“Sorceress” is yet another highly anticipated Opeth album. It is not some flashback to the days of when they were doing progressive death metal. The album is very much a part of their current period or phase. Personally, I love when bands have different phases in their musical career. Think of King Crimson, for example, or even Porcupine Tree. Bands that change their sound are truly progressive and Opeth, regardless of them sounding “retro,” are quite progressive when it comes to direction.
“Sorceress” fits nicely within the current period along side “Heritage” and “Pale Communion.” In fact, it sounds like a mix of those two albums. The issue I have is that rather than blending the sounds of those two records, there are sections of each within most of the tracks on this album. Those nearly in audible moments on “Heritage” have returned on “Sorceress.”
The album is bookended with two quieter instrumentals, “Persephone” and “Persephone (Slight Return).” The former makes for a decent opener and reminds me of how the song “Heritage” kicked off that album, quiet and even a touch awkward. The latter is a really, really quiet keyboard track that is under a minute and to be honest, forgettable.
Everyone has heard the title track and many have remarked at how heavy it is. But is it? I think it’s heavy for this PHASE but certainly not in context with their whole career. It’s a really good song though but while catchy like all of “Pale Communion,” it’s just not as good overall as any of the tracks on that album. “The Wilde Flowers” (did it get named for the band Soft Machine was before they changed the name?) is a bouncy track with an excellent hook. The problem with it is the mid-section that goes another very quiet (read: Heritage-like) direction. I don’t mind it, but it goes too long before the song rebounds.
Everyone has heard “Will O the Wisp” which is my favorite acoustic track on the album. After listening to the album as a whole, I have a better appreciation for the song. Yes it sounds a LITTLE like Tull but I don’t find it as Tull-like as many people have commented. Mikael’s delivery is a bit like Ian Anderson at times but other than that, it sounds like Opeth to me.
“Crysalis” was the track that immediately caught my attention because it is (for the most part) an ass kicker. It’s very Deep Purple meets Yes especially the solo section which has wicked guitar solos and Joakim Svalberg channeling Jon Lord on organ trading off. Should I mention that it mellows out too? People have mention that the album sounds like stoner rock. I really don’t hear that. Songs like the title track and this one have more in common with psych rock and heavy rock from the 70s.
Things get a bit tedious for me at this point. “Sorceress 2” is a quiet acoustic number with Mikael singing mostly in falsetto. The song has really nothing to do with the title track and while it’s a NICE song, it never holds my attention. “The Seventh Sojourn” is a middle eastern jam that feels completely out of place in the middle of the album. It never really goes anywhere and ends with a (you guessed it) unrelated quiet part. The track would really work better as the last song on the album replacing the existing snoozer “Persephone (Slight Return).”
“Strange Brew” is definitely strange. It has very distinct sections. The first 2 minutes are…QUIET AS HELL. BUT the last 2 minutes are some of the best music on the album. The middle includes some bluesy guitar soloing that is really killer as well. So I like the song but I think it could be better.
“A Fleeting Glance” begins with a very medieval harpsichord/acoustic guitar part that’s really cool. The meat of the song reminds me of Marillion at their most prog because it SOARS plus it’s one of two that I could hear being on “Pale Communion” The other being the song right after it, “Era.” Stop me if you’ve read this already but “Era” has a super quiet minute long intro that really isn’t needed but the bulk of the song really rocks and once Opeth get to the chorus, it’s definitely a favorite of mine on the album.
Many people will enjoy “Sorceress” but I think many will also hate it. I called “Pale Communion” the bridge BACK from “Heritage.” “Sorceress” might be the bridge back TO it. While I like and understand “Heritage” a lot more now than when I first heard it, it still was not the album that “Pale Communion” was. The same is true for “Sorceress.” Coming off of “Pale Communion,” this album is a bit of a let down BUT had this album come out BEFORE “Pale Communion” it might have made more sense to me. Still, it’s Opeth doing things however the fuck they want and I love that. While this is not ALWAYS an album to crank up in the car with the windows down, it is a very good headphone album and another intriguing chapter in the always fascinating book of Opeth.
3. The Wilde Flowers
4. Will O The Wisp
6. Sorceress 2
7. The Seventh Sojourn
8. Strange Brew
9. A Fleeting Glance
11. Persephone (Slight Return)
Label: Moderbolaget Records/Nuclear Blast