FEAR, EMPTINESS, DECIBEL: MIKAEL ÅKERFELDT ON HERITAGE‘S CLEAN VOCALS
Before there were blogs there were these things called magazines, and the only metal magazine we still get excited about reading every month is Decibel. Here’s managing editor Andrew Bonazelli…
Very few things get our bikini briefs twisted like clean vocals. Most often, because they’re in the horrific and pandering context of the “good cop/bad cop” approach. But also because our bullshit detector redlines when we perceive bands making a concentrated, contrived effort to expand their audience. (I’m sure many messageboards have thoroughly noted how you can comprehend every word in the new Mastodon single.)
Opeth—specifically mastermind Mikael Åkerfeldt—has gotten a pass for that, I presume, because over the last two decades he’s integrated a startlingly vast variety of influences into his singular progressive extremity. So, is it really a shock (or anything approaching “sellout”) when tenth record Heritage is not only entirely sung, yet is already one of the best “extreme” records of the year?
That paradox is explored in our September cover story, the first in-depth piece about Heritage—which isn’t out until September 20—anywhere in the world. Chris Dick trekked all the way to Sweden to pick Åkerfeldt’s brain about lineup turnover, a near-implosion and well-timed creative breakthrough that led to this challenging new record. It’s in our webstore now, but here’s some “bonus footage” from Mike deconstructing his evolved vocal approach:
“I’m a rock ‘n’ roll vocalist now. I didn’t dare do that before. I was shy. Because there are no death metal vocals, I wanted to make the clean vocals more aggressive. I remember, when I was recording the vocals, they’d say to me, ‘OK, now do that line with more guts!’ I was like, ‘I don’t know how to do that!’ I’m so used to singing nice, like a minstrel. But now I’m not afraid of really going for it. I think growling for such a long time has fucked up my voice, so I can get the sounds l like without really trying. They’re just there when I want it. I think I developed my voice a little, and that excites me. Being a better vocalist is important to me. I don’t have any formal training, so I don’t know if my technique is shit, but I realized my limitations as a vocalist have been in my head. I didn’t dare think like I do now.”
Decibel’s September 2011 issue also features Toxic Holocaust, Sepultura, Cradle of Filth, All Shall Perish, Skeletonwitch, and an awesomeKrallice flexi disc. That issue is available here, but why not get a full subscription to ensure you never miss an issue?