After their last semi-death metal release, Watershed, in 2008, I’ve all but lost any remaining interest in Opeth. Heritage felt like a weird experimental release for Opeth to find ground in their new musical style, while I did not really bother listening to Pale Communion at all, half expecting that release to be equally weird and explorational. Yet with my recent preferences for all things mellow (and that hookalicious track Will O the Wisp, I decided to give Sorceress a slight listen, and little did I know I would be hooked onto what would become one of my favourite releases of the year.
That weirdness and quirkiness that Opeth has come to embody over the years is not only present on Sorceress, but shown in its full glory here. Opening Persephone is a soothing, acoustic intro, which I wished would have lasted longer (and half-hoped would be a style that spanned the entire album), but quickly shifted to the album proper with the title track. Mikael Åkerfeldt has always been one vocalist who has impressed with both his menacing growls and his beautiful clean vocals, and on Sorceress (like on Heritage and Pale Communion) the entire album is in clean vocals. I especially like during moments where he pushes his vocals, like on the title track.
Music-wise, the band is stellar both on execution of the music and in the songwriting, easily shifting between time signatures and alternating between the more mellow and the more aggressive moments. The twin guitars of Åkerfeldt and Åkesson are often impressive, in the way their leads intertwine and complement each other.The thing about Opeth is that, whatever genre they may venture into, their style is unmistakable. Some moments like towards the end of The Wilde Flowers harken back to the heavier era of Opeth‘s discography, while songs like Will O the Wisp and The Seventh Sojourn brings some folkish moments to the table, showcasing the versatility of the band’s songwriting.
If Bloodbath‘s 2011 Bloodbath over Bloodstock was any indication of Mikael Åkerfeldt’s ability to do growls anymore, it is further exemplified on the deluxe edition of Sorceress, with a live recording of The Drapery Falls as a bonus track. Hearing tracks like these, it is certainly a strategic move for Opeth to move away from their death metal roots, and further explore their penchant for progressive rock.
My foray and upgrade of listening equipment could not be more timely, as it brings out the production quality of Sorceress, with every detail being clearly presented, especially so on softer moments on tracks like The Wilde Flowers, while the intimacy on songs like Sorceress 2 is both beautiful and haunting at the same time. Then again, one couldn’t expect any less from Opeth, with some of my favourite-sounding recordings being released by these Swedes.
I am not a big fan of progressive rock, and apart from hearing names such as King Crimson or Camel being thrown around, it is hard for me to draw any comparisons for Sorceress. The only thing I know is that Sorceress has opened my eyes and broadened my mind to the acceptance of a wider range of musical styles, and Opeth indeed sounds much more focused on the style that they want to achieve over here. It’s time for me to revisit Pale Communion and Heritage.