Album Rating: 6/10
03. The Wilde Flowers
04. Will O The Wisp
06. Sorceress 2
07. The Seventh Sojourn
08. Strange Brew
09. A Fleeting Glance
11. Persephone (Slight Return)
Opeth is back with another studio album, Sorceress, their latest in a stretch run of albums in their discography that has them honing in on their transition to a more progressive rock sound. As with any type of change, fans will take sides and point out this shift as either good or bad, depending on who you talk to; and at this point, fans have either abandoned the prog-rock sound the band has come to embrace or stuck with them as they’ve experimented and fleshed out the direction they’ve long headed towards. As of now, they’re not on the road to prog-rock pastures anymore. In fact they’ve made it there, for all intents and purposes, and have made themselves comfortable. They’re not changing anytime soon. Mikael Åkerfeldt and Co. could not give two fucks about fans clamoring for a return to their old prog-metal sound, or just straight up metal for that matter. If Heritage and Pale Communion was the band marching their way to prog-rock bliss, then Sorceress is them finally reaching their destination to full-on prog musicianship. With all that said, the music still has to measure up and, unfortunately, the band falls short with this release. It’s bogged down by the same problem I’d had with their previous albums, a slew of songs that don’t do much to push the sound forward. It’s prog for the sake of prog and most of it lies within the middle of the album.
If you’ve made it this far with hopes that maybe there is some inkling of the old Opeth, then I’m sorry to burst your bubble. There is no growling or metal vocals on this album. Believe me, I held out hope while listening to the album for any kind of a return to the old Opeth. The closest to that sound it gets are the couple of songs that bookend the album at the beginning and end, though even saying that is a stretch. Leaving all those (easy to make) comparisons to the side, did Opeth make a good record?
The intro, “Persephone,” nicely segues into the best song on the album, the title-track “Sorceress.” I really enjoyed this song the most. It’s a good mixture of a slightly heavy tone along with the proginess that Opeth have concocted thrown in there. It all comes together pretty nicely. Unfortunately, that’s where the album starts to decline in quality. “The Wilde Flowers” is decent enough with the only highlight being the guitar solo in the middle of the song. After that, the next few songs just don’t impress. It’s hard not to take into account everything Opeth have done prior and hold that up as the standard, but it doesn’t come close, even when you count just the past two albums. I’ve tried hard to objectively listen to the present Opeth but doing so only brings me to the conclusion that there are better prog-rock bands I can listen to if that’s how I am judging it (and that includes past and modern bands). “Strange Brew” and “Era” are the only other songs that warrant repeat listens. Excellent guitar work by both Åkerfeldt and Fredrik Åkesson throughout the album kept me from pressing pause many times. Åkerfeldt is still killing it with his singing, but it’s hard not to miss the old vocals.
While Sorceress has a couple of gems in it, old fans will only come out of the listen as another chance to reminisce on the old Opeth. New listeners will probably just listen to bands that pull off this sound better. The album has its moments, but it’s hard not to come out of a listen without thinking it’s just a generic prog record. I have a friend who’s never listened to Opeth and had only heard the title track thinking it was a sign of things to come in the album when it came out. He’ll be disappointed. Åkerfeldt’s voice and the guitar work are great but those are lone elements of their sound that will never fade. The band’s sound as a whole will probably put you to sleep.
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