Sorcery is a band that has attained a fair bit of posthumous infamy. Formed in the late 80s with the rest of the Swedish brigade, albeit with a curious twist, Sorcery put out one album, ‘Bloodchilling Tales‘, back in 1991 and then promptly fell off the face of the earth. Disinterred for the present day, courtesy of omnipotent, atavistic Youtube ( certainly not a slur on those that make discovering obscure music their life’s calling, but modesty and common sense flies out the window far too often with a few mining these riches ), Bloodchilling Tales has rightly become a cult classic with its take, unique at the time, on transatlantic death metal styles; a blend of generic Swedish death cross pollinated with Ledney-like tremolo lines, creating a simple yet subtle and effective hybrid with a palpably occult vibe.
Twenty-two years, though? What chance does a band well past its youthful exuberance have of picking up the slack of two decades and giving fresher legs a run for their money? Arrival At Six, with its gorgeous, lush artwork reminiscent of olden horror staples, from M R James to Hammer Studios, marks Sorcery‘s return to the scene that they, at the very least, partook in its earliest incarnations.
The sound, as is to be expected, is vastly different from Bloodchilling Tales. Gone are the cavernous Incantation-like stylings along with the thin, dingy, buzzing production, now replaced with a far more easily identifiable Swedish template replete with chainsaws and assorted tools from the workshop. Sorcery doff their hats at Mental Funeral-era Autopsy this time around, a tie-up equally at home with the general Swedish sound but detracting from the vaguely esoteric vibe the band had on their debut. It makes for an interesting study on the two North American schools of death metal and the observedly different traits they cultivate in their disciples. Bloodchilling Tales sounded diabolical. Arrival At Six, in spite of the moody, portentous cover, is a glorified, unsophisticated curb stomping.
Arrival At Six gives the phrase “storming out of the gates” a whole new meaning. ‘We Who Walk Among The Dead’, the title a dead-ringer for something Nile would write, is one of the most abrupt beginnings to any death metal album I’ve heard. No build-up, no atmospherics; twenty years is enough downtime, let’s just get out there and stake our territory. Ola Mamstrom’s vocals do faithful impersonations of Matti Karki and Chris Reifert, the latter especially so on ‘Master Of The Chains’, an obvious homage to the great man, but rarely do they exhibit the variety of shrieks and gurgles on display on Bloodchilling Tales. Dismember are almost constantly referenced through the album; one could choose worse bands to imitate, sure, but it wouldn’t be unfair to expect a veteran, returning band to come up with something a little more original, knowing full well that they’ve achieved just that, with distinction, in the past.
The lack of novelty really hurts Arrival At Six. The band certainly aren’t down on energy, and songs like ‘Created From Darkness And Rage’ and ‘United Satanic Alliance’ have genuinely catchy choruses, well worth blasting the next time you drive by that fancy nightclub in town. But there is little substance here; this album could’ve been excused as a consistently active, hard-working band treading water, waiting for a second wind, but Sorcery, after a generation-long layoff, needed to make a statement of intent. Sadly, this isn’t it.