Over the course of a career that spans more than 25 years, Sweden’s, Opeth, have maintained a consistency of brilliance that most bands could only dream of, a consistency that is continued wonderfully on Sorceress, their 12th observation, and they’re first with label heavyweights, Nuclear Blast.
“Sorceress” is an affirmation. An affirmation that Opeth will continue to make the music they want to make, whether it is the distinct, shape-shifting progressive death that describes the majority of their work before 2011’s, Heritage, or the 70’s influenced prog-rock of their more recent output. Either way, it’s Opeth, so it’s going to be magnificent, and Sorceress is just that. It’s also heavy in parts; not Blackwater Park heavy but far heavier than anything post-Watershed.
Take the title track for instance, which begins with a rather deceptive intro of organ driven, prog-rock flamboyance, that unexpectedly gives way to a down-tuned chug that possesses a satisfying crunch, a crunch that’s been absent from Opeth’s sound in recent years. In retrospect, it was also the perfect choice as the album’s first single, as it highlights what is perhaps Sorceress’ greatest strength, unpredictability, with a majority of the records 11 tracks beginning in one place and ending somewhere completely different.
The very deliberate, menacing stomp of The Wilde Flowers shifts into an electric, grandiose statement of progressive rock, before a blazing solo, courtesy of guitarist, Fredrik Åkesson, collapses into a final passage of delicate elegance. Chrysalis exists in two juxtaposed halves; the first gallops out of the speakers like a charging warhorse, while the second spills out like a smoky, ethereal lament. Sorceress’ longest track, Strange Brew, evolves several times during its near nine-minute runtime. From sparse eeriness into whirlwinds of feverish keys and snap fast drumming, through compelling blues grooves into an immense finish, built by wailing guitar leads, focused percussion, and assertive vocals.
Will O’ the Wisp and The Seventh Sojourn highlight the beauty that’s Opeth capability. The first is reminiscent of 2002’s, Damnation. It’s tender and uplifting, led almost entirely by acoustic guitars and Mikael Åkerfeldt’s clean croon, which he wields with a stronger sense of confidence and dynamism than he ever has before. The Seventh Sojourn, on the other hand, has a resolute sense of evil running through it, conjured through the use of the infamous tri-tone, hand percussion, and Middle Eastern chord structures. It is, quite simply, one of Opeth’s most stunning compositions to date.
12 albums into their career and Opeth are yet to release an album that isn’t incredible. They’re a band to be revered, respected, and cherished.
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