Opeth - In Cauda Venenum
Genre: Progressive Metal
Release Date: 27th September 2019
Record Label(s): Moderbolaget Records, Nuclear Blast
Mikael Åkerfeldt – Guitars, Lead Vocals
Martín Méndez – Bass
Martin "Axe" Axenrot – Drums, Percussion
Fredrik Åkesson – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Joakim Svalberg – Keyboards, Synthesizers, Piano, Mellotron, Backing Vocals\
Opeth - Svekets Prins
Rating (out of 5🤘): 🤘🤘🤘🤘🤘Favourite Track(s): Hjärtat Vet Vad Handen Gör, Svekets Prins, Charlatan, De Närmast Sörjande, Allting Tar Slut
Firstly, I'm reviewing the Swedish version of the album, like I said in Hjärtat Vet Vad Handen Gör / Heart In Hand review, I believe Mikael singing in Swedish feels more passionate and emphatic, so I believe its the true representation of the album, its just a personal preference. Opeth are back, I have been waiting for this album for a very long time and more importantly I cannot wait to hear some of these songs performed live in November! This album sees the band at their prog finest (before anyone complains about the no death growls, we're three albums deep in this prog stuff so please move on). Full of strange and fascinating delights, this album just leaves you wanting to keep venturing down the rabbit hole that it creates for you. With layers upon layers of intrigue and intricacy this is surely an album you'll want to keep coming back due to its mysteriously attractive pull.
Musically, it's Opeth, from 2011's Heritage onwards we have become accustomed to a more 70s/80s infused prog rock phenomenon, which despite dividing some fans has proved to be the most expansive and experimental sound to date. The album starts with a growing creepy intro that launches into first song Svekets Prins (Dignity), which in itself is inherently spooky. There is a really classic prog vibe that the band have nailed here, I believe it has been slowly building up within them over the last couple of releases and in In Cauda Venenum its the culmination of this constant development and growth. With that in mind, the band's choice to do the album entirely in Swedish as well as English solidifies that view in my mind, that they're confident enough that it will work out well in both languages, which it has done. One thing that really draws my interest in this album is the snippets of conversation and story like segments that intersect the music throughout the album, giving it a mysterious narrative that has me registering to work out my own perception of this strange yet delightfully sinister undertone. Even though the riffs feel softer than what we heard 2016's Sorceress, there is still a really special attention to the arrangement of the riffs as well as their melodical and harmonious components so they can be delivered with maximum effect. I also feel with this album that Mikael's clean vocals are the strongest they have ever been, as he pushes his range through new boundaries in a few of the songs, hitting high notes you wouldn't usually hear on an Opeth record, with Swedish being a melodic language I think that certainly helps deliver them. There is a lot more focused sections of acoustic guitar as well, many of them really capturing that distinctive Spanish style. The band have nailed a really great contrast between stripped back and full blown sections, not just in the songs but through the album as well, this dynamic takes you to all different kinds of places in your imagination. Overall, may I be so bold as to claim that this is a modern prog rock/metal masterpiece, everything is accurate and precise but sounds so free and expressive in this expansive and mysterious environment that it creates for itself and the listener.
From a production perspective, there is a very vintage vibe to it. The album from start to finish feels warm and inviting, almost like you should be sat by a fire listening to it as the weather howls around your abode and thunders at the windows. Referring back to 2016's Sorceress, we got a glimpse of this sort of production on that album, where the bass is thick and very prominent in the mix but doesn't overpower the kick or muddy up the low end, the scenario is no different here, it very much carries on in the same way. The drums sound very tight but also very expansive, the compression placed on them gives them this effect I believe. The kick itself is very poppy but it doesn't hinder the listening experience, I think for the first time I'd have preferred more of the kick click in an album. I think the production does hark back to Mikael's love of 70s/80s music, as it does have a very Sabbath/Zeppelin feel to it. The guitar tones sound really warm and fuzzy, sounding like they've gone through multiple valve amps to get that chunky sound, especially when it is a palm muting segment of the song. The organ seems to appear all around you at various stages throughout the album which is interesting as well as creepy. Overall, I love the mix of the album, it has a very special feel to it and pulls on the heartstrings of all of what I love about retro production.
This is a masterpiece of the prog era and if you want to get a taste of odd time signatures and unorthodox sounding melodies, get your ears round In Cauda Venenum now!
Opeth - In Cauda Venenum