Album Title: The Crowning of the Fire King
Label: Metal Blade Records
Date Of Release: 20 October 2017
The very first incarnation under the Sorcerer banner dates as far back as 1988, to when I was just a small chap in short trousers. In 1992, after releasing a couple of well-received demos, the Swedish doom metal band disbanded, mainly because founding member Johnny Hagel quit the band to join Tiamat.
For those that enjoyed the material on the two demos, a series of very fortunate events nearly 20 years later led to bassist Hagel and his original Sorcerer partner-in-crime Anders Engberg (vocals) to reunite, ultimately and inexorably leading to a much-hoped for return of Sorcerer. In 2015, a debut full-length was released, cheerily entitled ‘In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross’. And now, just a short two years later, we’re confronted with the sophomore release, ‘The Crowning of the Fire King’.
The current incarnation of Sorcerer sees Hagel and Engberg joined by guitarists Kristian Niemann and Peter Hallgren alongside drummer Richard Evensand. Together, they have created something quite surprising: a doom metal album that I genuinely and unequivocally like.
In fact, ‘like’ is a little bit of an understatement because ‘The Crowning of the Fire King’ is an incredible album, consisting of eight songs that have well and truly captured my attention and my imagination. As only an occasional liker of doom metal, I had thought to give this record only a cursory listen to see what all the fuss was about and because I was drawn to the stunning cover artwork. However, this throw-away action has led to something much more profound. Don’t you just love it when that happens?
Admittedly, as someone suggested to me, the music on this record is not so much doom as it is sedately-paced power metal, so that might help to make sense of my great affection for ‘The Crowning of the Fire King’. There is certainly truth in that statement but I personally describe the music on this excellent record as a superb blend of old-school no-frills doom metal, classic heavy metal, 70s hard rock and melodic power metal. Each element plays its considerable part in the overall tone and delivery of the record, helping to shape it into the dominant beast that it is. Think Black Sabbath, think Candlemass, think Dio, and think of the upper echelons of European power metal. Now put them all together in a huge cauldron, season with a huge production, stir and then sit back and enjoy the results.
Whilst every one of the eight tracks provides plenty of winning material, I have to say that my favourite moments are to be found in the mid-to-latter stages of the album.
Sorcerer kicks off with ‘Sirens’ which, aside from the acoustic-led instrumental ‘Nattvaka’, is the shortest composition on ‘The Crowning of the Fire King’. It is a bold and thunderous opening with a bulldozing riff to set things in motion, before Engberg’s striking vocals and a groove-heavy mid-tempo verse take over. The chorus is instantly memorable and only adds to the dramatic impact of the song, further elevated by a gloriously gratuitous lead guitar solo in the latter stages.
‘Ship of Doom’ meanwhile is one of two songs that falls just shy of the 10-minute barrier. After a minute or so of an acoustic guitar intro, a classic doom riff and tolling drum enter the fray, creating a real sense of dark anticipation. I’m not a fan of the spoken-word section that brings the crew of an un-named ship to life, but it is short-lived and outweighed by plenty of well-executed melody via the sprawling, epic chorus and a surprising number of twists and turns as it gathers momentum, shifting between genres almost at effortless will.
As good as this duo is, things just get better and, in a way, threaten to eclipse the first 15 minutes of material. ‘Abandoned By The Gods’ contains a belting chorus that enables Engberg to open his lungs and show the metal world what he is truly capable of. And that is an awful lot as it happens. It’s the kind of performance that makes you want to throw your hands up to the sky and sing along. I hear a touch of Russell Allen in Engberg’s voice, strange as that may sound. Vocals aside, I also love the swathes of keys that drench the material, albeit in a cleverly insidious manner and the glorious crescendo laced with wailing lead guitar virtuosity.
The phrase ‘belting chorus’ could become trademarked by Sorcerer because the same could be said for several other tracks on ‘The Crowning of the Fire King’. First there’s ‘Crimson Cross’, a song that begins with the clashing or swords and sounds of battle before being unceremoniously replaced by a huge riff. The chorus however, is the thing that grabs my attention most, thanks to a hook that is barbed and immoveable once lodged.
Then there’s the title track which, in my humble opinion, is the best of all. The doom-laden riff that sets it in motion will have your head nodding slowly and deliberately from the off, whilst the quietly menacing and darkly atmospheric verse that builds in intensity is NWOBHM-meets-power metal par excellence. And then, in comes the chorus which elevates an already impressive song into a contender for one of the best songs of 2017. Powerful, majestic, magnificent.
Meanwhile, ‘The Devil’s Incubus’ is unequivocal doom metal fodder, complete with chanted vocals, a relentless marching pace and the kind of sinister undertones that this kind of music thrives upon. But at the same time, the quintet are not afraid to inject plenty of melody, meaning that however sombre things get, we’re pulled back for repeated listens like puppets on a string. Oh and the quiet acoustic-and-vocal interlude is a masterstroke, well-placed amongst the surrounding heaviness, particularly when brought to an end by some of the best lead guitar solos I have heard for quite some time.
And last but not least, there’s the closer ‘Unbearable Sorrow’ which could have suffered by immediately following the immense title track. However, it is a fittingly enormous ending, a bona-fide epic anthem that blossoms into one of the album’s best once it sinks its claws into you. The bass rumble at the beginning is marvellous, as is the haunting and mournful chorus, but the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts, demonstrating a band in full unison to create something quite brilliant.
Quite simply, if you are a fan of heavy metal, you have to hear this record. It doesn’t matter what subgenres you like or which ones you don’t think you like. I almost guarantee that there will be something within ‘The Crowning of the Fire King’ to get your juices flowing. Quite simply, Sorcerer have created an incredible piece of work that it is just too good, too powerful and too damn catchy to ignore. I wish there were more bands that produced music like this, damnit.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.75
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Daydream XI – The Circus of the Tattered and Torn
CyHra – Letters To Myself
Devoid – Cup of Tears
Ne Obliviscaris – Urn
Sons Of Apollo – Psychotic Symphony
Enslaved – E
Samael – Hegemony
Vuur – In This Moment We Are Free – Cities
Power Quest – Sixth Dimension
Iris Divine – The Static And The Noise
Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome
White Moth Black Butterfly – Atone
Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord
Vulture Industries – Stranger Times
Anubis Gate – Covered In Black
Protean Collective – Collapse
Cradle Of Filth – Cryproriana – The Seductiveness of Decay
TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc. – The Antithetic Affiliation
Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix
Arch Enemy – Will To Power
Threshold – Legends Of The Shires
H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Adagio – Life
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day