Opeth : Finding Out The Heritage Of Sorceress
4th October 2016, 15:00
Posted by Tristan

Opeth. A name that means so much to so many. Having created some of the best Metal albums in the last twenty years with each release the band have grown from the small acorns of their beginnings to the mighty oaks of the modern day. However always a talking point whether it be waiting in line at a show, around a pub table to just with some mates is their somewhat controversial decision to go completely against the grain and turn their sound one hundred percent around. So how did it get to this decision? The decision that sometimes less is more, the decision that saw the Progressive nature of the band actually overtake the Death Metal roots and of course the disappearance of Akerfeldt’s eponymous growl. Aiming to try and find out what might have prompted this decision of such a drastic change we delve into the band’s catalogue with an exclusive interview clip with the band and their writing inspiration behind Sorceress.

Reaching as far back as the likes of Blackwater Park, their magnum opus among magnum opuses. Produced by the renaissance man of Prog himself Steven Wilson the record saw the beginning of what has now come to be a friendship between both Wilson and Akerfeldt.  Working closely together not only did Akerfeldt and Wilson form an incredibly tight bond but spawned various solo projects the likes of the avant garde Storm Corrosion. A combination of both artists’ outlook into the nature of songwriting. Always intricate and at times bordering on pretentious, the collaboration is no doubt a small movement into the softer direction. A potential nudge into this more subdued of sounds.

Of course yet another fan favourite among their daunting back catalogue has to be Ghost Reveries. Vastly more demonic than their later works, the album is once again held in the highest regard. Once more building on their already well vocalised flirtation with Folk elements the record saw the band move into sections of muted serenity. The likes of “Isolation Years” juxtaposed with the attack of the live favourite “The Grand Conjuration” created a contrast that the band thrive on. Even from their Deliverance and Damnation double album these ideas were first explored, having both albums at polarising ends of the spectrum. The petrichor beckoning Damnation, an ode to those mournful Autumn days of introspection contrasted with the all out weaponry of Deliverance featuring their just shy of fifteen minute epic title track.

Establishing that the seeds of Prog had been there and were perhaps long dormant, many argue the biggest stylistic transformation was Heritage. Seeing  the band go slightly a little too left field, its arguable that Watershed itself was the gateway into this King Crimson, ELP worshipping era. In keeping with the band’s patented style the likes of “Heir Apparent” conjure up vistas of haunted woods, deserted castles governed by ivy however the likes of “The Lotus Eater” despite its barricade of distortion gives way to some of the band’s most Folky sections to date. Not to mention the more avant garde finale of “Burden” seeing guitars progressively detune before being left with a calling card of the mellotron. Remaining in the key of Metal with scintillating guitar solos expertly delivered from new guitarist Fredrik Akesson on “Hessian Peel” leading into signature battlement riffing or the maudlin “Porcelain Heart“. However slowly but surely Opeth was beginning to shed its Death Metal skin, as the album progressed introduction of more off kilter material was introduced until finally the band reached the point of Heritage.

Somewhat of a double edged sword the record is stalemate between fans. Those who share more of an open mind believe it was the band’s first expression at radically changing their sound. After the small footsteps that were taken on the likes of previous albums, it could be said that perhaps the departure might have been a shock to the Metal system. Awaiting the reliant combo of full on Death Metal with melancholic colouring in the form of folk instead the world was greeted with the likes of tweed sounding guitars, “The Lines In My Hand” or the world instruments in “Famine” used to create that musky resonance that embodies Prog. The cathedral like reverberation of “The Devil’s Orchard” where we saw this quashed distortion faovuring mellotron’s over Metal pedals. Yet as much as it was a departure the band’s cocksure attitude has to be commended in their decision that could well have broken their fan base. Particularly with the reputation Metal heads have for being perhaps less openminded than most.

Reigning back their inner Zappa, Akerfeldt and co didn’t quite listen to the words of their fans but instead gave flight to an entirely new hybrid of Metal and Prog. Bathed in their tweed asthetic the likes of “Cusp Of Eternity” relied on a bedrock of Metal riffing with slight psychedlic nuances drifting here and there between the two. Though revered as yet another brilliant addition to their already stellar canon, the record was somewhat of a difficulty to interact with. “Moon Above, Sun Below“, the ten minute Prog feast was more of a wander than a defined passage of understanding. Having always had the lengthy song times the likes of Still Life number “The Moor” the band have been entrenched in Prog. Focusing more on vocal delivery, the steps taken in Pale Communion were more geared towards Akerfeldt’s experimentation towards his delivery as a singer. Combined with the atmospheric likes of  penultimate number “Voice Of Treason” and solemn “Faith In Others” acted as a conduit between the likes of the polarising Heritage and the band’s earlier work. Forging fearlessly into the creative plains the band once more pushed their creative boundaries with their twelfth and brand new record Sorceress.

In between brewing their own beer, the darkly hoppy Pale Communion brown ale and touring the world over, the band resolved to enter yet another new strand of genius. Building upon the foundations laid by Pale Communion, Opeth have once again been able to eschew categorisation and once more present themselves with their latest reincarnation. The Phoenix they are, not only improves on ideas but also sees them surge forward once more.Utilising “Sorceress” the title track as a perfect example, the band have found a perfect balance between the definition of Heavy as an idea and its execution. Despite having shed their Death Metal skin well and truly, particularly with the second single “Will O The Wisp” sounding more a love letter to Jethro Tull than their Blackened Death roots Opeth are quite simply their own entity. Cocksure in their approach and execution the band are at the stage in their life time where the world is well and truly their oyster. Polarising opinion with the decision to dishevel harsh vocals is precisely what has made them an entirely essential addition to the Prog roster. Celebrating their twenty fifth anniversary around the world last year 2016 sees our Phoenix’s once again take flight. Performing at some of the most prestigious halls in the world at long last Opeth have reached their much owed status.

So does it matter about the lack of harsh vocals? No. Will they ever go back to Death Metal? Who cares. Quite simply Opeth will do whatever they want, able to reinvent themselves not only as a band but as a sound with every release. who would have known the small seeds that had been sown in Orchid and Morningrise would one day lead to their lofty Prog Rock status. Set to headline London’s prestigious Wembley Arena this November as part ostentatious world tour,  Opeth can and will do whatever they want regardless of reason or influence, all we have to do is sit  back and enjoy the ride.

Sorceress is out now on a range of different formats ranging from 2CD, 180 gram vinyl in various coloursas a download and the best of all a picture disc with signed insert.

If you fancy an evening of Deliverance and Damnation along with some sorcery in the UK tickets to the unmissable experience on November 19th are available here! 

You can pick all these up and more in the links above!