If ever an album was in need of revisiting, it has to be “Heritage” by Opeth. After a career of highly regarded albums, “Heritage” was the ultimate “left turn.” For a band that always did whatever they wanted, this was a strange album even for them. Granted they had already done a “mellow” prog rock album with “Damnation,” so why was “Heritage” so different?
The difference isn’t the execution of the songs which is what many people want to believe. Opeth have always had mellow songs and mellow sections of songs. It wasn’t until the release of “Pale Communion” that the issues with “Heritage” became more clear. If you suddenly liked the direction that Opeth were going with no death growls and less metal in their music, you realized that the songs were the core problem.
“Heritage” is far less melodic than it needed to be. Opeth could always get by with less of an emphasis on melody and song structure because their older songs had so much going on. “Heritage” put the spotlight on the essence of the songs themselves. If you find your mind wandering during songs like “Nepenthe” or “Famine” or “Häxprocess,” it’s not just because the songs are mellow. The songs are just not compelling.
The album was not done any favors by isolating the 2 songs that were possibly the most melodic and compelling tracks as bonus tracks that aren’t even ON THE CD VERSION! Both “Pyre” and “Face in the Snow” are songs that are better than the rest of “Heritage.” Both are like a bridge from the previous album “Watershed” to this one.
Speaking of bridges, the release of “Pale Communion” actually helped “Heritage” make more sense. “Pale Communion” is like a bridge back from “Heritage.” The problem with “Heritage” is that it lacks any real fireworks too. By the time, “I Feel the Dark” kicks in half way thru, you’ve almost lost interest. “Slither” was designed as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio, since it basically sounds like an old Rainbow track. Still, it has no teeth to it. It’s not a bad song, just not overly interesting.
Sequencing is another problem I have with “Heritage.” The title track is a lovely piano piece but it seems out of place to start the album. “The Devil’s Orchard” would have worked better. The aforementioned “Nepenthe,” “Häxprocess,” and “Famine” are all strung together and all aren’t terribly structured. Mikael Åkerfeldt always wrote a well structured song, yet these seem like various ideas strung together.
“Heritage” does have some truly great moments. The 2 bonus tracks being amazing, along with the 2 songs prior to them. “Folklore” is a great song and the instrumental “Marrow of the Earth” is really nice. Overall, many of the songs are just way too quiet for no apparent reason. The production is good but I think Mikael and Steven Wilson have both done better work elsewhere, including the follow up “Pale Communion.”
The bottom line is that “Heritage” is not a bad album at all, it’s just not a great album either. There were a few easy ways to make it better, including the bonus tracks and re-sequencing the album being the obvious choices. There is no avoiding this being one of my least favorite Opeth albums but even had their “weakest,” Opeth is still better than most bands out there!
2. The Devil’s Orchard
3. I Feel The Dark
8. The Lines In My Hand
10. Marrow Of The Earth
12. Face in the Snow