Opeth is the ultimate in being both beauty and the beast in metal, there is no group of musicians on the earth that can say they sound anything like them, or come close to the depth, emotion and utter brilliance that is expressed in their writing. Whilst many metal bands are content with playing as hard and as fast as possible, Opeth balances the music they create with enthralling acoustic sections and quite soothing vocals courtesy of Mikael Akerfeldt. The lyrics Mikael writes have often become the center of attention for me, as I am a dedicated writer and heavily influenced by his words. To others the music may be the only thing they hear, in the case of that listener they are presented a palette of brooding emotions, well written and well delivered music that cannot be ignored. Thanks to my good friend and guitarist I was introduced to Opeth, and I try to let others experience the band that I consider the truest essence of talent. I was delighted to hear back from Mikael, his accepting this interview means a great deal to me.
Griever Please accept my cordial hello and thanks for doing this interview.
Mikael Akerfeldt It's my pleasure.
G So, how are you and the rest of the band?
MA I'm pretty OK, but so stressed out that it's unbelievable. The guys are fine I reckon. We have a few gigs coming up and it's stressing me out since I gotta finish off the new songs in time for the recording.
G I have been told that Opeths new album is due out soon and will be two discs, one being heavier, and the other disc being a more somber display, any chance on an estimated release date and or title?
MA There's no titles or dates yet. We're starting the recording on the 22nd of July and estimate to be finished around the beginning of September. Steven Wilson will help us with the production & mix the mellow album while we've talked to Andy Sneap about doing the mix for the heavy disc. Could be cool!
G Opeth has recorded some tracks with a more nostalgic feel to the sound, can we expect anymore of this? It really sounds excellent.
MA Thank you. This time we'll use tapes & some pro tools I believe. We'll strive for a tighter recording for the heavy album this time as the music is more technical and the mellow album will probably have a bit of a looser classic rock sound, more ambience than before. We'll re-mic the drum kit for this one and try n get more of a 70´s sound.
G I have noticed over the past 3 albums that your clean vocals have become much more rich and powerful, but like so many vocalists have not been able to do, you have not lost a bit of the edge on your growls, does performing both as well as you do take its toll on your vocal cords?
MA It's not a real problem for me. It's effortless for me to scream and it doesn't really affect my voice. I've lost once and that was because I caught a cold, but insisted on drinking booze & smoked a 100 cigarettes, so the next day the voice was gone.
G I believe that one reason Opeth has become so revered in the metal community is the fact that you arrange your songs with both brutality and acoustic sections that seam together flawlessly, this depth in the music opens up the re-play factor quite a bit, the two sides, dusk and night as I like to say, do they reflect on you as a person, or are they merely the result of songwriting?
MA I like to write songs that way & it displays a different kind of dynamics. It's become somewhat of our trademark these days which we're cool with. I'm still very much into this kinda style and I guess it grew from my interest in prog music. Coming from a metal background it's rather obvious that we should blend everything into one pot so to speak.
G You use rich, eloquent language in Opeths lyrics, and the meanings are deep, why not just slander someone or something, or carry on about how everything sucks, what compels you to write about the things you do?
MA It's not really like I'm compelled to write...I sometimes wish we were a instrumental band, because writing lyrics is hard. Even though I don't "rate" our lyrics as important as the music it feels more personal if someone would slag me for my lyrics. Weird...
G - Many people either complain or commend on many of Opeth's songs being much longer than a typical metal song, I myself commend, but is there any particular reason that you do so?
MA Not really, I guess it sprung from me not knowing how to write songs, just pieced bits and pieces together. The first song I wrote for Opeth was like 8 minutes long, so it's always been like this. I like long songs, always have...but it's not a criteria for me to be able to enjoy music at all. It's our style rather than an obsession.
G Are there any plans for a Opeth video? Or a live album?
MA None of us are really into the idea while we get offers to do one every day. We'll see, it's doesn't feel important.
G - I have heard several explanations of what additions have been added to the re-release of Blackwater Park, I have already paid for but not received it yet, could you tell us exactly what has been added?
