Ghost of the Magician
Heritage is Opeth’s tenth studio album and ny now they have transformed into a progressive rock band. No more death growls. The band under Mikael Åkerfeldt’s direction had made a left turn and tried new things. Åkerfeldt has said that he had other musical influences and that he felt that the old stuff was no longer interesting. Let us listen to what instead may be interesting.
This double album is indeed very interesting. All songs are complex and flowing. The album is bigger than the sum of the individual songs. It’s symphonic hard rock at its core even though many of the songs on the album are shorter than what we are used to from Opeth. Actually all songs except two are shorter than seven minutes! The singing is, as always, great, but I almost miss the death growls here and there.
The album cover gives me the chills. Have you seen the 2019 movie “Midsommar”? That is something, man. That bright sun and all the people lined up like for no reason gives me the chill. Anyway, that’s not here, nor there.
The album kicks off with the title track “Heritage”, a homage to Swedish jazz pianist Jan Johansson who died in a car crash in 1968 at too young an age. This instrumental track is played on a piano with the same playing style as Jan, the Magician. Just as on Jan’s old records the piano is backed up by a double bass. It is painfully beautiful and way too short. The one song by Jan Johansson that can be used as comparison is “Visa från Utanmyra”.
After “Heritage” it is almost painful to my ears when they throw themselves into “The Devil’s orchard”. Too soon!
No, just joking. The song reminds us of early seventies rock bands with complex drums and a guitar leading the way over a mosaic of Hammond B3 organ. The song is melancholic, a lament over Orpheus’s failed attempt to save his beloved Eurydice.
The third track “I feel the dark” starts out soft with acoustic instruments and a fragile high-pitched voice. But soon it gets heavier and it’s glorious. It gets upward and then back again to slow. It’s teasing the listener. Is it ever getting off? Marvellous. Dark and brooding lyrics as if taken from a harsh fantasy world.
“Slither” is a high tempo rocker and a tribute to Ronnie James Dio. It is a little too simple, I think. The movie with the same name is fun though.
“Nepenthe” is a crazy song. It’s like the band is playing with fervent but joyful madness. I get the image of an insane inventor who brews his potions with madness in his eyes, you know? I had no clue what the song meant until I looked the title up. What does it mean, Nepenthes? It’s actually “a drug described in Homer’s Odyssey as banishing grief or trouble from a person’s mind”. Hehe, I guess I got the feeling from the song right!
“Häxprocess” reminds me about old Genesis again, as well as Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. How curious. The lyrics are darker, old nightmarish fairy tales. I love how uncompromising the songs on this album are.
“Famine” is a song about love lost, emotional starvation of sorts. It has a great range from very soft parts to gloriously heavy hard rock that makes me think of Chris Cornell (and thus makes me feel very sad). During the second part Swedish musician Björn J:son Lindh plays the flute! It is crazy, the dynamics on this album.
Actually, large parts of this album remind me of Soundgarden. I love Mikael Åkerfeldt’s singing and voice, but it is hard for anyone to be compared to Chris Cornell. But musically they can stand up with straight backs. Very impressive.
In “Folklore” they are again into the Swedish folk music searching for answers. It’s hard to not love it, and it gave me a picture of the great Swedish band Goat in my mind. “Folklore” is maybe the best song of the album. The guitar solo in the end is very rewarding.
We will sustain.
My rating: 8/10
- The Devil’s orchard
- I feel the dark
- The lines in my hand
- Marrow of the Earth
Best songs: “Heritage”, “Famine”, “Folklore”
Produced by: Mikael Åkerfeldt
Released: September 20, 2011