"Damnation"), and critically, it actually got favorable reviews at the time of release, but the fans did not show any mercy, panning it for the complete lack of metal, claiming that the band sold out. But is this album really that awful, or was the change of style simply too much too handle for the Opeth lovers that forced them to go towards the other extreme of the spectrum?
Honestly, I was a part of the crowd that said "What kind of wimpy shit is this?" at the time of release, but looking back at it now, I realize two things. 1. I was a stupid young brat who did not know squat, and 2. I was easily persuaded by crowd majority. The fact of the matter is, I had not heard of any other Opeth record prior to "Heritage", so I did not have any valid argument to say that it was trash. Well, now I do, and after listening to the rest of the discography, I can honestly say that "Heritage"... is not that bad actually.
Let us start with the change of style, which is definitely different from what the band has done before, but it is not THAT different. As stated before, they kind of tinkered with the idea already in "Damnation", only that they put in some other moods and speeds in this album. Yes, it lacks all of the classic metal traits Opeth has (blast beats, harsh vocals, heavy guitars), but it still has that distinct Opeth sound, and that should really be enough for fans to enjoy "Heritage" really, but noooooooooo, they have to have that precious metal element too. Man, we fans are greedy bastards.
Besides, I think this change of style opens up new gateways for the band to express themselves, to expand into more unknown territory, sort of like the roots on the album artwork. However, I do not think Opeth takes full advantage of this opportunity, almost playing it safe actually. We certainly get enough prog for the price of admission, but I do not feel that sense of mystery that the band is so good at presenting, the thing that keeps you guessing throughout the album. Not saying that the album is predictable, but there is no part of the record I can point at and say "damn, I did not expect that". It still sounds alright, and the band does a good job in performance and production, but it just does not push its boundaries far enough.
Then we have the ultimate question, should we even consider "Heritage" as a metal record? Probably not, it is more like a Rush record, it is definitely rock, but with some heavier elements to it. There is definitely some heavier bits and pieces to be found here, and I definitely think that songs like "Famine", "The Lines In My Hand", and "The Devil's Orchard" could find a place in any other Opeth record and fit right in. It is the rock influence that rules this record though, with its melodic organs and Mikael's engaging voice as the main force behind it all, and it does a really nice job. It might still be a little bit underwhelming in most places, but you could definitely see "Heritage" as a prototype, as a first step to the new era of the band.
So yeah, looking back at it, I do not understand what all the fuzz was about. Yes, it is a shame that we lose the death metal aspect of the band's sound, but this is what 95% of highly successful bands do to stay relevant, evolve. "Heritage" definitely takes a brave step into the unknown, but it is not that humongous leap that everyone says it is. The reactions this album created are over exaggerated, and it hurt the album's reputation quite a bit. This is most certainly not a brilliant album, and it might be the Opeth album that could be considered the "worst", but it still has some charming qualities that should not be over looked, even if Mikael does not scream his lungs out.
Songs worthy of recognition: The Lines In My Hand, Slither, Famine
Rating: 7/10 Folklores
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