Opeth’s first major foray into progressive music was 2003‘s Damnation, featuring all clean vocals and ‘70s inspired prog rock. They returned to death metal for another couple albums, but 2011‘s Heritage brought them fully back into the progressive realm, where they remain today.

With their latest release Sorceress, Opeth continue to refine their progressive chops, building on elements from Heritage and 2014‘s Pale Communion and becoming even more comfortable in this incarnation and evolution of their sound.

Frontman Mikael Akerfeldt had a goal when writing the songs for the album: “The only thing I was thinking about with this record was to write that songs didn’t musically connect. I made sure if I had a song that was new sounding for this record, I’d make the next song completely different. I think the songs are very different from one another. It’s very diverse.”

He’s absolutely right that this is a diverse album, and even though the songs are different from each other, things still flow very smooth. That’s evident from the first proper song, the title track, which shifts from upbeat prog to slower and more somber with heavy guitar.

Speaking of heavy guitar, there’s a tasty solo in the middle of “The Wilde Flowers” before the intensity drops dramatically. The first half of the album is definitely the heavier half, with tracks like “Chrysalis” keeping the tempo quick.

Sorceress mellows out in the middle, as both “Sorceress 2“ and “The Seventh Sojourn” are pretty subdued. The next two songs have plenty of quiet moments, but a little pep in their step as well. The last full song (before a brief closing instrumental) is “Era,” one of the album’s strongest. It’s another heavier track, blending rock urgency, progressive flourishes and a memorable chorus.

There are still holdouts who won’t listen to an Opeth album without death growls, but they are missing out. Sorceress finds the band’s progressive ambitions fully realized, delivering an album of compelling and engaging songs with a minimum of self-indulgence.

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