Opeth are back again with “In Cauda Venenum” and, for those fans still thinking the death vocals will make a return, it’s time to give that up. There’s the one moment in “Dignity” that is somewhat harsh but, other than that, Mikael Åkerfeldt showcases his outstanding CLEAN vocals. In fact, he actually has a great falsetto as well!
“In Cauda Venenum” is unique in that there are two versions of the album, one in English and one in Swedish. Since I can barely understand English, that’s the one I’ve been listening to. Musically, “In Cauda Venenum” is incredible. I found “Sorceress” to be lacking both song-wise and production-wise (turns out it was unmastered!). Both of those concerns are gone on this album. The first two singles, “Heart in Hand” and “Dignity,” are fairly good indicators as to the album’s quality.
There are songs similar in structure to those songs — meaning loud, metallic moments mixed with melodic acoustic moments — then there are other songs that are completely different. “Lovelorn Crime” is a ballad in the “Burden” vein — and since I love “Burden,” I really love “Lovelorn Crime.” It should be a single. “The Garroter” is a very unique number as it’s basically lounge jazz complete with clarinet. But don’t worry, Opeth pull it off well!
The album has mostly longer tracks but nothing over 8 1/2 minutes, which is fine since the songs don’t need to be any longer than they are. So yes, I love the album. It reminds me a bit of “Pale Communion” as far as vibe and quality, but the songs aren’t really the same structure-wise. Maybe if you were to mix the last three albums, you’d have this one — the adventure of “Heritage,” the melody of “Pale Communion” and the heaviness of “Sorceress.” But even that doesn’t do “In Cauda Venenum” justice.
So what do I NOT like about “In Cauda Venenum”? Well, the intro piece “Garden of Earthly Delights” is longer than it needs to be and there are too many sampled spoken parts. They don’t actually bother me too much, but many of them could be removed and not missed. On the plus side, the addition of strings to quite a few tracks is a bonus. It reminds me again of “Pale Communion” in that regard. It’s also interesting how good the outros on many Opeth songs are, especially the closers. “All Things Will Pass” is another to add to that list.
“In Cauda Venenum” could be Opeth’s most overtly progressive album to date. There’s no compromising and Åkerfeldt sounds particularly inspired in his songwriting. The performances by the entire band are just phenomenal, with some of the best guitar solos I’ve heard by both Åkerfeldt and Fredrik Åkesson. “In Cauda Venenum” is another masterpiece by a band that have really found themselves a second act in their amazing career. If you want “Blackwater Park,” go listen to that.
01. Livet’s Trädgård / Garden Of Earthly Delights (Intro)
02. Svekets Prins / Dignity
03. Hjärtat Vet Vad Handen Gör / Heart In Hand
04. De Närmast Sörjande / Next Of Kin
05. Minnets Yta / Lovelorn Crime
07. Ingen Sanning Är Allas / Universal Truth
08. Banemannen / The Garroter
09. Kontinuerlig Drift / Continuum
10. Allting Tar Slut / All Things Will Pass
Label: Moderbolaget Records / Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 27 September 2019