Opeth, the modern day, love 'em or hate 'em prog band. 12 now 12 albums under their belt, the band has become very comfortable with their transition into progressive rock, hard rock, and heavy metal; rather than the death metal that makes up most of their catalog. This third album since the watershed Opeth album....Watershed, Sorceress makes no mistake that this sound is here to stay. Even if they get heavier at points, the band is past their death metal part of their career and honestly, that's just fine by me. Let me explain why.
The album starts with the acoustic intro, Persephone. A very nice, majestic opening that sets the mood for the darkness (lyrically) to come. Following this short piece is the title track, Sorceress. It begins with a short drum fill, leading to a 60-70s prog rock style jam led with keys from Joakim Svalberg. After the psychedelic freak out, the song really kicks in with the heaviest riff on the album, proving that Mikael Akerfeldt and Co. don't need death metal to be heavy and evil. It focuses more on a doom metal, prog rock style that is quite welcomed. It is an absolutely solid track. The Wilde Flowers starts off with another drum fill intro leading right into the riff. This is more fast paced than the title track, but still at a comfortable rock tempo. While being a minute longer as well, it feels to the point and feels like a song that could have fit right in with Ghost Reveries or Watershed. The last half of the song showcases more of the acoustic, mellow side of the band, before exploding into the fast moment on the album in absolute chaos with double bass everywhere. Will O Of The Wisp is the first ballad of the album. It feels like a song that Mikael and Steven Wilson would have listened to while listening to the song Trains by Porcupine Tree. It's a great, laid back song that, musically, can put you into such a relaxed state. Chrysalis is easily the heaviest song on the entire album. Honestly, if Mikael felt the need to add growls to this album, this would have been the song to include them. And with that, it doesn't need them. It's just as heavy as anything off Blackwater Park or Ghost Reveries, just without the consistent double bass thrown everywhere. the latter half of the song gets more into the mellow side once again, while staying mid-tempo. This also leads to the song fading away into Sorceress 2. This is an acoustic continuation of the title track. A quite breathtaking breather after the last track. The Seventh Sojourn starts with acoustic guitar and middle eastern style tribal drumming which continues through 3/4ths of this instrumental. the final quarter has faint piano and background vocals. Strange Brew start with just vocals and piano. Living up to it's name, this is one of, if not, the most eerie song on the album. The song finally kicks in about a quarter of the way through and it explodes! With Martin Axenrot's extremely talent drumming over Joakim's eerie keys. Half way into the song it breaks into a killer 70s style hard rock solo section that continues on as Mikael gets back to singing. This all leads to more eerie and chilling solo keyboard moments before kicking into the most grandiose riff of the album. Picture the ending of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb done during the Blackwater Park era of Opeth and BOOM! A Fleeting Glance is up next. It starts with more acoustic guitar and Mikael's haunting vocals that (pun intended) sound fleeting. This song is very reminiscent of the Damnation era of Opeth with just more 70's keyboards in the forefront and some heavier moments thrown in for good measure. The solo 3/4ths of the way through is so melodically perfect. One of the finest solos in the band's career. The song ends with long organ chords before kicking into the last song with vocals, Era. Starting with very quiet piano, the song slowly, but surely builds up into one of the fastest riffs on the album. Picture if Deep Purple wrote the song, Deliverance instead of Opeth. The pace continues all the way through the song. The ending to Era is possibly the highest point of the album. This immediately splits right into Persephone (Slight Return) which is the piano coda of the first track to help close out the album.
Sorceress is breathing new life into prog in 2016. Opeth make it completely their own, adding the finest touches of the past and showing what else can be brought to the table. Lyrically, this is as dark and evil as any of their albums have been in the past; even spookier than some albums of the past. While people should realize by this point that the screams and growls are not on this album (and for the foreseeable future, never coming back. That is such a good thing. I wouldn't want Mikael Akerfeldt to rehash the past if he is not inspired by it. I would much rather have an inspired throw back to evil prog rock than a Blackwater Park II that doesn't live up to it's predecessor. Sorceress proves that Opeth really does showcase the fact that they have not lost their touch to write faster, heavy, music, yet can keep things just as evil with their mellow, prog, and hard rock havens they are in today.
Opeth- Sorceress is available September 30th through Moderbloget Records/Nuclear Blast
Seventh Wonder has been leading the charge in Progressive Metal since 2000. 16 years later, with 4 albums under their belt (and the upcoming 5th album in 2017), the band has finally been able to have a live CD/DVD to call their own: Welcome To Atlanta Live 2014. Welcome to Atlanta features their 2014 appearance at ProgPower USA where the seminal Seventh Wonder album, Mercy Falls, was played in it's entirety, with a special Best Of set that follow. Recently, I had the opportunity to be able to talk to drummer Stefan Norgen, to talk about this live release and the upcoming endeavors of Seventh Wonder. Enjoy!
That Drummer Guy- Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview!
Stefan Norgren- My pleasure. Thanks for your interest in the band!
TDG- The very first live release from Seventh Wonder, Welcome To Atlanta Live 2014, is coming out September 23rd through Frontiers. How does it feel being able to capture this memorable show live for everyone to see?
SN- We are extremely happy to be able to do this! It was a night to remember indeed and we are thrilled that it was caught on tape. We are not a heavily touring band, I mean we wanna play live as much as is logistically possible, but it´s a huge challenge to make all the pieces of the “live show puzzle” fit together when doing international gigs/tours. We know there are a lot of people that are dying to see us live but haven´t had the chance yet, so it definitely feels good to be able to offer something like this, and we are very, very proud of it.
TDG- Having played ProgPower twice now, how do you feel about ProgPower USA? How does it compare to other shows and festivals that you have played?
SN- For me, this was the first time. I joined the band shortly after the first appearance at PPUSA. It´s a unique festival, Glenn and his crew has a fantastic family vibe and the support they provide is incredible. They work tirelessly to help out even way before the bands arrive at the venue and go out of their way to make sure everything runs smoothly. I actually still keep in touch with a couple of the crew members from time to time. And the fans are die hard, man! It´s truly amazing!
TDG- Where did the idea come from to play the landmark album, Mercy Falls, in its entirety at ProgPower?
SN- It´s been a vision of Andreas´, our bass player and creative mastermind, for several years. He´d had the idea for a long time and was looking for an ideal “platform” for pulling the whole thing off. Mercy Falls is a story that begs to be told from the first to the last chapter all the way through and it sort of HAD to happen at some point in time. When he discussed it with Glenn an Progpower the planets kind of aligned and we all said, DAMN let´s do this.
TDG- Now that Mercy Falls as hit it’s 8th anniversary (just a few days before this interview), how do you feel about the album today?
SN- I have an outsider´s perspective since I didn´t play on it or help write it and I can honestly say that I am blown away by it every single time I listen to it. The musicianship is out of this world (and yes, learning it was by far the biggest challenge to date in my drumming career, hehe…) and the way it seamlessly explores everything from beautiful and frail to crushing and powerful, from joy to sadness, from bright to pitch black is truly phenomenal. A masterpiece!
TDG- Along with Mercy Falls, you played an additional “Best Of” set. Was that hard to put that set together or did it feel natural putting those songs in the set?
SN- It was quite tricky actually. We knew that we´d do several of our “obvious” live set songs on the first night and wanted to avoid repeating them day two. But given the live recording, we also needed day two as a “plan B” in case of screw ups, so right up until we got up on stage for the first show, we didn´t know exactly what the setlist was gonna be like on the second day. Well, it turns out we did a pretty damn good job with the Mercy Falls set so we didn´t have to have a second go at any of the songs. So we had prepared some songs that would be special for the fans that came for the additional set such as “Walking Tall”, “King of Whitewater” and the acoustic medley. So, natural? No. Lots of fun? Hell yeah!
TDG- And not only is there a Best Of Set included in this collection, the CD version includes two new studio tracks (Inner Enemy & The Promise). Would you say this is a fair representation of what to look forward to on the next Seventh Wonder album?
SN- Yes and no. When we put out the “Inner enemy” video two years ago, we intentionally set out to write something more to the point, shorter and more straight forward than what the band usually does. Ironically, it turns out that that was more difficult to do than our usual, complicated stuff, haha.. With “The Promise” however, fans of ours will recognize the signature SW prog epic features like intricate riffs and a more complex structure. Oh, and 10 minutes of it too!
TDG- In speaking of that, how is the new album coming along so far?
SN- Splendidly, thank you very much! I did all the drum parts over 11 days in July, then Kyrrt started laying down the keys and now Johan and Andreas are well underway with their stuff and Tommy is starting his vocals right now. I´ve seen and heard most of the pieces and I get goosebumps thinking of how it´s all gonna come together. It will be a killer album, count on it!
TDG- Besides the release of the next album, are there any additional plans for the band in 2017?
SN- We haven´t gotten that far ahead yet but obviously we want to play live when and wherever possible!
TDG- What’s on your current music playlist?
SN- Whoa, cool question! Right now I´m digging the latest Evergrey album which is really awesome. I´m also listening a lot to the first single off the upcoming Testament record “Brotherhood of the snake” and I cannot wait for it to come out! Over the last couple of months I´ve been really into the old Eagles albums from the 70´s too, my favourite being “One of these nights”. I saw Don Henley live recently and the melodies and harmonies on those classic records are some of the best in the history of music in my opinion.
TDG- Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. As a fan since Mercy Falls, it’s been honor to be able to talk to you and promote the brand new live release, Welcome To Atlanta Live 2014. Before we are done, is there anything else you would like to mention that I haven’t mentioned yet?
