This is Opeth’s 12th studio album released this year entitled, Sorceress. It’s been many years since Opeth released their 2003 album Damnation and it was a radical departure from their Death Metal roots and moving forwards into the Progressive territory. Some people may not be happy with the moving away from their early days and into that sound. And it’s become a dividing line in the sand whether to accept their Death Metal or Progressive Rock sound.
Now for me, I love both of them (Death Metal and Progressive sounds). And Mikael Akerfeldt is moving forwards and he is not going back and not everyone has to like it and everybody has an entitled to their opinion. He is also a very busy man alongside with Opeth by working with Steven Wilson on the project they did with Storm Corrosion and working with Steve Hackett on Genesis Revisited II. With the release of their new album, it’s diverse and it flows very well.
It is folky, proggy, and metallic. It is all connected like a giant smoothie. You have Will O The Wisp which is a moving 3/4 time signature waltz in a beautiful yet dark sounding in the style of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s of Jethro Tull’s Folk-Rock era while Sorceress 2 features gentle acoustic melodies with a prog-folk background featuring the mellotron. Mikael’s vocals are double-tracked through a leslie speaker in the styles of Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan.
Chrysalis is heavy rock at its finest. I love how the duel between Fredrik’s guitar nad Joakim’s blaring organ followed by Mikael’s riffs are just like a match between who will in the race in the styles of a Deep Purple groove of the MKII-era while Era is a fast driven styles of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) with fast rumbling guitars and galloping drums delving into the night sky.
Strange Brew features solos between Mikael and Fredrik. It features an ominous opening with double-tracking vocals followed by an insane midsection as Opeth go into Interstellar Overdrive. Meaning Fusion meets Rock Progressivo Italiano (RPI) before ending in crying battle of the guitars. Taking inspiration of Family’s second album, Entertainment, The Seventh Sojourn which sounds very much like an Ingmar Bergman film, features middle-eastern rhythm and lead acoustic guitars.
And a string section also as you as a listener can imagine yourself walking through the Isles of the Egyptian Deserts and seeing the pyramids before ending into a Floyd-sque finale of the styles from The Narrow Way from the Ummagumma album. The Wilde Flowers is an homage to the archetype of the Canterbury scene of a group between Caravan and the Soft Machine. But this track isn’t Canterbury related.
More of spirited and vital approach of a harder rock sound turned into the finale twists of Radiohead’s OK Computer-era as the opening track gives Opeth an homage to Ennio Morricone in the styles of the spaghetti western scores of the late ‘60s vibe as if it’s a continuation of the final chapter of The Man with No Name who is now gravely old, is returning for one last battle on Persephone.
I also enjoyed how on the title track there’s this fuzztone sound probably either on the guitar and the organ. It’s this sonic harsh tone from the fuzzing pedal box and not just with the heavy riffs that goes with it, but the textures in the styles of Mike Ratledge as A Fleeting Glance features the harpsichord with whispering vocals along with a structure of the early Floyd and Medieval-Psych rock for the first few minutes.
Opeth know their influences very well. The closing track, Persephone (Slight Return) is a nod to Jimi Hendrix but it shows that the sorceress has calmed down as the haunting piano fades into the darkness. I enjoyed this album very much and while I’m not a big Opeth fan, this is another crowning achievement for them and it’s not just Mikael’s band, they work together as a team.