Opeth - In Cauda Venenum review




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Reviewer:
7.8

270 users:
7.63
Band: Opeth
Album: In Cauda Venenum
Release date: September 2019


Swedish version:
01. Livet's Trädgård
02. Svekets Prins
03. Hjärtat Vet Vad Handen Gör
04. De Närmast Sörjande
05. Minnets Yta
06. Charlatan
07. Ingen Sanning Är Allas
08. Banemannen
09. Kontinuerlig Drift
10. Allting Tar Slut

English version:
01. Garden Of Earthly Delights
02. Dignity
03. Heart In Hand
04. Next Of Kin
05. Lovelorn Crime
06. Charlatan
07. Universal Truth
08. The Garroter
09. Continuum
10. All Things Will Pass


Opeth still haven't quite nailed their prog rock sound, but they're getting closer.

Although true for many people, the mere fact that Opeth abandoned growls and extreme metal isn't what has rendered me less enthusiastic about their post-Watershed output. In 2011, Opeth already had a widely beloved soft prog rock album in their catalogue (2003's Damnation), in addition to a litany of popular softer tracks ("A Fair Judgment", "Face Of Melinda" and "Harvest", just to name a few). Additionally, Watershed clearly showed stronger prog rock influences than any of its immediate predecessors. The stage was set for a successful long-term transition into focusing on the softer side of their sound.

However, Heritage, whilst a perfectly serviceable retro-influenced prog rock album, lacked a degree of that compelling dark melancholic atmosphere that previously rendered Opeth so undeniable; the passion was no longer unadulterated. Additionally, the hard prog rock parts of the album, whilst clearly not aiming to match the intensity of the band's metal side, failed to provide a similarly captivating alternative listening experience, with too many moments ranging from middling to actively irritating (hello, flute section of "Famine"). Pale Communion was a marked improvement, and suggested that the band were developing a clearer idea of how they wished to shape their revised musical approach, relying less heavily on 70s influences such as Camel. 2016's Sorceress was a step back, however, with less interesting ideas and cohesion, and greater reliance on the past (with "A Fleeting Glance" the worst culprit). In Cauda Venenum puts Opeth back in the right direction; however, there's still small niggles holding me back from fully embracing it the way I'd like to.

In Cauda Venenum makes a strong impression right off the bat with "Dignity/Sveket Prins" (the album comes in both English and Swedish), with its impressive early guitar solo and punchy-yet-lush midsection. However, the next two tracks, "Heart In Hand/Hjärtat Vet Vad Handen Gör" and "Next Of Kin/De Närmast Sörjande", are both somewhat guilty (albeit not to the extent of "Charlatan") of a persistent issue I've had with certain modern Opeth songs; the band has clearly always possessed progressive songwriting and technical ability, but I've never really found it to stand out on their older music, whilst later records have regularly featured moments that felt progressive for progressive's sake in a way that detracted from the song. "Heart In Hand" is an energetic, twisting song with some solid hooks, but it also spends an unnecessary amount of its runtime showing off with exercises in complexity and technicality that disengage me. "Next Of Kin", on the other hand, opens with a slow, majestic riff possessed with a compelling authority; whilst the rest of the song somewhat sustains this vibe, there are several patches dominated by vocal and keyboard lines incessantly going up and down in a manner that reminds me a bit of Mozart's excesses maligned by Salieri in the movie Amadeus.

"Lovelorn Crime/Minnets Yta", mercifully, sees the band holding back the flair to deliver an effective ballad containing some smooth vocal harmonies. "Universal Truth/Ingen Sanning Är Allas" heralds the arrival of the strong tail to the album, with its dramatic and powerful choruses, and soothing verses and midsection (the years of collaboration with Steven Wilson are fully on display on this song), whilst "Continuum/Kontinuerlig Drift" is a consummately crafted soft prog track full of excellent vocals and instrumental arrangement. The album saves the best for last; "All Things Will Pass", or its more popular Swedish name, "Allting Tar Slut", is a slow, imposing closer imbued with serious gravitas during its heavy moments, and climaxing in a measured, uplifting lead guitar and vocal duet carrying ten times the power of the convoluted keyboard/vocal duets in "Next Of Kin".

