The most negative thing that I can say about Sorceress, the latest release from Swedish progressive metal band Opeth, is that it is not the return to death metal many fans continue to hope for. It has its heavier moments, but by and large, Sorceress continues down the path Mikael Akerfeldt and company have been following ever since their 2008 effort Watershed.
With that said, there’s plenty here to enjoy. This album is full of the twists and turns we’ve come to expect from Opeth; flowery acoustic passages that make way for frenzied metal riffs, lush harmonies, and deep grooves abound. This time around, though, the songs themselves seem to move a little more linearly. “Will O The Wisp,” for example, is a straight-ahead folk-rock ballad, whereas “Sorceress 2” is a short piece led by dark vocal harmonies and a soft acoustic melody. Elsewhere, “The Seventh Sojourn” is a percussive middle-eastern flavoured instrumental track. This does not mean that there aren’t any labyrinthine prog-rock behemoths on this record. “The Wilde Flowers” is one of the boys’ more experimental numbers to date and ends with some of the tastiest snare work you may hear this year. Not to mention, “Strange Brew” is pure dynamic madness with a dizzying rhythmic approach that could rival any of the band’s earlier work.
Akerfeldt also seems to be relishing the challenge of keeping things vocally interesting without resorting to his trademark death roar. There are moments where he screams out and it truly sounds like he’s about to rip into living flesh, and then sometimes he sings so softly you’ll swear he’s whispering, often all in the same song.
All in all, this may be Opeth’s most accessible effort to date, but that’s not because they’ve lost their knack for creativity, it’s simply another avenue they felt drawn to explore in their own way. You would be hard pressed to find anything on this record that doesn’t bare their signature sound, just like you would be silly to try and find a reason they shouldn’t keep experimenting, pushing boundaries, and moving forward.
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy