Album Title: Lamenting Of The Innocent
Label: Metal Blade Records
Date of Release: 29 May 2020
When I listened to ‘The Crowning Of The Fire King’, the sophomore album from Swedish metal band Sorcerer, I came to it with no expectations whatsoever. I’d never heard their music before and because of the partial doom tag associated with Sorcerer’s music, I wasn’t really expecting much to be honest. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be blown away in the manner that I was, ending my review of that 2017 record as follows:
“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.”
Since I wrote that review, ‘The Crowning Of The Fire King’ has received heavy rotation in the Mansion of Much Metal, in the Motor Car Of Much Metal, and on walks with the Mutt of Much Metal. I was even lucky enough to see them perform live on stage earlier in 2020, in Malmö, in support of Evergrey. Suffice to say that the band are every bit as good on stage as they are on record, with the enormously anthemic title track of their last album providing one of the standout moments that night.
In light of all this, you won’t be surprised to hear that my expectation levels were through the roof to hear their new album, ‘Lamenting Of The Innocent’. The minute I found out the release date, I was emailing the PR representative, pleading to hear it as early as possible. I have been fortunate enough to have had the company of this, their third album, for well over a month now, so what follows is not a knee-jerk reaction to the album, but more of a considered appraisal having let the music thoroughly soak in.
The first thing to report is a change in the clientele of the band, with bassist Justin Biggs replacing the original four-stringer Johnny Hagel, and Richard Evensand replacing Robert Iversen on the drum stool. However, with no other changes, it means that guitarists Kristian Niemann and Peter Hallgren remain in place alongside vocalist Anders Engberg. Whilst not wishing to marginalise the newcomers in any way, it is fair to say that the most important, core members are unchanged, because Engberg’s voice, alongside the riff and lead work of the two guitarists create the heart of the Sorcerer sound. That being said, the new rhythm section more than hold their own on this new record, laying solid foundations upon which to build. In addition, according to the press release, Biggs contributed additional vocals and had lyrical input, so credit where it is fully due.
But, ultimately, despite the line-up tinkering, the soul of Sorcerer is totally and unequivocally unchanged. As such, don’t expect any left-field turns or big surprises in the output of ‘Lamenting Of The Innocent’. If you were a fan of the last record, prepare to bow down to this new one, for it is very much cut from the same cloth. By that, I mean that Sorcerer deliver another ten tracks of molten, epic doom metal laden with gigantic riffs, rousing melodies, stunning lead guitar flamboyance and mesmerising vocals. On top of that, the songs are laced with great atmospherics and the kind of storytelling that only comes from this genre of music. In short, it’s bloody marvellous.
The opening track, ‘Persecution’ is a minute-long intro, the kind of piece that I’d normally dismiss as irrelevant or unnecessary. However, here, it sets the tone for what is to come most expertly. It features the familiar guitar sounds of Hallgren and Niemann, namely chunky riffs, a cleverly subtle clean lead melody and some bold lead notes. Yes ladies and gentlemen, if you’re not a fan of the guitar, then this is not the album for you.
The atmosphere built via the intro then explodes into ‘The Hammer Of The Witches’, a glorious composition that encapsulates everything that makes Sorcerer a genre leader. There’s a definite 70’s doom vibe to the central riff that quickly emerges, ably assisted by some great drumming and bass work from Evensand and Biggs respectively. The riff is infectious and gallops with real intent and purpose, throwing a nod towards the hard rock genre also. Engberg soon joins the party and layers the music with his distinctive and impressively smooth delivery. The chorus is an instant hook-laden hit, the kind you’ll be singing all year. It is then followed by ‘Burn, witch, Burn’, lyrics that are chanted and in my mind’s eye, I envisage a sea of festival-goers throwing their fists into the sky in unison, baying for the blood of the witch. Sorcerer are not done yet, for there is a momentary spoken-word section, quickly replaced by the first lead guitar extravagances. The thing is that Niemann and Hallgren are masters of their instruments and their solo interplay is dextrous, mellifluous and entirely engaging; these guys make their guitars really sing.
