Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt Speaks on His Disinterest in Death Metal
Like Dave Mustaine’s tenure in Metallica and when System of a Down will finally release new music, Opeth’s move away from death metal and into classic progressive rock is a topic that will never die, forever to be asked to Mikael Åkerfeldt in interviews from here until the end of time. To be fair, I’d argue it’s a fair question; so many of the band’s fans are still so visibly upset over the change in musical direction that it’s clearly very much a present issue, even a decade later.
So: Revolver‘s J. Bennett spoke with Åkerfeldt at length about the topic in a recent feature, which also includes choice Mikael quotes about meeting his hero, George Lynch, declining to meet other heroes, The Scorpions, what it’s like to deal with punishers, translating the new album’s lyrics from Swedish to English (and which language he thinks in), wearing sunglasses on stage with Bloodbath because he had the lyrics taped to the floor, and several other super-interesting topics. But you don’t wanna know about that stuff… you wanna know about Opeth’s slide away from metal! So here ya go:
“The last death metal I bought because I was interested was Domination by Morbid Angel. That’s 1995 — a long time ago now. I’m not saying it’s just been bad releases since then — of course not — but that’s the last time I felt like I wanted to hear what’s new. And Morbid Angel was always ahead of the other death-metal bands. I saw David Vincent just the other week and I thought, ‘There he is — the death-metal king.’ And I tell him, ‘You’re the fucking best. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have a band.’
“So death metal certainly means a lot to me. But our death metal, if you will, culminated with the Watershed album. And then I was done with it. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t do anything better. I wasn’t listening to anything with screaming vocals anymore, apart from the old shit. So I wanted to get closer to the person I am. You saw the records I bought — there wasn’t any death metal in there. Dokken was the closest. [Laughs]
“I have to go back to Jim Carrey… He did funny films — Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber and all that. And then he is doing Eternal Sunshine [of the Spotless Mind], he is doing Man on the Moon. He can still be funny when he wants to. And I can still play death metal when I want to — I do when we play live — but it just came to a screeching halt. And I almost made a mistake. I almost wrote another record like Watershed, but I was stopped by Martín Méndez, our bass player. He said, ‘This is not what you should be writing.’”
On whether the other band members were on board with moving away from death metal, he said:
“I think Fredrik, who had only been on one album at that point, was a bit shocked. Because he’s a metal guy. But not the other guys. We bonded so much during the writing of Heritage. But I did write a good 30 or 40 minutes of Watershed-type Opeth music. But when Martín spoke up I just said, “Thank you,” and deleted it. And started Heritage.
Mikael recently visited MetalSucks in New York to watch some fan covers of Opeth’s music on YouTube, and you can watch the hilarious results of that shoot below. Opeth’s new album In Cauda Venenum comes out on September 27.