OPETH – In Cauda Venenum [English Version] (2019)
Swedish progressive metallers OPETH are a curious band, sometimes too much experimental, sometimes quite fascinating in its craft. For their new album “In Cauda Venenum” they seems more focused, mixing their unique progressive metal vision with multifaceted stylings, resulting into a quite interesting listening.
This is the English lyrics version of “In Cauda Venenum”, which translates to “Poison In The Tail”. Gront man Mikael Åkerfeldt chose the phrase both because he’d always wanted to use a Latin album title and because it fits well with the imagery that longtime collaborator Travis Smith created.
Musically, the album is an exquisite exercise in perpetual contrasts that, while familiar, demonstrates how much Opeth can still intrigue and impress after so many years.
Although a bit too prolonged, opener “Garden of Earthly Delights” is an ingeniously atmospheric prelude that sets up one of the LP’s greatest through-lines. A commitment to gothic overtones and malevolent voiceovers / sound clips that somewhat makes “In Cauda Venenum” feel like a single cohesive piece.
It segues seamlessly into the hypnotic “Dignity”, whose block harmonies—another recurring feature of the record—kick off a tirade of tasty trademark riffs, percussion, melodies and entrancing verses and choruses. Åkerfeldt sings as divinely as ever, too, making it a fine way to get going properly.
Afterward, “Heart in Hand” delivers a more direct juxtaposition of hectic drive and tranquil detours — such as a desolate acoustic nod to the Beatles’ “Help!” — before the relatively peculiar but enticing orchestral glory of “Next of Kin”.
Although “Charlatan” is relentlessly prog metal for the most part, it still manages some cathartic strings and Gregorian chants as it concludes. As for closer “All Things Will Pass”, it’s a tour-de-force climax of touching power that’ll surely leave you in awe.
Whereas those tracks contained dashes of softness in-between majorly heavy foundations, others veer more toward a lighter and more outwardly beautiful base.
For instance, “Lovelorn Crime” it should be one of the band’s most powerful ballads ever, even with a commercial and radio potential.
Then, “Universal Truth” affords perhaps the best synthesis of classical and acoustic traits on the whole disc, causing a thoroughly intricate yet inviting and warm sonic blanket of emotion. The off-kilter piano work, shuffling syncopation, winding melodies, and generally startling jazziness of its follow-up, “The Garroter”, result in something simultaneously disturbing and delightful.
Lastly, the penultimate “Continuum” employs great use of falsetto harmonies, acoustic guitar arpeggios, and saintly keyboard embellishments to yield a transfixing experience.
Some of Opeth previous works leave me a bit confused, but “In Cauda Venenum” would absolutely be the band’s best album in a decade.
Like most great records, it takes a few deep listens to appreciate fully, but the reward is easily worth the investment. Rather than stray from the systems of its immediate predecessors, “In Cauda Venenum” finely tunes them into an immensely concentrated and unswerving “observation” (as Åkerfeldt calls them) whose medieval core creates one of their most unified sequences thus far.
Different, evil, and very interesting.
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
Mikael Åkerfeldt – lead vocals, guitars
Martín Méndez – bass
Martin “Axe” Axenrot – drums, percussion
Fredrik Åkesson – guitars, backing vocals
Joakim Svalberg – keyboards, synths, mellotron, backing vocals