SN- Thank YOU! Your support is much appreciated! These last couple of years, since I joined basically, have been a bumpy road in the Seventh Wonder camp. With a new member, lots of new kids being born in our families, Tommy joining Kamelot, Andreas living in the states for a year, lengthy label negotiations and so on, it´s been challenging to work on new stuff and play as much live as possible (including the massive ProgPower project) while managing our personal schedules and family lives. So we are beyond grateful that all our fans are as loyal as they are and that there is such amazing support and interest in the band today! So now it´s about damn time that we give something back and over the next couple of months we will show you that your patience has been well worth it!
SEVENTH WONDER- WELCOME TO ATLANTA LIVE 2014 COMES OUT SEPTEMBER 23RD THROUGH FRONTIERS MUSIC s.r.l.
At 40 years old, Wednesday 13 has had a magnificent career so far. Possibly best known for his work with Murderdolls, he has an established a completely solid solo career. 2017 will be bringing in the release of his 7th solo album, Condolences. Wednesday 13 recently took the time to answer a few questions I've had for him. Check out the Q&A below!
That Drummer Guy: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview.
W13: You're welcome.
TDG: You are currently in the studio working on your next album, Condolences, slated for an April 2017 release. How has the album process been so far?
W13: It's been great, and def the longest I have spent writing and recording an album. We started in June and just finished today (September 1st). This album has far exceeded my expectations.
TDG: How would you compare this album to your previous work?
W13: Every record has been different, This one has it's own sound and vibe, and has a little bit of everything I’ve tried. In my opinion, this may be the ultimate Wednesday 13 album.
TDG: At this point in the game, do you feel any pressure to out due your previous work? Or do you just focus on making the songs that you want to make?
W13: Yes, I was worried that following up the last one would be a challenge, but after a few days of writing and I after I heard the first few songs I knew we had a stronger record.
TDG: With working with such a legendary producer such as Zeuss, I expect from the production standpoint that it would sound top notch!
W13: Yes, working with Zeuss has been great, I didn’t think we could top the last recording we did together but we did. He really helped us shape the songs and he pushed us to our limits.
TDG: How did you manage to land Deen Castronovo to play drums on Condolences? That is a great achievement to have him attached to this new album.
W13: It was really easy as Deen is our drummer, Kyle's, father. He is a big fan of the band as we are big fans of his drumming. Deen is one of the greatest rock drummers of all time, and has track record to prove it. It was a complete honor to have him on a track, and HE KILLS IT!!!!
TDG: You will be going on tour this late summer/fall for a pretty extensive US run. While unfortunately not hitting Minnesota on this run, I imagine it's going to be a fantastic show. How does it feel being able to do such great headlining runs of the states?
W13: Being able to go on tour and travel around the world and meet our fans is the greatest job in the world. I'm so excited for this tour to start, as I’ve been holed up in a studio for 3 months, and playing live is gonna be the best release. We have a great set and show this time around. It's gonna be a blast.
TDG: To those that have yet to see you live, what would you tell people to expect at a Wednesday 13 show?
W13: It's a fun show, and we really try to go beyond and above every night with the songs, image and show. It's a rock show done in the spirit of Alice Cooper and Kiss. This new tour is going to be even weirder and bigger than last time.
TDG: With being able to play a vast array of instruments, what is is currently the most fun instrument for you to play and/or write on?
W13: Always guitar but, I did not even play guitar at all on the new album. I helped with writing, but I’ve mainly stuck to what i do best, and I've just tried to concentrate and improve my voice. I feel it’s the strongest it's ever been and it's made me a lot more confident over the years.
TDG: Besides the release of Condolences, is there any other plans yet in 2017?
W13: The plan is to TOUR non stop and push this band to the next level. Next year will be a brand new version of W13, super charged and revamped !!!
TDG: Is there anything lined up for your other project, Bourbon Crow?
W13: We have a couple things lined up for the first of the year if all goes well.
TDG: When you are not busy on the road or recording, how do you like to unwind?
W13: I read a lot of forbidden history books and conspiracy books, along with documentaries on the same subjects. I also like to collect toys, it relaxes me and restores my youth, haha.
TDG: What's on your playlist right now?
W13: The new Gojira, and Killing Joke album have been on heavy rotation for me as of late. 2 great bands, and may I add very smart bands!!!
TDG: Once again, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I've only had the chance to see you once so far at your show in Minneapolis with Holy Grail, which was such a fantastic show. I know I'll be enjoying you live again sometime soon. Before we are done, is there anything else you would like to mention that I haven't brought up yet?
W13: Thanks for your time, and thanks to the fans for their undying support. We couldn’t do it without you, and I promise you that we have made a really amazing album that your gonna love!!
Be on the lookout for Wednesday 13's brand new album, Condolences, in April 2017!
That Drummer Guy: Radio DJ, Interviewer, Reviewer, overall...an OK guy.