Opeth are Progressive, in every sense of the musical terminology. The genre they reside in is labelled as Progressive, but unlike many others with the tag, they are ever-evolving, incorporating new influences and nuances within their current sound, a current sound that always differs slightly with each release – it progresses – yet is always instantly recognizable as Opeth to their army of new and long-term fans. They are undeniably a Progressive Heavy Rock band, whichever meaning you give them.

“In Cauda Venenum” is actually dubbed primarily as a Swedish language release, the band feeling the whole thing works better in their native tongue, but thankfully they have also done an English version for people who are less fluent in Swedish (which includes me, so thank you for that English version!). Opeth releases are always the kind of albums that invite intricate analysis and dissection – but that’s not what Opeth are about for me. Opeth write and perform consistently high-quality technical music that oozes class and melody whilst still maintaining a high level of complexity within their own sound. They liberally scatter this music with thoughtful, stylish, smooth vocals that enhance and elevate the songs to their optimal state. They ALWAYS do! All I really want to know is whether it’s any good or whether it all still works this time around? Opeth fans can analyse it as much or as little as they like, so for everyone else out there like me…If you liked the last three albums, you’ll like this one! The simple question being how does it differ from recent Opeth output?

Well…not that much really, I mean, where can you go? The point of Opeth’s evolution 13 albums down the line is that the changes are subtle – they have morphed hugely in 13 albums, but only slightly from album to album. They have their core sound, so they can subtly elaborate on it. Everyone will have their own favourite parts of Opeth’s releases – one of mine is Mikael Akerfeld’s vocals, which I’m happy to report are as great as always, maybe a bit more in the harmony department would entice me more – but that’s maybe just me. Musically, there are a few obvious jazz influences this time around, but then that was always going to happen with Opeth at some point and fits well enough in the scheme of things (even if it goes a little far in ‘The Garroter’/’Banemannen’ for me personally…but then, I don’t like jazz!). The acoustic guitar passages are also continuing to evolve, but the synthy almost New Wave album intro was a real surprise…yet as always, fits perfectly in context.

The real progression on “In Cauda Venenum”, the major difference for me personally, is the Swedish version! I’m really not sure if I am imagining it, but vocally there is a slightly enhanced audible confidence that is evident in the native lyric release than the English, possibly due to the inflection of the vowels fitting the notes better maybe…or probably just that for once Mikael enjoyed singing in Swedish for a change eh? Whatever it is, the way the lyrics are performed gives the whole thing a real difference, a freshness – we’ve grown so accustomed to hearing Akerfeld singing in English, that hearing him singing in Swedish makes the way he forms the words work differently and really does seem to fit the music more harmoniously. When I heard the band had released two different language versions of the album I admit I thought it maybe a little pretentious – a bit of a “because we can” smart-arse attitude, because they aren’t already clever enough? But now I hear it, I get it! The lyrics are usually the last thing about vocals I latch onto on a song, but how the vocals fit with the music is really important and more immediate, so although it’s subtle – it’s there! Maybe the two versions need each-other to reach a wider audience, but whichever version you lean towards, it’s utterly Opeth through and through…again!

(7.5/10 Andy Barker)