Opeth - 'In Cauda Venenum'

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Opeth - 'In Cauda Venenum'

Their most enduring work to date.

'In Cauda Venenum' (a Latin phrase meaning "the poison is in the tail") is Opeth's thirteenth studio album but the first recorded in their native Swedish. Title and language are not the only ways in which the release is bold. Main-man Mikael Åkerfeldt has stated that these days he's more interested in emotionally-charged music and "heavy chord sequences" than Death Metal heaviness. Consequently, while the "Progressive Metal" tag undoubtedly fits, the emphasis is on the "progressive nature" of the music.

From the moment the cinematic and atmospheric opener 'Livets Trädgård' ('Garden Of Earthly Delights') kicks in, it's clear that 'In Cauda Venenum' is still both uncompromising and uncompromisingly Opeth. It's the work of a band who don't feel they need to try too hard to please others or live up to their expectations. "We're not trying to get to the next level of popularity," says Åkerfeldt, "we're trying to get to the next level of creativity."

Of course, there are well-placed riffs and powerful sections – the towering start of 'De Närmast Sörjande' ('Next Of Kin') or epic closer 'Allting Tar Slut' ('All Things Will Pass') for example – but there are also gentle and varied intros, sweeping underlying synths, glorious strings, Gregorian chanting and interesting use of Swedish samples. They include all this without any loss of the drama or diabolical intensity one associates with Opeth.

The album's ten tracks weigh in at around sixty-eight minutes, thus providing plenty of scope for light and shade within each and every multi-faceted, multi-layered composition. There's a maturity to the song-writing that would not have been possible during the group's early days but exudes subtlety and imagination throughout. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the eight-and-a-half-minute single 'Hjärtat Vet Vad Handen Gör' ('Heart In Hand'). Other highlights include 'Minnets Yta' ('Lovelorn Crime'), which is probably the sweetest sounding track Åkerfeldt and Opeth have recorded, 'Charlatan', where an urgent Metal riff is blended with twiddly Electronica, and 'Banemannen' ('The Garroter'), the latter working around a piano-based Jazz Noir motif.

There is also an English-language version to give a choice to the band's largely English-speaking fan base, but if you can, then I suggest you listen to the Swedish version first for the original tone and feel of the work. However, in either language, 'In Cauda Venenum' is a stunning accomplishment. It's quite possibly Opeth and Åkerfeldt's finest hour (or so) and their most enduring work to date.

Michael Anthony

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