Is it just me, or has 2019 been the year of prog-metal fans not getting what they want out of beloved bands? Obviously, the latest FALLUJAH record was disappointingly flat, musically, and annoying, vocally. TOOL finally released a new album after 13 years, and, while it was good, there are absolutely zero fans in the toolshed that got what they wanted out of it. And so brings us to OPETH. The prog legends return after three years with In Cauda Venenum, out September 27 through Nuclear Blast Records. And, before you ask, the answer is no. There are no death growls on this record. So, again, we’re not exactly getting what we want.
Now, that’s not to say the record isn’t great in its own way. After all, this is OPETH we’re talking about. Since ditching the deathier elements of their sound in 2011, the Swedish quintet has found a unique niche that continues to be incredibly heavy. Tracks such as “Heart In Hand” and “Charlatan” are crushingly vile. The latter sounds like a dark carnival ride through hell, with demented keyboard melodies over percussive riffing.
Another element found on the disc is the use of samples; something that is not typical of the band in their prior releases. In playing with themes and tonality, one may be drawn to “The Garroter”, a creeping jaunt that features a swing beat and flows in a manner similar to the soundtrack of a Broadway show. Still, other songs take a much more epic and melodramatic approach, building on soaring melodies of infinite sorrow. “Next of Kin”, “Universal Truth” and “Continuum”, all, display these attributes.
Despite this not being the album we wanted, it’s still pretty great, much like how even bad pizza or boring sex can still be satisfying. An OPETH record without death growls is kind of like getting laid after a night at the bar. Sure, you may not have taken home the “10”, but you got her best friend, who’s like a “6” and it was still a good time. While we pine for the orgasmic experiences felt when listening to classics such as Still Life or Blackwater Park, the bottom line is that any album by this band is still good and you need it in your collection. So pick it up, wear protection and thank me later.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Heart in Hand”, “Next of Kin”, “Charlatan”, “Universal Truth”, “The Garroter”, “Continuum”