Opeth – Sorceress (2016)

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OpethSorceress (Moderbolaget Records / distributed by Nuclear Blast, 30 September 2016)

 
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Abbey Road. “The White Album.” Widely considered to be hugely influential milestones in the history of recorded music. And yet the group responsible for these masterpieces began its career with mindless bubblegum-pop: stuff like “Love, love me do / You know I love you / I’ll always be true / So please love me do,” “She loves you, yeah yeah yeah / She loves you, yeah yeah yeah / She loves you, yeah yeah yeah yeah,” and “I wanna hold your hand / I wanna hold your hand / I wanna hold your hand / I wanna hold your hand.”

Certainly that’s a pretty extreme example, but the point here is that when a band experiences a seismic styistic shift, it isn’t always catastrophic, and can even be a positive thing. Naturally, when this occurs it can sometimes be unnerving to fans of the artist’s earlier work (and of course there have been plenty of moments where such a move did turn out to be a major misstep), but it never ceases to confound me, how often and how passionately hatred is spewed in the direction of Opeth for having developed a different sound over their quarter-century-plus career. This group of Swedes receives just as many nasty comments (particularly if the band is ever mentioned in the context of a metal festival or anything to do with metal music) for NOT making the same album over and over, as Six Feet Under does for essentially the exact opposite transgression.

The transition from death metal to progressive death metal occurred very early in this band’s existence, and it was the latter guise that caught most fans’ attention, gaining the ensemble a huge following. But throughout the course of a dozen full-length albums, gradually the elements of “death” had dropped away, and ultimately “metal” as well, landing Opeth squarely in the realm of “progressive” music, and leaving many earlier devotees feeling shortchanged. Nevertheless, in this reviewer’s opinion the band’s latest effort, last September’s Sorceress stands up quite well — when one judges it on its own merits, rather than attempting a side-by-side comparison with Still Life or Blackwater Park. And with that in mind, let’s jump right in.
 
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Year of the Goat – The Key and the Gate (2014), The Unspeakable (2015)

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Year of the GoatThe Key and the Gate (Napalm Records, 28 November 2014)

 

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Year of the GoatThe Unspeakable (Napalm Records, 31 July 2015)

 

The year of the goat has ended: this past February, the year of the monkey was ushered in.  But the previous twelve lunar months had been dominated by this horned beast — the third such year since the one in which I was born — and around this time period, Sweden’s Year of the Goat had been fairly active.  Exactly twelve weeks before the commencement of the (Chinese) new year, their second EP The Key and the Gate saw the light of day via Napalm Records, who then went on to release Year of the Goat‘s second full-length album The Unspeakable once the year of the goat was actually in full-swing — in fact, right in the middle of the month of the goat.

And I’ll stop there, because that pretty much exhausts the extent of my research into Chinese astrology in preparation for writing about this band from Norrköping and their latest two releases — the latter and longer of which found its way onto my list of the best of 2015

 

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Selim Lemouchi and His Enemies – Earth Air Spirit Water Fire (2013)

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Selim Lemouchi and His EnemiesEarth Air Spirit Water Fire (Ván Records, 06 December 2013)

 

Good afternoon. It’s been about eleven days since you last heard from me — sorry, but I’ve had shit going on. Like one of those times where everything decides to break all at once, and everything needs urgent attention. Whatever. I hope you’ll be able to forgive me when you hear the ABSOLUTE FUCKING MASTERPIECE that I’m sharing with you today. This album — a solo work by the former guitarist of Dutch occult band The Devil’s Blood — was released to not-a-whole-lot-of-acclaim at the tail end of 2013, and then was tragically overshadowed by its creator’s death just about three months later. A huge surge in attention for his former band ensued, but it felt (to me, anyway) like this record accidentally got swept under the rug. Which is really a shame, because it’s sheer genius.

One quick word of caution, before we get started, though — speaking of genius. This article is going to contain references to Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. If hearing those names conjures images of sappy poppy teeny bopper surf music — and nothing further — please take a moment to educate yourself about what is universally considered to be that composer’s (and his band’s) landmark achievement in the history of recorded music. You can thank me later. When you’re ready, please join us directly beneath the following photograph…

 

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