MA There's an extra disc containing 2 new songs & a video clip of the track "Harvest". The songs are 2 singer songwriter style tunes I did. They're recorded at mine and a friends home so the sound quality, although good, is not as professional as our "real" recordings. There's an intimacy in these 2 songs that creeps up on you for that same reason, and I'd say I'm really happy about how they turned out. They're called "Still Day Beneath the Sun " & "Patterns in the Ivy 2". The video is in a "Nothing Else Matters" style...studio footage etc...looks good. It's done for Quicktime so it's not an "actual" video MTV style you know. Apart from this the CD is housed in a black clip case & there some changes in the artwork too.
G - I as many are delighted to hear that Opeth is planning a world tour in support of the new album, I have been waiting to see you guys live for a long time, any words on what to expect from the shows?
MA I figure we are gonna do it over the top this time. We'll sort out the venues and only concentrate on the real good ones and do long sets, like 2-3 hours. If we have a budget for this I want us to work more on the lights and stuff & do all the music properly with acoustic guitars on stage etc
G - Opeth recently did a short tour with Arch Enemy and Withering Surface, how did all of that go?
MA It was cool, they're cool people. I think it was a rather good package for the UK...it seemed to be appreciated.
G What is involved for Opeth on the road? How do you normally travel and what conditions do you have to endure from show to show?
MA We're easy going, once in a while we try to be rockers and demand this and that, but it shines through that we're just mamas boys. We have a night liner while we're on tour, and everyone that's been on one has pretty much seen em all. It's not great, but it's not that bad either. The worst thing about touring is the wait. We usually arrive at the venues early morning so being the headlining band means you gotta wait for hours till you're due on stage. It's boring as hell!
G - I recently put up a thread in our forum about album cover art, I listed Opeth as having the best, what is involved for you guys in deciding upon a good cover image?
MA I don't really know. Lately we've used Travis Smith and I just give him some very vague ideas on what we're after and then it's up to him. It's his art you know...I'm not gonna make him do a picture for us really...it's his idea that's interesting.
G - I am sorry, I have to ask everyone, among all Opeth songs that have been released is there any one or two that you enjoy playing more than any of the others?
MA "The Drapery Falls" is always good...
G There are many albums coming out here in the next few months, are you looking forward to any of them?
MA Yeah, I'm looking forward to the new Porcupine tree album. I've heard it once and I think it's the best album I've ever heard in my life! Other than that I don't really know.
G - Who are some of the bands you listen to on a regular basis?
MA Led Zeppelin, Whitesnake, Deep Purple, Priest and Sabbath...golden oldies...
G - What were some of your influences growing up? Did you originally intend on writing and playing metal?
MA Pretty much the above. I was a metal head when I was a kid and I still love it somehow. I was never into pop music...pretty much a guitar maniac. I liked David Bowie though...
G I know that many of Opeths fans are truly amazed with the band, how does it make you feel exactly to be so much to so many people? I would just like to know because I yearn to experience that feeling one-day.
MA Umm, I don't think about it like that. I know what you're saying because I've always wanted to become a famous metal star or whatever, but firstly we're not THAT famous, secondly you don't really know what you mean to your fans...it's not obvious. I think I'll have to wait 20 years and maybe some kid comes up to me saying, "You're Mikael from Opeth, right", then I'd be pretty proud!
G Besides you being involved with Bloodbath, are there any other side projects that you or any of the other guys are involved in?
MA The Martins have some side band, though I don't know if they're active or not. Other than that its just Bloodbath right now. We have a new album on the way.
G Excuse my ignorance, maybe it is explained somewhere but what exactly does the name Opeth mean?
MA It's taken from a fiction novel called the "Sunbird"...Opeth is the city of the moon.
G The older recordings of Opeth have their own feel and sound that cannot be redone, and although they are good as they are is there any plan for re-recording any of the material?
MA Never thought about it. It's somewhat of our history and I don't believe in altering that.
G I wish you and Opeth great success on the new album and beyond, thank you for agreeing to this interview, it means a lot. The last line goes to you, say some words to the fans or add any closing remarks, again thanks.
MA - Thanks a lot for the interview. To the fans I can just say that soon the wait is over...
PS by Brett Garner, aka the GRIEVER, suck it potty.