Opeth are no strangers to stepping far away from their death metal sound, what with writing the chilled-out progressive rock album Damnation and having the odd song here or there void of any sort of death metal influence. Opeth have always carried a classic prog rock influence about them, which definitely came out in the album artwork for their upcoming album Heritage (above), leading many to speculate that the album might further explore those 70’s rock influences. Now, it would appear as though Opeth mastermind Mikael Akerfeldt is done with the death metal sound and went all out classic progressive rock on Heritage.

This weekend during my regular perusal of the internets, I came across this particular post on the Prog Metal sub-Reddit that links to Finnish metal zine Inferno, where one particular writer attended a press listening party of the album. Here’s my paraphrasing of the good bits from Google’s translation. If I’m off base here, let me know:

The album was presented in 5.1 surround sound “for the first time, until today. I didn’t even know they presented it to journalists in surround sound. I had my doubts, but the end result gave me goosebumps, “said  Mikael Åkerfeldt. The album is about 56 minutes in length, and a lot happens in that time frame—it all feels very tight. The following things came to mind, among others: Black Sabbath, The Beatles, jazz, King Crimson, Cream, Rainbow, Floyd, funk, Purple, Piirpauke, classical music, My Dying Bride, folk, Love, Jethro Tull, Iron Maiden …

The disc does not have any death metal or harsh vocals. The sound carries a lot of 70’s influence, and isn’t very powerful by modern standards. Keyboards, piano, and mellotron appear often.”Intro,” for example, features keys alongside double bass and clarinet. “We don’t care what others think,” Åkerfeldt said, “and if the fans don’t enjoy it, that’s their problem.” The frontman also said that he’s been tired of “extreme metal” since the 90s, but could not explain why. At this point in time, as far as Opeth is concerned, the death metal sound is over.

“I wanted to make an album like this since my twenties”, Akerfeldt said, adding that exploring these influences further would have been possible sooner had it not been for Opeth’s popular death metal roots. Not a single journalist had a bad word to say about Heritage. Regardless, it’s safe to say that the album will create a stir with its 70’s Prog style.

I couldn’t be any less shocked, but I am a bit apprehensive about it. It just figures that the greatest voice in death metal is sick of death metal. Cruel irony…

Heritage will hit stores this September on Roadrunner Records. It’ll probably still be pretty damn sweet.

– JR

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