Track Listing: 1) Heritage 2) The Devil’s Orchard 3) I Feel the Dark 4) Slither 5) Nepenthe 6) Haxprocess 7) Famine 8) The Lines in My Hand 9) Folklore 10) Marrow of the Earth 11)
Here it is, the most controversial Opeth album to date. Fans were warned well in advance that Heritage would be the start of a new musical direction that, daringly, would contain no death growls; the only album to do so since 2003’s Damnation. Whilst Watershed was an aptly named step in a new musical direction that largely favoured soft melodies over brutal death metal, this new release is another world still.
With keyboardist Per Wiberg departing from the band earlier in the year, his replacement Joakim Svalberg opens up the album with the solo piano piece Heritage. The beautiful solo spot conjures up classical and jazz vibes, a little on the short side at two minutes, it’s merely the doorway to the journey ahead. The Devil’s Orchard is a fine representation of the new style. One of the first noticeable changes is that the guitar tones are noticeably fuzzier and less ‘metal’ than before. Martin Axenrot’s drumming also adds an entirely new dimension to the sound. Credit has to be given to his playing here, his technical jazz talent is present throughout the album and the band’s new style has given him space to prove himself a versatile musician. The new sound takes a while to get used to but once the past is left behind there’s no doubting the grandeur of the opening song. Well-structured and melodically rich, The Devil’s Orchard is sure to become a staple in the new live set.
Whilst I Feel the Dark contains the classic Opeth acoustic vibe fans will be accustomed to, there are songs here that unashamedly display Mikael Åkerfeldt’s other musical influences. Slither is indisputably Rainbow. Not only that but it contains a guitar solo that is characteristically Ritchie Blackmore in every way. Their roots are revealed further with Ian Anderson-inspired flute solos in Famine and the pompous prog nature of Folklore reminiscent of 70s Camel. The latter track is the clear album standout and one of Opeth’s finest songs to date. An eight minute exploration that concludes with a spiralling dance-fused section, something not previously associated with the band that works tremendously well here.
Heritage is the beginning of a new chapter for Opeth. It’s worlds apart from their death metal days, a clear progression from Watershed and, if you’re expecting Damnation 2, it’s not that either. Open minded fans will cherish this new venture and it will surely enlighten a new prospective audience. Not everything is perfect and there are a few touches of mediocrity in tracks such as Nepenthe and Marrow of the Earth which show that Opeth have yet to fully master this new musical territory. The metal-heads out there will be disappointed if expecting anything remotely heavy, this is pure revitalised 70s prog rock.
2) The Devil’s Orchard
Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 19/09/2011