The first thing you will notice instantly upon first listen to “Heritage,” the opening track on Opeth’s 10th studio album of the same name, will be that it sounds like no other Opeth album before it. It is a two minute piano medley that sets the stage for the tone of the album. A tone that will more then likely piss of a good chunk of Opeth’s fan base, while also adding a lot of potential new fans.
I am not one of those people on the side that will be pissed off. Now I fully admit to not having any idea of who Opeth were until Blackwater Park came out. That album just simply blew me away when I first heard it, and I still rank it as one of my all time favorite albums, over a decade now since it was released. Because of Blackwater Park I went back and picked up their first couple albums, and while I enjoyed them they never really came close to Blackwater Park for me.
Mainly because of those pesky death metal growls. Which is where, Heritage will piss off a large chunk of Opeth’s fan base. This album is completely devoid of any remnants of Opeth’s death metal past, as a matter of fact it could probably be debated that Heritage isn’t even a metal record at all. Now I did listen to some death metal, I loved Death mainly because the late Chuck Schuldiner was such a great guitarist, I got into Cannibal Corpse a bit in High School, but the cookie monster growls were just too much for me.
2003’s Damnation, is the closest that Opeth has come before to this kind of album, but even that album was still a metal record. On Heritage, much like on Damnation, Mikael Åkerfeldt uses only his clean vocals, but that’s pretty much where the comparisons end. Heritage is, if you have been paying attention since Blackwater Park, the album that Mikael Åkerfeldt has been working towards. It is much closer to a progressive rock record with elements of jazz fusion, then a heavy metal album. The jazz fusion elements appear mostly on “Nepenthe” and “Häxprocess” the fifth and sixth tracks on the album.
“Famine” is the stand out track for me on this record, starting of piano heavy and very tranquil and then delving into a Richie Blackmore 1970’s Deep Purple type midsection, only to end in a Jethro Tull inspired jam. Despite all that “Famine” is probably the ‘metal’ song on Heritage.
All in all, despite being the biggest departure from Opeth’s musical ’roots,’ Heritage still very much sounds like an Opeth record. It’s just Mikael Åkerfeldt ode to his 70’s progressive rock fandom.