Sorcerer is a band with one heck of a long history, their earliest origins taking root in the fertile metal scene of late eighties Sweden. After a hiatus followed by a rebirth in 2010, they’ve been turning out some solid music, via the ever popular Metal Blade label since 2015, the latest LP being ‘Lamenting of the Innocent’, what is for all intents and purposes a concept album of medieval witch hunts, a story set by the rather excellent artwork.
From the off, instrumental opener ‘Persecution’ has a classic sound that sets up the listener for an album that is clearly immune to the assorted vagaries of fashion in metal, instead sticking to the formula that defines the genre, the thundering rhythm of bass and drums being matched by howling guitars, the intro bleeding into the thudding riffs of ‘The Hammer of the Witches’, now with the added element of the strong, clear, sustained vocals of Anders Engberg telling a tale of magic and mythology so beloved by those who like their hair long and denim jackets sleeveless, a tribe with which I happily identify. Next up is the title track ‘Lamenting of the Innocent’, and it’s time for Sorcerer to turn their amps up to “epic” whilst they down tune their guitars and slow the beats for the sort of track that was once the exclusive territory of another Stockholm based band with a religious sounding name (come on, you know who they are folks!), creating what is sure to be a fist pumping, lighter waving, okay, mobile phone light waving, centrepiece of future live shows, complete with traded guitar solos and harmonies redolent of the skill of the players.
‘Institoris’ follows at an almost unseemly sub five minutes, berating the evils of Heinrich Kramer, author of ‘Malleus Maleficarum’, the handbook of Inquisitors used to justify their persecutions, whilst ‘Where Spirits Die’ allows the vocalist to channel his inner ‘Dio’; indeed, where the man himself still with us, I could easily imagine him guesting on the track, throwing his horns whilst his voice rang forth. ‘Deliverance’ reins back on the massive wall of amped up guitars, instead relying on a far more muted acoustic presentation with hints of strings as the protagonist of the album’s story begs for mercy. The massive sound returns with ‘The Age of the Damned’, streaked with a presentation that will have fans of classic Queensrÿche grinning, whilst with its opening religious chants ‘Condemned’ may well transport metal fans of a similar vintage to me back to the days of a massive haired doom vocalist who used to wear a monk’s habit on stage (again, you don’t need me to say the name!). The whole is rounded off by ‘Path to Perdition’, a huge number that distils the essence of the album into a single track, flashes of theatrical doom, NWOBHM inspired solos, and vocals that could grace any power metal album with pride, all coming together into one thundering song.
In an age where tastes seem to dictate constant change and renewal, and short snappy sound bites that can be downloaded in seconds, quickly consumed, and discarded with equal speed, metal seems to be one of the few musical bastions of story telling that allows a tale to grow and flourish. With what is an album themed about magic, superstition, and the terrible reactions of the self-defined “good people” against it, ‘Lamenting of the Innocent’ bucks such trends, and is unashamedly epic, and whilst each song is more than strong enough to be played individually, and would slot in well in the Sorcerer’s live shows, it is an album that does cry out, and indeed, deserve, to be played in its entirety.