Opeth

Prog - - Contents - Words: Dave Ever­ley Images: Kevin Nixon and Stu­art Wood

I want to write mu­sic that doesn’t sound like I wrote it…

Just what is it that makes Opeth’s Mikael Åk­er­feldt tick?

Mikael Åk­er­feldt can’t re­mem­ber pre­cisely where he was when a dis­grun­tled crowd mem­ber chal­lenged him to a duel, but it was – in­evitably – some­where in Amer­ica. Åk­er­feldt’s band Opeth were on a US club tour in sup­port of their 2011 al­bum Her­itage, a record that jet­ti­soned the last ves­tiges of their gut­tural ex­treme metal sound in favour of mu­sic that was pas­toral, con­tem­pla­tive and unequiv­o­cally pro­gres­sive.

The al­bum had barely even hit the shelves, but Åk­er­feldt de­cided that he was go­ing to “force-feed” the new songs to the crowd, acous­tic pas­sages and all. Not sur­pris­ingly, this new

Bob Dy­lan-in-re­verse di­rec­tion didn’t go down too well with the knuck­le­drag­ging el­e­ment of their au­di­ence.

“We were hit­ting places where they were a bit loud in voic­ing in their opin­ions in the mid­dle of the show,” he says. “Peo­ple started com­plain­ing and scream­ing and leav­ing dur­ing the show. And peo­ple started to chal­lenge me to fights on­stage. At this one show, this guy threw down his glove. He was chal­leng­ing me to a duel.” Did you take him up on it?

“No,” says Åk­er­feldt with a laugh. “I had him thrown out.”

Such are the pit­falls of be­ing a mod­ern prog icon, es­pe­cially one as sin­gle-minded as Mikael Åk­er­feldt. The 43-year-old Swede has steered Opeth from their be­gin­nings as part of the Scan­di­na­vian death metal scene to their cur­rent po­si­tion as 21st-cen­tury pro­gres­sive rock stan­dard-bear­ers.

It hasn’t al­ways been easy – there has been re­sis­tance from out­side and inside the band. Ask Åk­er­feldt to­day how he’s man­aged it and he puts it down to his in­nate dogged­ness.

“I’m a stub­born per­son,” he says. “Like play­ing Her­itage songs be­fore the al­bum even came out, that was just tun­nel vi­sion: ‘We’re gonna do it this way, and you can fuck off if you don’t like it.’ Some­times I’m too stub­born, maybe. But I can’t change my­self.”

It’s an ap­proach that has served Opeth well, even if it has oc­ca­sion­ally brought the band – and Åk­er­feldt him­self – close to the edge. To­day, talk­ing from his home in Swe­den ahead of a short Euro­pean tour to sup­port last year’s stel­lar Sorcer­ess al­bum, he’s

Mikael Åk­er­feldt has spent nearly 30 years steer­ing the ship of Opeth, a group that have pro­gressed far be­yond their metal be­gin­nings. The Swedes picked up the Prog Award for Best In­ter­na­tional Band last month and Åk­er­feldt him­self has col­lab­o­rated with the likes of Steven Wil­son and Steve Hack­ett. Could he be the new fig­ure­head for mod­ern prog rock?

Some peo­ple got re­ally, re­ally up­set with

Her­itage, but I didn’t see it as a mas­sive de­par­ture from be­fore. If you couldn’t see that com­ing, I won­dered where you’d fuck­ing been.

on gar­ru­lous form: friendly, open, hon­est and funny about his past, present and fu­ture.

Åk­er­feldt, to­gether with Steven Wil­son, Devin Townsend, Ih­sahn, En­slaved and more, is one of prog’s New Kings – a group of mu­si­cians who, in­di­vid­u­ally and col­lec­tively, have taken the foun­da­tions of the genre that were laid down 50 years ago and built on them, look­ing for­ward rather than back­wards.

