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Opeth - Sorceress CD (album) cover

SORCERESS

Opeth

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.69 | 497 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Opeth have moved away from their gloomy growling and have lost a few fans, who have willfully fallen off the bus but so is art! I read some bitter comments from some fans who regret the departure of growling death-metal leanings and who despise this softer side. Yes, the grunting is all gone but outside of a few acoustic gems, the tracks here are pretty weighty and energetic. The previous album "Pale Communion" was both a critical and artistic success and certainly consolidated Opeth's new found prog energy. Mikael Åkerfeldt has taken the decision to follow his muse and push the envelope of his craft, to become even more musical than ever before and screw the naysayers! Good on ya!

This new Opeth album is the owner of perhaps the most gorgeous cover art in recent memory (Anubis-A Tower of Silence has finally met its match!), a proud turquoise peacock in full peachy regalia, a perfect depiction of the stunning music found inside. I don't believe much in sorcery or coincidences for that matter but one never knows for sure. The songs here almost all have references in their title to some direct or indirect prog music. "Persephone" is a classic Wishbone Ash tune, among others. "The Wilde Flowers" were a pre-Soft Machine Canterbury group featuring Kevin Ayers and members of Caravan. "Chrysalis" a major record label (Jethro Tull among others). "The Seventh Sojourn" is a Moodie Blues album title. "Strange Brew" is creamy Clapton song. "Era" is a synthesizer band. "Will O' the Wisp" is a Leon Russell album or Ignis Fatuus (its Latin name), the title of the debut White Willow album. "Sorceress" is a Return to Forever song. "A Fleeting Glance" was a song by Gowen/Miller/Sinclair/Tomkins on their "Before a Word is Said" album. I know, it's the wind or weather balloons . Okay, for my next trick?

"Persephone" sounds almost like a modern version of Concerto for Aranjuez, just as romantically inclined and cinematographic, images of crimson-burnt Andalusian sunsets, hushed voices and imaginary castanets. This bleeds right into the impetuous "Sorceress", a feverish tune with rampant keyboards and metallic guitar rasps shoved along by an impatient bass and chaotic drumming. Nothing too complex, just hard-edged heavy prog that thunders along, unobstructed and violent. Bassist Martin Mendez shuffles the low end with aplomb, the other Martin (drummer Axenrot) wallops assuredly, this is no cotton-candy prog! Keyboardist Joakim Svalberg screeches acrobatically and finally Fredrik Åkesson crushes his axe when needed and then caresses it seductively.

"The Wilde Flowers" starts out as a phosphorescent blow torch, 'a funeral pyre' of gravity and despair, tormented by contrasting emotions and textures, a sense of hopeless doom one minute and fluttering expectation next. Pooling e-piano adds to the sonic torture, leisurely introducing the volcanic and slightly demented finale which reeks of Red-era KC.

One can detect the overt respect for Ian Anderson on "Will O' the Wisp", mandolin-like sounds and a vocal that has that unmistakable nasal twang that made the gallery minstrel so respected, I mean how can you not like this , even if it's a tribute ? Thousands of Floyd, Yes and even KC inspired bands but not too many prog artists out there who could clone Jethro Tull. Well, Mikael does it and does it reverently well. The elongated and fluid guitar solo is not anywhere near Martin Barre, so no danger of impending lawsuits. Ironic then that the next track is titled "Chrysalis" and sounds really nothing like Aqualung, though it's a chugging affair that has some orbital synthesizer asteroids, a brittle guitar that 'seeks out the moonlight' and a turbo-charged rhythm section thrusting the thing along. Halfway through the scorching tendency evolves into a moodier enclave of glistening guitar, twinkling e-piano and wistful, melancholic singing.

"Sorceress 2" starts out as an acoustic guitar reverie, with airy vocal pleadings, miles (or kilometers, if you prefer) away from doom-metal, actually nearer to Roger Waters more than anything, a lovely pastoral ditty. A perfect set- up for the Middle-Eastern leanings of The Seventh Sojourn", with percussion straight out of the Casbah, a caravanserai of acoustic pleasures, sand-swept orchestrations with a myriad of thumping support, swooning and swerving as the palm trees sway in the wind, all that is missing is a few well-placed "Ay-wah"s to make this a Saharan delight. The hushed choir blows in like a sirocco of pleasure and contentment.

A severe sense of dislocation emanates from the opening bars of "Strange Brew", before a seductive guitar riff rings the bell of reality, only to open the door into a jungle of beastly rhythms, paranoid synth gurgles and cannonading guitar salvos. Axenrot pounds mightily and with purpose. Ooh, Mikael is pissed off as he suddenly screams his anger, overwrought guitar in tow, all wrapped in Hendrixian ennui, a very clever wink to the Purple Hazer while still keeping it an Opeth song. This is the longest track here and exudes both impatient contrasts and depressive propensities that keep the listener on edge. Grueling and sweaty, the rivulets of rage pool at your feet, unbeknownst to any deliverance. The final fragility is unbearable.

At the outset of "A Fleeting Glance", there is a Beatles-like harpsichord pattern that is straight out of the Magical Mystery Tour, a "meek shall inherit the earth" theme that goes berserk with stop-start machine gun riffs, acoustic medievalisms set to only confuse and ultimately enthuse. The lead guitar virtuosity is quite outward as the notes come avalanching out of the speakers, suddenly folding right into the next fantastic song "Era", an ornate and elegant piano leading the way, Svalberg getting to show off his classical chops, but then shoves a surging organ into leading a claustrophobic charge of furious guitars, a mellotron howling madly and a rabid rhythmic assault. Definitely more prog than prog-metal, this is still bruising and pant-inducing stuff, regardless of what the negative pundits may say. Ya want heavy? There are tons of leaden stuff out there (in fact way more choices than prog). A slight return to Persephone kills this peacock off, a fine goodbye indeed.

I enjoyed this album as much (if not more in the future) as "Damnation" and "Pale Communion", my other two Opeth albums, so I guess I am showing my true colours. In all fairness to appease some of the hardcore fans, , Opeth needs to be relabeled (a thing I hate personally) to Heavy Prog, instead of the current Tech/Metal tag. Just a thought.

4.5 witches

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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