Sorcerer – Lamenting of the Innocent Review

Sweden’s Sorcerer has had a bouncy ride through the ages. They released a series of demos I really enjoyed back in the early 90s and then completely vanished from the metal scene for some 20-plus years. They reappeared in 2015 with a comeback album I slept on, then knocked me flat, silly and senseless with 2017s stupendous The Crowning of the Fire King. That album’s expertly crafted blend of traditional and doom metal was impossible to resist and Fire King seized my Record o’ the Year glory easily. Naturally I was quite stoked to receive the followup, Lamenting of the Innocent. With a concept based around the Inquisition and witch trials, all signs and omens pointed to another big dose of classy metal with hooks by the boatload. Why is it then that I’m so underwhelmed by an album I’ve been so eagerly anticipating? The talent level is still insanely high, the blend of Candlemass and Headless Cross era Black Sabbath is still present, but much of the magic and mysticism is inexplicably absent, as if the age of wizards and warlocks has come to an abrupt and brutal end. There’s still some good material, but this is quite the epic come down from their last platter which I almost awarded the ultra, mega rare 5.0/5.0. It seems mana, like friends and ammunition, is never around when you need it most.

After an appropriately oversized intro, the album kicks off with “The Hammer of the Witches,” which is quite Candlemassive1, even seeming to poach the main riff from “A Cry from the Crypt.” It’s a decent song, but it feels muted and a bit flat, and without a big chorus, it doesn’t rev my ear engines. The title track is better, creating an epic atmosphere with fat doom riffs, allowing Anders Engberg to weave his vocal spells to entrance and enchant. There’s even a bit of harsh vocals thrown in for extra spice. Also very good is the short, concise punch of “Institoris,” which is the only song here that could appear on Fire King and hold its own.

The album’s downfall comes courtesy of the band’s efforts to diversify their writing. In what the promo materials describe as an effort to expand their sound, Sorcerer ends up neutering themselves by including an overabundance of sedate power ballads. There’s nothing wrong with a band exploring their softer side, and they do it fairly well, but placing the nearly 7-minute epic-tinged ballad “Where Spirits Die” side by side with the 5-plus minutes of slow burning balladry of “Deliverance” at the album’s midpoint deals a fatal blow to Lamenting’s momentum from which it never recovers. Even an appearance by Candlemass vocalist Johan Länguist on the latter track doesn’t stop the bleeding, as it’s just too languid a song with too little vigor. In fact, it isn’t until closer “Path to Perdition” that things get back on track, but by then it’s too late. Sadly, even some of the more lively numbers like “Dance with the Devil” still underwhelm. It’s the same band, but the writing just doesn’t have the same sizzle and punch as last time. There’s also a tendency to drag songs well past their selling point, making cuts like “Age of the Damned” and “Dance with the Devil” feel bloated and tedious before they finally meet their maker.

As always, I’m a huge fan of Anders Engberg’s vocals. He has the kind of charismatic voice that makes any song better, and his performance keeps Lamenting from going off the cliff into Snoozeville. At times he channels Tony Martin, and at others he’s like a young Don Dokken. The guitar-work by Kristian Niemann and Peter Hallgren is also very good, and at times great (especially the beautiful solo work to open “Path of Perdition” and on the back third of “Dance with the Devil”). Unfortunately, the choice to include so many ballad-y pieces limited the tandem’s opportunities to impress with big riffs and harmonies. Too much of the album feels stuck in low gear with the guitarists doodling sedately in the background instead of flattening cities with righteous doom licks. That’s a misapplication of critical resources.

I’m aware this review sounds harsh and that’s my disappointment talking. This is still a good album, but it’s a shadow of what its predecessor was, and that album’s greatness shines an unflattering light on these less compelling compositions. In truth, every song here would be the weakest if put on Fire King, so take from that what you will. Bored by sorcery, Steel turns a bitter eye toward science and technology.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: May 29th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Candlemassive” is the registered and trademarked property of Cherd of Doom and is used here with his vaguely implied consent obtained against his will and behind his back.
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