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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Katatonia – Dethroned & Uncrowned (2013), Sanctitude (2015), The Fall of Hearts (2016)

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KatatoniaDethroned & Uncrowned (Kscope, 10 Sepember 2013)

 

Sanctitude cover

KatatoniaSanctitude (Kscope, 30 March 2015)

 

Katatonia - Fall Of Hearts - Medium Res Cover

KatatoniaThe Fall of Hearts (Peaceville Records, 20 May 2016)

 

Commonly referred to as “The Peaceville Three,” British bands Paradise Lost, Anathema, and My Dying Bride each formed in the late 1980s or early ’90s, each signed with Peaceville Records soon after (even though the actual amount of time during which all three of them were on the label’s roster together was actually pretty brief), and each went on to release some major landmark albums that ended up defining the development of the gothic metal genre from its roots in melodic death and doom metal. And, just like when people talk about other bands who just as easily could have been included in lists like “The Big Four” of thrash, there’s an unofficial fourth member of “The Peaceville Three,” who have been in existence about as long as the others, who have been with the Peaceville label for nearly the past twenty years, and who have been just as instrumental in the realm of gothic metal (including the symphonic, progressive, and dark melodic elements that have been interwoven together during its decades-long evolution): their neighbors across the North Sea, Katatonia.

Four years ago, Katatonia released their ninth full-length Dead End Kings, which was subsequently described in press as the band’s “most successful to date,” having “cemented [their] position as masters of sorrowful metal [… and] marked another step in the journey towards a more progressive sound.” Following that acclaim, naturally there would be a high degree of anticipation to see what would come next — and eventually a tenth album of all-new material emerged, just a few short months ago. But before we discuss The Fall of Hearts, the journey to this release has included a look backwards and a good bit of twisting previous entries from this substantial discography into new and interesting shapes, so let’s take a quick tour of what these Swedes have been up to over the past three years, shall we?

 

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Person or Persons Unknown: Six Questions with Solarburn Bassist Tony Thomas

Person or Persons Unknown

 

Six Questions with Solarburn Bassist Tony Thomas

by Asya Yanyo

 

    
The first step is admitting it, right? So here goes… “Hello, my name is Asya, and I am addicted to Solarburn.”  I have seen them numerous times, and will again soon; I had their CD in the CD changer in my car for a record 12 weeks straight, and for a long time it was the band that I would talk about every chance I got. It’s not as if I wish to be cured of my addiction or anything; in fact I’ve decided to just own it, and I am perfectly willing to help others get addicted too.

This pretty much is THE band for me, the band that opened up a whole new level of musical enjoyment in my life, and the band that I shamelessly promote every chance I get, quite like I am doing right now. Yes, if you haven’t seen them yet, you’re honestly missing (in my humble opinion) one of the BEST things about Pittsburgh! But you can fix that April 2nd when they open for Otep at the Altar Bar.

They are three of the nicest and most genuinely no-BS guys I have ever met in my life, and these dudes can shred like nobody’s business. So how did I just pick one of them for Person or Persons Unknown? As hard as it was (and honestly it WAS hard, because I am lucky enough to actually be friends with [guitarist] Mike [Stains], [drummer] Russ [Tompkins], and [bassist] Tony [Thomas]), I ended up choosing the person I connected with immediately in the beginning, at the first show at I ever saw Solarburn play — way back in August of last year. Immediately, I felt that Tony was more than just an awesome bass player, but that he also a had deep knowledge of music, which I respected and connected with. As you’ll see from this interview, that is definitely the case.

 
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