Harvest of Blackness
CoC interviews Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth
by: Adrian Bromley
While Opeth's singer/songwriter/guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt is excited about the buzz that his band's latest offering _Blackwater Park_ [reviewed in this issue] is receiving, his love for his music is greater than what fans or critics have to say: good or bad.

"It is great to hear all of that, but to be honest with you I stopped caring about all of that a long time ago", Akerfeldt starts. "I don't really care about reviews anymore or what people have to say. It's great to read a great review or be nominated for the album of year, but at the end of the day it doesn't change much for me. Even if this was a super underground release, it would still be a great album for me."

"This record, like many other records, is a big task for me to take on", says Akerfeldt. "When I go into making a record I try not to think about how the record will sound or what we will do differently or how the guitar will sound. The way I make music is the way it has always been. I just sit down and play guitar every day and just gather together a bunch of riffs and arrangements and then try to piece it all together. I only try to come up with cool songs and not a master plan of how certain songs will sound on an album. This just happens for us. We don't really know how the album will sound until it has been mastered and finished because we experiment so much in the studio. When we go in to make a record we just let the music flow. That's it."

About his work with _Blackwater Park_, Akerfeldt says: "I am very proud of everything on this record. I am proud of all the songs. I am proud of the vocal lines that we did on the song "The Drapery Falls" and also the overall production of the record. We worked with Steven Wilson this time and he did a lot of great things to help the album sound good." He adds, "It is hard for me to say if this is the ultimate Opeth album, but right now it feels like it is the best one."

"The studio is a very inspirational environment", Akerfeldt admits. "The only thing I wanted to make sure of when we wrote and recorded this album was that we liked it. That was the only thing that mattered. We wrote a few songs together and went in to record them. It wasn't that tough at all. People think that we rehearse like one hundred times a day or go sit out in the forest and play guitars, but it isn't like that. Like any guitar player, I get the urge to play every day and sometimes I come up with some cool riffs and ideas."

"We are willing to try a lot of things within our music, but we don't want to stray too far from our sound", says Akerfeldt about the band's love of experimenting with each recording. "I think ever since we found the sound we did on the first record, we have gone on to try and develop it over the years. We will continue to try and develop it. Opeth's sound covers a lot of ground and we can go in many different directions and still be Opeth. I think we are going to try and milk this sound of Opeth until there is nothing left. I think we have a long way to go. I think we will be able to come up with some cool albums in the future."

Does Akerfeldt ever listen to older Opeth records when making an album? "No", he sharply juts in. "I want to keep a clear head. If I repeat something I have already done, I don't want to know about it till afterwards. We basically concentrate on what we have before us in the studio and take it from there. The past is pretty much gone when we enter the studio for a new record."

Having seen the band two times in the past month, live the band (the rest of Opeth is rounded out by guitarist Peter Lindgren, drummer Martin Lopez and bassist Martin Mendez) make sure to cover all of Opeth's work, from the early days of 1995's _Orchid_ onto 1998's _My Arms, Your Hearse_ [CoC #32] and onto the new material. What does Akerfeldt think about playing the older songs with the newer ones?

"I think those songs are very representative of what we sounded like seven years ago. Playing those songs live is a bit different because of the way they were done. We don't think "oh, this will sound cheesy, we better not play it". We just bring it into the mix of things and crank it out. I don't feel the contrast between those songs. The listener in the audience may. I'm just there to have a good time live and have some diversity with our set."

One of the most rewarding factors about the new releases is that it marks the first time the band has solid distribution in North America via Koch Records. Is he excited about the deal to get the band's name out even more now?

"It feels real good", says the singer. "We've never had proper distribution in North America till now and the album is everywhere. Those at Koch are doing a great job at promoting us and they are one of the key reasons why we are touring over here right now. This is a big deal for us -- we are playing fifty dates in North America. After this tour we will go back to Europe and play festivals and wrap it all up with a European tour in the Fall. After that, we will stop this and take some time off till we put out the next album, which should be late next year."

What are you going to do with your time off?

"I have some other stuff I want to do music wise with some friends of mine."

Really? Does it sound different from Opeth? Who else is involved?

"The band consists of myself, the keyboard player from Spiritual Beggars and a famous guitar player from over here in Sweden named Renneh. We want to do something together, and I have written some songs, but we have yet to play together. We are going to record some material soon. Once that is all done and finished, I will then begin assembling new material for the next Opeth album."

"I've always wanted to do this. I just have urge to work with other musicians", confides Akerfeldt about the need to work on the new, yet unnamed project. "I really want to work with a keyboard player because I love the vintage sounds of keyboard work. It'll be very dark, gloomy '70s stuff. It'll be very mellow. The keyboardist can sing as well, so we plan to have these Simon & Garfunkle harmony lines, but not your run-of-the-mill vocal lines. This will be a lot of fun for me to break away from Opeth."

As most fans know, Opeth's music is very hard to categorize. While the band plays metal music, with intense mood swings and melodic overtones, everyone has their own take on what Opeth is about. Even Akerfeldt does. And because of that, he finds that to be strong characteristic about the band's music.

"People call us a metal band and I am happy with that. Metal to me is a very wide term. It is not just 100% speed all of the time. To me, metal is ranging from The Beatles onward", he explains. "It just sounds ridiculous for me to say something like Opeth plays symphonic extreme progressive gothic epic metal -- that just sounds like too much."

Akerfeldt ends, "We are not a run-of-the-mill type of death metal band. We play metal music. I like the fact that we can go about doing what we want and have fun creating the sounds with Opeth. It seems the fans do too."

(article submitted 13/5/2001)

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9/30/2011 A El Naby 4 Opeth - Heritage
8/9/2008 J Ulrey 8.5 Opeth - Watershed
3/11/2008 P Azevedo 9.5 Opeth - The Roundhouse Tapes
8/24/2005 P Azevedo 9 Opeth - Ghost Reveries
1/30/2004 P Azevedo 10 Opeth - Lamentations - Live at Shepherd's Bush Empire DVD
7/24/2003 P Azevedo 8.5 Opeth - Damnation
5/31/2003 Q Kalis 10 Opeth - Deliverance
5/13/2001 C Flaaten 8 Opeth - Blackwater Park
12/9/1999 P Azevedo 9 Opeth - Still Life
7/8/1998 P Azevedo 10 Opeth - My Arms, Your Hearse
10/11/1996 D Schinzel 8 Opeth - Morningrise
5/8/2009 P Williams Motorhead / Arch Enemy / Opeth / Chimaira / August Burns Red / Nervecell / Hatred / Scarab Dubai Desert Rock Festival 2009
6/11/2008 A Lineker Opeth / Arch Enemy / Devildriver / 3 Inches of Blood Before the Watershed
12/26/2006 P Azevedo Opeth / Amplifier Everything Ends
3/21/2003 P Azevedo Opeth / Madder Mortem / Kormoss Morningrise in the Deadlands
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