Sorcerer – In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross (Metal Blade Records)Sunday, 5th April 2015
Initially formed in 1988 in Stockholm, Sweden, epic doom metal outfit Sorcerer released two demos before bassist Johnny Hagel left to join Tiamat in 1992. The remaining members split up and went their separate ways, but Hagel rejoined vocalist Anders Engberg (220 Volt) to reform the group in 2010 and begin working on new material for what would eventually become the band’s debut full-length album, In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross.
Any quality release starts with well-crafted songs, and Sorcerer shines in this department, having penned infectious melodies, courtesy of guitarists Kristian Niemann and Peter Hallgren, that wind and twist around Hagel’s plodding, thundering rhythms that just have a way of crawling inside your head and taking up residence there. (Don’t bother calling the landlord; his useless attempts to evict these soundscapes from your mind will prove fruitless.) The snaking guitar chord progressions of album-opener “The Dark Tower of the Sorcerer” kick things off in Candlemass-like fashion and the heavy hammer riffs and crawling guitar melodies of closer “Pagans Dance” would fit nicely on Black Sabbath’s 13.
Although it may be rooted in the doom foundation set forth by pioneers like Sabbath or genre leaders like Candlemass, Sorcerer adds a wealth of elements to its sound, setting itself apart from the pack of Sabbath wannabes and Candlemass clones. Engberg’s wide vocal palette allows him the ability to call upon Glenn Hughes (think Black Country Communion), as he does on “The Dark Tower of the Sorcerer,” or tap into Todd La Torre, as he does on “Exorcise the Demon,” which sounds like the band could have collaborated with Papa Emeritus and the Nameless Ghouls of Ghost, especially with the vocal chants and fast/slow tempo changes and rhythm shifts in the chorus. The title track employs an incredibly infectious mid-paced riff in the vein of Grand Magus, while the band slows things down with the dirge of “Lake of the Lost Souls,” which sees drummer Robert Iversen using cymbal crashes to create “the sound of the waves beating on the hull,” as sung by Engberg.
Iversen lays down simple but steady drum beats, accented with cymbal crashes, that anchor the song structures nicely, injecting rolling fills and double-bass pedal action when needed to keep things fresh. Unlike many doom recipes, Niemann and Hallgren take advantage of solo spots to showcase their talents, providing fret board flourishes that Vinnie Moore would be proud of, adding a flash of flair without overshadowing the songs (see “The Gates of Hell”). It may have taken five years, but the band clearly took the time to hone its craft and release a quality album, as Inverted Cross is one of the most versatile doom albums these ears have heard in a long time and will surely push the boundaries and set new parameters for the genre as it continues to grow and expand.