History will remember these times for so many dark and depressive reasons (global pandemic, historic and unprecedented worldwide financial hardship). One can recount countless chapters in the hopeless chronicle of man's descent into madness and self-annihilation. However, just as mankind is painting its blackest masterpiece since the world erupted in war decades ago, the one beacon of light, hope, solace and safety is doom metal. If there is a divine entity, this would be a stroke of pure glorious irony.
Arguably, Sweden has produced the greatest triumvirate of royal epic doom metal bands ever seen on this earth, and fortunately they are all still active today: Candlemass, Sorcerer and Below (anyone who disagrees is free to conjure up their own opinion piece). While Candlemass borrows heavily from the original tritone of Black Sabbath's origins, Sorcerer is a nod to the latter (and arguably superior) Tony Martin era Sabbath. The "newcomer" Below is right smack in the middle.
Ever since founder Johnny Hagel reformed Sorcerer in 2010 with original vocalist Anders Engberg (who possesses one of the greatest voices), the band has unleashed three albums (each topping the previous) armed with some of the world's best musicians. Though Hagel works mainly behind the scenes, having bequeathed bass duties to rising star (and baby face), Justin Biggs, his presence is still felt. The guitar team of Kristian Niemann and Peter Hallgren are unmatched in the subgenre, pumping out some of the most majestic and memorable solo duels in recent memory.
Faced with the near insurmountable task of besting a "crowning" achievement - "The Crowning of the Fire King" - the band took some time, dug deep...and are now ready to hear the "Lamenting of the Innocent." While the infusion of pure hard rock that has defined the Sorcerer brand is just a tick less on the new one, the band ratchets up the heaviness and groove-laden hooks (undoubtedly due to additional songwriting from Justin Biggs). The band has the recording team of Ronnie Björnström and Conny Welén back, so the sound, production and mix are exactly as you expect: pure perfection.
For the hardened doom metal lovers, the band rips a page right from it's own playbook by charging out of the gate with its most "doomy" song. Just as in the two previous releases, "Hammer of Witches" sets the perfect tone like "The Dark Tower of the Sorcerer" and "Sirens" had. The statement here is simple - Sorcerer is rooted firmly in the "house of doom" and fans shouldn't ever forget it. No matter how many times you think you've heard it all before, the riffs in this song instantly make the hair stand on the backs of necks all over the globe. This is pure metal...true metal...the best metal.
With the title track, the pace slows down for what makes Sorcerer so unique - adding that dose of hard rock, all centered around Anders Engberg's stunning perfect voice that is enveloped within Neimann and Hallgren's crushing riffs, remarkable solos and soaring epic chorus arrangements. Add a dose of death metal grunts from Biggs, and the song is just as sweeping as the previous album's title track.
Pure doom follows with one of the album's best "Institoris" both in terms of riffs, tone and subject matter (Henrich Kramer, who co-authored "Malleus Maleficarum," which was used as the basis for the prosecution of witches and sorcery as a crime). In terms of epic doom, the song is perfect. Once again...Niemann and Hallgren shine with those solos as much as Engberg does with his gorgeous melodious storytelling. "Where Spirits Die" brings the pace back down to a funeral dirge, with a touch of early Queensryche. Anders is otherworldly, but it only gets better, as his ultimate moments of glory are still to come!
In your author's world, the voices of doom start with Johan Längquist (Candlemass) - who delivered a divine performance on the standard bearer and greatest doom metal album ever created (if you have to ask, you haven't heard it yet) and Anders Engberg (who delivers a divine performance on everything he has appeared on). On "Deliverance" they finally perform together in what is the quintessential doom ballad of all time. Just when you think Anders couldn't top what you heard already, "Condemned" is waiting in the wings, representing what your author feels is the apex of his career.
"Age of the Damned" trades the softer acoustic side of "Deliverance" and "Condemned" with crushing riffs and bad ass grove, where Justin Biggs, who gets to write and perform with the band in the studio for the first time, gets his just due! The song is a slow and crushing 8 minute reminder that Sorcerer can hit you from all angles - high, low, fast, slow.
The album ends (not counting the Max Norman produced bonus track "Hellfire") with a pair of 8 minute tracks ("Dance With the Devil" and "Path to Perdition") which showcases all the elements that fans have come to expect and that Sorcerer has trail-blazed since returning to active status.
While the great Leif Edling is rightfully credited with being the driving force and creator of epic Swedish doom, Sorcerer has just as much right in molding what has become the prominent, most desirable and more metallic side of the subgenre. Sorcerer continues to blend in the band member's own influences and past works to make a bubbling cauldron worthy of any good witch. "Lamenting of the Innocent" extends the band's streak of topping each previous effort, proving once again that Sorcerer is not "just another doom metal band" - having fostered fans of all different subgenres of metal all over the world, even those who haven't truly embraced the beauty of doom. However, everyone WILL hear "The Lamenting of the Innocent."
Label: Metal Blade Records (order album here)
Release Date: May 29, 2020 (Digitally); June 5, 2020 (Physically)
1. Persecution (Intro)
2. The Hammer of Witches
3. Lamenting of the Innocent
5. Where Spirits Die
7. Age of the Damned
9. Dance With the Devil
10. Path to Perdition
11. Hellfire (Bonus Track)
Check out the music video for "Hammer of Witches" here:
Check out the music video for "Dance With the Devil" here:
Check out the music video for "Deliverance" here: