Opeth - Sorceress,
I still remember the impact ‘Ghost Reveries’ had on me when I first heard it back in 2005. It was Opeth’s eighth album, but the first I had come across, and it totally blew me away. I then sought out the earlier albums and was intrigued to see how much they had changed over the years: what would that mean for the future I thought? This is their fourth album since then, and features the same line-up as 2014’s, ‘Pale Communion’, namely Mikael Åkerfeldt (guitars, vocals), Martín Méndez (bass), Martin Axenrot (drums), Fredrik Åkesson (guitars), and Joakim Svalberg (keyboards). But, of that line-up only Mikael was a full member on ‘Reveries’ (Martin played on just one song), so in many ways this isn’t the same band, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that the band have moved in such dramatic fashion from their death metal days. But what does that mean for the fans who followed them?
I found that I kept thinking of classic Uriah Heep, but on steroids, as the guitar is that much sharper and the solos more powerful, but the way the organ keeps thing moving and repeating motifs is very much of that style. When I told someone, I was finally getting around to listening to this album, which came out in September last year, he said that he would be very interested in hearing what I thought of it. In the end, I told him that in many ways I think this is a good album, but it’s not Opeth. And there’s the rub, looking at the cover art does one really notice that the peacock is displaying his tail feathers on a mound of skulls? The skulls may be where they have come from, but are they now a bird with an annoying cry? Do they look good, but there is little substance and no taste?
Musically this is all over the place, but early Seventies is where it is most at home, and songs such as the acoustic “Will O The Wisp” would be more at home on a classic Jethro Tull album than Opeth. But, and it’s a big but, take the word “Opeth” off the album cover then I and probably all other reviewers would be looking at this in a different light. What will fans be wanting when the band play live? Will it be the older material or this? I know what I think. This should probably have been released as a solo album by Mikael, as there is too much risk of disengaging fans who have been with the band for years. The question is, how many of them will turn up for gigs, and how many will buy the next album? I enjoyed this on a pure musical level, but it isn’t what I expected at all.