The Lowdown: Opeth have been a fascinating gem in the world of metal for the past quarter century. From the death-metal-infused Blackwater Park to the progressive rock sound of Sorceress, the veteran Swedish act has always been bold with its music. Over the course of their past few records, Opeth have moved further away from their original death metal sound, embracing a plethora of other genres; from blues to folk to psychedelic rock, Opeth’s more recent material has made for enchanting experiences (while still offering plenty of heaviness along the way). With their latest release, In Cauda Venenum, Opeth once again present a brilliant range of captivating tracks.
The Good: Frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt set out to do something a little different with In Cauda Venenum; with the band’s 13th studio LP, he decided to release two versions, one in English and one in Swedish. Outside of vocal cadence, the records are the same. The English version may certainly be the more accessible of the two, but there is something to really adore in regards to the Swedish version; the way Åkerfeldt’s voice plays off the instrumentation is just lovely when he’s singing in his native tongue.
“Svekets prins / Dignity” bursts with a flavor of melody and pumping bass. The rhythm unravels in a playful manner, springing into wild guitar solos, all while emitting a joyful energy. After a couple minutes, the track shifts into a gentle guitar progression, allowing the beautiful singing to come through. “Hjärtat vet vad handen gör / Heart in Hand” comes in with pouncing guitars and drums; as the vocals enter, additional melodies slide into the mix, creating a frenetic radiance.
Instrumentally, In Cauda Venenum is a true delight. When it comes to compositional variety, the album is a nonstop rush of surprises. Each of the 10 songs contain fascinating structure, the instrumentation unfurling and exploding into various blends of serenity and wild energy. “Minnets yta / Lovelorn Crime” incorporates a lovely piano progression, elevating the emotional weight found in the vocals. The song exudes a prominent melancholy, every element of the composition playing equal parts in the delivery. “Banemannen / The Garroter” brings a sultry appeal through laid back drum work and guitar playing; Åkerfeldt’s voice is dreamy and adds a noir-like charm.
The Bad: Aggressive-minded fans still holding out for Opeth to return to their death metal sound won’t find that on In Cauda Venenum. It may take a few listens to truly appreciate the album’s intricate and impressive instrumentation, but the payoff is worth it.
The Verdict: Throughout In Cauda Venenum, one can hear and feel passion; not only does the songwriting offer fascinating compositions, but the band sounds amazing. Opeth’s chemistry feels as tight as it is playful, heartfelt as it is engaging, as they explore a plethora of intriguing and majestic sounds. The instrumentation and vocals, in both versions, serve to present emotion and instrumental wonder. In Cauda Venenum is among Opeth’s strongest albums when it comes to the band’s progressive sensibilities.
Essential Tracks: “Svekets prins / Dignity”, “Hjärtat vet vad handen gör / Heart in Hand”, “Minnets yta / Lovelorn Crime”