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)

 

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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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The Order of Israfel – Wisdom (2014), Red Robes (2016); Candlemass – Death Thy Lover (2016)

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The Order of IsrafelWisdom (Napalm Records, 09 September 2014)

 

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The Order of IsrafelRed Robes (Napalm Records, 27 May 2016)

 

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CandlemassDeath thy Lover (Napalm Records, 03 June 2016)

 

Good afternoon. Today, let’s talk about Swedish doom. First I’d like to call your attention to a band from Gothenburg, whom some of you may not know yet, since they’ve only been around about four years now. In that time, they’ve released two albums — the first almost two years ago, and the second last Friday — both through Napalm Records. We’ll be discussing both of those.

The other band we’re going to cover today, from Stockholm, is likely to already be familiar to every single person reading this: their debut album was released thirty years ago this month, and it literally defined the “Epic Doom Metal” genre. Celebrating that milestone, the band will be releasing a brand-new EP this Friday — which we’ll also talk about today.

 

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My Brother the Wind – Once There Was a Time When Time and Space Were One (2014)

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My Brother the Wind
Once There Was a Time When Time and Space Were One
(Free Electric Sound / The Laser’s Edge, 14 October 2014)

 

Hey there, folks! How’s your day going? Hopefully better than mine. Normally Tuesday mornings have me feeling like I’m sleepwalking anyway, and when you add in the fact that I’m basically trying to do the work of three people right now instead of the usual two (at no point this month will my department at work be fully staffed — they’ve all scheduled weeklong vacations over the next several weeks — but on top of that, we’ve also had people call in sick the past couple days). So my mind is racing in countless different directions all at once, nonstop all day long. And just when it seemed like it couldn’t get any worse, our network goes down for nearly two hours, leaving me without access to my e-mail, phone, or most of the files and programs I need to use to do my job. Sometimes it’s enough to make you just want to throw your hands up in defeat, and just scream.

But whatever, there’s shit to be done and I’m getting it done. And plus, a little bit of downtime gave me the opportunity to throw together a few words about some music I’ve been listening to. This will be a pretty brief essay, but a few days ago I discovered a cool album that I think a lot of people out there might enjoy, so I wanted to pass it along…

 

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