Opeth Weave a Haunting Spell with SORCERESS
Opeth’s 12th studio album (and first on the band’s Moderbolget Records label for Nuclear Blast Entertainment), titled Sorceress, is the band’s most diverse sounding and progressive rock leaning album yet. Over the years, Opeth mastermind Mikael Akerfeldt has slowly moved the band away from their death metal beginnings and towards a progressive rock sound. This is especially true as far as Opeth’s vocals have been concerned. The growling vocals of the past are pretty much long gone, and the strength of Akerfeldt’s compositions are stronger but no less as haunting for it. Sorceress moves Opeth even further down the progressive rock road as Akerfeldt’s interest in jazz is an obvious influence on the album’s sound. This opens up new musical avenues for Akerfeldt to explore with his bandmates, but doesn’t detract from the album’s rock sensibilities, nor from Opeth’s signature heaviness. Overall, Sorceress is an album of interesting contrasts that come together to cast a haunting spell over its listeners.
The album’s title track, “Sorceress,” is a prime example of where Akerfeldt’s jazz influences meld with the type of heavy sounding guitar that Opeth is renown for. The jazz lines that open the song bow out eventually to heavy guitar riffs that delightfully pummel the eardrums. The quiet interludes in the middle of the song that immediately precede the echoing overdubs and a second helping of heavy riffing all create the type of symphonic quiet/loud dynamic that Opeth oft revels in. “The Wilde Flowers” continues this atmospheric trend with more stomping jazz-like movements and echoing guitar lines. Mix them with sharply strung harp strings that float effervescently, only to be grounded by some acoustic guitar strums that set the stage for the song’s crescendo and resolution, and you’ve got one mind trip of a song. “Chrysalis” further grounds the album with more of the same type of heavy guitar we experienced on “Sorceress,” but here the music is buoyed by some very proggy, 1970s sounding organ. Lighter track “The Seventh Sojourn” introduces a Middle Eastern flair with its bongos and eastern sounding rhythms and strings. “Strange Brew” is the album’s most haunting track. It’s a deceptively slow burn for the first two minutes of the song. The vocals then couple with haunting piano notes that slowly build to a fiery musical assault, adding ambient electric guitar wails and straightforward playing along the way, making “Strange Brew” one of the album’s most intricate tracks. The whole affair is bookended by “Persephone” and “Persephone (Slight Return),” which are two complementary, almost medieval sounding acoustic guitar tracks, which excellently encapsulate the album in the usual arcane Opeth atmosphere.
With a new label, new album, and new direction, we have a new Opeth. Even though they are a long way from Still Life or Ghost Reveries, Akerfeldt and Opeth continue to impress. Call it progressive death metal or progressive rock, it doesn’t matter. Opeth have defied conventions over the years and continue to do so. It’s part of what makes them sound fresh, yet instantly recognizable, with every progressing album. With Sorceress, the myth and enchantment that is Opeth continues to strengthen.