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WLM Reviews: Opeth – Sorceress

October 8, 2016

opeth - sorceressThough I’m not a huge fan, I do know not to expect anything specific when it comes to Opeth and their release of a new album. With Sorceress on Nuclear Blast, it’s best to go in without setting yourself up, no matter how difficult.

Diversity seems to be the concept on this album with a wide variety of styles pouring forth, from Sabbathian riffs to Jethro Tull melodies, to Dream Theater like instrumental syncopation. At times nicely heavy, at times far too delicate, main man Mikael Åkerfeldt has taken the band almost to another realm. Having abandoned any kind of sound that might harken back to the earlier Prog Death Metal days of the band, Opeth now infuses jazz, classic rock, prog rock, and, yes, some metal. While the diehard old school fan may not appreciate Sorceress, the album does have a lot going for it that should appeal to the readers of We Love Metal. Brick Peerson might not agree though.

While I teeter somewhere between being a music fan and being a Metal fan, I tend to find myself on the latter side more often nowadays. I certainly can still appreciate good music, no matter the style, but I do want some level of attitude in what I hear. That’s the thumb on the Metal side of the scale. With Sorceress, there are a number of times I long for some more aggression. Much like their previous album Pale Communion, this is a departure from what made Opeth such an admired force in the development of Progressive Death Metal.

Then again, Opeth does reach down and incorporate some heaviness into the music and it’s always so well done. The title track comes down pretty hard exposing Åkerfeldt as a fan of Black Sabbath. If he’s not, you could fool me. The riff must easily weigh a couple of tons. Totally digging the instrumental execution. I also have an affinity for Åkerfeldt’s voice, as his clean singing is clear and right in the sweet spot of the vocal range I enjoy. The Wilde Flowers is not quite as heavy, but the Prog Metal approach is more prevalent. The closing of the song is definitely worth hearing. Will O the Wisp could easily fit in right along side Thick as a Brick. Just add a little flute and it becomes a Jethro Tull song. Åkerfeldt even sounds a bit like Ian Anderson. Not a terrible track, but I would have liked a heavier approach somewhere in the song. May not appeal to the typical Metal fan, but some of us older guys with an attraction to prog rock will recognize it as something decent.

Chrysalis goes back to the heavier sound, complemented by a Hammond organ giving the track a more classic feel. A consistent jam makes this an appealing song, kind of grooving right along with distortion. The reprise of the title track in Sorceress 2 is nothing like its predecessor. An acoustic guitar and light vocals just drifts along. It’s one I skip. The Seventh Sojourn has a middle eastern feel, driven by the melody on this instrumental track. While it’s cool for a couple of minutes, Opeth doesn’t do much with it beyond the theme they set up. Strange Brew explores an alternating heavier mode and lighter approach throughout its 8 minutes. This track is firmly in the Prog Metal camp. Totally digging Åkerfeldt’s vocals here. Fleeting Glance has a medieval-like melody along with some sections that takes its time getting anything going, finally exploring some prog tendencies later in the song. Decent enough, I suppose. The proper closing track, Era, fires up about a minute in and maintains a Prog Metal style the rest of the way.

From Åkerfeldt: “We offer diversity that’s not really present in the scene today…It comes down to perseverance. It comes down to not giving up or giving in to public opinion. Music is about doing your own thing or going your own way”.

Here’s The Wilde Flowers:

With the new version of Opeth, you’re going to get a mish-mash of music, some heavy, some not so much. When Åkerfeldt and his mates get going in a Metal direction, it’s good – really good. The problem is that there is a bit too much in the way of serene passages and a lighter touch. I don’t mind bands doing that in more moderation and it is, of course, the artist’s choice which path he will travel. Opeth has certainly done their own thing and gone their own way. I imagine this will end up being a top album around the interwebs, but probably won’t make an EOY list at We Love Metal.

I hear the sound in a Metal way.

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