“Opeth” Sorceress – 2016 CD-REVIEW by Nabil Hossam
Opeth, as we all know, are progressive death metal pioneers from Sweden. Led by their vocalist and mastermind Mikael Åkerfeldt. The band was formed on 1989 and since then they have come up with many successful and outstanding releases that left a mark in the musical history. They have released 11 albums and Sorceress is their 12th album. The band was known for its progressive death metal style that got hundred-thousands of death metal fans into them.
Mikael is known for his super great harsh and clean vocals; he is definitely one of the best vocalists out there. But after Watershed that was released on 2008, Mikael has decided that there will be no more growls, no more death metal vocals. He also didn’t shut the door forever as he mentioned the possibility of getting back to harsh vocals in case he felt that he would want so, but the past 3 albums give you the feel that the death metal era is over.
Many fans were disappointed after Mikael’s decision, which made Mikael declare someday that metalheads are close-minded as they don’t accept change. I don’t blame him for saying that as I’m sure that more than 50% of those fans had made up their own mind even before checking the recent albums fairly and precisely.
The first album they released after Watershed was Heritage on 2011. Then it was followed by Pale Communion on 2014 and then Sorceress on 2016. These last 3 albums were actually progressive rock albums. Mikael has requested the help of his close friend and the progressive rock god Steven Wilson in terms of production during this era, also during the past era Steven Wilson’s effect was prominent in albums like Damnation that was released on 2003. Heritage was the weakest musically among the last 3 releases, Pale Communion was way better and Sorceress is their best from the new era. So let’s talk about the album:
Sorceress contains 11 tracks + another 5 tracks in the limited edition. The first track “Persephone” is an instrumental intro, a soothing piece of art that work great as an intro for this album. The second track is “Sorceress” which is named after the album’s title. The song seemed to be more into the old school progressive rock in terms of the structure with slight stoner/psychedelic influences. Great rhythm guitar plays and still keeping it a slow tempo. As a starter for the album I didn’t mind it at all and it was really enjoyable in terms of music and the great vocals by Mikael Åkerfeldt.
Track number 3 is “The Wilde Flowers” was a good follower to “Sorceress”. It seemed like “Sorceress Part 2” as it had a similar tempo but with more upbeat formation. Not to forget to mention the great solo in the middle of it and the great vocals that followed it beautifully. Then a mellow acoustic part with very good chorus shows up before it’s ended with good rhythms.
Now it’s track number four’s turn, “Will O the Wisp”, which I consider the highlight of this album. The strongest track musically and Mikael did an astounding effort in it in terms of vocals. It started with an acoustic part accompanied with the great vocals of Mikael for more than two minutes and then they blend with the slow tempo drums and the bass keeping the same structure as it is. I would say Opeth has gained much more experience as a progressive rock band after this release.
“Chrysalis” is track number 5, it is a bit faster than the past tracks and you can notice the effect of the riffs and the drums in this one more than the others. It reminds me a little bit with old Opeth, except that it contained no harsh vocals. Another awesome track that contained another awesome solo and I actually appreciate solos especially in progressive music. This track is definitely one of the strengths of the album.
Now it’s the REAL “Sorceress Part 2” track, which can be considered part 3 considering that “The Wilde Flowers” was part two musically. “Sorceress 2” is a short mellow track, 03:40 minutes long. A good track to separate between the first and the second half of the album and it gives you that peaceful and calm feel.
“The Seventh Sojourn” is track number 7, the intro of this track sounds a bit Middle Eastern, most of the track to be honest, which reminds me of Orphaned Land or Arkan, but in Opeth’s style. Pretty catchy and good to hear among the other tracks.
Track number 8 is called “Strange Brew”, which is a return back to the proggy style of the album. It started slowly at the beginning but after 2 minutes fast riffs and catchy melodies showed up before Mikael started with his nice vocals. Another pretty good track and the longest too, 8:45 minutes long.
The ninth track is “A Fleeting Glance”, a calm and a slow tempo song as it’s almost the end of the album. I didn’t enjoy that style in the past two albums but in this record it was strong musically. Great melodies and great clean vocals from mike. Sometimes some rhythms show up but it keeps its slow tempo preserved.
The tenth track is “Era” and it’s another track that I consider one of the strengths of the album. It’s as the same level as track number 4 and 5. The rhythms were so catchy especially while you listen to it with such great vocals. Track 11 is called “Persephone (Slight Return)“ and it’s just 1 minute of soothing piano plays, so beautiful and peaceful which is a great end to such a great album.
Track-list (CD 1):
1. Persephone (1:51)
2. Sorceress (5:49)
3. The Wilde Flowers (6:49)
4. Will O the Wisp (5:07)
5. Chrysalis (7:16)
6. Sorceress 2 (3:49)
7. The Seventh Sojourn (5:29)
8. Strange Brew (8:44)
9. A Fleeting Glance (5:06)
10. Era (5:41)
11. Persephone (Slight Return) (0:54)
The Limited Edition is accompanied by additional 5 tracks: “The Ward”, “Spring MCMLXXIV” and three live performed tracks (“Cusp of Eternity”, “The Drapery Falls” and “Voice of Treason”).
“The Ward” is at the same level of the main album with the acoustic guitar introduced in it. A catchy track that I would have loved to see it among the main album’s tracks in addition to the other track “Spring MCMLXXIV” that is one of the strongest tracks musically. It had a slow start but it’s very rich with beautiful melodies and great vocals. The astonishing solo and the psychedelic influences near the end of it added more quality to it. Definitely one of the best tracks I have ever heard from Opeth’s new era.
I really recommend this release for Opeth fans and progressive rock fans in general. I wasn’t so excited about this release at first but after I gave it a listen I realized how awesome it is. I give it an overall rating of 8.6/10.
Highlights: “Will O the Wisp”, “Chrysalis”, “Era” and “Spring MCMLXXIV”.
Nabil Hossam / MHF