This new album from Opeth might be the most anticipated album in progressive circles this year. Michael Åkerfeldt has never been shy to take his band to new and untested territory. From the early pretty basic death metal days, things began slowly to turn when “Still Life” and “Blackwater Park” saw them introducing many new dimensions to their sound.
The real transformation came when Steven Wilson put his big stamp on the sound and evolution of Opeth, when they recorded “Deliverance” and “Damnation” and the band moved more and more towards progressive metal. That led up to the culmination of their progressive (death) metal days with the two masterpieces: “Ghost Reveries” and “Watershed”.
Instead of building on the huge success they achieved with those albums, Michael Åkerfeldt felt the need for a change again and go back to explore his fascination and love for early 70’s progressive rock. The “Heritage” album split the fans into two factions; those loving and adoring the new found sound and those wishing for a return to the old and harder sound. Michael Åkerfeldt does things his own way and the next album took us even deeper into and further back to the early days of progressive rock with “Pale Communion” from 2014.
Which brings us up to 2016 and a new and adventurous Opeth album has been created. I am sure “Sorceress” will be another split-decision amongst their devoted fans, because this album introduces new and untested sounds again and it demands a lot of us, the fans.
While I’ve never been overly impressed with their first three albums, I have loved and adored each of the following eight albums for their adventurous, groundbreaking and explorative nature. And it’s with great sadness that I find myself disappointed and frustrated when I put on “Sorceress”.
First off I do not understand why a so talented and innovative band settles for a sound so unbalanced and muddy. Sure they went for the original analogue 1970’s sound, but it doesn’t have to sound like it was recorded in 1971 and using state of the art 1971 equipment to be authentic. The snare drum sounds like it was recorded inside a cardboard box, and the guitarsound is dark, distorted and messy, intentionally… maybe but not so pleasing to my ears.
Secondly – the songs; I do not feel them, they don’t move me like songs off earlier albums. A few songs have a more singer/songwriter feel to them than progressive rock. And then there is a song like “The Seventh Sojourn”, which is like a very long Arabic inspired acoustic interlude that never really takes off, to me it’s just a (too) long dull journey. A few songs are fillers; the intro and outro and “Sorceress 2”, too many are sadly only decent: “Will o the Wisp”, “Strange Brew” and “Era”, a couple of good ones: “Sorceress”, “The Wilde Flowers” and “Chrysalis” and I love “A Fleeting Glance”.
Maybe I’ve misunderstood it all… maybe it’s all meant to be like this, if so then I must admit it’s not for me. I understand the need for growth and Opeth has been and still is one of the premiere first movers in progressive music, and even though the new sound and direction is not for me, then I am sure many others will understand and love it.
Opeth has always been true to their own beliefs and this is another testament to that. “Sorceress” is not a bad album per se, and I will probably buy it anyway, but I am not a happy camper. It leaves me somewhat displeased and unsatisfied. On the disappointment scale this one is all the way up there with two of my biggest disappointments ever: Queensrÿche’s Hear in the Now Frontier and Metallica’s St. Anger. A more proper album title would in my humble opinion be “Strange Brew”.
Sad, but true…
- Persephone (1:52)
- Sorceress (5:49)
- The Wilde Flowers (6:49)
- Will o the Wisp (5:07)
- Chrysalis (7:16)
- Sorceress 2 (3:49)
- The Seventh Sojourn (5:29)
- Strange Brew (8:44)
- A Fleeting Glance (5:06)
- Era (5:41)
- Persephone (Slight Return) (0:54)
Playing Time: 56:42
Release date: September 30, 2016
Label: Nuclear Blast