Opeth – Heritage (Roadrunner, 2011)

I’ve never been able to understand why musical evolution is largely frowned upon in extreme metal circles.  It’s as if something went horribly awry back when rock music begat heavy metal and then heavy metal begat death metal, black metal, thrash, etc.  That essential aspect of rock ‘n’ roll’s spirit which calls for constant change was almost completely stamped out in favor of a stunted “different is bad” philosophy that continues to permeate the scene today.  Granted, “different” doesn’t always equal “good” either, but in order for any artistic or cultural movement to survive it must continually progress through trial and error, or risk degenerating into irrelevance and ultimately dying out.  Yet somehow, metal’s more extreme genres have managed to remain in stasis for nearly three decades.  Of course there are many exceptions, but for every one innovator there are literally hundreds of bands that have progressed their sound little (if at all) over the course of numerous albums, lineup changes, etc.  Pillars of the various extreme metal subgenres, such as Transilvanian Hunger, Heartwork, Left Hand Path, Rust in Peace, etc are all around the two decade old mark, and yet bands are still contently copying them, and acting like they’ve achieved something of note on their own in doing so.  When metal went extreme, it forgot that the bands from which it spawned, the Black Sabbaths and Led Zeppelins and Deep Purples of the world, never released two albums alike or even two songs alike.  Production values may improve, bands may become more technically proficient (and in some cases even these two will cause severe backlash), but stepping outside the imaginary, self-imposed boundaries of a chosen metal subgenre is largely verboten.
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