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Sorceress

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Album Review

When Opeth released Heritage in 2011, they had completed the transformation from their death metal origins through progressive death metal in the early 2000s, to full-on prog rock that celebrated their love of Camel, Jethro Tull, ELP, and more. 2014's excellent Pale Communion furthered those notions as frontman and songwriter Mikael Åkerfeldt's own vision began to emerge. Sorceress is the third installment in this phase of the band's career, and while considerably different and more exploratory than its precursors, it also references Opeth's earlier efforts like Ghost Reveries and Blackwater Park, but goes further than either in its diversity.

Uncharacteristically, Åkerfeldt wrote the album quickly. He enlisted Tom Dalgety as co-producer (who also engineered and mixed) and Opeth recorded it in twelve days at Rockfield Studios in Wales. Sorceress is a madly assorted mixed bag. Åkerfeldt's inspirations this time out may still recall prog sources, but there are heavier ones, too: Black Sabbath and the Ritchie Blackmore/Jon Lord-era of Deep Purple. Opener "Persephone" has a brief nylon-string guitar sketch in waltz time that could have come from folk music antiquity. It gives way to the title track and first single. Joakim Svalberg's knotty organ riff dominates the opening moment before a crushing syncopated guitar riff joins in. This track somewhat recalls the Pale Communion sessions but is far more unhinged. The Geezer Butler-esque bassline and explosive kick drums make it the most accessible thing here — its instrumental section keeps it firmly in prog terrain, however. "The Wilde Flowers" is a truly wild melange of musical styles. It's simultaneously heavy, hard, and spacy, with B-3, bluesy and squalling metal guitar breaks, and chorale vocals that drift in the center, weighting it as a solidly prog track. The bludgeoning guitar riff, up-mixed, swinging drums, and punishing bassline in "Chrysalis" make it a highlight; it shines with Åkerfeldt's finest vocal performance on the album (he can be notoriously lazy). There are lovely acoustic tracks here, too, such as "Will O' the Wisp," which exists in the space between Pentangle's Basket of Light and Led Zeppelin III. "The Seventh Sojourn" melds East Indian drone with North African modalism and exotic hand percussion; strings and keyboards eclipse an oud-like guitar line. It eventually dissembles, wedding near classical polyphony to subdued pop. "Strange Brew" winds through Peter Gabriel-era Genesis-esque ponderousness before a bluesy guitar line ushers it into thundering King Crimson-esque prog adorned with proto-metal riffs and vamps. "A Fleeting Glance" is a dynamic, multifaceted jam showcasing Åkerfeldt's sophisticated melodic sensibilities while touching on musical terrain from Pink Floyd and Gentle Giant to post-Village Green-era Kinks! "Era" opens with a delicate piano intro but Opeth erupts a minute later in melodic aggression. Åkerfeldt's more confident and individualized songwriting on Sorceress takes it in some dizzying directions. While it goes further musically than their two previous outings, it contains enough of the past to exist in a space that carves out terrain somewhere between Watershed and Heritage. Brilliant.

Customer Reviews

Excuses

Why do people make excuses for bands releasing controversial material by saying they are "maturing," or that it is all about the "growls" for people who don't like the change? Neither are true. Opeth released "Watershed" and "Damnation" years ago, and nobody complained. They were beautiful albums, with a lot of clean vocals that sounded great. As far as maturing; their old albums like "Orchid," "Morningrise," "Still Life," and "Blackwater Park," are about as complex as music gets. Ingenious arrangements that could evoke sadness, despondency, happiness, anger and hope. All backed up by insanely complicated guitar riffs that were written with poetic lyrics. That is maturity in a nutshell. The problem with Opeth, for many fans, came with "Heritage," and "Pale Communion." It's not that they were Prog, they were Prog JAZZ! And in the opinion of many, myself included, they were terrible albums. "Pale Communion" was much more palatable than "Heritage," but there was still something missing. Instead of growing, and adding to their sound, Opeth literally redefined themselves. Not good, and many fans hated it. But they were dismissed by those who like anything a band puts out no matter what it sounds like, for just "not getting it." After all, "real fans" support the artist's creative endeavors, no matter what it sounds like, right? Real fans are "enlightened." Wrong. Anyway, with this album, it sounds as though they are returning to their older sound, albeit with a more Prog oriented focus. "Sorceress" starts out with a Gojira inspired riff, and then blossoms into a beautifully written song with some crunch to it. "Will O' the Wisp" is an ethereal acoustic track that evokes their older material, while showcasing a real talent for the softer side of metal without sounding cheesy. Great arrangements in both songs. I like what I hear so far, and I'm looking forward to the album.

No Growls, No Problem

The first released Song Sorceress from their soon to be released album...Sorceress is going to be divisive. I'm on the side of liking this new sound and if the album is like this, itll be great. Yes the vocals on this song don't have the old Opeth growls but we will see if that is the case for the whole album. Either way, the music is still very pychedelic/Prog Rock sounding but there are some very crunching heavy guitar parts with amazing solos. I got this pre ordered already . Looking forward to it.

Ghostship

Opth has matured, musically and deep within their lyrics, either way they choose to go, be it growl or psychadelic rock ways, they have matured into a fine group of extremely talented and dedicated MUSICIANS, good job in advance Opeth.

Biography

Formed: 1990 in Stockholm, Sweden

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Brought together in Stockholm by guitarists Peter Lindgren and Mikael Åkerfeldt in 1990, Opeth added progressive influences and acoustic instrumentation to their brand of Swedish death metal. As the group progressed, it was very common for an Opeth live set to fly in several different musical directions -- and an average song lasted no less than ten minutes. Impressed by their originality, Candlelight Records released their debut full-length in 1995, which was titled Orchid, and featured a rhythm...
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Sorceress, Opeth
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