REVIEW: Opeth – Sorceress (2016)

opeth sorceress artwork

Opeth’s 12th record is one that took its time to grow on me. Despite my love of the lead single and the other two singles, not to mention my overall love of the band and everything they’ve done, hearing the album in full is always a trial and error period for me – will I like it or will I hate it? Though this pretty much goes for any album I’ll listen to so I feel as if it is a moot point. With this now being the third instalment of the ‘Opeth prog rock’ era, I feel that the band have fully embraced that side of themselves now. Heritage was an experiment with their sound, whilst I felt that Pale Communion was a natural-sounding Opeth album. So far this album feels like a merging of the two previous albums into one. With “Persephone” starting off the album, it’s a slow and gentle start. The female spoken word (done by Pascale Marie Vickery) is quite lovely really and happens near the end of the intro. It feels similar to Watershed’s opening track “Coil” – which also featured a female voice – and Marie returns on the closing track “Persephone (Slight Return)”. There were times during my initial listening that, at certain points, the music jarred with me – towards the ending of the title-track with the guitar/keyboard interplay and some other moments (especially during “Strange Brew”) where I felt that Mikael’s writing tended to head towards some noodly guitar display instead of keeping the music flowing. This is not really a criticism of the album but it’s just my annoyance and how I want more music. I’ve really taken my time with this album. Even the interlude “The Seventh Sojourn” sounds like “Atonement” from Ghost Reveries which is really a good thing — it has that familiarity of the ‘classic’ Opeth sound. The aforementioned “Strange Brew” above is one of my favourite tracks from the album, especially when you have that Jimi Hendrix influenced section with that awesome groove of Axe behind it. This whole album, much as Heritage was showing respect to Sweden’s Jazz roots, is an homage to Mikael’s obscure prog rock influences; even the Harpsichord at the start of the ninth track “A Fleeting Glance” doesn’t feel out-of-place as it the music comes in pretty soon after it’s introduced. “Era”, the tenth track, is a track that is actually growing on me and it feels like the catchiest song that Mikael/Opeth have written. With SorceressOpeth have once again managed to make an album that I can love and appreciate. I wonder, in the back of my mind, will they ever make an album that I don’t like? I love albums which flow and have (some sort of) theme, as does this album. It’s a finely written album with enough balance between heavy songs and enough prog rock to keep me satisfied.

RATING: 4 / 5

Sorceress is out now via Moderbolaget Records/Nuclear Blast Records, and can be ordered from pretty much anywhere!

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