This here review raised a lot of questions in the steely House of Druhm. Sorcerer was a band I had firmly on my radar back in the 90s due to a few high quality demos featuring an interesting take on traditional metal buoyed by impressive vocals. Sadly, the best the band could manage before blinking out was a 1995 compilation of demo cuts, which despite their raw quality, was a compelling listen I still spin to this day. When I saw the name Sorcerer appear in our fetid promo bin, I assumed it would be some lo-fi black metal jiggery-pokery, but to my surprise it’s the band I knew back in the days of hair, cheap beer and free time! And to my eternal bewilderment and shame, I find I somehow completely missed their 2015 comeback album. It ain’t easy being the official Leave the Hall Monitor sometimes. Mistakes being made and owned up to, the fact the band is back and still featuring the mega pipes of Anders Engberg (ex-Lion’s Share, ex-Twilight), now supported by a who’s who of Swedish musicians from Therion and Tiamat is a truly grand surprise. Making it better still, they’ve become a top-shelf epic doom unit, fusing Candlemass with the regal neoclassical polish of Kamelot and heaping helpings of Tony Martin era Black Sabbath. Big riffs, bigger vocals, melodic sensibilities set to stun – it’s all here waiting on the I-ruhn Throne ov Swedish Doom Metal (currently occupied by the Sauron-ish Fire King).
Things start strong with “Sirens” which is a huge dose of epical doom walking the elegant line between Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus. The riff-work grabs you and the bigger than Bejesus and exceptionally classy vocals of Anders Engberg lash you to the mast with a huge chorus. The wicked neoclassical soloing by Kristian Nieman (Therion) and Peter Hallgren are the icing on the cake, topping it off with elegance and technical wizardry. The nearly 10-minute “Ship of Doom” is an intriguing voyage to be sure, touching heavily on the playbook created by Candlemass founder Leif Edling while shrewdly incorporating elements of Siege Perilous and The Fourth Legacy era Kamelot along with vintage Mercyful Fate. The wonder of the song is how catchy and accessible it is and just how fast the 10-minutes pass by.
“Abandoned by the Gods” adds a tasty Middle Eastern flavor and a big dose of both Dream Evil and Headless Cross era Sabbath for a smoking hot slice of epic metal that’s far more addictive and hooky than it should be. Anders blows the doors off this one with a positively enormous performance, the fluid and first-rate guitar noodling is out of sight and the chorus is a big winner. “The Devil’s Incubus” is as good if not better and just as intensely catchy, and the title track is a thing is beauty, carefully stitching classic doom with Euro-power in a way I didn’t think possible. It has the strengths of both genres and neither of their weaknesses, and you have to hear it to understand. Even the oddball closer “Unbearable Sorrow” is a win despite an unusual step toward both melancholic post-metal and Dokken-esque hair metal, if you can imagine that (and you likely can’t).
Downsides? Not really. The slave master sound clips during “Ship of Doom” are a bit cheesy and take away from the otherwise world-class music, and occassionally the lyrics get a bit too LARP-friendly.
The production is polished and allows the band’s technical know-how to shine through. A darker, more menacing guitar tone would have added extra pop, but there’s little else to complain about. At almost an hour in length and full of songs between 6 and 10 minutes, this thing goes by fast! The songs are so well crafted and catchy, they seem more like radio hits than classic doom constructs. This is big, big stuff but very easy to enjoy.
Anders Engberg never sounded better and he simply owns this album from start to finish. He’s like a wondrous hybrid of Roy Khan, Tony Martin and Niklas Isfedt (Dream Evil) and brings a power and accessibility to the well constructed material. He really impressed the hell out of me here and I was already a fan of his singing. The music behind him is every bit as good and the guitar-work by Nieman and Hallgren is out of this world. They get the doom leads right and use them as a base upon which to pile classic and power metal influences and showcase some stellar solo-work. This is one of those albums where every note feels right and each adds something crucial to the song it appears within.
When I think of how far Sorcerer has come from those early demos to this ginormous crowning achievement, it boggles my metal mind. It took them 27 years to get here, but it was definitely worth the wait. A strong Album o’ the Year contender that doom, power and traditional metal fans should check out post-haste. Long live Sorcerer and the Fire King!