Wednesday, September 28, 2011
I've recently made a decision that will change my life, and it's not something that I'm particularly excited about. You see, I've been struggling like a fool to start a metal band here in Austin, TX for quite some time. Since I got here several years ago, I have tried repeatedly to start a metal band so that I can finally fill the gaping void in my soul that nags at me night and day. I've tried God, charity work, reading, drinking heavily, and yelling, but none of those things has been able to fill the crusty Death Metal band-shaped hole in my heart. Oh, the pain of it. The pain of it all! I actually had a pretty good run at one point, featuring my good chum Van Damned of the Crusty/Cakey Alliance of Superfriends on drums, but lo, the distance between us was too much. And yes, I'm talking about geographically, but also emotionally.
Why won't he let me in?!? HE'S AN ENIGMA!
But these things tend to not work out, and it pains me greatly. I've been trudging through my days with bitterness hanging over my head like sack full of my old shoes. Just when I start to forget that it's there, I catch a whiff of that old, familiar stench and my stomach twists, sending the bile into the back of my throat. Why did I have to eat scrambled eggs this morning? The texture is so disgusting when it ends up back in my mouth! And if I just spat it out, then everybody will know how much of my time I spend vomiting into my own mouth, which is unacceptable.
At any rate, I've finally discovered that my bitterness at the futile struggle to start a metal band is not only too great to bear, but also easy to deal with when I stopped to think about it. So I've quit trying to do a metal band forever, officially. It's not worth the effort spent getting stood up by drummers and bass players to start a band that just ends up sounding like Darkest Hour or something. The effort isn't worth the humiliation of coming to find out that your band has mutated into just another At the Gates clone, and so, just like in seventh grade, since I can't find anyone to play with me, I'll just play with myself.
It's back to the pretentious world of classical playing for me.
I'm not the only person lately who has decided that playing heavy metal is no longer the right thing to do. Bands like Mastodon and In Flames have forsaken their stellar metal roots for sounds that are more commercially viable and less...well...good. And if there's one thing I know about heavy metal d00dz, it's that they do heavy metal very well and other stuff far less well.
The other band that decided that they aren't going to do heavy metal anymore is Opeth, but this is old hat for them, and for once, the resulting music isn't an embarrassing porcelain bowl full of musical turds. Opeth have proven before that they're capable of putting out great albums that are both a) not metal, and b) relevant and satisfying expansions of their sound. In fact, Damnation made waves in the metal community for being so stripped down and not even kind of metal, but in true Opeth style, the band improbably retained their sound while simultaneously shedding the crushing guitars and death bellows that fans most closely characterize their sound. Heritage is another expansion on that model, but this time, Opeth have crafted a progressive piece that is worthy of their name while once again eschewing the hallmarks of their hallowed sound.
Those are fancy words for "no death metal vocals," and I'll be the first to tell you that I was skeptical of this from the outset.
My favorite part of Opeth is the crushing death metal riffing and Mikael Akerfeldt's deathy vocal bellow, and Heritage has neither of those things, but still manages to retain that Opeth aura that is so unmistakable for fans of the band. Opeth are probably the only band in existence that can not only write an album that is so far from their normal sound, but can succeed in making it fantastic and accessible for prog fans who are usually frightened by the scary man who yells like a daemon!
After a lengthy intro, the album kicks off with the big guns in the form of "The Devil's Orchard." I never thought that somebody could turn the phrase "God is dead" into an acceptable vocal hook, but the intrepid Opeth manage to not only make it work, but craft it into a hook so sharp that it'll be stuck in your head for days afterwords. Other standout tracks like "Slither" feature the sharpest guitar work this side of technical death metal without giving even the faintest glimmer of resemblance to the genre.
What I'm trying to get at here is that Opeth are a rare breed of band who can do seemingly anything and make it good. Not just good, either, but incredible. Heritage is a progressive journey to the center of the band that shouldn't be missed. And I hope that all of those other bands that have decided that they'd like to spice things up by completely disregarding the sound that made them popular in the first place are taking notes, because this is how you do it without shitting all over your legacy.