By: Daniela Patrizi
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Released on September 30, 2016 via Moderbolaget Records / Nuclear Blast Entertainment
Opeth, the blistering Swedish quintet, are back with their twelfth studio album Sorceress. Since their inception in 1990 Opeth have continuously evolved and their love of experimentation is clear as they never make the same album twice. They recently abandoned their death metal sound to approach a more progressive rock sound, a move that polarised fans between those that are very nostalgic for the deep metal sounds of albums like Deliverance and Damnation or Orchid and wish they went back to that style and those that really appreciate the prog rock displayed on Heritage and Pale Communion.
With Sorceress the band take another step forward and, as the band’s guitarist Fredrik Åkesson said, “Sorceress is more intense, darker and heavier than the previous two albums”. Sorceress contains the heavy elements the band is so damn good at delivering and the progressive rock elements reminiscent of Pale Communion and Heritage. The band have blended these existing elements together in an original and invigorating way. The outcome is an album that is heavy but also beautiful and relaxing, progressive but also familiar.
Opening and closing with ‘Persephone’ and ‘Persephone (Slight Return)’ the 11 track album is a kind of circle. They start with an extremely beautiful and melancholic acoustic intro that soon dissolves into the urgent and complex keyboard that opens the title track. ‘Sorceress’ starts in the most proggy way, but it soon becomes dark and metal in a progressive manner with Åkerfeldt’s vocals at their best and conveying one of the heaviest moments of the album. ‘Sorceress’ can be considered the song that best represents the new album and the blend of sounds Opeth display in it.
‘The Wild Flowers’ is where the Swedish band fully embrace prog rock with intricate interplays between acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums and keyboards that grab you instantly with their dynamics, slowing down in the middle – and you’ll love the calmness of the music – before jolting back to assault you again.
‘Chrysalis’ is another one of the album highlights: it’s bracing and heavy and one of the album’s most guitar-dominated sections. Clocking in at 7 minutes ‘Chrysalis’ is a long track, but a cohesive work and its final, melodic part is the one that conquered me the most.
After about 30 minutes Opeth have served you everything about the album: heaviness, wonderfully soft moments, progressive rock passages magisterially executed and what comes after often sounds like repetition. Here I must confess that, while I admire and appreciate their efforts to continue exploring their sound, I often long for a slight return to the heavier dynamics of their earlier work, and believe that this would make for a much more complete and satisfying record. A heavier album would have been very welcomed because it’s when they become heavy that they hit you the most. Don’t let this put you off however as this is an amazing, virtuosic record and a vast improvement over the previous two releases.