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The general consensus when a great band dares to move away from their original Death Metal sound is usually not positive. However Opeth have done it before masterfully with Damnation in 2003. They are back at it with one of the year’s most anticipated albums, Heritage.

Cutting to the chase: Compared to their previous releases, Heritage lacks character. Despite the song structures being very progressive rock and the vocals being crazy good, the absence of catchy guitar riffs or memorable growls is a downer. One can positively recognize Opeth as the artist, especially since a lot of the songs borrow tidbits straight from the Ghost Reveries period. Certainly they manage to perpetuate a dark atmosphere throughout the album, but the mellowness of the whole thing is borderline irritating to someone expecting their trademark sound. I know we have been forewarned by Mikael Åkerfeldt himself about this being a throwback kind of release. Still, I believe this would be either catchier or more aggressive. Nevertheless the album does feature good moments, mostly from the jazz-infused portions of the songs.

Most of the vocal work by Mikael is spot on and even more breathtaking than ever before. And yes, we are talking about clean vocals only, which is unfortunate. Technically there is nothing to complain about, musicianship is at an all-time high. But when your band has members or former members of Bloodbath and Arch Enemy, listeners are bound to expect a little ferociousness whether in the form of harsh vocals or hell-spawn guitar riffs.

This is undeniably the one album that will have fans divided. On its own it is a great 70s-inspired throwback progressive rock album. Assessed as part of Opeth discography it fails to win me over completely. It is grand if you are into progressive rock and the band need to be applauded for the effort and guts to do something like this at this stage of their career. But ultimately the dearth of grabbing melodies endures as the downfall of Heritage.

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Weight 600 g