More than anything, In Cauda Venenum is a frustrating listen; given the at times unconvincing nature of the heavier side of their sound on recent records, this record demonstrates that the band can still deliver when they turn up the volume. This is comfortably the greatest demonstration this decade of Opeth as a heavy prog rock band (Pale Communion shined more in its softer parts), whilst a fair few of the quieter moments similarly deliver, particularly "Continuum". Additionally, this is a far more complete and cohesive record than something like Sorceress. However, for some reason, turning into a prog rock band has meant that the progressive side of the band is no longer fully committed to serving the sound of a song. A song such as "Next Of Kin" could've been genuinely fantastic with a modicum of restraint and greater focus on the dark triumphant atmosphere.

Opeth is still lacking the rich melancholia that made their earlier work so universally adored, and there's yet to be a side to the new prog rock sound that quite matches up to it (as complimentary as I am about some of the songs here, none are remotely in contention for career-wide favourite Opeth songs), but they're demonstrating strengths that point towards it being within the realm of possibility. If Opeth could extract the high points of this album, take the best parts of Pale Communion, and dial down the proggy wankery, their next album could genuinely be great.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 6
Production: 8


 



Written on 01.10.2019 by I'm just a guy with an opinion.


Comments

Comments: 17   Visited by: 285 users
01.10.2019 - 23:19
musclassia
Yet another long review of mine, hope it's not too much! Could've written another few hundred words but thought it best I stop at some point
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01.10.2019 - 23:24
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
I'm probably in the minority that liked Heritage and Pale Communion more than Damnation.

I have yet to make my mind on this one though, but it was pretty weird to hear them sing in Swedish.
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01.10.2019 - 23:30
musclassia
Written by RaduP on 01.10.2019 at 23:24

I'm probably in the minority that liked Heritage and Pale Communion more than Damnation.

I have yet to make my mind on this one though, but it was pretty weird to hear them sing in Swedish.


That is a bold take - I could maybe see PC (there's down bits in it, but the first two and last two songs in particular are really solid), but having plowed through Deliverance to the new album yesterday whilst working up to writing this, Damnation is just way beyond Heritage. Obviously they have very different vibes, but Heritage throws up the occasional great moment (the last min or so of The Devil's Orchard, the chorus of The Lines In My Hand) amidst a lot of music that I find pleasant but ultimately pretty forgettable, whilst the likes of Windowpane, In My Time Of Need and Hope Leaves are so gripping off Damnation, even if I think as a whole it's less consistent than most of the albums that came out either side of it.

I listened to the Swedish version second time round, then back to English - I dunno if it's just coincidence but the second time was my least enjoyable playthrough of the new album. It may just have been that my expectations were low for the first playthrough and then really heightened second time round cos I was surprised how much I enjoyed the first listen.
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01.10.2019 - 23:58
Lanthros
Written by RaduP on 01.10.2019 at 23:24

I'm probably in the minority that liked Heritage and Pale Communion more than Damnation.

I have yet to make my mind on this one though, but it was pretty weird to hear them sing in Swedish.

Honestly I liked Heritage more then Pale Communion or Sorceress. Though I can't say I liked it more then Damnation. They are close to equal to me with Damnation just barely eeking out the edge.
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02.10.2019 - 00:19
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by musclassia on 01.10.2019 at 23:19

Yet another long review of mine, hope it's not too much! Could've written another few hundred words but thought it best I stop at some point

Can blame a review for being too short rather than being too long. Would rather read 1000 words than 100.
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Take off those stupid glasses and kiss me
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02.10.2019 - 00:22
musclassia
Written by RaduP on 02.10.2019 at 00:19

Written by musclassia on 01.10.2019 at 23:19

Yet another long review of mine, hope it's not too much! Could've written another few hundred words but thought it best I stop at some point

Can blame a review for being too short rather than being too long. Would rather read 1000 words than 100.


I definitely agree, but I always laugh looking at that "keep reviews between 250-500 words" on the submission page when a review is rocketing past 600 words with no end in sight
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02.10.2019 - 00:25
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by musclassia on 02.10.2019 at 00:22

I definitely agree, but I always laugh looking at that "keep reviews between 250-500 words" on the submission page when a review is rocketing past 600 words with no end in sight

Break all the rules.

