Opeth – In Cauda Venenum (2019)

Poison in the tail

Opeth continue to surprise and amaze me. The new album is yet another step in their evolution. It is not the first step, but it is a step. This album brings some new stuff to the table. It is like a rock opera from the deep dark wilderness in Sweden. It’s progressive rock with influences of folk, classical, jazz, Gregorian chants and even a fragment of country music like an audio mosaic. When you immerse yourself in the music without listening to the lyrics you get a feeling of a story about children in a dark world with trolls and evil, and an absent god.

I think that every Opeth fan in the world were surprised when Mikael announced that the new album was to be sung in Swedish. In the very last second, he chickened out and also recorded a second version sung in English. I was destined by my curiosity to buy both versions.

The first time I heard the Swedish album I was bewildered and a little disturbed. I was too unaccustomed to hear Mikael sing in Swedish. It didn’t help that he also started the singing proper in a falsetto, a high pitched silky-smooth singing voice that I don’t particular like. I was thinking that maybe the English version would be my choice, but after a few spins I now like the Swedish version better than the English one.

The album is super dynamic musically. It is even less hard rock than expected with all the soft parts. All traces of death metal are gone. It is true progressive rock that isn’t even that hard anymore. I like it, even though I enjoy the tender moments more as a seasoning than the “main course” so to speak.

The album is mixed very well except for the last song where they seem to try to go…ahem… one louder. The result is a muddled picture to my ears. It’s a pity because it is the best track on the album. The end of “Allting tar slut” is so good that I involuntary started to laugh when I listened to it today.

Apparently Martin Méndez’ bass guitar literally started to break in the middle of the recording of “Hjärtat vet vad handen gör”. Mikael stated that he loved the sound and kept it in. Listen up at approximately 4:58 into the song. Bass guitar breaking!

With sound bites from conversations between a mother and a child, some young ladies and even from a speech by famous Swedish left-wing premier from the eighties the album takes the listener on a journey like Pink Floyd did with The Wall. However, this album is not British, this is the Nordic version sort of.

The album is like a classical concert and I like parts of songs here and there. I love the first short track with the choir and electronic music ended with the little girl with the words of wisdom. The second track has some nice guitar work and is that almost a death growl there in the latter part?

However, even though I am inclined to like concept albums like Dark side and The Wall, I am already feeling a little tired of some of the sampled bits on this album.

The seconds side has the great song “De närmast sökande” with both great singing, a melancholic tone and some heavy arrangements mixed with soft parts. From the second LP my favourite parts are “Ingen sanning är allas” and the last song “Allting tar slut”.

This record is even more than usually a piece of music that should be enjoyed as an album, to sit down and listen to it from start to end. I love some sequences here and there, but some of the samples sound bites are a little too pretentious and it takes me out of the mood the music sets.

The album is quite good, but not one of my favourites from Mikael and the guys.

My rating: 6/10

Side A:

  1. Livets trädgård / Garden of early delights
  2. Svekets prins / Dignity
  3. Hjärtat vet vad handen gör / Heart in hand

Side B:

  1. De närmast sörjande / Next of kin
  2. Minnets yta / Lovelorn crime

Side C:

  1. Charlatan / Charlatan
  2. Ingen sanning är allas / Universal truth
  3. Banemannen / Garroter

Side D:

  1. Kontinuerlig drift / Continuum
  2. Allting tar slut / All things will pass

Best songs: “Allting tar slut”, ”Livets trädgård”, ”Ingen sanning är allas”, ”De närmast sörjande”

Produced by: Opeth and Stefan Boman

Media: Limited edition Box set, 2 x Double vinyls, 2 x CDs, Blu-ray

Released: September 27, 2019

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