Progressive metal outfit Opeth have put together one of the most impressive resumes in modern hard rock. With absolute essentials like Blackwater Park, Deliverance, and Damnation, Opeth have gained notoriety for their blend of death metal, black metal, progressive rock, folk, and many other styles of music along the way. Needless to say, the Swedish group have established themselves as one of the pillars of current heavy metal. As every new Opeth release leaves fans’ hopes high for what direction the band is going to take, it will always be evident that their sound will truly be one-of-a-kind. In Opeth’s latest contribution to metal, Sorceress, they seem to be taking a more theatrical approach compared to past outings, though the result is something that familiar listener might not have been expecting.
The title track features some synthy instrumentals, similar to those used on Pale Communion, though it eventually develops into a more orchestrated piece of hard rock that’s very reminiscent of old school metal, think Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, and it works quite well. This influence of older metal is present on the following track “The Wilde Flowers” though it follows the aforementioned theatrical route and resembles a flair that’s more similar to something like Ghost. This approach can be a inconsistent considering that an ostentatious technique such as this is best when unrestrained. This is something that Opeth weren’t fully able to achieve and it ultimately makes certain moments feel restricted. As the tracks press forward though, there were some noticeable flashbacks to the band’s Damnation era and that’s where things begin to get interesting. The hint of toned down emotional rock is something that the band does exceptionally well and whenever it’s present on the album, it makes for a fantastic moment. Other tracks like “Will O the Wisp” and “Sorceress II” showcase the pristine acoustic pluckings paired with frontman Mikael Akerfeldt’s wholesome vocals, Opeth come back and shine with the character that has gained them critical acclaim over the past 20 years.
Sorceress also shows how diverse Opeth can be with moments like “The Seventh Sojourn,” a track that opens with some rather unorthodox percussion but goes on to incorporate a slightly medieval string section. “The Seventh Sojourn” goes on to reach an outstanding climax with a soothing atmosphere that could be compared to something like Sigur Ros, of all things. For what it’s worth though, the different directions that the band takes on this record don’t always pay off. The track “A Fleeting Glance” falls into the theatrical category that was brought up before, but the Halloween themed keyboards and over-the-top presentation occasionally come off as rather gimmicky. Other songs like “Chrysalis” and “Strange Brew” pose a more modern taste that could arguably be compared to the likes of Mastodon and Baroness, however the tracks could have benefited from more buildup because as they are on their own, they don’t seem to progress at an exceptional rate.
While Sorceress can be hit or miss, it is surely a project that will please Opeth fans. Listeners who enjoy the many facets that Opeth implement into their sound will likely be satisfied with this release based on its sheer ambition alone. On Sorceress, Opeth put forth their signature technical combinations of different metal genres and prove to still be capable of adding new elements into their production. If one thing is certain, it’s that Opeth will always have a distinct sound that remains lavish and unpredictable. Opeth prove that they are still more than willing to take chances with their music and explore where they want to travel with their unique sound. With 12 studio releases under their belt, Opeth have not only become one of the most acclaimed metal bands of the 2000’s, but they’ve also cemented themselves as one of the most important hard rock acts of the modern era.