It might seem like a paradox, but it’s just as likely for a band to evolve their sound over time as it is for them to stick to their guns. Both have their merits – AC/DC are the surefire answer when you think of a group who have never strayed far from the path over their forty-plus years together, but in the case of bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Bring Me the Horizon, an ever-changing sound can reap real benefits. Certainly, Opeth fall into this category as well. Lone gone are the days of death metal growls and earth-shattering riffs, with driving force Mikael Åkerfeldt preferring a more laid-back approach over the last few albums. And yet, Heritage and Pale Communion have had the Opeth style stamped all over them, quintessentially progressive and groundbreaking. At the end of this month, the next chapter will be aired to the world; Sorceress is Opeth’s twelfth studio effort and the first one released on the band’s own Moderbolaget label, along with Nuclear Blast.
As with all of Opeth’s work, Sorceress feels like a journey. The soft, acoustic opening of ‘Persephone’ leads quite beautifully into the rumble and sprawl of the title track, and onto the groove and grace of ‘The Wilde Flowers’. Don’t expect an easy ride though – Sorceress dips and dives through all kinds of movements and genres, yet what remains more compelling than all is that it works. So many bands try to fit too many ideas onto one record and come a cropper, but Opeth have nailed it so well that said nail is now six feet into the ground. ‘Will O the Wisp’ for example is a wholly laid back affair, Åkerfeldt’s vocals carrying as easily as clouds on a breeze and then everything gets heavy again with ‘Chrysalis.’ It doesn’t fit and yet it does at the same time. Completely contradictory I know, but then Opeth like giving their listeners a challenge. Make no mistake, this is an album that will need a few listens to properly digest, but it gets better and better with every single play. Special mention as well to Will Malone (who has worked with Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Depeche Mode in the past), as his string arrangements that span across the record are second to none and a joy to experience. If you’re not swaying at the sound of ‘The Seventh Sojourn’ or being pulled in every direction by the time shifts and fuzz of ‘The Special Brew’ once you’ve given this four or five spins, then something is seriously not right with you. This is one of the albums of 2016, and rightfully so. Opeth have outdone themselves yet again.
Mikael Åkerfeldt – guitars, vocals
Martín Méndez – bass
Martin “Axe” Axenrot – drums
Fredrik Åkesson – guitars, backing vocals
Joakim Svalberg – keyboards
The Wilde Flowers
Will O The Wisp
The Seventh Sojourn
A Fleeting Glance
Persephone (Slight Return)