Review: Opeth / Heritage

Opeth’s Heritage is probably the only “mainstream” album that got my attention in all of 2011. It may seem I’m a little late in reviewing an album that came out last year — but I’m a believer in the timelessness of art (a.k.a the ability for it to be valid for more than four months), so here we go.

Understand that I don’t regularly listen to music aside from Classical KUSC. But Mike Olekshy suggested I give it a try. I’m surprised that I did, but he knows how old I am and how much I hate music, so why not?

The first thing I noticed about Heritage is what I noticed about other Opeth albums: The lack of posing. It was self-confident. It didn’t beg for validation, screaming, “please listen to me and like me.” It leaned back and took its time.

The songs had no aggressive ear-worms, and it was hard for me to predict where it was going next. It stimulated curiosity, in just the right way for me — at a time that I was tired of music being reduced to worn-out patterns.

Sure, on the surface, some of this music (especially The Devil’s Orchard) has a retro or “classic 60s / 70s rock” vibe to it, for its use of organ, fuzzy guitars, and ambient-mic’d drums. It brought back memories of King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man. That’s an easy comparison. And it wasn’t unintentional.

But forget all of that. Soon after discovering this album, I had an enlightening conversation with Henrik Linde, in which he made the funny observation that when a band writes long, dynamic songs with organ, it is instantly entombed in the label of classic or progressive rock. I can see the same has happened to a band like Spock’s Beard, another band I love.

A common complaint about this album is a “lack of growling.” Huh? Do you find it strange to judge a work of art by the number of growls contained in it? I do.

So it was easy for me to see past those clich├ęs and hear that this was an album of substance. I listened to Heritage many times, saw the band perform it in concert, and even picked up my guitar to learn the opening riff of The Devil’s Orchard.

What I appreciate most about this album (and I mean it) is that is exploits all of the The Elements of Music. For the purpose of this review, those are:

Melody
Harmony
Rhythm
Tempo
Dynamics
Timbre
Texture
Form

And what I mean is, all of those Elements were used in a way that grabbed my attention. “That was clever, how they did that.”

If you’re a fan of rock and looking for a way to expand your appreciation of music, listen to Heritage with the elements of music in mind.

I give this album 5 Pentooplets.

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