Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt jokingly described his band’s trajectory as Bob Dylan in reverse in an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year – because of the way they moved away from forbidding death metal to softer, occasionally acoustic prog-rock sounds in recent years – and they revel in that notion on their latest record, Sorceress.
The record, which officially comes out Friday but is streaming a day early here, favors light over shadow as Åkerfeldt and Co. indulge folk balladeering (“Will o the Wisp,” “Sorceress 2”), ELP-like carnival organ (“Chrysalis” and “The Wilde Flowers”) and orchestral, faux–Middle Eastern melodies à la Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” (“The Seventh Sojourn”). But of course the band also throws in a few moments of hard rock throughout, for texture. Overall, Sorceress is an expression of how much Opeth can accomplish without the strictures of extreme metal.
Many of the songs even deal with the least metal of all subjects: romance. But the group tackles the topic in a devilish way. “I was trying to draw inspiration from the negative aspects of love: the jealousy, the mindfucks, the paranoia and everything that comes with what’s ultimately a beautiful feeling,” Åkerfeldt told Rolling Stone. “It’s something that I value extremely highly in my life, but it really can have a damaging effect on you, which it did on me.”
It’s that depth, both thematically and musically, that has become the cornerstone of the Opeth experience; change is the one thing the group’s fans can rely on. “The artists I admire and the bands that I love most are the ones who had different phases of music,” Åkerfeldt said of the way the band has evolved. “That’s how I think music should be.”