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
Opeth makes a triumphant return with their 11th album, Pale Communion. Many people consider their 9th album Watershed to be...well...a watershed moment. It marked a transitioning point for the band where the Death Metal aesthetic of the band was slipping away for a more Progressive Rock feel and Mikael Akerfeldt's Death Metal growls had disappeared since their last album Heritage. Many people gave up on the band at that point feeling that the band had jumped the shark musically. So with that being a strong case for a lot of former Opeth fans, they are skeptical of what the band would be putting out next.
The band has made it their niche to make evil sounding music whether it is from their beginning of Orchid, to their mid career point (at least so far) Blackwater Park, to arguably their most crowd pleasing and highly regarded album, Ghost Reveries.
Pale Communion is no different. Lyrically, Opeth is just as dark and evil as ever. Vocally, the Death Metal growls are still gone. Maybe one day they will return, but much like albums like Damnation and Heritage, there is no need for them here. The album starts off (Eternal Rains Will Come, Cusp Of Eternity, Moon Above, Sun Below) much in a way that parts of Ghost Reveries, Watershed and Heritage go, where it is sinister in a heavier Progressive Rock feel without the need to go into Death Metal territory. It still has some Heritage vibe to it, but unlike Heritage, it more rocking and upbeat. Elysian Woes sounds like a track that was taken straight from the Damnation days, a great somber ballad placed in a great spot on the album. Goblin has been said by Akerfeldt, to be heavily inspired by the band Goblin, and indeed it is. The song is all instrumental, just like Goblin, and showcases the evil that 70s Progressive Rock can be. River starts off with an acoustic into and beautiful vocal harmonies. The song eventually picks up a bit, but not in a Hard Rock but very much like a mid-era Porcupine Tree (Signify-Lightbulb Sun) song would be. Although Porcupine Tree frontman, Steven Wilson mixed the album, he did not help write any of the songs, but Akerfeldt was indeed inspired by Wilson. The second half of River goes back into the evil 70s Progressive Rock and gets into one of the darkest and heaviest riffs of the album. Voice Of Treason starts off with very ominous keyboards followed by a very Ghost Reveries inspired song riff. the song is one of the most upbeat on the album and one of the few instances of double bass on the album (although only used in one riff about 3/4ths through the song). the song ends how it begins with ominous keyboards with segue ways into the final track, Faith In Others. This is another track that really focuses on the somber side of the band with it's slower-mid tempo stylings. It starts off much like their song, Burden, and mid way through goes into a keyboard (piano)/vocal break with leads into the classic Opeth signature tone for ballads. 3/4ths into the song it has a grandiose orchestral moment what is one of the best moments in any Opeth song, finally closing into a slow and somber end to the album with keyboards and strings and Akerfeldt's final words for the album.
Clocking in at 55;38, Opeth's 11th opus is nothing short of what many will consider to be a miraculous comeback album. If you are one of those who only like Opeth for the Balls and Chunk Heavy side of Opeth, again, you will be disappointed. If you dig Opeth's 70's Prog side that they experimented with on Watershed and on the most with Heritage, this will be to your fancy. But more so than anything, if you enjoy the dark, somber stylings of Damnation, the clean sections of Ghost Reveries, and of course Watershed and Heritage, this album is for you. To put it best, this is the album that should have came out after Watershed.
Opeth- Pale Communion (Roadrunner Records) Release Date: August 26th, 2014
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)