#11: MIKAEL ÅKERFELDT (OPETH)
MetalSucks recently polled its staff to determine who are The Top 25 Modern Metal Guitarists, and after an incredible amount of arguing, name calling, and physical violence, we have finalized that list! The only requirements to be eligible for the list were that the musician in question had to a) play metal (duh), b) play guitar (double-duh), and c) have recorded something in the past five years. Today we continue our countdown with Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt…
Everyone knows Mikael Åkerfeldt as the leader of Opeth, as well as the vocalist and contributor to countless other widely regarded musical projects, like Bloodbath and Katatonia. But really, Akerfeldt isn’t just a superior songwriter and all-around musician — first and foremost, he’s a ridiculous talented, incredibly versatile guitarist, and is far and away one of my favorite modern players.
Songs like “The Lotus Eater” showcase his ability to tastefully apply dissonance to Opeth’s songs in ways that are legitimately musical rather than just dissonant for the sake of pure noise (lol Veil of Maya). Similarly, when Akerfeldt writes heavy passages, he doesn’t just make teh mindless br00tlz; there’s actually a point and a climax to the heaviness that isn’t nearly as blatant as in some more modern, popular death/x bands.
But the thing I find most impressive about Åkerfeldt is his versatility. He doesn’t generally break it down, but when a heavy section is called for, he can make heads bang as good as (or better than) any other band, which is made even more impressive by the fact that he writes Opeth’s music almost entirely in E-standard tuning. He doesn’t generally shred, but he’s still extremely technically skilled and can sweep with the likes of Jeff Loomis. He’s not primarily an acoustic or flamenco guitarist, but he can fingerpick and write beautifully sad etudes with the best of them.
His creativity is another mark of Åkerfeldt’s expertise: the flavor of the fade-out section on “Burden,” where his acoustic guitar is slowly made to be out of tune. Little touches like that are just another example of what makes Åkerfeldt one of the best modern guitarists in my eyes. Beautiful musical expression coupled with his supreme technical skills (not to mention the fantastic songwriting and heaviness of his music) should qualify Åkerfeldt as one of the best guitarists in everyone’s view.
THE LIST SO FAR