Opeth – In Cauda Venenum

Opeth – In Cauda Venenum

20th September 2019 0 By Paul Flynn

In another bold move by Opeth founder member and creative force Mikael Akerfeldt, he sought to bring his latest vision, In Cauda Venenum to the masses entirely in Swedish. Only a last minute bout of nerves resulted in there being an English speaking version to accompany the principal Swedish spoken release. An so  In Cauda Venenum is the 13th release from the ever changing and frankly preposterously talented Swedish metal revolutionaries that divided critics and fans alike when they released Heritage in 2011; and stated their intention to move away from the music that had helped shape progressive death metal since their debut, Orchid in 1995. 

Opeth and indeed Akerfeldt’s organic evolutionary trajectory had brought him to the point, after completing the band’s touring schedule in support of the superb Sorceress, to halt the demand from the record label and begin a process of natural writing without external pressure. Hiding himself away in his own ‘Junkmail’ home studio he begun writing In Cauda Venenum in the knowing that this album would be unlike any that had gone before. Free to create and write enteirely from the heart, safe in the knoweledge that band members and fans already ‘expected the unexpected’, Akerfeldt drew inspriation from 70s infused folk and jazz; discovering and rediscovering music that had shaped both his own experience and his country’s musical landscape.

Stongly maintaining a Metal aesthetic and attitude In Cauda Venenum, with its complex musical breakdowns, bold guitar lines and leads courtesy of both Akerfeldt and Fredrik Akesson adds further weight to the bands iconoclastic identity. If there is a line in the sand as to how far Akerfeldt can push the boundaries of metal/hard rock then he crossed that line years ago. With In Cauda Venenum the Swedish quintet have taken the 70s folk rock fusion of Pale Communion and have added substantial heaps of cinematic drama to make the album one serious piece of musical theatre. Equal parts progressive rock opera and bombastic mission statement Akerfeldt leaps from style to style and genre to genre to create a rich musical tapestry forever exploiting the talents of his fellow band members.

Produced and engineered by Stefan Boman at Park Studios in Stockholm the album sounds rich but never over produced. Drums by Martin Axenrot are as fierce as on previous recordings but there are moments where delicacy is required and the Axe delivers perfectly. Martin Mendez, forever spellbinding, once again weaves his bass in and around the music proving himself to be one of the most engaging and creative players around today. Also surpassing himself on In Cauda Venenum is keyboardist Joakim Svalberg, really standing out more here than perhaps on previous releases. However it is Akerfeldt that truly stands apart from any other writer/performer on the scene today; maybe ever, such is his extraordinary talent.

It is important to mention that In Cauda Venenum is intended to be heard performed in Swedish but it is impossible to not review both this and the English version in tandem; especially as I cant speak a word of Swedish. Opening with bold Tangerine Dream/Pink Floyd homage Livets Tradgard (Garden of Earthly Delights), In Cauda Venenum already treads new ground before album pre-releases Svekets Prins (Dignity) and Hjartat Vet Vad Handen Gor (Heart in Hand) play in more familiar Opeth territory; each with astonishing reach and composure. De Marmast Sorjande (Next of Kin) sees Akerfeldt expanding his falsetto vocals against a strikingly juxtaposed musical backing; forever mournful and melecholy. Minnets Yta (Lovelorn Crime) is a fully realised and confident balled with Akerfeldt and Svalbarg perfectly paired in the introduction before the huge and enveloping chorus is confidently delivered.

Charlatan (Charlatan) takes things in a different direction; with its darkly jagged riffing and spiraling keyboards this may well be the stand out track on the album and should appease those listeners with heaver tendencies. Ingen Sanning Ar Allas (Universal Truth) once again treads more familiar Opeth territory likely heard on albums such as Heritage or Sorceress, powerful and full of steam. Banemannen (The Garroter), with its dark prowling jazz may show the band in a new light but remains undeniably Opeth throughout. Kontinuerlig Drift (Continuum) is a beautifully articulate track again demonstrating Opeth’s sensitivity and understanding of song structure and delivery.

Album closer Allting Tar Slut (All Things Will Pass) is another widely expressive and astonishing accomplishment for a band that has by this point in this album alone already flexed its musical muscles more than many in an entire career. 

In Cauda Venenum sees a band that has in recent years taken a spiraling yet ever positive path away from their earlier sound. This album will undoubtedly challenge and divide opinion but this is music that Mikael Akerfeldt wants to make and wants you to hear. So it isn’t death metal; who cares. Opeth have a back catalog of some of the best death metal in the genre so go listen to that when the need arises. For now though, Akerfeldt is creating music that challenges both himself, his band and us as listeners. Opeth is what Mikael says it is. And right now Opeth is set to release In Cauda Venenum; another album of profoundly beautiful and expressive music performed in a way that only Opeth can.

Quite simply; there is no other band like them.
Score 10/10

Track List

English version
1. “Garden of Earthly Delights (Intro)”
2. “Dignity”
3. “Heart in Hand”
4. “Next of Kin”
5. “Lovelorn Crime”
6. “Charlatan”
7. “Universal Truth”
8. “The Garroter”
9. “Continuum”
10. “All Things Will Pass”

Swedish version
1. “Livets trädgård”
2. “Svekets prins”
3. “Hjärtat vet vad handen gör”
4. “De närmast sörjande”
5. “Minnets yta”
6. “Charlatan”
7. “Ingen sanning är allas”
8. “Banemannen”
9. “Kontinuerlig drift”
10. “Allting tar slut”

Release Date:
27 September 2019

Label:
Nuclear Blast

For all things Opeth, click HERE and to purchase the album, click HERE

 

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