Opeth - SorceressIt’s funny to think about how long it has been since the golden age of Swedish metal. In the mid-to-late ’90s and early aughts,1 Swedish bands were atop the world. Now venerable legends were young, hungry and novel. 1995 saw the release of Slaughter of the SoulThe Gallery and Orchid, while the following year graced us with Morningrise and The Jester Race. And when I got into Opeth in 1998 I was swimming in a veritable ocean of amazing Swedish records. Despite my love of the band, I would have laughed if someone had suggested that Opeth—the guys who couldn’t write a song shorter than 10 minutes—would be the most successful of the bunch in 20 years. Maybe it’s obvious in retrospect. Opeth was the band with the broadest opportunities for evolution. They have shown that consistently in their long career. Record after record they evolve; sometimes for the better and sometimes not. But they have always been forward thinking and—given their recent moves into merch and their own imprint—clever.

Sorceress is the follow-up to one of the band’s best albums. Pale Communion was a success musically, but it was also a triumph of production and presentation. It saw Opeth sidling away from a pair of albums (Watershed and Heritage) marked by a writing style that was choppy, or even clumsy.2 Pale Communion corrected this trajectory by assembling something more coherent, echoing MAYH and Ghost Reveries, but, y’know, not super metal.

Rather than being a continuation of its predecessor, Sorceress is the culmination of the different styles Opeth has been exploring since Watershed. The album lacks the straight-up Frippisms which sunk Heritage for me, but it straddles a more abstract sound with Åkerriffs and a healthy dose of ’70s blues rock influence. Åkerfeldt’s newfound appreciation for subtle Swedish folk feel3 and harmonic minor leads things off on “Persephone” which brackets the album on the “slight return.” In the gooey center, the band oscillates between bongwater rock, laced with keyboards and noodling in blues scales on “Chrysalis,” nods to King Crimson and Heritage like “Strange Brew,” and an apparent admiration for Jethro Tull on “Will o’ the Wisp.”

Opeth 2016

Where Sorceress shines the most, though, is where Åkerfeldt’s strengths have always been: complex compositions balanced with heart-wrenching, melancholy melodies. “Chrysalis” is a song that strikes remarkably close to sounding like death metal ‘peth—but with blues scales—and it merges into “Sorceress 2.” The sequel could have been on Damnation and may be my favorite chorus from the band since “Isolation Years.” “The Wilde Flowers” features an artful, delicate bridge (complete with harp?) and a memorable chorus, while “A Fleeting Glance” features harmonic minor acoustics, a groovy bass driven feel and Opeth‘s best musical climax since “The Drapery Falls.” It’s in these moments where the band demonstrates what a mature, tight unit they are, and Mikael’s voice meshes perfectly with the music, supported by tight play from the whole band.

Maybe the biggest change from Pale Communion to Sorceress is the extent to which the latter has developed a Spiritual Beggarslike dedication to the blues scale. While there has been a growing influence of ’70s blues rock vibes in Opeth for a long while, Sorceress reaches Peak Blue Note. Scattered throughout Sorceress is a proportion of noodly, bluesy solos and chunky hard rock riffs. The riffs are usually balanced with verbose Åkerriffs, but they stand out to me because of a deeper issue. In contrast to tracks like “A Fleeting Glance,” Åkerfeldt is least in his element when the band crescendos while riffing on blue scales. Robert Plant isn’t fronting this band, so when the vocals hit emotional—but monotone—zeniths (see: “Chrysalis” or “Strange Brew”), they lack power and grit. I haven’t really missed growls in later Opeth, but Sorceress‘ move into slightly heavier material emphasizes the intensity growls brought in contrast to Åkerfeldt’s choirboy voice.

Opeth 2016My other nagging doubt about Sorceress is the production. While Pale Communion had pristine, artful production and a top-rate mastering job, Sorceress is a bit muddy and uneven. I love the individual tone of the instruments on here—though I’m less in love with the fuzzbox tone than usual—but there are places where Sorceress ends up on the muffled side of bassy. I don’t know what happened, but given that the material is heavier than Pale Communion, with songs like “Sorceress,” “Era,” and “Chrysalis” sporting serious heft, you can hear that these songs were mastered down to a DR7. On the other hand “Sorceress 2” and “The Seventh Sojourn” clock in at DR11 and DR10 respectively. The former tracks have a snare drum that sounds pretty boxy, while Mendez’s bass doesn’t breathe nearly enough.

My complaints are minor in comparison to the artful construction of Sorceress. This a complete album with great material from a band that has transitioned from “very popular” to “institution.” With the establishment of Moderbolaget and, as far as I can tell, moving even more creative control into the hands of the band themselves, these upcoming years will be a very interesting era for Opeth. My gut instinct is that this is the last record before they flip the switch and try something else on for size.4 This record is the culmination of a strategic and musical shift, and like Watershed was to Ghost Reveries and My Arms, Your Hearse was to Morningrise, it’s time for a new permutation. Regardless, Sorceress is an album that will please fans of prog rock, fans of dark music and that has grown on me significantly since I first heard it. While not as immediate as its predecessor, I’ve grown to love the texture and contrasts. And hell, the last record these guys wrote that really had to grow on me was Ghost Reveries, and well, you might know what I think of that one…


Rating: Very Good!
DR: 10 (8 for the heavier tracks) | Media Reviewed: v0 mp3
Label: Moderbolaget
Websites: opeth.com | facebook.com/opeth
Release Dates: Out worldwide!

Show 4 footnotes

  1. When I was wearing an onion on my belt, as that was the fashion at the time
  2. FLAME ON, FANBOYS!
  3. “They’re all just trying to be Jazz på svenska” he once told me in conversation about folk metal bands. Seems he decided he also likes Jazz på svenska.
  4. I’m cheering for a folky version of Damnation!

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  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    Part of me thought you were just burying us in other reviews so we wouldn’t see you trash this. Which would make me sad, because, while not the biggest fan of newpeth, (I don’t listen to either of the previous 2 albums anymore) I really like this one. I think it’s the strongest of their recent material.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      “Newpeth?” C’mon, you can do better than that (just that they didn’t used to be “Oldpeth.”) But, certainly can’t deny they have a completely different sound than they used to.

      • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

        … I’m at a complete loss on your comment.

        Yes?

  • Kill The King

    Finally. Nicely done review!!

  • Dr_Fisting

    Great review. Totally agree about the production — this was recorded by the same guy who’s worked on Killing Joke’s recent stuff, which is also pretty muffled.
    It seems weird that Akerfeldt would be given such a huge amount of creative control, and use it to hire someone other than Steven Wilson.

    • Steven Wilson sells out the Royal Albert Hall and Tom dalgety isn’t in that league. I’m guessing either Wilson ‘s rates now are too expensive or he simply wasn’t available.

      Tom recorded Pale Communion so his engineering is top flight, just not as good at mixing as Wilson.

  • WalrusKing

    I agree with this review pretty much spot on. Pale Communion didn’t do as much for me as it did for you, but Sorceress made me excited about Opeth again. I think the difference for me is Pale felt like it was just the same song throughout the whole album (with the exception of River) while Sorceress is comparatively diverse, similar to older Opeth. Any chance you will do an Opeth album rankings similar to Iron Maiden? :) I would be very interested in your thoughts on their whole discography. Thanks for the review and for creating this awesome site where I’ve found so much great new music!

    • El_Cuervo

      The ranking idea has crossed his mind… watch this space.

      • WalrusKing

        Good to hear! I’ll keep my eye out.

      • Reese Burns

        Blackwater Park would have to be number one!

        • Hammersmith

          If BWP was spelled Morningrise, then yes.

          • Reese Burns

            Them’s is fightin’ words!

          • Hammersmith

            Haha, bring it on!

          • Reese Burns

            No please, I bruise.

          • MelbCro

            Agreed, Morningrise is the only correct answer.

          • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

            If Morningrise was spelled Watershed, then absolutely.

          • MAYH FTW.

        • El_Cuervo

          It wouldn’t be. AMG would choose the correct number one: Ghost Reveries. BWP is not even in my top 5.

          • Reese Burns

            Lunatics, all of you!

        • WalrusKing

          Dunno man not for me, still life is always #1, but honestly the reason I want to see amg’s ranking is I think any Opeth record can be number 1

  • AndySynn

    Have to disagree with this one (I know, shocker, right?). As much as I enjoyed the early tracks I heard from it, the whole is very much less than the sum of its parts. It just doesn’t have much in the way of any identity, and fire, to it. It’s Opeth being content to be a retro-tribute band, rather than adding anything new, or really anything of themselves, to the mix.

    And, as I type that, I realise it sounds harsh… but I did enjoy PC a lot, as it had its own flavour, its own sense of… “Opethiness” to it. This one’s just them back to being a covers band again. A good covers band, no doubt about it, but nothing about this album screams “vital listening experience” to me.

    Ah well, someone had to be the negative nancy, right?

    • Diego Molero

      I’m with you on this one. I like some songs, but ultimately it isn’t as good as Opeth can be.

    • Andy777

      I have to agree with you, after a couple listens I had this firmly planted in the 3.5 territory. However I found it just didn’t hold up to repeated listens. When it was over I had less than zero desire to hit repeat.

      • As 25-30 minutes long EP, it would be fine, maybe I could actually come back to it.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      Completely disagree. I wasn’t keen on the title track when I first heard it, but it works great with the rest of the album which is best when listened to as one complete piece. I don’t even the songs individually anymore, the whole thing just goes together so well.

    • El_Cuervo

      I couldn’t disagree more. Pale Communion retread Jethro Tull, King Crimson and Goblin so hard. This actually sounds a little different to me. I love the stuff that they’ve not utilised before, eg the folky stuff and the even stronger blues influence.

      It’s my favourite since Ghost Reveries.

      • Fuinha

        Couldn’t have said better

      • MelbCro

        Disagree, PC definitely had way more of a classic Opeth vibe in terms of the melody which I think is there far less on Sorceress and Heritage. And talking about retreading bands, listen to Will O the Wisp, that song sounds like a Jethro Tull cover. Akerfeldt is basically imitating Ian Anderson’s vocals on large parts of that one. Having said that I’m actually ok with things like that, I like this album.

        • El_Cuervo

          Oh I agree about Will O’ the Wisp. No question. But generally speaking.

      • Totally Agreed

      • I don’t agree that PC weas a re-tread. I feel like PC sounded very much like Ghost Reveries just sans death metal, whereas this album is more ‘tribute-ish’.

    • Totally Disagree. Sorceress is Spiritual yet Riffy , So Addictive yet Original I just can say its not that Heavy but Best Prog Rock I listened until then and I Listened to it more than any Album this Year but still thirsty for another Listen.

    • Huh. What do you think of the new DT?

      • AndySynn

        Solid, but nothing particularly special. Still in the same post-Damage Done rut. Not that that’s entirely a bad thing. DD is my favourite DT album as a matter of fact. But they do seem to have been retreading the same ground a LOT ever since Character by my reckoning, and are probably overdue for a bit of a refresh/reboot.

        There’s some solid tracks on Atoma, a coupe of clunkers, and one or two that stand out a little bit more than the others, but overall it’s just your average DT album. Which is still pretty good, obviously, but… yeah. It is what it is.

  • Diego Molero

    I so far think this is a 3.0 at best. I’m kind of disappointed with this record, I mean is good, but I expected so much more from a band like Opeth. I’m still hopping that it will grow on me though.

  • This is a perfect review. This is a very good record, but just not a very big step forwards (and indeed, the production isn’t as on point). I’m disappointed with that, because we are used they do step forwards. I’ll still spin this one from time to time, but no, never as much as Blackwater Park, Ghost Reveries or Pale Communion.

  • Ein Sophistry

    I’m trying to get into it, I really am. For me, though, the most salient contrast between Oldpeth and Newpeth is not the growling or any other death metal elements, but the fact that the older stuff was just…a lot more memorable. It was catchy, sometimes quirky, and often exquisitely powerful. Grade A earworm material. The music had personality, an identity all to its own. The newer material just…doesn’t. Though I can enjoy these albums decently enough while they’re playing, nothing from them sticks for me. I don’t think I could, from memory, hum a single riff or melody line from the post-Ghost Reveries era (save, perhaps, the “Cusp of Eternity”), despite the considerable good faith effort spent on absorbing them.

    • Matthew

      It just seems a lot more simple. Where the music had layer upon layer in the past (Blackwater Park etc), now there’s really only things going on on a surface level. The issue isn’t the vocals, it’s the music itself. Reverie / Harlequin Forest would have still been a phenomenal track even if Mikael had sung the entire thing

    • MastersApprentice

      I feel the same way, the songs just aren’t as memorable. Their previous material is more layered and nuanced. Like a lot of progressive rock and metal, this one might take a few more listens…

  • tomasjacobi

    Not nearly as coherent and perfect as Pale Communion, it is a great album nonetheless.
    I don’t mind the production. I kind of like the fact that their albums sound different; they could’ve eased up on the limiting on the heavier tracks though.

  • Dr. Wvrm

    Both the review and the album live up to the hype. It might not be the most metal album, but it’s definitely a great spin.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      IMO, it really rewards what you put into it. Just listen to it a couple times, may seem kina forgettable and even disappointing. But if you keep listening it really becomes as you say, a great spin.

      • The Nerd.GO JAYS

        Fully agreed. I hated it when it first came out, but now I listen to it damn near once a day.

  • Diego Molero

    Now that this review was posted what are we going to complain about?
    Oh I know, I want the ROTM, dammit!

    • I’m not pointing fingers here, but you’re a real problem.

      • Diego Molero

        Now I fear for my life, please don’t take me to the same place as HMG.

        • It’s quiet there, you’ll love it!

          • Eli Valcik

            As long as this place isn’t filled with metal core Ill be fine.

          • Ranfle

            There are worse fates than listening to metalcore. It’s usually more flavourless than terrible imo

          • GardensTale

            Could be worse. Could be Project Theory.

          • No metalcore at all, just a lot of cement.

      • What if Jorn did guest vocals on the next Opeth album?!?!?! 6/5?

        • Jorn wouldn’t be caught dead on a 70s pro rock alb…nevermind.

    • basenjibrian

      Bieber!

      • Reese Burns

        Civility!

  • “Sorceress” is a neat album, it is just that middle part that bugs me more than it should. So slow and subtle, it ruins the mood of the album imo

  • Peter

    Good review. I appreciated Pale Communion, and have gone back to it. But I just haven’t been able to make myself listen to Sorceress even one full time since it released.

    And that’s the sad part for me, trying to get through it start to finish feels like work.

  • Matthew

    “My gut instinct is that this is the last record before they flip the switch and try something else on for size.” I agree with that. I didn’t really enjoy this album, which is odd because I actually thought Pale Communion was a good album and even Heritage had some decent cuts. This one just doesn’t grab me at all. I’ve listened to Strange Brew like six times and I still can’t remember anything about it at all. On the other hand, Chrysalis is one of the best songs they’ve written since Watershed. Maybe I just need to listen to this album more…

    • I agree 100%. I could never get into Heritage, but thought it was a big transition for them, and I enjoyed Pale Communion much more. I had thought that perhaps they just needed an album to get into the swing of things and that PC would be a hint at things to come, but I just can’t get into this one.

  • I so badly want to like this. I dont want to be one of those guys that doesn’t like Opeth anymore because theyre “not death metal”. I just don’t like it. If this was a new band with a name other than Opeth, I still wouldn’t like it and that makes me sad.

  • mindbleach

    My problem with this album is that I feel like Opeth are very much trailblazers in metal. Listening to this sounds like a band (perfectly competently) following in the tracks of others, rather than going their own way. Which is fine for most bands, but for Opeth that’s kind of disappointing.

  • Don’t forget, even a “very good” Opeth album is an excellent or perfect album for another band.

    • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

      This is how I feel. Although this album is not as immediate for me as, well, any other Opeth album, I still find it interesting. I have to say that this, so far, is my least favorite album since the stylistic shift after Watershed. Personally, Heritage is my favorite of these last three and Watershed is my all-time favorite Opeth album (though loads of fans would likely crucify me for this comment). I need to spend more time with this, but I can say without a doubt that I am not in the least disappointed. Opeth has kept in tact their perfect streak of good to great albums.

      • Oberon

        Don’t worry, I really enjoyed Watershed too, this album takes awhile to really grow on ya

        • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

          Yeah, I feel like it’s a grower not a shower! It’s all good; I’ll certainly give it the time it deserves. They’ve never disappointed me, and they haven’t with this one, either. I just want to like it more; I messed up and placed high expectations on it because I love the last two. I’m in the minority, I think, when I say that I am glad Opeth changed directions.

          • yup, I think the same, Sorceress is rather an album to chew spin after spin. Also, I prefer to listen to it with my speakers at a volume a little louder than I used to, it’s an inmersive task.

          • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

            I’ll give that a shot, thanks, Patricio.

          • Oberon

            I miss the growls, but, I understand there has to be a sense of progression

      • The Nerd.GO JAYS

        Watershed is underrated, but not my favorite. BWP, Still Life and Ghost Reveries can switch depending on the day.

        • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

          I can’t understand why, after so many great albums that came before Watershed, it stands as my favorite. Even upon its release and my initial listens when it first dropped, it just resonated with me. Unexplainable, but that is the lovely thing about any art form… it just touches you, and usually, for me, I have no reasonable explaination. I will say that Watershed contains my all-time favorite song: “Burden”. Per Weiberg channels John Lord on that keyboard solo. I feel that solo in my bones no matter how many times I hear it.

      • That’s the piont after 2 or 3 listens it Begins to Shine

      • David Christian Dalton

        “Watershed” is also my favorite Opeth album. I got into the band when “Morningrise” was their latest release. I remember when the metal press was referring to what was to become “My Arms, Your Hearse” as “Everything Dies…”

        Believe it or not, I moved away from the band when I heard a few snippets of “Blackwater Park” and wrongly assumed it was merely a “re-tread-upgrade-polish version of “Still Life!” So I didn’t really pay much attention to the band at all for almost eight years.

        Then, on a mere whim, “Watershed” came along and I checked it out. Boy was it what I unknowingly needed at the time. It was a seismic shift for me and my relationship with metal. Love it!

    • For me its 4.5

  • David Christian Dalton

    “My gut instinct is that this is the last record before they flip the switch and try something else on for size.” To me, Mikael is explicit about this being the case. I mean, how else is one to interpret, “The end of an era, One starts anew…”?!

    I just kind of love this. I loved the Joni Mitchelled-“Heritage.” It was the album I was dreaming of after “Watershed” but was sure the band didn’t have the guts to write and record. And then they went and did it!

    “Pale Communion” is okay. I mean, it’s fine. But it is BY FAR the most “normal” of these three records. The most typical and average.

    There is an ease to the execution of this record…it just sounds like the band are having a blast. And once I turn off my horrible, stupid, critical mind and let go of the abyss of cognitive biases I have about this band, it’s really easy for me to engage with it. It’s fun and fun is good! I mean, how can you argue with that many Ulrich Roth-inspired solos? Can you imagine the smiles and giggles there at Rockfield?

    And like the best “fun” records, the more and more I play it, the more the peculiar, odd and interesting details that are tucked away start to show their personalities. I DIDN’T come back to it much at all at first. Then, last weekend, it just ‘sploded in my heart and brain and I’ve been enjoying it thoroughly ever since.

    And I’m warming to the murky, muddled, cruddled production too. Don’t know what they were thinking, but when I turn it UP it really does sound awfully delightful.

    Cheers, you lot!

    • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

      Yeah, David, I think I love Heritage so much is for a few reasons: 1) They had the guts to go for it, regardless of the fallout and 2) It was the first foray into new musical realms which not only made it exciting for them, but for me, as well. It may not be as “cohesive” a record as Pale Communion, as I’ve read many times, but it sure had some balls to it even if it wasn’t “heavy”.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    What? You guys DID review this!? Great review by AMG!

  • Midlife Chris

    My wife surprised me with tix to see Opeth at Radio City Music Hall a few weeks back. As she prefers her metal of the less noodley, more Slipknotty variety, she had never heard their music. Cant say she loved it, but she was pretty emphatic about having Akerfeldt follow her around all day and narrate everything she does in his soothing Swede voice. I tend to agree that this album does feel a bit pieced together, but Akerfeldt did state that his only goal making this album was to have all the songs sound different from one another. I love how they get all Orphaned Land on “Sojourn”. Thanks for the killer review AMG!

    • GardensTale

      Sojourn reminds me of a personal favorite called Subterranean Masquerade. Their latest album had a strong middle Eastern vibe.

      • Sojourn sounds like The Tea Party to me (the band, not the political movement, obv haha)

  • mtlman1990

    Hated it the first couple listens. Now after countless spins and two live shows, I love it. The end of The Wilde Flowers is one of the most interesting things iv heard in metal in a long time. Also, love the the bass blasting through the mix during the Chrysalis solo.

  • Dudeguy Jones

    For some reason I just cannot get into this band no matter what the entry point. And I like a lot of the bands you compared them to. And I really love death metal, but nope, not one album of theirs across the years has ever appealed to me. I thought maybe the proggier, throw back style would appeal more, but I’d prefer to listen to the latest Enslaved albums over this.
    No disrespect! Im kicking the hornets nest here, I know it.

    • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

      Nah, man… It’s okay to be true to yourself. Hell, at least you tried them all. Most people would bitch without putting in that kind of time and patience.

  • Rich

    Just Ok in my opinion. Think the vocals are pretty weak and agree about the overall sound. Not something I have much desire to listen to repeatedly.. which I have done with past albums…

  • Gage

    Meh I dropped Opeth when they dropped their growls. I’ve tried to like their post-Watershed material but it all seems so bland and forgettable.

    • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

      At least you tried… most fans just bashed them because they went away from their patented sound without giving the albums a proper try.

  • GardensTale

    Good review as always AMG. I never really was a big Opeth fan, but being kind of a sucker for old prog I had to give this a shot and found myself enjoying most of it. That slow third quarter does it no favors sadly, but that ending to Wilde Flowers is amazing and I really like Era as well. All in all I can definitely see myself coming back to this one.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      I can’t get enough of Era and either of the bonus tracks. I dunno what it says that I preferred the bonus tracks to a lot of the included cuts, but “Come the Spring” was a bonus track on Amorphis last year and that was my favorite track there too.

      • GardensTale

        On the decidedly non-metal side of things, a special edition of Editors’ “In this light and on this evening” had an extra disc with ~5 bonus songs. I liked all of them better than half the ones on the main album.

      • Levly

        Little late to the party here, but I agree, Come the Spring was absolutely amazing, probably my favorite track too (although The Four Wise Ones was pretty awesome too).

  • Reese Burns

    I don’t think they’ll ever write another album as good as Blackwater Park. That’s the album I use to judge all other Opeth albums.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      I dunno about you, but anyone writing an album as good as Blackwater Park is a stretch. That shit is generational.

  • The Nerd.GO JAYS

    I enjoyed the album but the middle of it slowed it down. I still think after Watershed Åkerfeldt should’ve just made a new band and made these past 3 albums

  • beurbs

    They went from being one of the most original bands in metal to one of the least original bands in prog. I think it’s admirable that they’re trying new things but we (and they) have already heard those things, and more innovative, from Deep Purple, Yes, Tull. In combination with the dragging second half and the uninspiring vocals I’m having a hard time seeing the qualities mentioned in the positive reviews, but I’ll keep trying.

    • eloli

      “They went from being one of the most original bands in metal to one of the least original bands in prog.”
      That’s, in a nutshell, why I gave up on Opeth, thanks for being much more eloquent and to the point than I could ever be.

      • beurbs

        Thanks!

    • Totally Disagree. They more Original than Deep Purple that you Said . Just Listen to the Album without your negative thoughts again . Its Catchy

      • beurbs

        Listening to the album is what gave me the negative thoughts.

  • I was expecting this to be a bloodbath of a review. But this lines up pretty well with my thoughts – production’s a bit muddy but there’s some good songs here.

  • Ernesto Aimar

    I wonder what would happen if any given unknown band records something like “Sorceress”. I guess it’s unlikely to deserve so much attention from any listener to find the good things about it. Sure, the albums has plenty of good moments but we give it maybe more analyses than it actually deserves just because it’s an Opeth release, or at least that’ how I feel. Anyway, Opeth deserves that, but it’s starting to get somehow annoying.

  • Asral

    I haven’t had a lot of time to really get into Sorceress yet, but it’s definitely a grower record. It feels more similar to Heritage than Pale communion that way.

    Pale communion is a lot more direct and quicker to get into while Heritage has a lot weird shifts and interludes which took some time to absorb. I love both of those records, with Pale communion being the best.

    Sorceress is very good so far, but not quite on the same level as Heritage and Pale communion yet. I suspect my opinion will change more after I listen to it more and get more familiar with it, hard to tell exactly where it lands for me until then.

  • narrator

    It’s very good album. But i’m still kinda disappointed and i don’t know actually why. Does anyone have the same feelings?

    • Diego Molero

      I do. I was expecting a lot more from a band like Opeth, still I think is good.

    • MelbCro

      Yeah, while I like the album a lot, it definitely feels like they regressed with this one. And what I mean by that is they really perfected their version of retro prog with PC, and on this one it seems like they’ve gone backwards rather than forwards.

    • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

      Yup, I so want to love this, but it hasn’t clicked yet… I have no answer for this… If I did have an answer right at this moment, it may be due to having too lofty expectations for it. More listening required on my part.

  • Nag Dammit

    Have to agree with AMG on this one. I know he’s got a soft spot for Opeth (old and new) but this is the definition of a grower. Does it sound like the sum of its influences? Yes. Does it sound like Opeth still? To my ears, yes it does. The excellent song craft, attention to the seamless progressions and layering of instruments isn’t at first apparent but after multiple listens the records hidden depths emerge. I love Will o the Wisp, even though Mikael starts the first word of every line with a ‘w’. It sound like Jethro worship but the leads and melancholia are all Opeth. So far this song and Vectors ‘Collapse’ are topping my ‘kind of chilled out at the beginning but getting heavier towards the end’ song of the year list. Great review AMG.

  • James Ingold

    I hear a lot of elements here that are great in and of themselves but it does feel to me like a number of the songs don’t have logical progressions, like some of the riffs or segments were just chosen at random and don’t appropriately build in theme, texture, or tone.

    Opeth have earned enough of my trust to make sure I give this even more listens and it’s very possible things will eventually click and make sense to me but at the moment the songwriting feels more like the quality of Heritage rather than Pale Communion.

  • Treble Yell

    As someone who feels that Opeth haven’t released a good album since Damnation I can’t say I’m all that interested in their latest. I’ll probably check it out at some point but I doubt they’re going to return to their halcyon days anytime soon.

    • Reese Burns

      I would say Ghost Reveries is the only recent Opeth album I’m really into. If I wanted 70s Prog, I’d listen to 70s Prog. But I never want 70s Prog.

      • Exitium

        Ghost Reveries is also one of their best albums overall too.

        • Reese Burns

          Ghost Reveries is top 3 for me, ahead of My Arms Your Hearse, but behind Blackwater Park.

          • Treble Yell

            To me Ghost Reveries marked the beginning of the end to a band that used to be so creative and hungry. It’s no surprise that Lopez and Lindgren left soon after.

          • Reese Burns

            I think Åkerfeldt’s ego played a big part in that too, I heard he’s a pretty self absorbed guy. But of course, can’t believe everything you hear, so who knows?

  • Hammersmith

    I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this.

    In general, it’s good. Sorceress is a really good record, but only a decent outing for Opeth.

    A lot of people categorize old/new Opeth based on the growled vocals, or lack there of. I disagree. It was the introduction of the organ that’s really changed the core of their sound. I was initially disappointed with Ghost Reveries when it came out, I thought the organ was too pronounced and ruined what could have been a great album (I’ve since gone back to it, and decided it is in fact great). But everything Watershed onward has been of a lower caliber than everything pre-organ, IMO. I know there is a lot of love for PC (on here anyway), and that would probably be my pick as the best thing they’ve done since GR. But the 70’s worship started with the inclusion of the organ.

    As for this record, I was initially disappointed with the over simplified nature of the title track. However, it fits nicely with the album as a whole and my stance on it has softened. Will O the Wisp is probably the highlight for me, but only because it sounds like a Bside from BWP (Like a Harvest 2, to Patterns in the Ivy 2). Chrysalis is a close second, although I could do without so much organ. The middle part of the album drags a bit, until Era kicks things up a notch. There are some lovely melodies in there, especially Sojourn, and Sorceress 2 would have been striking except I found his voice to high.

    I think one thing I’ve had to come to grips with is that they won’t be going back to the “Old” sound ever again. These newer albums are fine for what they are, and once I accepted that, it’s been better.

    Heritage is still a clusterfuck though, holy shit.

  • Wilhelm

    I was largely unimpressed by what I have heard, but I’ll give it a shot. I think the difference between old and new opeth is the level of seriousness (for lack of a better term) of their music. I find a lot of the new compositions playful and kind of light hearted..even their acoustic numbers have this sense of being melancholic but in kind of a unpure manner, like they are stage acting the part but not really influenced directly by the emotions. Plus, I just don’t think they are making original sounding music anymore, but like I said I’ll give the album a go.

  • Dobbie03

    Until I read this review I wasn’t going to bother with Sorceress. Glad I did, it’s the first of Opeth’s 70’s Prog that I have actually liked.

    • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

      I believe that is one good reason that makes Opeth such a great band… everyone has differing views on which is their favorite. To me, that pretty much proves their ability to not make the same album twice.

      • Dobbie03

        Well put. Opeth are an amazing band. I do miss the Death Metal sounds but hey, we may be surprised with the next one.

        • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

          You never know with Akerfeldt. This may sound “out there”, but I wouldn’t put it past him to hire another vocalist for harsher vocals while he handles the clean ones. I don’t really think he’d do it, but I certainly wouldn’t put it past him. The dude just refuses to follow any set of rules when it pertains to Opeth.

  • METAL OTTER

    Do lyrics help decipher what’s going on in the cover art, i.e. Satanicock, pile of heads, “Sorceress” etching, etc?

  • Exitium

    Just can’t get into this album at all. Well, I find it less disagreeable than the previous two, but that says nothing for the quality. It sounds more like lesser remixes of previous (and better) songs, and aside from the title track and maybe “Chrysalis”, there’s just nothing memorable here.

    I’ve listened to it over a dozen times too, and barely anything sticks.

  • James Utvandraren

    I find myself disagreeing with the general assessment here. The album just doesn’t stack up after repeat listens. Where you, in your review, find complex arrangements and musical climaxes, I find Opeth’s most predictable and tame efforts to date. Sure, it’s proggy, but so was Captain Beefheart. Doesn’t mean it’s good. I feel the progressive elements have become a cliche standard, and as such they are not nearly as interesting, or as interwoven with themes and moods, as on previous releases. The “heart-wrenching” vocals are textbook templates of just Mikael’s usual crooning over some progressive chord changes. The quieter songs could be rejects/outtakes from any of the last three albums, and most of the material actually comes across as “the lost tapes” – especially considering the horrid production and the lack of a musical common ground for the songs. It’s a hot mess.

    i sometimes feel we write Opeth a blank check for “genius”, just for releasing anything, and we likewise throw the epithet “progressive” around like the word lost its meaning. In Opeth’s case, “progressive”, always meant just that; steadily evolving. Now, however, I feel they have gotten stuck in their own heads, treading water in prog hell, and this whole release comes off as a pothead fantasy of a new Opeth album, rather than an epic with merits to stand the test of time.

    • SegaGenitals

      Agree. Pedestrian. Uninspired.

    • No

    • chitownproud85

      Waaaaaaaay late, but this is the best assessment I have read or seen for this band and album, and sums up perfectly what I want to say, but for whatever reason, couldnt. “A pothead fantasy of a new Opeth album” is almost verbatim my train of thought as the last tracks slithered together.

  • Cockypock Aioli

    I’ve loved Opeth religiously since ~2000 with Still Life and the like having a huge impact on my music life. If I leave nostalgia out of the equation though then I gotta say Newpeth is Bestpeth. Pale Communion is a major achievement of an album and Sorceress is proving to be infectious and full of color, much like the beautiful artwork on the cover.

  • Meriyas

    This is an absolutely mastercrafted review AMG, props for taking your time writing it. You’re a true wordsmith.

    In other news I am keen as a bean to see Opeth at the Sydney Opera House in February!

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Opera house is a shit venue for anything other than sit down old people music

      • Thatguy

        It’s great for opera…

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          Ha yep Opeth should be at the horden. Playing the opera house is a bit of an ego trip

      • Meriyas

        I’ve never actually been inside the Opera house before, so I figured why not make it a band I actually like for my first visit.

    • Thatguy

      I would not pay money – especially not opera house prices – to see any reProg band.

  • WhamBamSam

    Opeth were my gateway band into Death Metal, and I’m not sure I’ll ever really be able to forgive them for dropping their growls. Some of these tracks sound pretty cool though, and Akerfeldt’s cleans sound more dynamic than I remembered them being. I’ll have to consider giving this enough rope to hang itself.

  • Kronos

    I vote they become Storm Corrosion next.

    • El_Cuervo

      yawn

    • eesh, now that one was rough

  • SegaGenitals

    Emotional, but monotone zenith… I vote they adopt this moniker…

  • Gaëtan Baratin

    To me it’s the title track that really pushes up the album. When it was released as a single, I was surprised, then amazed. This track is a good illustration of “less is more”. One of the best main riffs I heard this year, a new sound with a muddy bass (the muddiness feels good in this track, too bad it doesn’t for the others). It could be perfect if it wasn’t for the childish lyrics.

    I thought Opeth was once again changing direction and, as it seemed at the time, for the better. Unfortunately they chose to play it safe with songs like Will O’The Wisp and The Seventh Sojourn which bring nothing to the table. The album as a whole feels… Lazy. It seems that Opeth didn’t take any risks.

    Still, overall Sorceress is an album I really enjoy, but I can’t help but feel disappointed. Messa is still RotY for me.

  • Willem Stander

    I was hoping for a “pinnacle” album in Sorceress, an album that would be the culmination of the records prior. Sorceress was to bring a sense of cohesiveness, which was lacking somewhat, and songwriting prowess that’s on par with the Death Metal material. I had astonishingly high hopes for this one and I cannot help but feel disappointed. It’s a “good” album, but it’s not “great”. I hear tired blues riffs, harmonic minor leads that wrangle their signature interval jump one too many times and an uninspired production (too much masking at 400). I do hope that the predicted paradigm shift inspires my 2nd favourite Swedes to strive for excellence once more. Super bummed.

  • MastersApprentice

    I thoroughly enjoyed Pale Communion, but Sorceress, aside from a few choice cuts, has just failed to engage me in the same way the previous albums did. The muddy production doesn’t help either. Does anyone know if the Vinyl got a separate, dedicated master?

  • Thatguy

    Well thought out and well written review…but as for the album – well, I grew up on Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd and Yes, and I’m not impressed by latter day retreads.

    It’s cool that it’s what Akerfeldt wants but I have long lost interest. AndySynn has it down.

    • sir_c

      Yes that nails it pretty much. If you already have some vinyl in your attic from those 70s era bands, there is not a lot to discover on Opeth’ newest.
      Even though everything is well thought through and craft-fully executed, it really bores the shit out of me. It seems just too polished and there are no hidden surprises that suddenly grab your attention.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Thanks AMG very solid review.
    The great and mighty bat tells me that this is great album but I think you hit on modern Opeth’s weak point. He’s no Robert Plant and if he wants to go deeper into this style he may want to start working with a vocalist. Still my first impression is great album.

  • hallowed

    As far as I am concerned, the problem with this album is that it’s too nice. It’s so nice, it’s like an equivalent of a living room where you feel warm, secure and surrounded with familiar objects sipping your afternoon tea wrapped in a blanket by the fireplace wearing your favorite bunny slippers.

    I guess, I lack something more engaging like their earlier material used to be. Not just the heavy stuff, but the quiet stuff also.

    • SegaGenitals

      Can I visit your living room?

  • Benevolent Sun

    I have been really attached to the Ghost Reveries/Watershed days. This album has persuaded me to enjoy the new dark and clean Opeth. There are so many great instrumental moments and the vocals fit perfectly. This is a great album despite no longer being death metal. I still have access to my favorite heavy Opeth albums so no complaints from me.

  • Dnky666

    I like it the most of the 3 “prog” But moreso with Soceress than PC or H I miss the growls. Chrysalis is an awesome song but how much better would it have been circa Blackwater Park.

    • Exitium

      I actually found out about Anciients five weeks ago, and couldn’t stop playing Heart of Oak. It’s fantastic, and sounds a lot like the more progressive side of Mastodon, quite a bit of an Opeth sound, as well as some traditional thrown in for good measure.

  • Phantom667

    Its pretty interesting to me how polarizing the second coming of opeth still is. I considered myself a pretty die hard fan from the moment I first heard blackwater park back in 2001 or 2 up until ghost reveries. I hated heritage and still do with a vengeance. Its just boring, with no substance (to me). PC was listenable but I did not find myself going back to it often. And this one…..man I am almost back on the opeth train. This release just clicks with me.

    • Yeah, I heard that live track and assumed he’d got someone else in the band to growl for him. Was surprised to learn it was actually Mikael :-/

  • By-tor

    I’m hoping this will be good. Can’t say I’ve heard much I like yet, except maybe for Chrysalis. It’s not that I don’t like the more mellow Opeth, Damnation was fantastic, but I think what I miss about old Opeth is the contrast in styles. They married the opposite ends of the spectrum like no other band. What they’ve done since Ghost Reveries is just boring. Maybe if they would channel more Deadwing-era Porcupine Tree rather than Yes or Jethro Tull. Seems like the newer stuff is just random ideas stitched together for the sake of complexity rather than just making killer music. Of course that’s my complaint with most prog. Maybe I just don’t get what they’re trying to do.

  • dedseed1

    Didn’t really grab me, but my favorite Opeth song is Deliverance so my opinion is pretty much shit.

    • SegaGenitals

      Good jam, that one

  • Dunce

    For some reason I was able to get into this one a lot easier than the last two. It’s not as ambitious but I think the songwriting here is tighter than it has been on the past few records.

  • The Unicorn
  • Okay, at first I didn’t like this album much at all. Then I stumbled on an Amazon review that suggested changing around the track order. I did that, and now love it. It makes Sorceress more coherent for me – and to be honest provides peaks and troughs much like Blackwater Park. I recommend anyone on the fence try the following:
    1. Persephone
    2. Chrysalis
    3. Will O the Wisp
    4. Era
    5. Persephone (Slight Return)
    6. Sorceress
    7. Sorceress 2
    8. The Wilde Flowers
    9. A Fleeting Glance
    10. Strange Brew
    11. The Seventh Sojourn
    12. Spring MCMLXXIV
    13. The Ward

  • Well, I’ll just throw my shit opinion onto this heap. I like Sorceress. I wasn’t expecting to like it and wasn’t looking forward to the release at all, but I’ve found myself listening to it quite a bit. I don’t really listen to much classic prog or prog in general (maybe a few exceptions), so maybe that helps.

    I will add that I think Heritage is very ‘meh’ and really like Pale Communion, which also came as a surprise.

  • Best boring album ever.

  • Francesco Bordoni

    “The sequel could have been on Damnation and may be my favorite chorus from the band since Isolation Years.”
    those stakes much high such anticipation

  • JMoherPerc

    Oddly, while I completely agree about PC, this record does not hold my attention for long at all – nor can I give it any kind of lofty praise.

    But then again, when Pale Communion came out I thought to myself “decent Opeth, moving on”, and it wasn’t until about a year later that I found myself listening to it and thinking it was glorious. And it’s almost the same story with Heritage (which I think is now in my top 3 Opeth albums).

    I do feel, though, that this album is a rehash of Heritage – much as Townsend’s “Z2” felt like a rehash of Epicloud and Decon.

    Ah, well. Everyone has extremely strong and unique opinions on Opeth.

    • ElectricEye

      I have to agree here. The experimentation on Heritage made the album disjointed. Pale Communion seemed to focus more on the songs within the jazzy, prog-framework. Sorceress feels like Opeth took a step back with the emphasis on too many jazzy freakouts and fails to deliver much drama. Only the title track seems to generate any drama, but it suffers from a limp intro and unfocused ending. Maybe I will appreciate it after a few listens, but I liked Pale Communion right out of the box.

  • Loewenheim

    I’m still not really sure what to think of it, except for two things:

    1) The production is terrible, at least on some songs. Glad I’m not the only one who thinks it sounds muddy.

    2) Some parts strongly remind me of Storm Corrosion (Sorceress 2, Seventh Sojourn, parts of The Wilde Flowers)

  • naoto

    In my opinion, influences must be roots upon wich build a language, not the language itself. It sound like a “what it would have been 70’s prog if played today?”
    So far, very good album with great production. As said, Opeth are now a solid institution with a broad fanbase, the both of which allow for self-indulgence and freedom in musical proposal… maybe too much.
    In Ghost Reveries (IMHO) we got Opeth at his peak. Now, maybe, the best Akerfeldt album ever.

  • madhare

    Wow… the embedded track was such a meh… Just when I thought the song was finally going to properly begin after all that noodling, it just ended. So. Meh. As someone who likes Opeth but isn’t the biggest fanboy this really didn’t encourage me to try out the album.

  • SegaGenitals

    After about 4 spins, I am done trying to learn to appreciate this album. About a quarter of the way through it falters under the burden of its own self importance and self indulgency, with only a few moments of old form midst the bloat and blunder of this trite, predictable, flacid effort. No, sir, I’ll pass.