Review: Opeth – Sorceress
Written by Brett Kihlmire
Opening the album is an acoustic piece called ‘Persephone.’ A short, sweet, and just plain gorgeous track, this instrumental sets the stage for what is to come in a big way.
Take everything you were expecting of this album and throw it out the window. ‘Sorceress’ begins with a bass-heavy, psychedelic riffing that’s reminiscent of the 60’s and 70’s acid rock culture. About a minute in the heavy riffing we’re expecting kicks in, but the 70’s flare doesn’t end. Singer Mikael Åkerfeldt defies all expectations with a clean vocal approach that blends exceptionally well with the progressive sound Opeth is known to deliver. To say this song is trippy is an understatement. It’s a trip into a new realm of Opeth that will bring a smile to your face.
A bit more in line what you’d expect from Opeth ‘The Wilde Flowers’ carries on with the clean vocals and psychedelic synths, but exhibits more of that progressive metal style in terms of the guitars and rhythms, particularly the riffing and a shreddy solo. Highly experimental, the track slows down about four minutes in and takes on a rather ominous vibe for about two minutes before the drums explode into a powerful rhythm. All in all, this is an intoxicating song, especially the chorus, and is easily one of the standouts.
‘Will O The Wisp’ is another acoustic track and easily one of the best on the album. Åkerfeldt’s heartfelt vocals and deep lyrics blend exceptionally well with the duel acoustic guitars, light strum of the bass, and atmospheric synths. While there is so much that catches my attention in this beautifully crafted and complex tune, I have to say the layered vocals and unconventional (for metal) style of the song wins the day.
‘Chrysalis’ returns to the heavy progressive metal we know and love. The death growls are still yet to make an appearance, but Åkerfeldt’s passionate vocal style more than makes up for it. And if you’re not digging the acoustic style then this track will scratch the itch. Pairing dazzling synths, classy bass-driven breakdowns, technical riffs, and strong rhythms this track will have you nodding your head and getting lost in Opeth’s wild side, especially when those wild guitar and keyboard solos take command. Of course, don’t expect the song to stay fast and heavy throughout. At about five minutes the tempo slows and we’re shown the way to the end by slick lead guitars, atmospheric synths and vocals, and a steady rhythm.
Another acoustic track, ‘Sorceress 2’ is driven by the catchy strums of the guitar and the haunting atmosphere of the synths. Åkerfeldt takes a more distant approach to his vocals this time around giving a more sullen vibe. All in all, the majesty of the acoustic guitar, the harmony of the vocals, and the atmosphere created by the synths create an alluring track.
Like the track before it, ‘The Seventh Sojourn’ is another acoustic song, but with a tribal-like twist. Swapping out the traditional drum kit for a set played by hand, this song is driven by epic sounds of the synths, drums, and the acoustic guitar while bass lurks in the back. This song is notable for its largely different sound, especially its guitar solo, but also the fact that the vocals are almost completely absent – only in the last minute do we hear a distant howling.
‘Strange Brew’ is an accurate name for this tune. Starting slow and ominous with distant vocals and synths, an eerie piano soon takes over for a length of time before a soulful lead guitar takes center stage. Then out of nowhere a trippy, and I mean trippy, keyboard takes command with the lead guitar and bass adding to the flames of wonder while the drums pound away. A bizarre track in terms of guitar tone and atmosphere, this song is like a wild acid trip until about three and half minutes in. At this point a pair of gnarly guitar solos takes control and shred your face off before ceding to the eerie sounds of the first minute or so. Following this section the guitar solos take back control for a short but epic section before ceding control to the atmospheric section one final time.
‘A Fleeting Glance’ is probably the most progressive tune on this entire album. Starting out with an almost medieval acoustic guitar lick, the psychedelic elements soon return in the form of the keyboards as Åkerfeldt enters once more singing cleanly. After a minute or so we’re greeted with a jazzy synth and lead guitar combo that touches you right in the soul. Not long after the song gets a little heavy with some tight riffing and drumming before returning to the opening acoustic section and recycling through the three sections before diving into a, for a lack of a better word, groovy guitar solo section before fading out with the synths.
For the first minute it would appear that ‘Era’ is another mellow tune due to piano solo, but then that sharp riff and wild drumming kicks right in and we’re off! While not the most complex song on the album this is a much needed burst of energy, especially this late in the album. The sharp, lightening fast rhythm and riffs make you want to get up and move while the smooth vocals soothe your soul. And let’s not forget that late in the track guitar solo!
Following a crash of the drums, ‘Persephone (Slight Return)’ is really nothing more than that gorgeous piano melody from ‘Era’ with the voice of a woman laid over it. While not the epic finish that some might desire, it finishes the album by bringing it full circle.
Going into this album I had no expectations beyond expecting to be surprised and blown away. Opeth is one of those bands where you can always count on to write amazing music that can’t be replicated. Sorceress is without a doubt one of the finest albums in the band’s discography and a strong contender for album of the year. 10/10