Originally formed in the late 80s and active until the early 90s, with what I gather were only a couple of cassette demos to their name, Sweden’s Sorcerer reformed a decade into the twenty first century, and 2015 saw them release their debut full-length album, ‘In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross’. Two years later and they delivered a follow-up with ‘The Crowning of the Fire King’ and now, in 2020, we have their third, ‘Lamenting of the Innocent’. Vocalist Anders Engberg remains from the band’s late-80s lineup, while their early-90s sticksman, Richard Evensand, returned to the fold in 2017. Guitarist Kristian Niemann (yep, he of the Therion Niemann brothers) joined for their 2010 reformation; joined by fellow axeman, Peter Hallgren, two years later. Newcomer Justin Biggs is credited in the blurb as the band’s current bassist, although the band’s own website and Facebook page still list founding member Johnny Hagel (of prior Tiamat fame) as playing bass… so I’m not entirely sure what’s going on there.
What I am sure of, though, is Sorcerer’s blend of doom grandiosity with classic metal flavours is a winning formula on ‘Lamenting of the Innocent’; not only in terms of their songwriting and performances, but also with the production. Their slickly delivered doomed-up onslaught is both expansive and massive with the crushingly resonant heaviness in their overall sound. And the lead guitar tone of Niemann and Hallgren sounds so beautifully and warmly succulent during their many solo spots. Self-produced, they’ve done a marvellous job, as has Ronnie Björnström with the mix and master.
In places, compositionally and in general style, songs sound somewhere between Candlemass' less doomy than their previous works (but still doomy) 1992 album, 'Chapter VI', and their long awaited return to form on 2005's eponymously titled album, but without any of the overt histrionics of Thomas Vikström or Messiah Marcolin from said two works. I'm not knocking Vikström or Marcolin in any small way - two incredible and incredibly unique singers, but Engberg's delivery is a little more refined than it is aurally ostentatious… albeit he does veer into histrionic territory at times, on the likes of 'Where Spirits Die' and such. To be honest, where he does give it little extra welly through heightened vocal melodrama, it acts to lift otherwise subdued compositions (very notable in 'Where Spirits Die').
There’s some variety throughout, when metal takes a back seat on 'Deliverance', for an acousto-centric piece, with some fantastic vocals. And pervasive atmospheres cut through at times - with 'Condemned', for example, that has a sinister sounding choir and bell tolling over for intro, giving way to a very nice acoustic guitar and concomitant vocal, a motif which is repeated and interposed between a gradual increase into a more metallic intensity. A very narrative feeling to this one… and others on the album. But, of course, there are tales being told here, and this is reflected within the music as well as the lyrics.
Subject-wise, it’s age-old metal fodder - witch hunts. Not witch hunts in the contemporary appropriation of the term; rather, when deranged religious folk and Machiavellian wankers reigned in centuries past (okay, they’re both unfortunately still rife within society) and went about persecuting, torturing and executing an inconceivable number of people they declared (and often believed) were actual ‘witches’. All under the banner of corrupt doctrines and perverse creeds, with the ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ as their bible. To be honest, the genre’s finest ever lyricist and wordsmith, Martin Walkyier, has probably penned the ultimate witch hunt condemnation within the context of a metal song, for Sabbat’s ‘For Those Who Died’, but Sorcerer’s narratives provide some interesting ruminations from a variety of different vicarious perspectives.
All in all, ‘Lamenting of the Innocent’ really is a rather delicious sounding metal record, with a subject matter drawn from the extremities of human cruelty. Is the former at odds with the latter? That will be for each individual to decide. The witch hunts and trials of yore have been represented through the arts across a range of disciplines over the centuries, and it’s important to never forget the abject horror inherent within. Lessons can still be learnt. ‘Lamenting of the Innocent’ is a very important record in that sense, as much as it is a fucking great listen!
LAMENTING OF THE INNOCENT
Review by Mark Holmes
29th May 2020
1) Persecution (Intro)
2) The Hammer of Witches
3) Lamenting of the Innocent
5) Where Spirits Die
7) Age of the Damned
9) Dance with the Devil
10) Path to Perdition
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...Sorcerer’s blend of doom grandiosity with classic metal flavours is a winning formula on ‘Lamenting of the Innocent’..."