefully by now you can understand my excitement and, also, my apprehension upon listening to Heritage. After all, it’s not that I built myself up specifically for this album. Rather, I have built myself up to the idea of Opeth for years, since I first started listening to them. So how does Heritage measure up to my expectations? Find out after the jump.

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Warning: Get used to seeing the word “prog”. It’s going to show up a lot in this review.

After the gorgeous prog-jazz instrumental title track, the album dives into The Devil’s Orchard, a 70’s prog-rock tune that is one of the heavier songs on the album. Gone are Mikael Akerfeldt’s signature death growls, replaced by his beautiful croons and soaring cries. The heavily distorted guitars have been replaced by crunchy, almost slightly fuzzy tones. Feeling suspiciously as though Opeth had been transported back in time, this track, and Heritage before it, set the stage for a prog-rock masterpiece.

To properly understand the production, you have to remember that Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Blackfield) took care of all of the mixing. Considering that Steven has been hard at work remixing and remastering the King Crimson collection (starting with In The Court Of The Crimson King), it’s impossible to ignore the similarities. Now, I am not knocking Wilson or the mix that he created. On the contrary, I think that for what Opeth was going for with Heritage, this mix was exactly what was needed. At several times, the instruments sound like they’re on the verge of cracking and distorting but not because of vast amounts of compression. Instead, they sound like this because it seems like they are pushing the preamps almost to the very peak. This album oozes vintage warmth and begs to be heard on vinyl. Just listen to the last two minutes of Opeth and revel in the sublime, understated beauty.

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There will be innumerable people comparing this album to old King Crimson, Camel, and other 70’s prog rock bands. Should there be comparisons? Without a doubt! However, in my opinion, what Opeth have achieved here is nothing short of an album that stands alongside these artists, not one that reaches up towards them.

The Final Word: As I said before, there are no death growls or evil, dissonant guitar tones on this album. As much as this might seem like a deviation for Opeth, the more I listen to Heritage, the more it seems like a perfectly natural progression. Do I miss heavy Opeth? Without a question. However, the surreal, haunting beauty of this album has won me over entirely.