Record Label: Nuclear Blast/Moderbolget Records
Release Date: September 30, 2016
When it comes to bands releasing new albums, it’s always the same thing from the fans. “I hope they go back to their old sound” or “I hope it’s a continuation of the last album.” I feel like that is appropriate for some bands, to repeat their style on every record, “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” type of thing. Bands like Slayer, Amon Amarth and AC/DC can pull that off and their fans will always buy whatever they release. However, for a band like Opeth, a band constantly trying to push their own boundaries, writing the same album over and over again becomes redundant and well kind of boring. Not only to the fans, but the band themselves get tired of writing the same shit over and over again. If anything, Opeth is a prime example of how bands should progress, especially if they want to continue making music they love.
Sure, writing in a different format might lose some of that secondary and tertiary fan base (the ones that like a certain sound and discard a band when they change even the slightest), but those aren’t the fans that matter. The ones that matter, aside from the band themselves, are those primary fans (the ones that endure the change and welcome it with open arms). These fans, may not have been here from the beginning of the career, but they are in it for the long haul. What we need to remember first and foremost is that Opeth is a progressive band first and a Death/Black metal band second. Do they love writing heavy music, well I think its pretty clear listening to Sorceress, that the answer to that is yes! Heavy does not necessarily mean Death Metal growls 100% of the time, heavy can be in the instruments and the overall tone of the lyrics, and this album is fucking heavy!
What really stands out is the fact that Mikael (Åkerfeldt) doesn’t need to use his Death Metal vocals to make the album heavy/dark. Just listen to the opening lyrics of their first released song and title track “Sorceress,” “I’m a sinner and I worship evil,” he doesn’t need to growl that, just like the pioneers of metal never needed to growl their lyrics to be considered heavy. Go listen to some Black Sabbath, Deep Purple or Blue Oyster Cult and tell me their music isn’t heavy; for those that think otherwise this album isn’t for you. For those that agree with me, Sorceress will look nice in your record collection, right up there with King Crimson, Black Sabbath and if you like jazz, Miles Davis. Sorceress takes hints from great 70’s metal, mixed with some modern-day progressive music, and that Opeth style of musicianship, to make a perfect Prog Metal album. While I am sure Progressive Metal heads might say otherwise, everyone has an opinion, doesn’t mean they are wrong or that I am right, just means everyone is entitled to say what they will.
Back to heaviness, this album musically, is their heaviest since Watershed. Just listen to songs like “Chrysalis,” “The Wilde Flowers,” and “Strange Brew.” These songs can match up to heaviness of any Opeth songs, without the growling. Would growling make the songs heavier, sure but it isn’t necessary as Mikael’s voice is a force to be reckoned with on this album. The great thing about the vocals on this album is they are used to the advantage of the song, meaning he knows he could go full on Death Metal whenever he wants and fans everywhere would praise the album, but instead he uses the power of his voice in a way that intrigues the listener to want more. Again “Strange Brew” is a great product of using his voice to make you want more, all while making a damn good song. There are some gems on here that are reminiscent of the Damnation album, (let me guess, a lightbulb just went off as to where we got our name) “Will o The Wisp” could have very easily been recorded during the Damnation Sessions and you would be none the wiser.
Vocals aside, the musicianship on this album are top-notch as well. There was no half-ass recording going on for this record, every note is precise be it on the guitar, drums, bass or even the keyboard, nothing goes unnoticed. One of my true favorite songs, aside from those already mentioned, is the Orphaned Land-esque “The Seventh Sojourn,” a very middle eastern sounding piece, that ends with a short piano/vocal harmonic piece that showcases the true talent of the band.
If you are even a little bit on the fence about Sorceress, just give it a listen. It might not be your favorite album of theirs, but a song or two will stick out and you won’t regret it. I think “Strange Brew” will be a fan favorite both live and on the album. Don’t take my word on it, have a listen for yourself. I look forward to the future of Opeth, for they have much more greatness to release unto the world!
RIYL: Orphaned Land, King Crimson, Black Sabbath, Camel
Sorceress Track List:
- The Wilde Flowers
- Will O The Wisp
- Sorceress 2
- The Seventh Sojourn
- Strange Brew
- A Fleeting Glance
- Persephone (Slight Return)
You can pick Sorceress up at your local Best Buy or Music Store as well as through Opeth.com, their own label Moderbolget Records and Nuclear Blast Records amongst other places.