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Opeth - 2016 - "Sorceress"

(56:34, Moderbolaget Records)


Sweden’s OPETH is one of the most innovative groups on the contemporary progressive rock scene. The band’s new album, “Sorceress”, shows that Mikael Akerfeldt & Co still follow the tradition they started back in 2011 on "Heritage" (the rejection of growling vocals and extreme trends in general, because of which their fan base has been - slowly, but steadily - decreasing since then), further widening their stylistic horizons. “Sorceress” includes more musical genres than “Pale Communion” (soon after the release of which - as a result of declining sales - the band was expelled from Roadrunner Records), and is more varied in this respect. On the other hand, however, what has been said doesn’t mean it is better than its predecessor. Three of the eleven tracks, that the new album is made up of, are calm ballads, only featuring acoustic instruments and voices. Three more compositions are art-rock-like songs, occasionally deploying elements of quasi-Jazz-Fusion. All of them have a full-band sound (at least most of the time), although they are quite transparent structurally. In other words, these are pleasing compositions, but are almost instantly accessible. The same words are relevant to The Seventh Sojourn, an instrumental piece, belonging exclusively to the so-called World Music genre. To be precise, it sounds very much like the traditional music of the Turkic peoples of Central Asia. Only the remaining four tracks are multi-sectional compositions and are full of intricate, highly progressive, arrangements. Stylistically all of them represent Prog-Metal with either acoustic or semi-acoustic art-rock interludes, but without anything that would suggest Symphonic Progressive of the first water (which may be rather heavy at times, of course), as opposed to the music on either of the band’s two previous albums. The only vintage keyboard instrument that plays an important role here is the Hammond organ, besides which most of its solos have a Deep Purple-ish feel to them (yeah, just like in case of the latest Kansas release). Well, it’s time to make a conclusion. While stylistically less consistent and cohesive than most, if not all, of the other studio albums from the band’s discography, "Sorceress" has a lot of commercial potential. All in all, I find it to be a good release, but by no means a masterpiece. Please don't go mad on experimentation, Mikael! If the tendency to simplify the band's music will continue, Opeth may face the fate of Marillion. Finally I must note that "Sorceress" entered the Top 10 of the Official UK (Top 100) Albums Chart earlier this week, which is, commercially speaking :-), the band's highest achievement to date.

Vitaly "Progressor" Menshikov: October 6, 2016

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