(Desert Plain 2015)
There was plenty of buzz surrounding Sorcerer in 2015. The long-dormant Swedish doom heroes returned from a multi-decade hiatus to deliver a thundering masterpiece, ‘In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross,’ on Metal Blade Records last March. Everyone was talking about it; indeed, the album so captured the metal world’s imagination that word percolated up from the underground well beyond the children of doom to the point where even those dolts on That Metal Show were singing Sorcerer’s praises. Many best-of lists for 2015 prominently featured ‘In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross,’ and rightfully so, for it truly was the doom metal album of the year. All of this you probably knew already.
Here’s where the story gets interesting. Many people don’t know that Sorcerer – apparently re-energized by their prolonged slumber and the warm accolades for their album, and prudently opting to strike again whilst the iron is hot – released something else late last year, namely a special 4-song EP entitled, simply, ‘Black.’ The EP was unleashed without fanfare, without press releases, without hoopla, without trumpets and superlatives. It didn’t even come out on Metal Blade; instead, ‘Black’ was released as the first (and to date only) product of Desert Plain Records, which appears to be some kind of new start-up label whose lone other artist is Johan Edlund of Tiamat. I honestly don’t why Sorcerer chose to issue this EP in such an under-the-radar fashion, but they did. The net result is that even though ‘Black’ came out in November 2015, a rudimentary Google search performed in mid-January turned up not a single published review. It’s high time to fill that gap in the Internet’s amassed wisdom.
The EP consists of four songs, three of which are new and the fourth of which is a reworked acoustic rendition of “Prayers for a King” off the ‘In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross.’ Now, I do not know the origins of these three new tunes. The only clue in the CD liner notes is that the title track gives a co-write credit to Ola Englund, who played guitar with Sorcerer from their 2010 reunion through 2012, when he left to join Six Feet Under. The music on the other new songs was written solely by the Hagel / Niemann team responsible for the ‘In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross’ material. So perhaps the roots of “Black” date back to Englund’s time in the band. Who knows, really? What I do know is that any suggestion that the three new songs on ‘Black’ are leftovers that simply weren’t good enough to make the full album may be emphatically laid to rest. “Black,” “Legion of the Serpent,” and “Into Oblivion” are all epic doom metal smashers of the highest order, featuring towering riffs, spine-tingling vocals, and plenty of classic metal nods. I get goosebumps during the last two minutes in “Legion of the Serpent” where the tempo picks up and vocal god Andy Engberg belts out the chorus, “The legion of the serpent / will conquer and divide / The master of deception / with steel by his side.” Then there’s the sprawling, 9.5-minute “Into Oblivion,” which begins quietly, with a subdued Engberg and gentle, pensive guitars; builds to a thundering chorus about three minutes in; throws in a whispered/spoken word bit at the five-minute mark; and shifts speeds and vibes repeatedly in what can only be described as a doom metal roller coaster you will want to ride again and again. The most epic Sorcerer track ever? Yeah, I’d say so. As for the acoustic track, Sorcerer have done a brilliant job re-imagining the “Prayers for a King” single off the ‘Inverted Cross’ album into something beautiful, with gorgeous acoustic arrangements and Engberg’s voice shining once again over the spartan backing tracks. Yeah, the word “goosebumps” comes to mind again.
Doom enthusiasts should proceed to www.truemetalmerch.com to order a copy of the ‘Black’ EP. It cements Sorcerer’s place of preeminence in the doom metal hierarchy circa 2015. It fits seamlessly alongside ‘In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross.’ And it makes me wonder where the ceiling is for Sorcerer, who are now releasing some of the finest, most inspired doom metal I’ve heard since the glory days of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus. A short news item from a few days ago gives me hope that Sorcerer will own 2016 as well. In that report, the band says, “We are at the moment in song-writing mode and have started the writing of the next album.” We are all well and truly doomed!
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~