ALBUM REVIEW: Opeth – In Cauda Venenum

Release Date: September 27th 2019
Label: Nuclear Blast Records


Swedish death-metal-turned-prog-metal favourites Opeth are back once again with their thirteenth album, ‘In Cauda Venenum’ (Swedish for ‘poison in the tail’).

At this stage, there’s no point expecting anything like earlier works such as 2001’s ‘Blackwater Park’, but this has all the potential to be a real centrepiece of their latter day period. This exceeds an hour in length, and they’ve also given us the option of listening to the songs recorded both in Swedish and English.

The keyboard-led interlude ‘Garden Of Delights’ (‘Livets Trädgård’) gets things off to a tense start, before we kick things off for real. ‘Dignity’ (‘Svekets Prins’), complete with multi-layered vocals, organs, and a typically impressive solo from Fredrik Akesson, gets us firmly into prog territory, even more so when a gentle acoustic guitar greets us. We then have Mikael Akerfeldt crooning gently, before the track builds into weightier territory.

And ‘Heart In Hand’ (‘Hjärtat Vet Vad Handen Gör’) is very free-flowing. Many shifts in time signature and style appear to be Opeth‘s modus operandi here, with mighty riffs and further stellar guitar work appearing from Akesson.

We then have the more sombre ‘Next Of Kin’ (‘De Närmast Sörjande’), but not without Akerfeldt‘s reliably solid ear for melody carrying this song greatly, as well as further dynamic shifts. This song is a definite highlight.

And the next slow-burner, ‘Lovelorn Crime’ (‘Minnets Yta’) wears its 1970s prog influences on its sleeve, but Opeth continue to showcase further depth, with this being more of a piano-backed number. Just before you might be tuning out, ‘Universal Truth’ (‘Ingen Sanning Är Allas’) is another multi-faceted offering. A string-led middle section helps to offer some poignancy, and, somewhat unexpectedly, there’s a strong hook to be found here too.

It could be argued that a lot of ‘progressive’ metal doesn’t really stray away often from its usual musical tropes, so a real left-turn comes in the form of ‘The Garroter’ (‘Banemannen’). The strings make an appearance again, but the easy-listening jazz stylings of this track surely weren’t foreseen, and Akerfeldt‘s croon sits surprisingly well over this.

In spite of the impressiveness offered by much of this album, a song like ‘Continuum’ (‘Kontinuerlig Drift’) tends to generally lull for 8 minutes and not really go anywhere, and, whilst on the subject, some other parts of this record could also perhaps be cut back slightly.

But ‘All Things Will Pass’ (‘Allting Tar Slut’) takes us back into familiar terrain, and is a slightly more immediate way to close out the album capping off the journey that we’ve been taken on. Fans have had opinions for sure, but this is arguably the most impactful album Opeth have put out in some time, and much of this offers the same thrills, whether you choose to listen in Swedish or English.

It’s possible that Opeth have understood what ‘progressive’ means in their current era better than previous offerings, and ‘In Cauda Venenum’ serves up a real treat that will delight fans, an album that is only more rewarding with more listens.