In the genre of Progressive Metal it is a constant battle to traverse the lesser-known and elevate it to new heights. Now after nearly thirty years, Swedish Metal band Opeth is gearing up to release one of their most eloquent, intently-woven masterpieces. What could that be? Simple, it is called In Cauda Venenum and it is set for releases on Friday, September 27th through Moderbolaget and Nuclear Blast Records.
A follow-up to 2016’s Sorceress, In Cauda Venenum marks the band’s thirteenth overall studio album and their first to be release both in both a their native Swedish as well as English language. For more universal worldly purposes, this review will concentrate on the English version of the album which is identical to the Swedish one – 10 tracks, 67 minutes and change, just in a different language. That said, the journey begins with “Dignity,” which carries over with a bright, intoxicating aura in its intro before delving into a delicate tone. Here, the acoustic plucking of a gorgeous melody is perfectly overlaid with twinkling xylophone and whispering voices. The track then explodes into a riffing tapestry as the lush vocals of Mikael Åkerfeldt come to the forefront. This is while the cadence of “Heart In Hand” is like an undulating ebb and flow, with a stunning melodic scintillation during the chorus. The percussion snaps and pops while sound effects whirr and trapeze through the background.
Later on, “Lovelorn Crime” is comprised of forlorn, delicate piano work and vocals that dance between a resilient need and a crumbling gloom. While the song is a simplistic composition, the dedication and emotions in the lyrics are tangible; when the guitar solo takes center stage it becomes a breathtaking, soulful expression without words. Then “Charlatan” is a metrically strange song with a bizarre ambience. Its audio clips and synth feel like something straight out of a Science Fiction film, and compliment the crashing waves of high hats and cymbals. As the instrumental fades out and is replaced by a child and mother speaking, then choral, there’s an undeniable solace to the track.
The track “The Garroter” takes advantage of the gorgeous resonance of Spanish-style guitar for its clipped introduction. The piano that takes over is a quiet stir before a jazzy element drops in alongside Åkerfeldt’s lilting vocals, and the song would compliment a Detective Noir film with ease. Martin Axenrot’s drumming opens the second to last song “Continuum” with a considerate, tripping rhythm before it rises with ease into rippling waves of endurance and vivid tone.
As a Progressive Rock band, Opeth has explored and exploited many decades worth of sounds, genres, and technique. On In Cauda Venenum, some tracks are somewhat over-cluttered and cannot entirely decide what they want to be, others are a bewitching melee of unexpected tastes; the mood varies by each song and is fully undertaken by the expression of the instrumentals. Meanwhile, the introductions to each track are alluring and distinctive despite that not every moment makes for considerable reasoning when paired with others.
Throughout the collection, all of the vocals are tinged with an arresting reverb that accentuates the finer points of Åkerfeldt’s singing. To deny that Opeth as stayed true to their sound and endured with a singularity matched by none would be an injustice to all the creativity and skill imputed by Opeth as a whole. However, on In Cauda Venenum, there remains a chaos to the band’s sound the succeeds in some incarnations and confuddles in others. That is why Cryptic Rock proudly give their latest effort 3.5 of 5 stars.