If I wasn't so needlesly obsessed with reviewing every album that's somewhat worth it, thus comodifying my own writing, I too would push for 1000 words reviews
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Take off those stupid glasses and kiss me
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02.10.2019 - 01:19
Starvynth
i c deaf people
Quote:
...passion was no longer unadulterated...



Great review, as always!
But now that you've already reviewed this year's releases of prog rock/metal icons like Dream Theater, Periphery, Tool, Disillusion and finally Opeth... ...I really wonder who's gonna be next.
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02.10.2019 - 01:36
Darkside Momo
Retired
Written by Starvynth on 02.10.2019 at 01:19

Quote:
...passion was no longer unadulterated...



Yeah, noticed that as well
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"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you"

"I've lost too many years now
I'm stealing back my soul
I am awake"
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02.10.2019 - 05:49
Lord Slothrop
I'm a big fan of this album. For whatever reason, it just works for me. A solid 9.
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02.10.2019 - 12:32
JayMo4
Written by Lanthros on 01.10.2019 at 23:58
Honestly I liked Heritage more then Pale Communion or Sorceress. Though I can't say I liked it more then Damnation. They are close to equal to me with Damnation just barely eeking out the edge.


I'm with you. I think Heritage is the best record they've done since Ghost Reveries, honestly. Not only is it my favorite album in the prog Opeth era, but I like it better than Watershed as well.
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02.10.2019 - 13:02
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by JayMo4 on 02.10.2019 at 12:32

I'm with you. I think Heritage is the best record they've done since Ghost Reveries, honestly. Not only is it my favorite album in the prog Opeth era, but I like it better than Watershed as well.

Yep, we're pretty much in the same boat. Though I think I like PC just a lil bit over Heritage
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Take off those stupid glasses and kiss me
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02.10.2019 - 15:19
Daniell
_爱情_
Bad Heritage, great Pale Communion, mediocre/good-ish Sorceress, excellent In Cauda Venenum. That's how I see Opeth after Watershed. I think In Cauda Venenum may be even better than Pale Communion - time will tell.

My main gripe with Heritage and Sorceress is their incongruity and directionlessness. They sound like "I want to do something else, but I'm not quite sure what exactly". I have no such impressions after a week of In Cauda Venenum on constant spin. As multi-faceted and versatile as this album is, I never hear the mess that was prevalent on Sorceress and Heritage. It almost sounds like a concept album, which I know it isn't, but it flows so well because song order is flawless.

Still Life, Blackwater Park, Ghost Reveries and Watershed are still untouchable quality-wise, but this fact doesn't prevent me from enjoying In Cauda Venenum immensely.
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02.10.2019 - 15:28
musclassia
Written by Starvynth on 02.10.2019 at 01:19

Quote:
...passion was no longer unadulterated...



Great review, as always!
But now that you've already reviewed this year's releases of prog rock/metal icons like Dream Theater, Periphery, Tool, Disillusion and finally Opeth... ...I really wonder who's gonna be next.


Thanks man! If Leprous count, it'll be them; otherwise, I'm not sure who else has an album on the horizon?
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02.10.2019 - 15:38
Crème fraiche
Written by Daniell on 02.10.2019 at 15:19

Still Life, Blackwater Park, Ghost Reveries and Watershed are still untouchable quality-wise, but this fact doesn't prevent me from enjoying In Cauda Venenum immensely.


Well said sir, my thoughts exactly that I could not conjure up xD
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02.10.2019 - 16:11
BlankFile
Well, i´ve listened to it a few times by now, and it´s the same vibe of the three previous records basically. 70´s Prog Rock all over again. It has it´s really good moments, but others not so much. In parts, it´s a bit slow and boring. I think it´s better than the previous record "The Sorceress", but "Pale Communion" is still their best of this phase they are going through.

Highlights for me are: "Dignity", "Heart in Hand", "Lovelorn Crime", "Charlatan", "Continuum" and "All Things Will Pass"
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03.10.2019 - 16:36
Deviant
After hearing it in it's entirety 3 times now I have to say that I really like it. In Cauda Venenum seems to have more of a Heritage vibe to it, which is great because I loved that album. So, I have to say that in my opinion this is their best work post Watershed, which is a little surprising because I did not like Pale Communion or Sorceress and wasn't expecting to like this one either.
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