“I’ve put a lot into Opeth over the years,” he says. “But then I’ve had no choice. This band is our life’s work.” In some ways, Mikael Åk­er­feldt makes an un­likely pro­gres­sive rock hero, but in other ways it was the only pos­si­ble path he would even­tu­ally take. As a teenager, he was a dyed-in-the­wool heavy metal fan, al­beit one with an eye on the past: he loved Ju­das Priest and Deep Pur­ple as much as the thrash and death metal that was in vogue at the time. “I al­ways thought I was born in the wrong era,” he says. “I never felt like I fit­ted in. I should have been around in the 70s.”

While all his school friends fo­cused on get­ting grown-up jobs – “They wanted to be civil en­gi­neers or some bull­shit” – Åk­er­feldt dreamed

of do­ing some­thing else. “I didn’t want to be forced into a so­ci­ety where you have to be a cer­tain way, where any­thing else you want to do is just a fu­tile dream,” he says. “I just wanted to be a gui­tar player. That was gonna be my job.”

He dropped out of school early, at 17. His par­ents weren’t hugely sup­port­ive of his mu­si­cal dreams. “They said things like, ‘You should get a proper job, get a proper ed­u­ca­tion, and you can have your hobby on the side.’

They used that word a lot – ‘hobby’. It made me fuck­ing fu­ri­ous. ‘What do you mean, ‘hobby’? It’s my life.’”

Swe­den in the late 80s and early

90s was the ground zero of ex­treme metal, and Åk­er­feldt found him­self in the thick of things. Opeth weren’t his band – he had been re­cruited to play bass by orig­i­nal vo­cal­ist David Is­berg, to the cha­grin of the other mem­bers at the time. They all promptly left, leav­ing Is­berg and Åk­er­feldt to re­build the group. Is­berg him­self bailed within a year, hand­ing the reins to Åk­er­feldt.

Early Opeth al­bums such as Orchid and Morn­ingrise fell squarely in the ex­treme metal arena, though they pos­sessed a mu­si­cal am­bi­tion that most of their peers lacked: songs such as the 20-minute Black Rose Im­mor­tal and the dream­ily bu­colic Cre­dence showed a pro­gres­sive soul fight­ing to break out.

When you look back at those early al­bums, do you recog­nise the band that made them?

A lit­tle bit, yeah. I recog­nise the idea of the band, but I was lim­ited as a gui­tar player and a song­writer. I’m very proud of those early records, but there’s one thing I hear, which is a hunger, that makes me cringe. It’s kind of a ju­ve­nile hunger.

Isn’t that a mark of your am­bi­tion? That can’t be a bad thing!

It’s not a bad thing. It just makes me cringe. I had an ego. I fig­ured we were the best band around. It was im­por­tant in those days be­cause it was the only fuck­ing good thing I’d ever done in my life. Now I’ve been in the game for a long time, I guess I’m a bit more jaded [laughs]. I’m not less am­bi­tious – it just shows in dif­fer­ent ways.

Was Opeth a democ­racy or were you the leader from early on?

I al­ways wanted a clean democ­racy – five peo­ple in the band, every­body as equals. I wanted it to be a tight unit of friends – that was more im­por­tant to me than flex­ing my mus­cles, like, “I’m the fuck­ing song­writer here.” Even though I did write most of the songs, there was a more demo­cratic feel­ing, even if on pa­per it wasn’t re­ally a democ­racy. [Laughs] It was a dic­ta­tor­ship like it is to­day.

You’re the only con­stant mem­ber through­out Opeth’s en­tire ca­reer. Why have you got through so many mu­si­cians?

It’s not a Ritchie Black­more thing. In the early days, we didn’t make any money, we couldn’t live off the mu­sic, so a lot of peo­ple sim­ply quit. Other peo­ple have been fired, but I haven’t fired any­one based on noth­ing – there’s al­ways been a rea­son. I want to have a fam­ily-type sit­u­a­tion, but it hasn’t al­ways worked out like that. The peo­ple who are not in the band any more, they’re the ones who have the prob­lems as far as I’m con­cerned.

