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Opeth – “Will O The Wisp”

Opeth - Sorceress

Opeth, a band that needs very little introduction, recently released the second single for their upcoming album Sorceress. The song, “Will O The Wisp” is a mostly acoustic number, with the requisite mellotron touches and a well timed and classic Opeth-ian electric lead to carry the song to its conclusion. I wouldn’t call the song cheery or particularly upbeat, but “Will O The Wisp”’s major chord progression and vocal melody do give it a sunniness that normally doesn’t get associated with Opeth, especially in comparison to the doom metal stomp of the album’s title track. Still, even if it paints with colors outside of their usual autumnal palette, “Will O The Wisp” is part of a long tradition of softer Opeth songs.

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Until they abandoned death metal entirely on Heritage Opeth’s softer material tended to fall into two camps. On one hand you have songs like Still Life’s “Benighted,” largely based on acoustic or clean electric guitar with no nods to the darker and heavier side of Opeth’s music. On the other hand you have songs like “Face Of Melinda,” also from Still Life which could broadly be described as power ballads. These types of tracks never rise to the level of intensity of say, “Deliverance,” but they incorporate more of the dynamic shifts that Opeth are known for. Typically you’d be able to find at least one of these two varieties on each Opeth album (“Harvest” on Blackwater Park, “A Fair Judgement” on Deliverance, “Isolation Years” on Ghost Reveries) with the exception of Damnation, which was populated entirely by them. The power ballads tend to work better in the live setting, the ending of “A Fair Judgement” is a monster in person, and the pure ballad songs work as exhibitions for Mikael Akerfeldt’s sense of melody and silky smooth lead guitar playing (both of which happen to make for good hip-hop samples, in case you were wondering).

“Will O The Wisp” is no exception. The solo that closes out the song is classic Camel worship, and the fluttering finger-picking in the chorus are a delight. I miss heavy af Opeth as much as the next longhair-type, but one thing that gets overlooked by the crowd pining for the return of Akerfeldt’s death growl is that Opeth’s shift towards folksy prog rock as their default mode has made songs like “Will O The Wisp” less special. That’s a shame, since “Will O The Wisp” is a pretty great song, and next to a few ten minute progressive metal jams it would be a wonderful change of pace. Instead, it is likely to be one of several perfectly pleasant songs from a band that has long since earned the right to be perfectly pleasant.

Sorceress will be out on 9/30 via Nuclear Blast. Pre-order it here.

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