REVIEW: SORCERER – “Lamenting Of The Innocent”
Once a distant memory, Sweden’s Sorcerer were hopeless to escape the call of the void and jumped back in headlong in 2010 after an 18-year hiatus. Never a band to operate entirely within the confines of doom, it is apparent that their time away was spent picking up a myriad of musical inspirations and aspirations. The results, particularly on their latest opus ‘Lamenting of the Innocent’ is a construct that uses doom as a base layer upon which to heap hearty doses of assorted sub-genres including progressive metal, traditional metal, and beyond.
Opening instrumental “Persecutor” builds minor-key tension for the record’s first single “The Hammer of Witches.” Feet firmly planted in the kind of fantastical epic doom that Sorcerer built their reputation on, it is a real barnburner. The concrete shuffle of the verse provides ample space for long-running vocalist Anders Engberg’s imposing howl and guitarists Kristisan Niemann and Peter Hallgren’s neoclassical flights of fancy. The anthemic double-kick laden swing of the pre-chorus with its drawn-out melodies is perfectly juxtaposed by the modern extreme metal referencing growled chant of the chorus.
Self-produced and mixed by returning engineer Ronnie Björnström the ultra-slick modern production is a far cry from the less than stellar sound of their scattered 1990s output. Crystal clear with thick guitars, clear vocals, punctuating keyboards, and punchy drums and bass, the mix suits the sheer ambition of the project. A double-edged sword, it occasionally polishes some of the more aggressive moments too much, weakening their effectiveness. This minor fault is often intensified by the band’s tendency towards overwrought syrupy sweet pop choruses.
The slow burn of the title track marries dyed in the wool doom to textural Queensryche-esque progressive metal. Engberg’s plaintive vocals, which rise from a croon to an iron lunged shriek take center stage as he laments the triumph of evil over good on a song that offers vague commentary on the wickedness of man and the desolation of war.
The dirge of standout track “Dance with the Devil” is a progressive affair that combines choral vocals over a tough angular riff and a sublime atmospheric slow build verse/chorus combination. The song’s coda alternates between a guitar solo ridden mid-tempo chug and a 6/8 swing topped by hyper-melodic lead guitars and vocals. All of this gracefully carried by the proficient rhythm section of newcomer bassist Justin Biggs (longtime bassist Johnny Hagel retains a creative partnership with the band) and Richard Evensand (drums).
“Deliverance” is the best of a mid-record collection of torchlit ballads worthy of Geralt of Rivia’s bedchamber. Fresh off one of the best records of 2019, the song features an excellent guest turn by Candlemass’s Johan Lanqvst. Engberg and Langqvst’s heartfelt earnest vocals carrying the tune over sparse classically inspired acoustic guitars and strings.
Epic closing number “Road to Perdition” begins with some virtuosic if slightly indulgent guitar work. The band’s best assets, Niemann and Hallgren trade shred-tastic guitar hero level licks as synths build anticipation. Among the more efficient tracks on the record, Engberg’s powerful vocals punctuate the gritty start/stop riff of the verse before the monstrous crawl of the chorus drags us out of the light kicking and screaming. A solid slab of “epicus doomicus metallicus” the song plays to the band’s strengths and closes out full-length record number three on a high note.
With its anthemic choruses and top-notch musicianship ‘Lamenting of the Innocent’, the restless new record by Sorcerer cuts a fine figure but is occasionally crushed beneath the weight of its own grandiosity. An impressive effort, nonetheless.