With Lamenting of the Innocent you can now make it a streak of three that Sorcerer have been holding the torch aloft for the pinnacle of epic, melodic doom metal in the vein of…yeah, Candlemass. But that’s the one and only time I want to call that tired comparison, because after three albums of this caliber, Sorcerer deserve to stand on their own as masters of the form.
Any adjustments to course after the EOY-smashing 2017 banger The Crowning of the Fire King (reviewed here) are small; there’s a small slide toward slower, more thoughtful driven numbers – I hesitate to say ballad, because beyond mid-album track “Deliverance” (featuring Johan Langqvist from, uh…that band on guest vocals), the songs always deliver on world shaking power. For a band with this kind of history (formed in the late 80s, disbanded for over 20 years before getting back in the game with 2015’s stellar In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross which we also happen to have reviewed), it would have been great to get anything, but to now be on a cadence where every few years another slab of majestic European melodic power and traditional/doom metal can dominate my ears is welcome news.
I don’t know if anything will compare to an opener like “Sirens” off of TCOTFK, but after the brief intro, “Persecution,” the instant riff lock of “The Hammer of Witches” comes real close. Palm-muted riffs charge with menace to explode into twin leads and whip necks into a frenzy with chants of “Burn! Witch!” but cave before the regal, exquisite vocal delivery of Anders Engberg. It’s hard to quantify just how good a singer he is: beyond being perfectly suited for the grandiose sound Sorcerer bring to the genre he just captures everything I love about hard rock/metal vocals: wide ranging and clear, with the ability to turn the grit and dirt and roar to 11 when needed. It may be a blasphemous comparison, but the only other vocalists that bring this command and presence for me are prime era Russell Allen of Symphony X and his Royal Majesty Sir Ronnie James Dio. I know…crazy, but the tingles I get listening to his voice on the title track and “Dance With the Devil” remind me of being a kid and listening to songs like “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” and “Sacred Heart.”
But like Dio and Symphony X, you can only rise so far without a killer band behind you. Kristian Niemann and Peter Hallgren have been holding down guitar duties since the first full length, and their psychic ability to lock into grooves and trade leads and harmonies is a key ingredient to the band’s success. Especially those solos: the trades on final track “Path to Perdition” should be the envy of any band putting solos in their songs. Likewise the rhythm section of Richard Evensand on drums and newcomer Justin Biggs on bass, who create a deep and vibrant pocket of groove for the rest of the band to build on with layers of sublime melodic metal.
The more I listen to Lamenting of the Innocent the more I find it to be just as exciting and passionate an album as its predecessor. Sorcerer have not only kept the flame alive for righteous, grand epic metal; they’re leading the pack. If there’s a lament to be had, it’s for the ones who aren’t on board this train.