30th September 2016 – Nuclear Blast Records
03. The Wilde Flowers
04. Will O’ The Wisp
06. Sorceress II
07. The Seventh Sojourn
08. Strange Brew
09. A Fleeting Glance
11. Persephone (slight return)
Opeth is a name that has become synonymous with both quality and musical expansion. Whilst many progressive bands have evolved into shadows of their former selves, chasing the stars and releasing trite concept albums about the rise of the machines, Opeth have keep their sound decidedly earthbound and have in many ways devolved into a perfect storm of 70s prog and folk. Sorceress is the third album of this style from Opeth, and yet people seem confused by the idea, drawing unwarranted criticicism.
Opeth’s meanderings into this haze of psychedelic prog continue, but Sorceress comes book ended by “Persephone”, an acoustic swirl that ambles along in a slow summer haze that feels utterly halcyon. By the time the track’s reprisal closes the album it feels disenchanted; less hopeful and carried on a wave of a sombre piano.
The whole of Sorceress wavers between deep psychedelia and acoustic idyll, The record’s title track, as well as early gem “The Wilde Flowers”, soar like the Opeth of old, only this time with a brightness that comes intertwined with Hammond organ fills amongst meaty riffs and drums. The other side of the record is represented in all its glory on “Will O’ The Wisp“, a personal favourite on the record which lives and breathes folk. With a focus on Mikael’s super smooth vocal harmonies and the flute undercurrents, the electric guitars come in to elevate into something even more. This track is probably one of – if not the best – example of the modern take on classic prog.
Despite “Sorceress II” feeling a little like a lost Led Zeppelin cut, with its melancholic lament ebbing and flowing throughout, the likes of this – the folkier, more acoustic Opeth – never becomes reductive to the over all feel of the album; instead it serves as a more than fitting introduction to the “The Seventh Sojourn“, which is the very definition of grandiose prog. Sitars and strings bloom into an expansive, imperialistic picture of 1920s India. That being said, cutting the last minute of unnecessary meandering would have given the song a more memorable finale.
The whimsy of prog isn’t lost on this effort either; “A Fleeting Glance” is exactly that – a Beatles-esque exercise in playfulness on an otherwise melancholic release. Smooth guitar lines flit as Åkerfeldt’s vocal saunters childishly among the heavy beats that tie the track together.
It’s with the final track “Era” that Opeth truly hearken back to their roots, bringing back the doom – albeit in a way that is in keeping with the rest of the album. A Katatonia-esque exercise, it switches the organ for classical piano and drops into beat-heavy blasts that fans of older Opeth should really love.
With Sorceress it’s clear that Opeth have completed their metamorphosis into the band they set out to be with Heritage back in 2011. Whilst their unwillingness to return to their stylistic roots might continue to alienate older fans of the band, it’s clear that the band are increasingly happier forging their own path whilst many of their contemporaries tread the same old ground. Sorceress is a solid collection of beautifully crafted prog that will become a timeless representation of the vastness which Opeth encapsulate.