I’ve had mixed feelings for a while regarding Opeth’s prog efforts, nearly casting them off entirely after the release of the sub-par Sorceress back in 2016. However, the band managed to strike gold with their latest offering entitled In Cauda Venenum, which seems to continue in their long line of weird occult influenced discs that often leave me wondering just as in the old days, “what in the bloody hell is Mikael Akerfeldt singing about?” Sometimes, I’m not even sure if he knows exactly. But I digress.
In any case, fans are getting what I think is their progressive Blackwater Park moment. In other words, this record seems to balance thunderously heavy riffs and fragrant melodies alongside flutter synths and acoustic portions that could have been ripped right out of Damnation. Couple that with the fact that Akerfeldt sounds better than I’ve heard him in years and he really stepped up the bar to deliver a record that you can just play again and again without skipping a single track. From the bombastic opener “Dignity” all of the way up to the tear-jerking majesty expressed during the final riff melodies in “All Things Will Pass” I’m just not sure how the band will possibly be able to top this. Interestingly enough, there are more than a few spots on the album where growls could have been implemented, which would have turned the album into Blackwater Park and I find that remarkable. In Cauda Venenum could have been a progressive death metal album in portions and I think that fans are realizing that now. Hence why many were upset about the band’s deleted album. There is even a possibility that some of those riffs resurfaced here, because this thing is much heavier than I would have expected.
I’ll be honest with you folks, I haven’t jammed Opeth this much since I was a teenager. However, it is definitely true that there is an air of maturity here and I feel like I’m listening to a more modernized version of Pink Floyd, Camel or some of the other acts that inspired them to go into this direction. While previous efforts seemed more like variations on the work of these prog greats, In Cauda Venenum sounds like they’ve finally come into their own. It actually sounds like the Opeth I know and love, but with a ripened edge that comes across as timeless. There is no doubt in my mind that this recording will stand as one of their most accomplished during the progressive era which has been loved and loathed equally by the fans. I have to be honest that I didn’t exactly fall head over heels for the last couple of records, but this one was truly love at first sight. I will note that I prefer the English version of the disc a bit more, but it is always nice to have a version in their native language.
(2 Discs, 10 Tracks, 68:00)
Purchase HERE (Amazon)