In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross
(Metal Blade 2015)
Although we live in a golden age in which high-quality heavy metal albums are being released all the time, this isn’t really true of the epic doom metal genre. Candlemass apparently are defunct as a recording entity, and Solitude Aeturnus haven’t done anything in ages. Of late, newer acts like Doomocracy and Below have done a fine job following in the legends’ footsteps, but these kinds of success stories are few and far between in the world of doom. Sweden’s Sorcerer are out to change all that. This band is surrounded by a certain mythos and mystique. Sorcerer recorded a couple of legendary demos in the late 1980s and early 1990s that saw the light of day on a CD released by John Perez’s Brainticket label in 1995, only to go dark for nearly two decades. The silence was broken a couple of years ago, when the band reformed (albeit with just two original members, vocalist Anders Enberg and bassist Johnny Hagel) to play the Hammers of Doom Festival in Germany. Now, here they are with their debut full-length album, out on Metal Blade Records and tipped by such mainstream outlets as ‘That Metal Show.’
Banish all doubt from your mind now: ‘In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross’ is a fantastic specimen of epic/melodic traditional doom metal that should cause doom mavens worldwide to rejoice (in a very mournful and sorrowful way, of course). I’ve always insisted that the most important quality for a band in this style is to have a world-class singer; otherwise, the slow, trudging monotony of the slow tempos and leaden, depressive riffs lacks the melodic, emotional counterweight to send it catapulting to the heavens. Well, Sorcerer has one of the finest voices in metal in the form of Anders Engberg. My introduction to Engberg was that Brainticket CD compilation 20 years ago, and I vividly recall being enthralled by his magical, powerful, emotional, lights-out performance. A great disappointment to me in the intervening years is how rarely Engberg has surfaced on anything noteworthy. Oh, I know he sang for Lion’s Share for a time, did live backing vocals for Therion and Evergrey, and recorded some AOR/prog kinds of albums, but it all seemed a waste of a massive talent. Not anymore. Andy Engberg delivers a positively spinetingling performance here, sounding even better than he did on those old demos if that’s possible. A little bit of Dio, a little bit of Robert Lowe (Solitude Aeturnus), a boatload of power, emotive heft and effortless range equals pure magic. Of course, there’s more to epic doom than vocals. I had my doubts about the music at first, inasmuch as the primary songwriter on the old Sorcerer demo cuts, Peter Furulid, is not participating in this incarnation of the band, leaving Hagel and newcomer guitarist Kristian Niemann (ex-Therion) to pick up the slack. Thankfully, the Hagel/Niemann writing team has successfully captured the sound and vibe of those old Sorcerer songs, melding thundering Leif Edling-style riffs with an effective mix of tempos, and injecting enough eerie atmosphere and sinister darkness to convey the necessary feeling of stifling shadows, even as Engberg weaves his melodic spells over everything. I’ve read some reviews complaining that the songwriting on ‘In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross’ lacks memorability, but I’m calling BS on that one, folks. To be sure, doom requires the listener to pay attention lest you drift off into space under the hypnotizing effect of the towering riffs and skincrawling tempos. If you are paying attention, though, you’ll find these songs are packed with addictive ear candy. My only criticism is that some of the lulls last a little too long, and some of the songs drag on in spots. Overall, my goodness, I don’t know how anyone could have expected more from an epic doom album in 2015 than what Sorcerer have given us. Highly recommended to those who continue to cling to their copies of ‘Ancient Dreams’ and ‘Through the Darkest Hour,’ trends be damned.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~