I am transfixed by sounds pouring out of my earphones. Staunch, epic metal sounds. The culprit is the Swedish band Sorcerer and their newest album The Crowning of the Fire King. Their second full length studio album.
You will surely remember their 2015 come-back epic In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross. This one got some serious acclaim for a band that over long stretches of their (almost non-existent) career produced nothing more than a few demos and compilations. But then – bang – came this first full-length record. A totally unexpected artillery volley out of the left field some two years ago.
The rub with a first smashing success is always the question as to how the band will top it later. Will Sorcerer show the navigation chops to circumvent the terrible sophomore album reef of doom? And I am glad to announce that they did. The Crowning of the Fire King is – if anything – a step up from their 2015 concoction. They very wisely chose not to change direction. But instead built on what they know best. The record sports a savvy mix of Heavy, Power and some Doom Metal served up by stellar vocals and sometimes otherworldly guitar work. Nothing new in terms of general style, but a delivery way crisper and of much higher quality than what we heard before.
Mind you, ’tis no Doom Metal record in the traditional sense, so the purist followers of the Paradise Lost faction will not dig this. Yet, the album includes enough of Crypt Sermon and some Candlemass to please the doom-starved ear. To spice this up some more, the band aptly mixes some of Kamelot‘s power metal moxie, a steeply upgraded score of elements reminiscent of Dream Evil and a whiff of Iron Maiden at times. Plus a smattering of riffs reminiscent of Black Sabbath of olden and newer times.
Now all this name-calling may indicate that The Crowning of the Fire King is terrain others visited before. But not so fast. Sorcerer operate on a well-traveled road, that’s for sure. But some inherent similarities aside, their tune follows a path of its own – and sturdily so.
And you know what? Apart from a certain creepy cheesiness at times and the bass that seems a trifle too locked in from time to time, I cannot find fault with the production. Its all in place, on whatever support you choose to listen to the tracks. And that’s a compliment, folks.
I have been particularly impressed by Anders Engberg (Lion’s Share, Therion, 220 Volt), whose adaptive belting powers steeply improved over the last record. His well modulated voice really provides the glue that holds all that construct in one piece. Then there is the outstanding guitar work by Christian Niemann (Therion, Demonoid) and Peter Hallgren (Rob Rock, 220 Volt). The solemn riffing, adapted to the subdued Power and Doom Metal beats, never fails you. But the solos absolutely take the cake – no contest there. They’re all over The Crowning of the Fire King, but let me point out the particularly spicy one in Ship of Doom.
The way Sorcerer master lengthy tracks is another one of the album’s strengths. Apart from instrumental Nattvaka, no track is shorter than five minutes. With the longest approaching an epic 10. Not many bands have the ability to weld a long track into a coherent amalgam, so that you don’t feel the time pass. To the contrary, most labor hard with endless progressive loops and repetitions. With equally boring and lukewarm results. In contrast, the tracks on this Sorcerer album actually invoke this urge for more in you. This is a masterful geekery that not many of the wizards out there mustered to date.
Combine that with some epic mixes like Ship of Doom or Abandoned by the Gods. Or the insanely tasty and doom-laden The Devil’s Incubus. Long story short, their is no bad track on this record. At times you’ll get a bit more doom, then again things move to places where NWoBHM was before. All of that garnished by some sort of Dio-esque lyrics that are just the cherry on the cake. But you’ll find nothing sloppy or unfinished on this disk.
Now, it is time to end the gushing. Or these guys will start to think they are stars, put on airs and become unaffordable for them venues to play in. The Crowning of the Fire King is one of those records that gets as close to perfect as anything out there. Vocals, guitars, drums – all is pretty flawless and of very high quality. Which means that this band still is totally underrated. Sorcerer clearly kept to their own devices and style. Yet, the way they drive towards excellence in this clear and crisp way of theirs does not cease to amaze.
And here we have yet another candidate for the 2017 Top 10. They ended up at rank #4 in the 2015 Top 10 Records. Let’s wait and see how they will fare this time.
[Editor’s note: Congratulations, the record indeed successfully made it onto the 2017 Top 10 Records list! Rank #4 – again.]
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