Are you a dif­fi­cult per­son to work with? A hard taskmas­ter?

I wouldn’t say I’m hard to work with. But I think I am a hard taskmas­ter. I don’t give up eas­ily. I’m not the best mu­si­cian in the band. All the other guys are fuck­ing ter­rific – I’m not at their level. I’m a pretty medi­ocre gui­tar player and singer, but I do write the songs, which is my strength. I have a clear idea of what Opeth is sup­posed to sound like, and we have some­thing that’s ours. But mu­si­cally, I would have fired my­self a long time ago. At the end of the 00s, Mikael Åk­er­feldt had a cri­sis of con­fi­dence. Opeth’s most re­cent al­bums, the in­creas­ingly in­tri­cate Ghost Rev­er­ies (2005) and Water­shed (2008), had been gar­landed with praise and con­tin­ued the band’s up­wards tra­jec­tory. When Åk­er­feldt started writ­ing a fol­low-up to Water­shed, he knew it wasn’t right.

“I wrote a con­tin­u­a­tion of the Water­shed record, which was good but not great,” he says. “I was telling my­self, ‘It’s good enough,’ which had al­ways been for­bid­den. Things should never be ‘good enough’.”

It was bassist Martín Men­dez who helped set Åk­er­feldt right. Men­dez told his band­mate what he’d writ­ten was “shit”. “That was help­ful,” says Åk­er­feldt dryly.

In re­al­ity it was. On the ad­vice of his band­mate – and of pro­ducer/friend Steven Wil­son – he scrapped the new songs and started again from scratch. The al­bum that came out of this pe­riod of artis­tic tur­bu­lence would ar­guably be the most con­tro­ver­sial, but also the most piv­otal, of their ca­reer: Her­itage.

Like Black­wa­ter Park a decade ear­lier, Her­itage re­mains a key stag­ing post in Opeth’s ca­reer. They’d made bold artis­tic state­ments be­fore – not least the amped-up/stripped-down yin-yang of De­liv­er­ance and Damna­tion (2002 and 2003 re­spec­tively) – but never any­thing so au­da­cious.

Stripped of death growls, grind­ing riffs and any­thing else even re­motely re­sem­bling ex­treme metal, Her­itage was, per­versely, more chal­leng­ing than any­thing they’d re­leased be­fore. Åk­er­feldt had been edg­ing prog-wards ever since he was in­tro­duced to Camel years ear­lier by a col­league while work­ing at a mu­sic shop in Stock­holm, but this was an all-or-noth­ing em­brace of the genre. It wasn’t quite a re­birth for Opeth so much as their prog com­ing-of-age cer­e­mony.

Her­itage was a big turn­ing point, but it also sounded like an al­bum you’d been itch­ing to make for years. Is that the case?

Ab­so­lutely.

So what took you so long?

I guess I was com­fort­able be­cause we were pop­u­lar with what­ever we were do­ing up till then. All those records had done well for us, it was com­fort­able,

I’ve put a lot into Opeth over the years. But then I’ve had no choice. This

band is our life’s work.

we could pay the bills. But we needed to try some­thing dif­fer­ent. And our bass player telling me the songs I’d writ­ten were shit helped.

A lot of peo­ple had a fairly ad­verse re­ac­tion to it, like the guy who chal­lenged you to a duel in Amer­ica. But surely they should have seen it com­ing, right?

That’s what I thought! Some peo­ple got re­ally, re­ally up­set with it, but I didn’t see it as a mas­sive de­par­ture from be­fore. If you couldn’t see that com­ing, I won­dered where you’d fuck­ing been.

Did the re­ac­tion hurt you?

Not re­ally. I was in that tun­nel vi­sion mood: “We’re gonna do it this way.” I don’t re­gret it. It made us im­prove as mu­si­cians. Åk­er­feldt’s song­writ­ing abil­ity is al­most matched by his gift for self-dep­re­ca­tion. But his hu­mour – and his men­tal well­be­ing – has been sorely tested over the years. Ask him if there have been times when it hasn’t been fun be­ing in Opeth and his re­ply is in­stant.

