Swedish doom band Sorcerer re-emerged 2015, after a 20-odd year hiatus, to release its first official full-length album, In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross. The album revealed a supremely talented band that clearly had this traditional doom business down pat. Two years on and Sorcerer is back with official album number two, The Crowning of the Fire King.
Label: Metal Blade Records
If you were to take only one thing away from The Crowning of the Fire King it would be huge, soaring, majestic choruses. While nearly ever chorus on every track is notable, “Abandoned by the Gods” and the title track are the cream of the crop; these two tracks’ choruses are each great swells of beautiful sound that will lift your heart in spite of their dark subject matter. Endberg’s voice was made for this sort of thing: being powerful, high and clear, it is able to wring the most from each well-placed note, delivering pure melody unfettered by unnecessary vocal gymnastics.
The gymnastics are left to Niemann’s and Hallgren’s lead work, which is so good it borders on ridiculous. Each guitarist has a pure bell-like tone, and both emit fluid, bubbling, melodious solos, with the trade-off leads in “The Devil’s Incubus” being an exhilarating highlight. Niemann and Hallgren also do excellent work beyond the leads. From the wailing notes that add the siren calls to “Sirens” and the sitar-esque tones that open “Abandoned by the Gods” to the beautiful acoustic instrumental “Nattvaka” and the subtle, ghost-like notes that open “Unbearable Sorrow,” the guitar work on The Crowning of the Fire King is impeccable almost across the board.
I say almost across the board, because there is one area where I find this album worryingly deficient. The actual heavy metal portion of this record is just okay. Certainly the band goes through the requisite dark and heavy motions, but too many of the riffs are cut from the same half-assed Candlemass cloth, resulting in a bunch of clunky grooves that lack a convincing amount of menace. The Crowning of the Fire King is in many ways a magnificent work, but metal is supposed to hurt a little and without any real neck-wrecking riffs the whole affair comes off a bit too sweet and nice.
On the whole though, The Crowning of the Fire King really is a grand affair; a multi-faceted, epic work of depth and beauty, with a practically flawless recording that captures every nuance of each spirited, note-perfect performance. Sorcerer aims high and rarely misses its mark. Most doom fans should find plenty to love about this record. It is only if you value the riff above all else that you might find it lacking.