OPETH have never stuck to the guidelines. Even when the Swedes were considered a death metal band, their take on the style was unique to their own and set the band apart from their peers. Whilst recent albums have moved away from their death metal origins, OPETH are still a relevant force in heavy music, offering a listening experience that is both mesmerising and complex. Album number twelve, Sorceress, is finally here and seeks to continue the band’s evolution but the question remains, does this new offering do enough to continue the band’s progression?
Following a brief but lovely atmospheric introduction in the form of Persephone, Sorceress roars into life through its title track. Here, the listener is exposed to the first sprinklings of OPETH‘s jazz influence as the track’s introduction is coated with funk and groove. OPETH never stick to one style and Sorceress is a shining example of that as the band unleash a truly menacing and crushing riff. A fine start indeed.
Sorceress is a record packed full of innovation and contrasting moods but never breaking the flow of the album. The Wilde Flowers is a psychedelic roller-coaster of heavy use of Joakim Svalberg’s keyboards and the soft vocal deliveries of Mikael Åkerfeldt. The track is immensely immersive and showcases the band’s dynamic technique through a thoroughly impressive guitar solo at the half-way point. If anything, The Wilde Flowers is a snap-shot of what Sorceress is all about; varied pace, impressive musicianship and that uncanny ability to ensnare the listener.
As impressive as Sorceress is in its musical technicality and progression, the real shining quality of this record lies in the solid song structure and with that, Will O The Whisp is one of the stand-out moments on the album. An acoustic guitar riff makes up the backbone to the track and as it progresses OPETH ease in their other musical elements. Joakim Svalberg‘s keyboards and Martín Méndez‘s bass are used subtly here and to fantastic effect, not detracting from the melody but adding that necessarily weight to the track whereas Mikael Åkerfeldt‘s soft clean vocal deliveries both serenade the listener and are utterly chilling. It’s mellow and relaxed and creates a fantastic atmosphere.
As the record enters its second half, here we see even more experimentation from OPETH. Chrysalis roars into life in an instant showcasing some slick guitar play from Fredrik Åkesson which dictates the rhythm of the track. Packing groove and slick drumming from Martin Axenrot, it demonstrates that OPETH haven’t forgotten that after all, they are a metal band. Whilst it is certainly more melodic than earlier records, the galloping riffs of Chrysalis or the whirlwind drumming on Strange Brew shows that OPETH haven’t forgotten their roots.
With this in mind, breaking new ground is important to showcase progression and evolution and Sorceress is packed aplenty. The Seventh Sojourn, clocking in at roughly five and a half minutes, is entirely instrumental and bolsters some intoxicating Middle-Eastern inspired guitar-play that truly is enjoyable on the ears; whereas A Fleeting Glance is soft and drawing through Åkerfeldt‘s signature vocal deliveries and solitary lead guitar-play. It’s a difficult task to incorporate so many variations of pace and mood yet OPETH have managed to blend together eleven tracks that are all so different but hold together remarkably well.
Sorceress is a record of absolute musical quality. This is a record that exquisitely demonstrates the talent OPETH have at their disposal. The inclusion of jazz-inspired segments across the record breaks new ground for the band but they firmly stamp the OPETH name throughout. This is an OPETH record through and through, a record not scared of experimentation, one that boldly stands firm against a stellar discography and one that will send the band to new and exciting pastures. Bold, daring and utterly brilliant, Sorceress is a fantastic record and one that truly captures the Swedes at their very best.
Sorceress is set for release on September 30th via Moderbolaget Records/Nuclear Blast Records. Digital pre-orders are available at iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. Additionally, the record is available in an array of formats & limited editions including a 2CD Digipak, double vinyl (in various colours at 180 gram) and a deluxe edition wooden box set from http://www.nuclearblaststore.co.uk/shop/nuclearblast/products.php?cat=4894 (coloured vinyl & box set) or the OPETH Store: (exclusive silver vinyl).
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