Opeth is a Progressive Metal band from Stockholm. The band has undergone several line-up changes, but Mikael Åkerfeldt, vocalist, guitarist and composer, has remained in the band since joining immediately after its creation in 1990.
Their style is rooted in Scandinavian Death Metal, but Opeth has consistently incorporated Folk, Jazz, and blues influences within their often lengthy compositions. Many compositions include acoustic guitar interludes and strong dynamics, as well as both guttural and clean vocals.
The band released their debut album, “Orchid”, in 1995. They went on their first world tour after the release of “Blackwater Park” (2001). Their eighth studio album, “Ghost Reveries” (2005), was quite popular in the United States, but the group did not experience American commercial success until the release of their ninth studio album, “Watershed” (2008), which peaked at #23 on Billboard magazine’s top 200 and topped the Finnish album charts in its first week of release.
Opeth was formed as a Death Metal band in the fall of 1990 in Stockholm, Sweden, by vocalist David Isberg. Isberg invited former Eruption member Mikael Åkerfeldt to join the band for music sessions as a bassist but did not inform the other members, including the band’s then-bassist. As a result, all band members left except for Isberg and Åkerfeldt, who shortly after were invited to integrate the band.
The band’s name was derived from the word “Opet”, taken from Wilbur Smith’s book The Sunbird. In the book, Opet is the name of a fictional Phoenician city in South Africa, whose name is translated as “City of the Moon” in the book; the name may be a reference to the Opet Festival or the Egyptian goddess Taweret, also known as Opet.
With Åkerfeldt on guitar and David Isberg on vocals, Opeth still needed other musicians, and they brought together former Eruption drummer and friend of Åkerfeldt, Anders Nordin, and Nick Döring on bass. Andreas Dimeo was later recruited as second guitarist.
Dissatisfied with Opeth’s slow progress, Döring and Dimeo left the band after their first performance and were replaced by guitarist Kim Pettersson and bassist Johan DeFarfalla.
After the following show, DeFarfalla left Opeth to spend time with his girlfriend in Germany and was replaced by Åkerfeldt’s friend, bassist Peter Lindgren. Lead guitarist Pettersson left after the band’s next performance, and Lindgren switched to guitar. Due to creative differences and having lost interest in the band, Isberg left in 1992
With three members in the band, Åkerfeldt took over vocals, and the trio spent the next year composing and rehearsing new compositions. The group began to rely less on the themes and aggression typical of Death Metal and incorporated acoustic guitars and guitar harmonies into their music, developing the core of Opeth’s sound.
The band initially employed former member DeFarfalla as a session bassist, and he ended up joining up on a full-time basis following the release of Opeth’s debut album in 1995
Åkerfeldt stated in September 2010 that he was writing a new album for Opeth. The band announced on their website that they would begin recording their tenth album on January 31, 2011, at Atlântida/Metronome studios in Stockholm, once again with Jens Bogren (engineering) and Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree. Steven Wilson recently stated via Facebook that he had finished mixing the album at the end of March. The band’s tenth studio album, Heritage, is Opeth’s last recording with Per Wilberg as keyboardist; as of April 6, 2011, it was announced that Wiberg would be leaving the band as part of a mutual decision.
The album was released on September 14, 2011. Joakim Svalberg was confirmed as the new permanent keyboardist for Opeth on the official website.
The sound of this Swedish group is full of unusual influences, such as folk and jazz, in addition to presenting intimate contact with classical music, progressive rock and even blues.
As Opeth’s primary composer and lyricist, vocalist-guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt’s influence dominates the band’s sound. Åkerfeldt is the only member of the band to appear on every release. Influenced as a young man by Heavy Metal bands such as Slayer, Death, Black Sabbath, Celtic Frost, King Diamond and Morbid Angel, Åkerfeldt later discovered progressive Rock and Folk music, both of which had a profound impact on the band’s sound. Opeth’s distinctive sound mixes Death Metal with acoustic passages while incorporating elements of Progressive Metal and Progressive Rock.
In his review of Blackwater Park, Eduardo Rivadavia of Allmusic wrote, “Tracks begin and end arbitrarily, often traversing the wide musical terrain, which includes guitar and piano passages, ambient sounds, Stoner Rock rhythms, and oriental-tinged melodies—any of which are subjected to the punctuation of Death Metal’s wild fury at any given time.”
Åkerfeldt commented on the musical diversity of Opeth:
“I don’t see the point of playing in a band and only going one way when you can do it all. It would be impossible for us only to play Death Metal, which is our roots, but now we are a mix of everything and not purists of any form of music. We can’t do that, and frankly, I would think it’s so boring to be in a band that only plays Metal songs. We’re not afraid to experiment or to be caught with our pants down, so to speak. That’s what keeps us going. ”
Opeth’s earlier work often made use of twin guitar harmonies, although these were removed in later versions. “I got tired of watching the whole guitar harmony thing,” Åkerfeldt said. “It got out of control in the mid-90s. Every band was doing that thing.” Åkerfeldt noted that the song “Face of Melinda” from the band’s fourth release “was my first lyric rhyme”.
Many of the band’s songs exceed 10 minutes in length, which Alternative Press magazine’s Aaron Burgess criticized, saying, “You can’t really be a casual Opeth fan. It takes enough as a listener to get past the length of the band’s epic songs”.
Vocally, Åkerfeldt alternates between guttural Death Metal vocals for Heavy sections and clean, sometimes whispering vocals over acoustic passages. Although gutturals were dominant in earlier releases, later cleaner vocal efforts were incorporated, with the 2003 release “Damnation” featuring only clean singing.
Rivadavia noted that “Åkerfeldt’s vocals run the gamut from gut growls producing melodies to chilling beauty—depending on each movement and of hid mood.”
My Arms, Your Hearse (1998)
Still Life (1999)
Blackwater Park (2001)
Ghost Reveries (2005)
Pale Communion (2014)
In Cauda Venenum (2019)