“Oh fuck yeah,” he says. “Mil­lions of times. Be­ing in Opeth has been shit at times. It’s been shit for a lot of the time, in fact. We’ve had so many prob­lems in this band. We’ve just never gone pub­lic with them.”

The worst time came in the 00s. The band’s fourth al­bum, 1999’s Still Life, was a water­shed moment. Eas­ing back fur­ther on the bru­tal­ity in favour of a com­plex, in­tri­cate ap­proach, it served no­tice to the wider world that there was more to the Swedes than any­one could have guessed just a few years ear­lier. Two years later, the fol­low-up, Black­wa­ter Park, sug­gested that their pro­gres­sive/ex­treme metal hy­brid was more than just an ac­ci­dent (Black­wa­ter Park re­mains the de­fin­i­tive Opeth al­bum in the eyes of many).

But the artis­tic and com­mer­cial suc­cess co­in­cided with a pe­riod of tur­bu­lence for both the band and

Åk­er­feldt. Is­sues with then-drum­mer Martin Lopez cre­ated in­ter­nal ten­sions that grad­u­ally built over a pe­riod of years. As the de fac­tor leader, Åk­er­feldt bore the brunt of it. He be­gan suf­fer­ing de­bil­i­tat­ing anx­i­ety at­tacks.

“It was all men­tal prob­lems caused by the sit­u­a­tion in the band and the fact I took on too much work,” he says. “There was a time when no­body in the band cared if we were gonna con­tinue or not. I car­ried every­thing on my shoul­ders and the other guys didn’t give a fly­ing fuck about any­thing as far as I was con­cerned. They just ex­pected me to de­liver the goods, and then col­lect the cash.”

Does it feel like you carry a heavy load lead­ing Opeth?

Yeah, but there’s pros and cons of be­ing a band leader. Peo­ple lis­ten to what I have to say, peo­ple re­spect what I have to say. If I have an idea, they’re open to try­ing it out. But there’s a lot of stress too. If we do some­thing bad, it’s my fault.

What’s been the low­est point of your time in the band?

There’s been low points with all the ex-mem­bers, but in the early days when peo­ple left or got fired, it was like, “Okay, this didn’t work out be­cause you’re go­ing this way and we’re go­ing that way.” But later on there were other prob­lems – all sorts of fights, abuse of many dif­fer­ent kinds. I don’t re­ally want to talk about it cos we made a vow that we would never bring some of these things up. But it’s been a con­stant thing.

How bad did things get for you?

At one point I thought I was go­ing to die, it was so bad. I thought panic at­tacks and that sort of thing was a fuck­ing crock of mumbo jumbo shit. I thought, “That’s never gonna hap­pen to me.” But I got so ill that

I was phys­i­cally sick. I had to go to the doc­tor. I went to ther­apy and started read­ing up on panic at­tacks. I started to learn more about men­tal health, and that it could af­fect you phys­i­cally too. Once I knew that, it was eas­ier for me to strike back against those symp­toms. You got di­vorced a few years ago. That couldn’t have helped?

No, it didn’t. First we had the prob­lems in the band, then I got di­vorced. It was quite a few years when I wasn’t feel­ing that well. I had so many per­sonal prob­lems, it was bound to find its way into the mu­sic. More so the lyrics, ac­tu­ally. I had to re-eval­u­ate my life. The Her­itage al­bum was when I started to do that.

How long did all these trou­bles last? I’d say the start of every­thing band-re­lated was 2002, and it ended in maybe 2014. That’s a long time!

Would you say there are still prob­lems in Opeth to­day?

Of course. There are prob­lems in any band. But they pale in com­par­i­son to the shit that was hap­pen­ing around the mil­len­nium. That’s not to say there aren’t pos­i­tives that come with life in Opeth. The band have taken him to places he wouldn’t have oth­er­wise gone to, and in­tro­duced him to peo­ple he wouldn’t have oth­er­wise met. Like soft jazz sax­o­phone leg­end Kenny G.

