MENU
Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Opeth - Sorceress CD (album) cover

SORCERESS

Opeth

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.83 | 359 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Necrotica
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Sometimes it's hard to determine if a review is really going to sway people anymore. With a number of bands, especially ones with established fanbases, it often seems like people's minds are set pretty quickly on a new album or project. But the real fun happens when a group has a polarizing impact on its audience; there's an odd pleasure in watching a bunch of critics fight each other on a band's quality or musical direction, preferably with some popcorn on standby. And since 2011, Opeth has been one of the most interesting bands to witness for this very reason. Their 2003 record Damnation might have been an interesting deviation from the typical progressive/death metal formula we know them for, but hey, at least Ghost Reveries and Watershed brought those elements back! Surely they wouldn't switch to a different style for good, right?

Right?

Ok, so most of us know what went down after Watershed. But, for the people who aren't aware, I'll give the rundown. Essentially, Heritage was a major switch for a band who were mostly rooted in extreme metal at this point. Sure, the progressive rock stuff was always there from the beginning, but from Heritage onward, the band decided to abandon metal altogether to create something more rooted in the golden age of progressive rock. The title of the album was pretty apt, as it seemed like a deliberate tribute to the band's 70s roots. What fans didn't expect, however, was that the band stayed on this path up until the present day. Pale Communion ended up being more of a prog throwback than its predecessor, and the band started sounding more and more like a stylistic pastiche who forgot their original musical identity. So when these elements started popping up again on the new record Sorceress, many people's minds were already set and the fanbase battlegrounds were established as usual. So what's the point of reviewing something if that's the case? Well, hear me out on this one.

Right from the get-go, Sorceress plays out like a long buffet of musical stylings. It's really fun hearing Opeth go from genre to genre on this album, as the record sees them tackle folk, progressive rock, progressive metal, jazz, 70s classic rock, classical, blues, and more. This does lead to some disjointedness from time to time, but the adventurousness of Opeth's songwriting is what anchors them here. You almost have no idea what to expect when the introductory folk number 'Persephone' sets the tone, but the following title track is much more effective at giving an overview of the experience. Technical drumming marries bizarre keyboard motifs, until a doom metal riff drives the distorted guitar playing. It's like a funeral march, but with a heightened sense of fury in Mikael Akerfeldt's mean vocal performance. Say what you will about the musical content, but I simply can't deny how strong Akerfeldt's singing is on this album. From the mid-range Ian Anderson-esque performance he gives on the light folk rock ballad 'Will O' the Wisp,' to the raspy high notes he provides on the title track and 'Chrysalis,' the man's dynamics and range have improved over time.

But these aren't the only strong points of Sorceress. Go a little deeper, and you'll find the aforementioned 'Will O' the Wisp,' a simple acoustic guitar piece that evolves into a beautifully melodic and emotive electric guitar solo. The blues tone melds perfectly with the acoustic framework, and the rhythm work is suitably subtle underneath the great melodies. 'Sorceress 2,' despite the lazy title, is also a highlight here. It's entirely driven by vocals and acoustic guitar work, and the blend of major and minor keys creates a fascinatingly unsettling piece of music. And if there's anything that this album has shown me, it's to never underestimate the versatility of Opeth's band members. Just listen to the incredible buildup and climax of 'Strange Brew' (nice Cream reference, by the way), in which Joakim Svalberg's eerie keyboards create a suspenseful vibe before anything else kicks in. The piano work keeps building and building' and the guitar work comes in briefly' and then the band just goes ***ing nuts. The playing is controlled and precise, but the discordant keyboards and Martin Axenrot's nimble drumming create sort of an organized chaos. Eventually, the track erupts into a gloriously bluesy metal section with amazing guitar solos topping it all off. The entire song is a masterpiece of atmosphere and dynamics, and the musicianship is top-notch the entire way through. This is easily the album's centerpiece.

But as one might imagine, not all is perfect here. First off, the lyrics have taken quite a huge nosedive from previous Opeth efforts. Remember those amazing stanzas the band would write in the old songs? Here's a sample from 1999's 'Godhead's Lament':

Marauder Staining the soil, midst of stillness Beloved fraternity to an end Red eyes probe the scene; All the same Stilted for the beholder Depravity from the core Handcarved death in stoneladen aisles

And now look at an excerpt from 'Will O' the Wisp':

When you're tired of waiting And time is not on your side When you're tired of hating me You no longer want to hide; Stuck to the failures of your life Marred with the sorrows of your strife

Not that simple lyrics are necessarily bad, of course, but there's a lot of cheese to sift through on Sorceress. The lyrics tend to be both cliched (especially on the title track) and corny, which is a far cry from Akerfeldt's previous work with the band. Also, as I stated, things do get disjointed once in a while. There probably could have been a better way for the band to transition from the beautiful folk of 'Will O' the Wisp,' to the abrupt metal intro of 'Chrysalis,' or from 'Persephone' to the weird groove of the title track. The album's structure seems a bit confused and unpredictable, which proves to be both a good and bad thing in the end. While it keeps the listener guessing, it also means the record struggles to find a real concrete direction to take.

Still, part of the fun with Sorceress is the variety. It's a true musical adventure, and while the derivative moments of Pale Communion rear their heads here and there, the diversity on this record is crucial to replaying it over and over again. This may not necessarily be the best Opeth album I've heard, but it's the most fun I've had with an Opeth album in a long time. Many of you may have your minds made up already, but for those on the negative side of the fence, I recommend giving the record another listen. You might just find a few gems and a few surprises lurking within this glorious mess of an album.

Necrotica | 4/5 |

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this OPETH review

Social review comments () BETA







Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives