Opeth – “Sorceress” (Moderbolget Records / Nuclear Blast Entertainment)
Opeth have come a long way from their death metal days in the 90s. “Sorceress” is their 12th release and by now, followers should be used to the difference between their releases or rather, being expressions of the sentiments of founder guitarist composer Mikael Åkerfeldt. Here he has gone further in putting together 11 tracks that are intentionally quite different from one another and incorporating a diverse range of influences from jazz to progressive rock from several eras! Despite some longtime fans wishes to return in some form to the days of gruff vocals, “Sorceress” is very much steeped towards 70s prog rock – if I had to be pushed to give it some underlying theme – even being recorded at the famed Rockfield Studios in Wales, home to many a classic rock record from that era. That said, Åkerfeldt is a master composer and only a fool would underestimate his epic, complex and grand visions that skillfully blend diversity to create magnificent soundscapes. This is clearly evident from the Deep Purple era rock bliss of ‘Chrysalis’ with its trippy harmonies and Jon Lord organ creating a wonderful rolling groove, to the more frantic, pumping pace of ‘Era’ driven by snappy drum work and pomp keys which had to be the most upbeat track here, complete with some Blackmore-esque guitar courtesy of Fredrik Åkesson. Bringing it all together, from off the wall jazz drumming to a blissful dark melody and distant-in-the-wind vocals had to be ‘Strange Brew’ which certainly lived up to its name and really showed Åkesson stretching his legs with some long, protracted guitar work while Åkerfeldt’s vocals switched to a more laid back, stoner tone in between timely ambient interludes. Completely absorbing as with all Opeth releases in general, “Sorceress” consummates Mikael Åkerfeldt’s brilliance into yet another pinnacle achievement equally worthy of Opeth’s legendary legacy.