SORCERER – Reign Of The Reaper (Album Review)

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By his scythe, all shall bow.

For every giant that emerges to set a new standard in the metal world, there are often several similar creatures lurking in the shadows, and sometimes these would be stylistic disciples don’t full come into their own until years or even decades after their time. Such is the case with one of Sweden’s until recently better kept secrets, namely late 80s epic doom upstarts turned 2010s titans Sorcerer, a band that seemed poised to rival Candlemass at the height of the Messiah Marcolin era yet ultimately folded a few short years later.

But the past 15 years has been nothing if not a time for second chances, and by the end of the previous decade this seemingly forgotten adherent of metallic dirges set in fantastical realms had unleashed a triple play of large scaled studio releases that seemed to all but one-up the impressive LP trifecta that Robert Lowe had just fielded with the aforementioned Candlemass. In like fashion, their most recently composed opus “Reign Of The Reaper” proves a riveting affair that masterfully walks the same line between tradition and modernity in a slightly more compact fashion.

In contrast to Ozzyobsessed Sabbath emulation put forth by Count Raven and the more Dio-like musings one would expect from Solitude Aeturnus, Sorcerer’s stomping ground more closely approximates the often overlooked Tony Martin era of the original progenitors of doom. Much of this owes to vocalist Anders Engberg, a longtime veteran at the microphone with such noted acts as Lion’s Share and 220 Volt in his resume, who’s forceful yet soaring tenor bears an almost uncanny resemblance to the latter-day Black Sabbath front man. That being said, there is also a generally melodic, pomp-driven and often mystical nature to the surrounding instrumentation that also points to strong affinities to “The Eternal Idol”, “The Headless Cross” and Tyr respectively. The chief contrast, and ultimately the strongest selling point of this band’s sound, is in the much darker and heavier presentation, which when combined with an utterly vicious dueling lead guitar display out of axe-wielders Kristian Neimann and Peter Hallgren that rivals the likes of Malmsteen and Lynch, makes this band and especially this album a creature all its own.

In total, the duration of “Reign Of The Reaper” is notably shorter than the gargantuan 70 minute affair that was “Lamenting Of The Innocent” and the barely sub-60 minute ones on the two albums prior to it, but the impact factor achieved is no less palpable. Be it the past-paced, double bass drum and epic choir happy, almost power metal-like opening foray with an utterly infectious refrain ‘Morning Star’, or darker and more forbidding numbers that still spare no expense in delivering the memorable melodic flair like ‘Unveiling Blasphemy’ and closer ‘Break of Dawn’, there is a perfect balance struck between tasteful/accessible songwriting and the drawn out sense of slowness and repetition that keeps the style within the doom paradigm.

“Reing Of The Reaper” Album Artwork

Then again, this sense of balance between dark, moribund themes and the lofty imagery of a fantastical world in which these bleak moments occur hits a total apex on the sometimes swift, sometimes slow-trudging beast of a title anthem ‘Reign Of The Reaper’, a song that could almost be an outtake from Tyr were it to have occurred in 1990 instead of 2023.

Indeed, the level of contrast between the rustic and traditionally-rooted riff work with the wildly technical guitar soloing and dense atmosphere achieves a near flawless synchronicity that even makes shorter and swifter doom thrashers like ‘The Underworld’ and ‘Thy Kingdom Will Come’ equally as massive in presentation as their longer counterparts, though true pay dirt on the faster end of the spectrum is ultimately struck when things take a more mystical tone on the eastern-tinged crusher ‘Curse Of Medusa’. Yet when all is said and done, the song that somehow manages to punch through all of the pomp and bluster, making the deepest impression in the process, is the dreary power ballad ‘Eternal Sleep’. It stands as one of the more traditional offerings of the bunch, keeping to a dirge-like pace apart from the jarring tempo jump when the guitars enter the stratosphere of shred, but the utterly fatalistic atmosphere that is struck and that signature, lamenting acoustic guitar line that dominates the quieter moments just steal the show.

It would be a mistake to simply pass this album off as more of the same given the potency that it packs within every single second of its duration, yet in light of what Sorcerer has become known for since their 2010 reformation, “Reign Of The Reaper” proves to be just that in a stylistic sense. Those that are among this outfit’s already established audience will find few surprises apart from the fact that this album clocks in at around the normal time length for one of Candlemass’ formative LPs, while those that may not be familiar with the band but are generally acquainted with the epic doom style will find a largely orthodox affair with a heightened sense of technical intrigue at key points.

This is an album that doesn’t so much set out to reinvent the wheel, but rather fashion the most visually impressive version of it to adorn a mighty chariot for battle, and those seeking to seal their fate on the field of battle in the throes of the otherworldly need look no further.

Released By: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: October 27th, 2023
Genre: Doom Metal

Musicians:

  • Anders Engberg / Vocals
  • Kristian Niemann / Guitars
  • Peter Hallgren / Guitars
  • Justin Biggs / Bass
  • Richard Evensand / Drums

“Reign Of The Reaper” track-listing:

  1. Morning Star
  2. Reign of the Reaper
  3. Thy Kingdom Will Come
  4. Eternal Sleep
  5. Curse of Medusa
  6. Unveiling Blasphemy
  7. The Underworld
  8. Break of Dawn

Order Reign Of The Reaper” HERE.

9.4 Excellent

Sorcerer offer up another colossal slab of lofty, technically-charged, traditionally rooted metallic splendor after the majestic yet moribund spirit of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus on their 4th studio effort, aptly dubbed "Reign Of The Reaper."

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9.5
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