Sorcery – “The New Armageddon” (Stereogum Premiere)

Sweden’s Sorcery released Bloodchilling Tales, their first full-length, in 1991. Already five or so years into their run, the death metallers had made a name for themselves on the back of three progressively heavier demos and a 7″ on Thrash Records. The early stuff was fresh-kill raw, retaining that oh-so-’80s frenzied thrash edge wielded by the blacker and bleaker set. But, come their December 1990 session at Sunlight Studios, Sorcery, like the rest of the scene, were mixing more huge grooves into their sound.

It’d be easy to think that they’d continue along this dense-ass path with their compatriots. However, though the Swedeath buzz — those chainsaw guitars that cause certain metalheads to immediately salivate — was present, Tales was ensorcelled enough to differentiate itself from the slew of then-contemporary instant classics. (Dismember and Unleashed’s debuts hit the streets earlier, Grave’s Into The Grave dropped the same month, and Entombed’s Clandestine was waiting in the wings. 1991, folks.) Surprise-turn tempos popped, deep growls gurgled, berserker riffs charged, and synths, normally relegated to skippable intros, were uncaged. The songs rattled and threw their bolts, barely able to contain the big ideas. That said, it was a charming sort of shaggy, making clear that stagnation wasn’t an option; just kids figuring out how their instruments worked in that unconsciously forward-thinking way. Sure, Sorcery weren’t alone, other groups were barreling down this path too, but Bloodchilling Tales promised a bright future.

And then, nothing.

“I guess our biggest problem at the time was that we couldnít hold a steady lineup and we got really fed up with breaking in new members,” singer Ola Malmstrˆm said in a great interview with Deathdomain. And, despite demos here and unconsummated deals there, that would be the story for the next 22 years. Bloodchilling Tales would be exhumed by the best blogs, such as Cosmic Hearse and Illogical Contraption (the latter pinning one of the greatest metal reviews ever upon it), but Sorcery were considered a footnote. That is, until death metal adorers Xtreem Music unveiled Arrival At Six in 2013.

And it was good.

Perhaps this isn’t as much of a surprise now that a “comeback” is part of the band lifecycle. Plus, there’s such a low bar these days that any artist approximating their past tends to get a pass. But Six’s genesis and reason for existing was different because nostalgia didn’t seem to be in the cards. Ola, again to Deathdomain: “It is almost impossible to recreate something that we already have done and why should we. We have always made the music we like and it is the same with the new album. Our aim was to make a new Sorcery album for the year 2013 not to make a copy of an album from 1991 and I think we managed to do that pretty well.” With O.G. member Paul Johansson moving from drums back to guitar and new members in tow, Six raged like a hungry band without a history. The old school death metal was there, but it also seethed with a rolling ferocity. Six still sticks out in a year blessed with its noted returns-to-form.

But why come back if you can’t come back again? Instead of 22 years, it only took Sorcery three to field Garden Of Bones. Receiving Xtreem’s backing once more, Garden Of Bones, like its predecessor, showcases a group unwilling to rest on its laurels. Now partnering with members of Sordid Flesh (bassist Jacob Wiberg, drummer Emil Berglin, and lead guitarist Johan Wickholm), Ola and Paul continue to pull themselves up to another level. “The New Armageddon,” like lead single “Holy Ground,” is a goddamn burner. If Swedeath needs to have “the buzz” and “the riff,” then you’re invited to devastation kicking off 42 seconds in. But “The New Armageddon” isn’t only that, taking lefts and rights until it reaches its hateful climax. And, oh yeah, it’s smooth. Like veteran smooth. Like played the game for a long, long time smooth. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine this is the same Sorcery sharing DNA with Tales. Of course, one thing remains the same: 25 years later, the future is still bright.

Garden Of Bones is out 5/15 via Xtreem Music.

Tags: Sorcery