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Sorcery are anything but newcomers to Swedish death metal, with the band forming all the way back in the early days of extreme metal in 1986, before disbanding after just one full length album in 1997. The band marks their comeback this year with their brand new album, Arrival at Six, their first album in more than 15 years, and is an album that fans of old school Swedish death metal have certainly been waiting for.
Like many of the old school Swedish death metal revivalists, Sorcery fortunately retains that old school touch in their musicality on Arrival at Six. The band hits fast and hard on the listener right from the starting riffs of We Who Walk Among the Dead, and immediately the influences from early Swedish bands such as Entombed are clear, with the abrasive guitar tones and the d-beat style of drumming that Steinfaust utilises for quite a large part of the record. At the same time, the way the music on Arrival at Six is executed easily reminds one of records such as Dismember‘s Like an Ever Flowing Stream, in the high presence of rather melodic lead guitars and riffs that are on the album. Vocalist Ola’s style is even rather similar to Matti’s sounding like a hybrid gruff growl/shout.
There is not slowing down the band, as the record blazes through for the most part, and drummer Steinfaust provides lots of the energy on the album with his energetic style, be it the traditional death metal blasting or the more punkish d-beats on the album. Even on the few slower moments on the album, the band ensures that the intensity is not reduced, replacing their speed with even more heaviness, and moments like these easily reminds one of bands like Asphyx, such a the mid-paced Master of the Chains.
Throughout the record also, the band manages to retain that haunting atmosphere that genre has come to be known for, and things like the usage of sound effects such as the tolling of the bells, and the ominous lead guitar lines of Paul all make the experience of Arrival at Six feel as though one were trapped in the midst of a horror story.
This is Swedish old school death metal raw and dirty, the way that it is meant to be played. 12 years of hiatus has definitely not slowed Sorcery down one bit, and Arrival at Six is certainly an instant classic specimen of the genre.
I'll go on record saying I think one of the better Swedish death metal albums back in “my day” was Sorcery's debut full-length, Bloodchilling Tales way, way back in 1991. It was absolutely rife with that “textbook” Swedish sound made famous by Grave, Unleashed and Desultory, to name a sparse few. While severely unpolished, it remains one I grab when I'm feeling that need for cold, unmitigated death metal.
That said, it's been, oh, two decades-plus since we've seen a full-length from these Swedish boys bent on bringing death to the lulled masses. Arrival at Six takes no easy way in and literally smashes into your ears with “We Who Walk Among the Dead”, a classic Swedish sounding foray into the horror that was that beautiful sound. Infinitely more polished with modern devices and tools, the primitive and thin sound of old is thicker and bolder, lending total credence to the notion that 20-years between albums hasn't dulled the senses of these guys. That sickening guitar tone, part and parcel with the era and region, is ever-present and as potent today as it was during that brutal period.
A band like Sorcery, one might opine, is riding the recent resurgence of that antiquated sound, and one might be correct. However, bear in mind that these guys once held rank in that esteemed club, and the time between hasn't exactly seen total dormancy. With a couple of demos and a compilation Sorcery has picked up where it left off and found a home once more in the dank and dismal recesses of death metal greatness.
The vocals are that familiar gruff bellowing, and it truly wouldn't resound well any other way. Ola Malmstrom sounds even more volatile and angry on tracks like “Master of the Chains” or “Warbringer” as he did on “Legacy of Blood” or “Death” back in the day. There is something so drawing about this sound, especially when done by masters of the genre like Dismember or early Entombed. Sorcery, however, claims its own spot in the pantheon of putrid perfection with Arrival at Six; this album, for all of its polish and tweaking, stands among the best of the modern day genre because, quite honestly, it's brutally effective at charging the blood in a mad rush through the body when hearing it. There isn't one weak track on here, and, surprisingly, not one track meshes into another with typical affinity towards repetitiveness. The signature sound remains throughout, but the tone of each song is different and equally heavy. “United Satanic Alliance” is just Swedish brilliance all over, reading like a post-Cronos Venom on a speedball diet. This familiarity is most welcome, particularly when it comes from one of the bands from the early movement that spread over Europe like a wonderful cancer, infecting and destroying healthy cells and decimating lives along the way. For once, such a metaphoric illusion works well.
I was ecstatic to hear that Sorcery was releasing the long-awaited second record; even with slight reservations and even fears in mind, I held out hope that the Swedes would know exactly what not to do when reclaiming a spot in the coveted history of that country's brilliant death metal underground. I was not only happily surprised, but doubly impressed and made subservient to a sound that I find most agreeable today with my old-world preferences.
This is a must-hear for '13 so far.
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)