Opeth has always been a chameleon, never afraid of changing hats or wearing different guises.
With Sorceress, their gradual transition from progressive death metal practitioners to 70s prog-rock revivalists is complete.
The overt classic prog-rock dalliances of Heritage were merely a signpost for the direction that has led to Sorceress, the album that Opeth has been moving toward for a very long time. Almost all of the band’s former skin has been fully shed as they wrap themselves in the tapestry of sounds and influences they have slowly drawn to themselves since the beginning of the century.
Throughout Sorceress there are whispers – some louder than others – of influences and inspirations: the ‘Kashmir’-esque cascading riffs in the title track, the Jon Lord-flavoured organ winding through ‘The Wilde Flowers’, the Floydian minor-key melancholia of ‘Sorceress 2’. The lilting opening notes of ‘Persephone’ recall ‘Private Investigations’ from Dire Straits’ own prog rock masterpiece Love Over Gold; the Eastern scales of ‘The Seventh Sojourn’ are reminiscent of The Tea Party, even down to the Jeff Burrows-like percussion. Yet the album remains undeniably Opeth, cleverly weaving these divergent sounds into an arabesque of expansive saga-length songs laden with the psychedelia and menace of swirling organs, winding guitar solos, harmonies both gentle and dark and sudden bursts of crushing metal riffs and booming drums tempered with Mikael Åkerfeldt’s wistful, deceptively soothing vocals.
Despite the different nature of the music, there still remains a warm familiarity, a distinctly Opeth-ness, to the arrangements and song writing. The songs are expansive but never directionless, exploring shade and light, warmth and darkness, serenity and danger at every turn. When the metal kicks in, it breaks the tension suddenly, ominous and formidable like a stormburst before quickly subsiding into a dark, fragile tranquility that seems to be lingering on the edge of peril.
Sorceress is an enchanting and beguiling album that is pretty close to flawless. It’s what we have come to expect from Opeth, but completely reconfigured, both a brilliant homage and gloriously original, a portrait of a band at a pinnacle of creativity.
3. The Wilde Flowers
4. Will o the Wisp
6. Sorceress 2
7. The Seventh Sojourn
8. Strange Brew
9. A Fleeting Glance
11. Persephone (A Slight Return)