OCTOBER 17th 2016
Review by Lana Muirhead
For many of you reading this, if you’ve already had a taste of the new album by Opeth, “Sorceress”, you’re likely still on the fence as to what you think of it. Not that the Swedish 5-piece has come to have us expect anything less. They have prided themselves since 1990 on keeping fans and critics guessing as to what they’ll come up with next: and have been very successful at it; especially with this most recent endeavour.
I have been a long-time fan of Opeth and even when they took a bit of an off-course turn with their 2011 album “Heritage”, I was still behind them. And maybe I’ll come to feel the same about “Sorceress” but for now, I’m sure you can see where I’m heading: on an unpleasant trip through an album I was rather disappointed with.
There is no mistaking the fact that the musicianship of lead vocalist and guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt, keyboardist and vocalist Joakim Svalberg, guitarist and vocalist Fredrik Åkesson, bassist Martin Mendez and drummer Martin Axenrot is beyond comparison. There was just something about this particular compilation that struck a wrong chord for me.
The intro and outro (“Persephone” and “Persephone (Slight Return)”, respectively) very much foreshadowed the album itself: a nice, light mix of instruments, small amounts of drama, and a soft spoken story that could not be heard or followed, let alone understood. Based on interviews with Åkerfeldt, the album was created song by song and followed a very ‘Queen’ approach where you never knew what the next song was going to be, since the plan was to make it supremely different than the last. That is one point on which they hit the proverbial nail square on the head.
It took three tracks before I was able to get on board with one, “The Wilde Flowers”. I really enjoyed the vocals and the ebb and flow of the guitars, which really built an old horror movie-like suspense throughout. “Will O The Wisp” had some great harmonies and almost a Celtic-like feel. It was also the shortest track. I was again put off by the tune “Chrysalis”, and then “Sorceress 2”, but was slightly recovered with “The Seventh Sojourn”. “Strange Brew” hit a good note as did “A Fleeting Glance”. I had a strange inclination a band like The Eagles could have just as easily owned this track as did Opeth. My favourite on the album was by far “Era”, and I believe it to be because it was as close to former Opeth output as the record allowed. This was the last track before the outro.
Although there were some classic Opeth moves, such as waves of drama, strategically composed crescendos and decrescendos, inspired guitar riffs, and thoughtful, haunting lyrics, as a whole the 12th studio album was not one I would brag to my friends about. I appreciate the intricacies of each track and the desire to do something different, to keep evolving. And that takes balls, which Opeth clearly possess. I could not escape the feeling of being caught in a dream or a fairytale the whole way through, with the happy, la-de-dah moments contrasted by the creeping, stalking moments where you believe the bad guy to be moving in to crush that happiness. I could even see my favourite “Era” being the song played at the end of the fairytale when the credits were rolling. If there was the intention of creating a story or a particular feel to the album, that’s how it played out for me. Even though they did achieve the goal of making every tune completely different than the last, the album was a movie that you walk out thinking “Meh, I guess I’m glad I saw it but I can’t say I care to see it again”.
You all know me: I tend to sit heavy with my music. And usually Opeth is a great straddling of the metallic fence. Sadly for me, the most intriguing part of the album was the cover art. Nevertheless, I will happily and anxiously await the next Opeth installment and hope that it can make this shadow of themselves a distant memory.