The masterminds of progressive metal are back once again. Opeth challenges new heights on their twelfth album Sorceress, continuing their exploration of a jazz and metal fusion.
Many would have claimed that the band was approaching its doom when vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt began to abandon his brutal screams in favor of being more melodically centered. That choice has only seemed to propel the band a step further into evolution, opening up the music to new heights and new places.
The clearest example of this new progression is the acoustic single 'Will O The Wisp' - our review of which can be found here. Åkerfeldt wanted a song with the capo up really high, placing it at the fifth fret to give the song a very glittery sound, as he explained. The simple, catchy melody is contrasted by the song's dark meaning, proven by the beautifully executed chorus that chants, "You're stuck to the failures of your life / Marred with the sorrows of your strife / And time it waits for no one / It heals them when you die / And soon you are forgotten / A whisper within a sigh." The blues solo at the end really adds a new dimension to it, resonating beautifully above the bright and somber acoustics.
The album continues with the experiments of its predecessor, 2014's Pale Communion, which dabbled in jazzy and bluesy textures. A lot of the record's creepy organ keyboards and jazzy, frantic arpeggios make a return on Sorceress. Pale Communion was bashed for these elements, but Sorceress seems to bring out the best of them. The jazzy distortion makes its return on the title track 'Sorceress', groove taking its place on the track to set the momentum of the record. There are lots of interesting guitar moments throughout the song, found between the thrilling heavy unrelenting powerchords of the choruses and their soaring, powerful vocals.
The creepy organs take a background roll in tracks like 'The Wilde Flower', the song instead capitalizing on wild guitar arpeggios to give it its niche. The jazzy grooves of the intro are soon transitioned into something darker and brooding, almost creepy and evil by its end. The quiet ending allows for a reprieve from the chaos of the track, transitioning beautifully into 'Will O The Wisp'. Jazzy textures return later on the album for 'A Fleeting Glance', in between the confident shouts of baroque-esque guitar licks.
The album prioritizes on darkness and evil themes instead of continuing an exploration of genre. The evil grumbles of the guitars in 'Chrysalis' serves as a crucial turning point for the album. Gone is the transition from Pale Communion into the present; this is where Sorceress really sets its own sense of purpose. The dark arpeggios of the song lead to a crazy solo that switches between guitars and wild organs at its core, it's seven-minute runtime proving to be a very providing track. Dark progressions continue in 'The Seventh Sojourn', a Middle Eastern-tinged instrumental track that feels like it's straight out of an Indiana Jones film. The mystery of the track provides a adventurous image, traveling the desert or jungle with a final destination in mind.
The downside of this record is its lack of a thick climax. Most songs have big moments, ultimately ending in epic, climactic moments of their own, but in those huge endings there is a certain punch missing. The doom ending of 'Strange Brew' serves as an example - there doomy guitars get across their mood, but it lacks a crunch to give it a little extra evil. Is it the fault of seeking a cleaner melodic sound? The album doesn't suffer from it in an end-all way, but it missed out having a stronger impact upon execution.
What's great about Opeth is that they can do anything, and that's what Sorceress tells us. The band can combine metal, rock, melody, doom, evil, and jazz all into one epic fusion of progressive rock greatness. Opeth is a band without expiration date - they're like a fine wine, becoming greater as time goes on. Sure, their time as a truly heavy metal band are gone, but they've become so much more than that. They're no longer bound by genre - they're free to create as they want to.
Favorite Tracks: Will O The Wisp, Chrysalis, Sorceress, Strange Brew
Least Favorite Track: Persephone (Slight Return)
Rating: 84 / 100