The Vinyl Verdict: Opeth, Sorceress Standard Edition
Opeth’s sound has changed drastically since they released Orchid in the early ’90s. At this point, fans of the band know whether or not they like Opeth’s different, more classically progressive direction. The band’s latest release, Sorceress, doesn’t change the mold, but it does have a heavier feel to it, something that was lacking a bit on Heritage and Pale Communion. That being said, this is one of Opeth’s most creative releases to date, with each song feeling drastically different from the one that came before it. A lot of people have been praising the music, but what about the vinyl?
Let’s talk about the standard release for Sorceress, which is currently available on the Nuclear Blast and Moderbolaget Records stores for $27.99/$24.99 (US). The 2xLP set is pressed on 180g solid black vinyl. There are a number of special editions available as well including gray, mint, clear, pink/purple, pink, rosewood and picture. There is also a gold version that is only available at tour stops. A number of these special prints are only available as part of bundle packages, but you can find more information on all of these releases directly on Nuclear Blast’s website.
Nuclear Blast is up there with Relapse in terms of catering to the vinyl consumer when it comes to packaging a physical product. The packaging and artwork are perfectly tailored for the format and feature durable cardboard materials. Aside from the quality, the most striking portion of the album is the cover artwork. I’m sure most of you are already familiar with it by now, but Travis Smith, a famous album artist that has contributed to a number of different releases over the years, continues his work with Opeth on Sorceress. His distinctive style is readily apparent in the execution and the nightmarish imagery of a peacock dominantly standing above a pile of human meat is unsettling, to say the least. The contrast between beauty and evil is exquisitely captured on the cover, making for a viable parallel between the artwork and Opeth’s music.
The back features imagery that is just as impressive as the front cover art. There are a number of different interpretations I’ve seen and read about on forums, but the general consensus is that the back cover features a sorceress as she drains her essence into an eager follower as the sun sets in the background. While not as vibrant as the front, the back is subtle in its approach to color, using mainly browns, yellows, and oranges to convey its message. It’s also worth mentioning that the sorceress sits next to a book that features the track names written in elegant calligraphy, leading us into the next segment: the track list.
“The Wilde Flowers”
“Will O The Wisp”
“The Seventh Sojourn”
“A Fleeting Glance”
“Persephone (Slight Return)”
Sorceress plays beautifully. There wasn’t so much as a single pop during my first spin, and following plays have yet to produce anything but the same stellar results. I can’t comment specifically on the audio quality because I have no information on what files were used or how the album was mastered, but I was a bit disappointed at how this sounded. It sounds to me as though there’s a bit too much bass in the EQ overall, and the album’s mastering comes across as almost schizophrenic. Some tracks are flat, presenting little in terms of dynamics, but others are booming.
DR Testing further reinforced what I heard during my listen. The album’s average is an eight, but the max peaked at a thirteen on two tracks while descending as low as a five for one. I can’t help but feel like the overwhelming bass in the EQ had something to do with the low overall DR, but the mastering is certainly a culprit as well.
Sorceress stands out in terms of presentation, but the audio is lacking. That seems to be the case regardless of what format you decide to purchase, though. It’s a shame that such a creative album suffers due to poor mastering, but what can you do? Vinyl fans will still find plenty to enjoy, but the general consensus amongst aficionados is that the silver/gray or rosewood editions may be the definitive options in terms of sound. The audio in the standard black isn’t a dealbreaker, especially considering how well put together the rest of the release is, but if you can manage to find a copy of either of those colored releases you’ll be much better off.