For any musician to release 13 albums is quite an achievement. Even more so is to still have the ability to develop your sound and realise what was once your inspiration to create, is now the very opposite of what you’ve come to be. For singer, Mikael Åkerfeldt of Swedish Metal band, OPETH, it’s not about trying to drop the lowest chord you possibly can. This is actually where most bands fail to even resemble cohesive music, the misconception that the lowest note is the heaviest. “I read about bands that have the ‘heaviest record ever,’ and I’m not too impressed by that” says Åkerfeldt. “OK, it’s cool but what does it say? What does it mean? It’s an impossible mission, to be the heaviest. That’s been done before.”

I know how I listen to music. I provide the time to listen to music. I make time for music. I’m not doing something else while music is playing
- Mikael Åkerfeldt

It’s easy for a band to find a genre and never venture outside of the boundaries of their own comfort zone, however, this attitude won’t take you very far, especially in today’s saturated Rock and Metal scene. It’s no longer do or die, it’s develop or fade. “This is OPETH. I think by now fans will recognize - at least I hope they do - my writing style, our sound, what we do as a band” says Åkerfeldt. “There are a lot of surprises on ‘In Cauda Venenum’, from the strings and Swedish samples to Fredrik’s [Åkesson] solos and the Swedish lyrics. But I knew I wanted a Latin title early on. I wanted a Latin title that would work for both versions”.

OPETH have always prided themselves on creating more than just a record. OPETH have a long and passionate history with music. Åkerfeldt himself is an avid fan of artists ranging from Napalm Death to John Coltorane. “I came across bands like, YES, Van der Graaf Generator, King Crimson, and along comes Dream Theater...I remember I got really interested in them because the singer had a Napalm Death t-shirt on..I was like ‘it’s meant to be because I love Napalm Death too!’”

OPETH are one of the few Metal bands that still focus on the development of in depth songwriting. With dramatic time signatures and even more dynamic rhythm changes, OPETH are easily one of the most interesting modern acts you can indulge in. But, they’re Swedish so what do you expect? The Swedes have always had a way with music along with a dedication to the craft that is still to this day quite unparallelled.

“Over time, I got tired of that [Heavy] tag. Of course, when I was younger it meant everything to me. I was always on the pursuit for heaviness in my youth, trying to find the next level of heaviness. First it was death metal, then it was bands like MESHUGGAH, but heaviness is now more about emotions, heavy chord progressions, music that has feelings. Heaviness doesn’t mean MESHUGGAH anymore, although indeed they’re a fucking heavy band. I’m not trying to tap into that anymore.”

Long time followers of OPETH will be well aware of how far the band have come in terms of the development of their own style. And, it’s this constant desire for progress that have driven OPETH to consistently deliver a fresh sound with each record. ““The process, or the studio, for writing ‘In Cauda Venenum’ was similar to ‘Sorceress’” Åkerfeldt says. “I have the same stuff I’ve recorded on since »Watershed«. It’s all very outdated. I mean, nothing really works all that well, but it fits the purpose for what I’m doing with it. The writing, as always, is the same. The environment was the same. But the pressure was different.” Åkerfeldt explains one of the main influences for the new record was a sense of importance. “I got to write music that I felt was important...I didn’t want any kind of basic heavy metal on this record. I wanted something really elaborate, complex without sounding complex. I wanted it to be sing-along and melodic, but not gimmicky”

“I don’t expect us to conquer the world,” says Åkerfeldt. “We’re not going to be the next big thing now that we’re 45 and into our thirteenth record. So, as time has moved on, OPETH is becoming more and more for us...In a way, that makes the music and the record more pure. We’re not trying to get to the next level of popularity. We’re trying to get to the next level of creativity. So, making the record in Swedish was the spark. It got the music going.”

The dominating factor for their 13th record, In Cauda Venenum, is that there is a Swedish version and an English version. The latter of which almost didn’t happen. “Down the line, I got anxious about the idea. I started to think, ‘Maybe, they [the fans] won’t listen to it all because it’s in Swedish.’ I’ll admit I was chicken shit about not having an English version. So, I went ahead and made an English version as well. To me, the Swedish version is the main version, the most important version to me, and the version I want people to listen to first. Obviously, we wanted to give fans the choice though”

“I’m still discovering new artists that interest me,” Åkerfeldt says. “I also re-discover records I already have, like DEEP PURPLE’s ‘Stormbringer’, which is always a nice surprise. ‘I’m like, “Oh, that’s cool. Forgot about that song. I will listen to that two-three times now.’ There are some newer artists—that are obviously not prog or from the ‘70s—like Kate Bush.”

“Of course, I want everybody to love everything that we do,” Åkerfeldt says. “But it’s secondary to me. I can’t control that, and I don’t want to. I really don’t know what they’ll think about it. I don’t know how people listen to music these days. I don’t know how people feel about it music. I know how I listen to music. I provide the time to listen to music. I make time for music. I’m not doing something else while music is playing. I’d like everybody to focus on the new record.”

Author Bio: AC Speed

Senior Editor

I started my career as a music journalist in 2013 and have been involved in the music industry as a touring musician, studio engineer and artist consultant since 2002, as well as previously being a signed artist. My passion for delivering high quality, informative music-related news is a daily driving force behind the content I create. Also a huge gaming nerd! Born in the United Kingdom and currently living in Sweden. Skål!


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