On ‘The Crowning Of The Fire King’, the real stand-out killer song for me was the title track. With ‘Lamenting of The Innocent’, the very same thing can be said. It begins quietly and out of the murk, you can hear the sound of the wind, as well as what appears to be some kind of religious ceremony. In comes a slow guitar melody and then the full weight of the band enters and crushes everything in its lumbering, churning path. The pace is almost glacial, but the ominous quality of it makes the hairs on my neck stand on end. Everything then cuts away, to be replaced by a gentle guitar, dense, atmospheric synths and the delicate vocals of Engberg. At the 2:25 mark, I’m then left dumbfounded by one of the best notes I think I’ve ever heard. It is just so low and heavy, speaking to something primeval deep in my soul. Trust me, it has to be heard to be believed. But if that wasn’t enough, the chorus is pure nectar; truly epic and incredibly melodic, more in the vein of a NWOBHM ‘ballad’ than a doom song. And yet it works. The whole thing just sounds perfect. Deep, growled vocals accompany some double-pedal drum ferocity to inject a touch of welcome aggression, whilst once again, the lead guitar solos pierce my heart such are their glorious eloquence. Nine minutes of musical genius? Yes. Very much yes.
I could dissect every one of the ten tracks in the same detail but I fear you’d all die of boredom, so let’s pick up the pace just a little.
‘Institoris’ is a shorter, punchier track blessed with a great headbanging tempo, more classic Sorcerer riffs and a keyboard-infused chorus that provides the atmospherics to go with the infectious hooks. It also has a cheekiness about it which I can’t help but love. ‘Where Spirits Die’, on the other hand, is a song that’s incredibly varied as well as being a genuine slow burner, taking a few spins to get under the skin in the same way as others. But the chorus when it unfurls, is truly beautiful, the counterpoint to the funeral-paced riffs and moments of quiet minimalism found elsewhere.
‘Deliverance’ is a delicate acoustic-led composition features guest musicians in the form of Candlemass’ Johan Langquist and Swedish cellist Svante Henryson. It acts as an interlude of calm before ‘Age Of The Damned’ takes over to delight us with a intoxicating blend of melody and oppressive, lumbering doom complete with it’s hypnotic stop-start central riff.
‘Lamenting Of The Innocent’ then ends with three monstrous tracks, each one either seven or eight minutes in length. ‘Condemned’ is the shortest of the three, but it contains one of my favourite lead guitar solo sections within it, as well as another slow-burn chorus that suddenly catches you when you least expect it. ‘Dance With The Devil’ has an undeniably ‘prog’ feel about it in the way that it is so varied. One minute it’s as heavy as hell, the next it is subtle and delicate, whilst weaving and meandering its way through chanted vocals, variations in pace, spoken-word passages, deceptively memorable choruses and the ubiquitous lead guitar explosions. I wasn’t too keen on this one to begin with, but I have since atoned for my errors. The final track, ‘Path To Perdition’ begins with bold synths overlaid by some exquisite lead guitar histrionics that fill me with joy. In an age where solos are often derided, I commend Sorcerer for sticking to their guns and allowing the guitarists to do their thing, for it is stunning. The main body of the track is equally great, with Engberg putting in one last commanding performance, whilst Eversand pulls out all the stops behind the kit and Biggs’ bass rumbles wonderfully.
Topped off with a superbly rich sound, courtesy of the band themselves and a mix/mastering job from Ronnie Björnström, Sorcerer have proved to me that ‘The Crowning Of The Fire King’ was no mere flash in the pan; ‘Lamenting Of The Innocent’ proves beyond any doubt that Sorcerer are the real deal, a special band that can create that perfect blend of doom heaviness and epic, anthemic melody. I implore you to hunt this album down because you’ll not hear the like of it again this year, or perhaps even longer. If ever.
The Score of Much Metal: 97%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: