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Opeth - Sorceress

by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 21 October 2016, 12:56 PM

To say that OPETH is a familiar name in the genre of Metal is a gross understatement. Through 26 years and eleven studio albums, the band has always made a habit of not making a habit when it comes to their music. The early years were Death Metal laden and later they transitioned into more Progressive music. It’s been polarizing for some fans, while others very much look forward to the ride and not the destination. They’ve been accused of being overly flowery and downright pretentious, and also they’ve been acclaimed for being a creative genius. The fact that we have these opposite viewpoints probably point to the later. Without sounding snobbish, it’s just a fact that some people don’t have an ear for the sublime, or the patience to digest something deeper than what first appears. “Sorceress” is studio album number twelve, and contains eleven tracks.

“Persephone” is a melancholy, two-minute opening acoustic track, with soft spoken voice and the vibrato of flute notes towards the end. There is stark contrast with the title track that follows. The sound is fuzzy, muted, and a throw-back to the 60’s or even 70’s, as THE DOORS mate with BLACK SABBATH. Here again we hear a totally different sound coming from this band. The main riff is simply but bossy and the song comes from a parallel universe of musical transcendence. Much of the eccentric sort of refinement comes out of the bass guitar for me. “The Wilde Flowers” is very similar in approach. Eerie keys accent some of the ghostly mysteriousness that pervades, along with a heavy and muted bottom end that holds everything at bay. A little past the half-way mark the sound just drops off, like a thick fog has lifted and transitions into clear air. “Will O The Wisp” is brighter and cleaner from the acoustic guitar strums, flute and vocal lamentations. It is truly a unique composition, especially when you consider trying to genre label it. That challenge will prove futile.

The Progressive elements are dialed up pretty far in “Chrysalis.” This seven minute track has descending and complex chord patterns, a little fire and attitude, vocals that mean to hypnotize you, and a display of guitar and keyboard solos that sound like two wizards dueling. Half-way in now we have “Sorceress 2.” Unlike its predecessor, there is barely enough sound hear to hold a song together. If you open your eyes it might even vanish in front of you. That being said, if you don’t play it a second time, you might miss its substantial vulnerability and delicate bleakness. The instrumental called “The Seventh Sojourn” sounds like the rhythmic moves of a seductive dancer that you cannot take your eyes off of; a veritable succubus in a tent on the fringes of the edge of night that you know you are not supposed to visit. “Strange Brew” is the longest song on the album, at close to nine minutes. Following a tenuous opening, the main sound roars in…a heavy dissonant and chaotic collection of instrumentation that pauses only during the verses. There is a “jam” feeling to the song, almost like something they would compose as they were performing it, in a smoky nightclub of the past.

“A Fleeting Glance” has a nebbish and reserved presence that features an odd set of guitar note progressions that are somehow explained with the increased sound that accompanies the final third of the track. It’s like you can’t tell anyone how you got somewhere, but somehow you are just there. “Era” is the last full track. It’s much more of a full song, with roving bursts of energy and trippy vocals from harmonic passages. Eclectic and eccentric, this is one anomalous listening experience. Perhaps the most unique feature or accomplished feat it how it manages to sound both futuristic and old-school at the same time. This is beyond a doubt their most exclusive and unconventional album to date, and one that surely requires several listens for you to catch all the nuances, which are weirdly pleasing.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 10
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Persephone
2. Sorceress
3. The Wilde Flowers
4. Will O The Wisp
5. Chrysalis
6. Sorceress 2
7. The Seventh Sojourn
8. Strange Brew
9. A Fleeting Glance
10. Era
11. Persephone (Slight Return)
Mikael Akerfeldt – Vocals, Guitars
Martin Mendez – Bass
Martin Axenrot – Drums
Fredrik Akesson – Guitars
Joakim Svalberg – Keys
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records


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