“His kid is a big fan of death metal, and Kenny comes to the show with him,” says Åk­er­feldt. “I was talk­ing to Kenny af­ter the show, and he was go­ing, ‘How can you scream like that?’”

And then there’s Jada Pin­kett Smith, ac­tress and wife of Will ‘Fresh Prince Of Bel Air’ Smith.

“She’s a fan, and when we played in LA she came in the dress­ing room with her en­tourage. It was just me in there. Fredrik [Åkesson, gui­tarist] was in the shower – he didn’t know she was there and he was fart­ing very loudly. She didn’t say much. She just stood there lis­ten­ing to these farts echo­ing around this tiled shower.”

But Mikael Åk­er­feldt’s best celebrity story in­volves one of his home coun­try’s most fa­mous peo­ple: Agnetha Fält­skog. Åk­er­feldt met the reclu­sive for­mer ABBA singer as they fin­ished record­ing Her­itage in the same stu­dio the Swedish pop icons recorded their orig­i­nal al­bums.

“The own­ers of the stu­dio in­vited us to din­ner at their place be­cause they liked us so much,” says Åk­er­feldt. “And they go, ‘Oh, we just in­vited a friend of ours.’ And it was Agnetha. I’m like, ‘Of course I recog­nise her!’”

Åk­er­feldt ad­mits that he was star-struck. “I started drink­ing heav­ily be­cause I’m so shy. Once I was drunk, I was like, ‘Okay, I’m sorry but I have to talk to you about ABBA.’ And she was happy to an­swer all my ques­tions about ob­scure songs.”

At some point in the night, some­one put on a juke­box. “I in­vited her to dance,” he says. “I was danc­ing with the Danc­ing Queen. Sadly it wasn’t to Danc­ing Queen.”

You said you were shy that night.

Are you gen­er­ally shy?

I am in some ways. Es­pe­cially when I’m be­ing ex­posed to my idols. I’ve been to the Prog Awards or the Gram­mys and there’ll be some­one there: “It’s fuck­ing Ian An­der­son!” or who­ever. It’s weird, cos I was never re­ally like that when I was younger. I was just too shy.

Back in the day, Ju­das Priest were in Swe­den for the Ram It Down record, and I spent night out­side the Sher­a­ton ho­tel like a fuck­ing groupie, wait­ing to get my copy of Rocka Rolla signed. It made my life. But apart from that, I never re­ally waited around. Now I’m one of those guys that peo­ple wait around for, I know what a has­sle it can be.

Do you like the at­ten­tion that comes with be­ing a front­man?

Yeah, I think I do, prob­a­bly more than I’d ad­mit. I com­plain that I don’t get much pri­vacy, but it’s a lit­tle bit

Be­ing in Opeth has been shit at times. It’s been shit for a lot of the time, in fact. We’ve had so many prob­lems in this band.

We’ve just never gone pub­lic with them.

hyp­o­crit­i­cal. If it ended, I’d be like, “What the fuck hap­pened! Please like me!” I prob­a­bly have a lit­tle bit of an at­ten­tion whore thing go­ing on.

Opeth have never gone down the clichéd ‘sex, drugs and rock’n’roll route’, though.

Well, I like to think we have the rock’n’roll some­times. There’s been some sex along the way but it’s mostly alone in your ho­tel room. I’ve never tried drugs my­self, but there have been drugs. But we don’t go around flaunt­ing the bad side of things. We don’t think it’s cool if some­one took a line of co­caine back in the day.

I think that’s fuck­ing sad if you ask me. I do like to drink stupid amounts of wine though.

Men­tal break­downs aside, what don’t you like about be­ing in a band? I don’t like tour­ing. I like the play­ing, of course, but I hate trav­el­ling, I hate air­ports, not hav­ing pri­vacy in a tour bus. It’s just the same old fuck­ing shit every day and it’s bor­ing. We played 270-odd shows for Her­itage. That’s too much. We’re go­ing to be around a hun­dred for Sorcer­ess. That’s still too much. But that’s just me.

So what’s the op­ti­mum num­ber of tour dates for you?

Be­fore I go on tour, it’s zero shows.

But once I’m out there, it’s fine. I love the shows them­selves, they’re great. I love be­ing in dif­fer­ent coun­tries, go­ing record shop­ping. But it’s just see­ing this be­ing planned in front of your eyes. Three weeks turns into five weeks which turns into three months.

Have you ever thought of re­tir­ing from tour­ing?

Yeah, I have, of course. But there’s an or­gan­i­sa­tion be­hind this. There are peo­ple who de­pend on us tour­ing be­cause it’s the bread and but­ter. And I’d prob­a­bly miss it if we didn’t tour – I’d prob­a­bly feel that some­thing’s not right. My ego needs that fix. If Her­itage alien­ated a chunk of their orig­i­nal fan base, it didn’t mean the band were whole­heart­edly em­braced by the prog world ei­ther. To the more re­cal­ci­trant sec­tions of the com­mu­nity, they were still a metal band, one who could slip back into the bad old ways at any point. It was an out­look that missed the point en­tirely, given that the very na­ture of pro­gres­sive rock in­volves chal­leng­ing your­self and mov­ing for­ward at every step.

The two al­bums that Opeth have re­leased since Her­itage, 2014’s Pale Com­mu­nion and 2016’s Sorcer­ess, have gone a long way to ban­ish­ing any lin­ger­ing sus­pi­cions. Åk­er­feldt even re­ceived the seal of ap­proval from

Steve Hack­ett when he was in­vited to ap­pear on the gui­tarist’s Ge­n­e­sis Re­vis­ited II al­bum, singing sec­tions of Sup­per’s Ready.

Who do you judge your­self against – your peers to­day or older bands?

I don’t re­ally feel in com­pe­ti­tion with any­one. Not be­cause I think that no one can com­pete with us, it’s more a case of I don’t want to com­pete with other peo­ple. I don’t sit around go­ing, “This is bet­ter than Oc­to­pus by Gen­tle Gi­ant.” I’m not think­ing in those terms.

What about Steven Wil­son? There’s some com­pe­ti­tion there, right?

Ha! I do get a lit­tle bit jeal­ous of Steven some­times. When he writes a great song, I’m like, “Fuck you, you fuck­ing ass­hole. I’m go­ing to show you.” But he’s told me a cou­ple of times, “I’m jeal­ous of that song, I wish I’d writ­ten it.” There’s com­pe­ti­tion, but it’s healthy and in­spi­ra­tional.

It’s lov­ing com­pe­ti­tion.

There isn’t a Pro­gres­sive Rock Hall Of Fame, but if there was, would you put Opeth in there?

Shit yes. We’d be in there. But there’d be shit­load of bands that would be in­ducted prior to us. I wouldn’t want to go in first or sec­ond. Maybe around 215th, when there’s no other good bands left.

Do you see Opeth as one of the great prog rock bands?

No, that’s a dif­fer­ent type of

I do get a lit­tle bit jeal­ous of Steven Wil­son some­times. When he writes a great song, I’m like, ‘Fuck you, you fuck­ing ass­hole. I’m go­ing to show you.’

thing. I love our mu­sic, of course I do. I have to, be­cause I write it. But one of the great bands? It’d feel very un­com­fort­able say­ing that.

Is that just false mod­esty?

No, it’s proper mod­esty. I’m Swedish. We’re in­doc­tri­nated to be mod­est over here. The un­wanted has­sle of tour­ing aside, Mikael Åk­er­feldt says he’s hap­pier than he has been in a long time. “I’m in a fan­tas­tic re­la­tion­ship, I’ve just moved into a new place, my chil­dren and me have a great re­la­tion­ship, my re­la­tion­ship with my ex-wife is good, my band is do­ing well,

I have my health. So yeah, I’d say

I’m fuck­ing happy.”

What’s next for Åk­er­feldt is still TBC. The pos­si­bil­i­ties, if not end­less, are cer­tainly wide-rang­ing: a new Opeth al­bum, per­haps? A sec­ond al­bum from Storm Cor­ro­sion, his project with Steven Wil­son? A col­lab­o­ra­tion with a kin­dred spirit such as Devin Townsend or Mike Port­noy, both mu­si­cians he’s been spec­u­la­tively linked with in the past? Maybe even a solo al­bum?

“I’d love to do all of the above,” he says. “But in the real world, I’ll prob­a­bly have to muster up the en­ergy to write an Opeth record.

I did start writ­ing some stuff the other day ac­tu­ally. Some ideas I was work­ing on. They’re kind of shit to be hon­est with you. They’re prob­a­bly not gonna last.

I want to write mu­sic that doesn’t sound like I wrote

it. That’s my dream.

Where will a new al­bum take Opeth? I hope it’s go­ing to be out­ra­geous. I want to push my­self. I want to write mu­sic that doesn’t sound like I wrote it. That’s my dream. [Laughs] But the stuff I’ve writ­ten so far just sounds like generic shit.

What is it that makes Opeth’s mu­sic con­nect with peo­ple?

That’s a dif­fi­cult ques­tion. I don’t sit around break­ing down songs.

I don’t have il­lu­sions of grandeur that our records are go­ing to break us on a huge scale around the world – it’s not, “Guys, you bet­ter check the prices of Jaguars and Rolls Royce’s cos you’re go­ing to be able to buy one in a cou­ple of months.”

It’s hard to talk about our mu­sic with­out sound­ing like I’m be­ing cocky. I guess its big, it’s pre­ten­tious, but it’s hon­est mu­sic. I don’t have many ideas with the band other than to come up with good mu­sic – mu­sic that we like. I just want to keep it hon­est, and I want to love it when it’s done. That Swedish mod­esty strikes once again. Nearly 30 years af­ter they first started in the dank cor­ners of the Swedish heavy metal scene, Opeth have repo­si­tioned them­selves in the van­guard of con­tem­po­rary prog in a way that no one could have fore­seen all that time ago. Åk­er­feldt him­self has be­come a fig­ure­head for the scene, al­beit a re­luc­tant one. Pro­gres­sive rock’s fu­ture is safe in his hands. As­sum­ing no one shoots him in a duel first, that is.

Sorcer­ess is out now via Moder­bo­laget/ Nu­clear Blast. Opeth are cur­rently on tour. See www.opeth.com for more in­for­ma­tion.

OPETH AT THE PROG AWARDS 2017, L-R: MARTIN AXENROT, MARTÍN MEN­DEZ, FREDRIK ÅKESSON, MIKAEL ÅK­ER­FELDT, JOAKIM SVALBERG.

2008’S WATER­SHED (TOP) AND 2011’S PIV­OTAL, PAS­TORAL HER­ITAGE .

THE DAMNA­TION-ERA LINE-UP, CIRCA 2003.

OPETH IN 1993, L-R: PETER LIND­GREN, AN­DERS NORDIN, MIKAEL AKERFELDT, STEFAN GUTEKLINT. MIKAEL ÅK­ER­FELDT:

AL­WAYS AT THE FORE­FRONT OF THE BAND.

2001’S BLACK­WA­TER PARK, THE DE­FIN­I­TIVE OPETH AL­BUM FOR MANY FANS.

FAC­ING A BRIGHT FU­TURE: OPETH ARE ONE OF PROG’S MOST PIONEERING BANDS.

AF­TER TUR­BU­LENT TIMES WITH OPETH, TO­DAY IT’S ALL SMILES FOR MIKAEL ÅK­ER­FELDT: “I’D SAY I’M FUCK­ING HAPPY, ” HE TELLS US.

OPETH’S LAT­EST OPUS, THE PROGGY SORCER­ESS.

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