'Poison in the Tail' — Review of Opeth's 'In Cauda Venenum'

Categories:  Music    The Arts
Friday, October 4th, 2019 at 11:17 AM
'Poison in the Tail' — Review of Opeth's 'In Cauda Venenum' by Rhiannon Pushchak

Death-turned-progressive metal band Opeth arrived back on the scene with their 13th release, “In Cauda Venenum,” on Sept. 27. Many fans and critics are claiming it’s their best work to date, as they’ve changed their sound from melancholy, dark and pseudo-Gothic death metal to a more layered, progressive sound following the release of their 2007 record, “Watershed.” With having their beginnings in the death metal scene of Sweden, Opeth has become one of the most appreciated modern progressive bands in the last 15 years, working with longtime collaborator Steven Wilson, formerly of Porcupine Tree.

The record was released in two versions: one with the lyrics in English and the other in Swedish, and both are equally incredible. Each song clocks in at over 5 minutes long (with the exception of introduction “Livets trädgård/Garden of Earthly Delights”); the album as a whole is about 68 minutes long. The best track is probably “Hjärtat vet vad handen gör/Heart in Hand” with its vibrating rhythm and chattering drum beat accompanying Mikael Åkerfeldt’s gorgeously powerful vocals.

Another standout track is “De närmast sörjande/Next of Kin,” which may remind some of Jimmy Page’s guitar work in classic Led Zeppelin tracks such as “White Summer.” While similar in sound to the group’s previous record, “Sorceress,” the new album is still extremely intricate. From the first listen, you can hear influences from various progressive bands of yesteryear such as King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Van der Graaf Generator, and even Jethro Tull in some places.

One could even say the record bears resemblance to the recent work of fellow Swedish doom metal group Ghost (i.e. tracks such as “Rats” or “Cirice”), a comparison that only compliments the theatrical attributes Opeth tends to use in each of their releases. There seems to be parts of the album that hearken back to the witchy, ritual-like sound of Mikael Åkerfeldt and Steven Wilson’s one-off group Storm Corrosion. The track “Ingen sanning är allas/Universal Truth” would be the best example of this.

The best part of the record could very well be tied between Åkerfeldt’s vocal work, as his voice is so smooth, clean, and layered as opposed to his guttural, dirty, and sharp growls during the band’s death metal phase, and the guitar work of Fredrik Åkesson. A great example of this is the track “Minnets yta/Lovelorn Crime,” where the band might sound the tightest they ever have in their career, despite always being a very technically talented group of musicians.

They definitely deserve Grammy attention for production and overall album integrity and quality. Every song on the album, either the Swedish version or the English, are musical journeys that sound like what classic Romantic paintings look like. When it comes to Opeth, always expect something phantasmagorical and beautiful while sounding similar but completely different from other progressive bands.

If there is an album that came out this year that is meant to blow people away just as Tool’s comeback release “Fear Inoculum” did, this is definitely that album.

Tags: music review

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