3. Opeth, In Cauda Venenum (Nuclear Blast)
When Opeth decided to eschew the extreme metal element of their sound after 2008’s Watershed in favor of a more progressive rock-oriented approach, it angered a lot of their obsessive fans. Ten years and four albums later, those fans are still whining that Mikael Åkerfeldt doesn’t growl his vocals anymore, but that stunning change in direction, starting with 2011’s Heritage, has resulted in an impressive creative rebirth, allowing Åkerfeldt and his bandmates to experiment more and broaden the Opeth sound while remaining faithful to the style that defined such early classics as Orchid and Blackwater Park. On 13th album In Cauda Venenum, all those elements – heavy metal, ‘70s prog rock, jazz fusion, krautrock – coalesce more beautifully than any other Opeth record this decade. Åkerfeldt is in full command: his arrangements sound both vintage and innovative at the same time, the labyrinthine tracks never overwhelm the album’s many hooks, and such standouts as “Svekets Prins”, “Charlatan”, and “Allting Tar Slut” prove that the heavy aspect of Opeth will not go away any time soon. And if you’re an extreme metal nerd who still whines that Mike doesn’t growl his vocals anymore, please get a life and learn to appreciate good singing.
[Opeth recorded the album in separate Swedish and English versions, but Åkerfeldt insists the Swedish version is the definitive one]