Opeth — In Cauda Venenum
It took me forever to finally get this album. I’m happy I finally grabbed it. I would have preferred it to be on vinyl, but I picked up a digipack CD that had both versions, English and Swedish. I felt like I was waiting forever to finally get the album in the mail. I’ve been listening to Opeth since 2002, and the thing that drew me in was that they always sounded different than anyone else.
The opening track, Garden of Earthly Delights, is something that I haven’t really heard from them before. The keyboards play almost techno style musically and the choir-like vocals build-up to the first actual track of the album, Dignity. The opening of Dignity reminds me of 80’s metal with vocal harmony, but the chords used keep everything in a darker setting. All of this is laid over some double bass in-between measures. The lead play is a pleasure to listen to. I like that Opeth as a band is more mature than others that would try to melt your face with a solo right out of the gate (not that there’s anything wrong with that) I love the acoustic bits of this song, not to mention the whole album.
Another thing that I love about Opeth is their little musical sucker punches. I love any song where a lighter portion is followed up by a heavier section, often abruptly. This kind of writing reminds me of something that Steven Wilson would write, which, given that they’re all friends isn’t really surprising. It still has a uniquely Opeth feel though. After a light acoustic outro, we arrive at track three.
Heart In Hand opens with a driving rhythm that gives way to some breaks with a little lead play over the same beat. This back and forth gets vocals added to it when the song kicks off. It then breaks down with some cool double bass parts before picking back up where it left off.
Many people have turned away from Opeth since they shifted to more progressive rock than death metal. I would have been one of those people if I weren’t older. When you’re young you’re looking for provocative (not that progressive rock isn’t provocative in its own way) and more shocking music. The best thing I can tell anyone that wants to get into progressive music is to learn an instrument. Learn a little music theory, and learn about time signatures. Besides being expertly produced to sound good what these artists do isn’t really all that derivative, so they add things together, and strip things to its basics or build onto other more established conventions. I like that Opeth took the direction they did. It really makes the emotion of these tracks sound great.
The whole album is just full of powerfully moving segments interspersed with light sections. I don’t mind that they lost the death metal growls. I don’t know how many times I’m going to say this. Death metal is awesome, but this band crossed over and progressed. To me, the album sounds like a natural progression from classic rock to modern rock. I’m a big fan of their vocal harmonies too. I remember an old interview where Mikael Åkerfeldt talked about the vocal harmonies of bands from the ’80s. I can’t remember which specifically though. I’m glad they took a detour in that direction.
A lot of people say this album is “the same” as the last two. I can see how they would say that, but there’s something to be said for the consistency of Opeth’s songwriting. I think it takes the right steps in the right direction. One thing that struck me was that there weren’t really a lot of blast beat style rhythms. The album still sounds hardcore but with the sensibilities of classic rock. I might get tacked to a cross for saying this but I like it better than Dream Theater for the most part.
The album also gets a little political which I’m not really used to from Opeth. I don’t really comment on Politics so I’ll just say they go there, and it’s well written. I think it’s also a bit of a shame because I feel like getting controversially political is trite. But, I think in this context it’s more about the bleakness of it all, and therefore more relatable to a broader spectrum of opinions. Towards the end, the album definitely sounds more akin to classic rock than hardcore. This is fine by me as I’m quite comfortable with classic rock conventions. I guess at this point the best way to progress is to go back a bit in time and combine the old and the new.
I really love the track Continuum. The vocals are what really draw me in. There are some odd-toned sounding harmonies thrown in as well as some nice acoustic work and vocal harmonies which at this point are a staple of the band. The final track starts with some creepy clean tones bordered by deep piano tones. It seems appropriate for the title: All Things Will Pass. When the doom and gloom really kick up with the opening riffs it definitely sounds more like old Opeth. There’s some reverb on the snare which adds a nice illusion of space.
I would give this album a 9/10 if I were into a numerical evaluation of art, but I’m not. All I can say is that it’s definitely worth the price of the Digipack 2CD version. The album doesn’t lose any value because of the language differences. I’ve been listening to a lot of Northern European stuff lately anyway so I felt right at home. I would suggest getting the album from Nuclear Blast directly because you more directly support the industry. I’ll leave things off with a link to it on Nuclear Blast and Spotify: