Today one of the online imprints of Sweden’s Espressen newspaper published an interview that writer Martin Carlsson conducted with Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth. It included some questions and answers about Opeth’s next album, which you will see in a moment.
Coincidentally, I and a few of my current or former NCS comrades engaged in a lengthy debate about Opeth during our Seattle get-together last week. The debate was spawned, of course, by the band’s last album, Heritage. It went on for quite a while, and beer was involved, but I think it can be summed up, in part, as follows:
Point: Heritage was a huge ripoff. It wasn’t Opeth. If Åkerfeldt wanted to do what he did on that album, he should have done it through a side project, something like “The Mikael Åkerfeldt Project”.
Counterpoint: Mikael Åkerfeldt can do what he wants. He’s earned the right. Besides, his voice probably can’t handle live death growls for more than a song or two any more — you can’t tour in support of an album that you can’t perform live, night after night. And the other guys in Opeth need to eat, so he did right by them in making Heritage an Opeth album. Also, it’s possible he was under some label pressure to make this kind of album — don’t forget that Heritage was a Roadrunner release.
Point: Whether it’s his voice or just getting tired of death metal, it still wasn’t an Opeth album, and he didn’t need to be so dismissive of the genre and the fans in talking about Heritage. If you can’t growl any more, just say so, and don’t say you’re bored with the genre that made your name for you. What does that say about his feelings for the fans? And I don’t buy that Åkerfeldt would ever lock himself into a deal where he had to change the music to suit a label’s preferences.
Counterpoint: Heritage was good for what it was. And besides, Heritage may prove to be just a temporary diversion.
Point: If Heritage turns out to be a diversion, and the next album again incorporates death metal, all will be forgiven. If the next album is more of the same, that may be the end.
Okay, with those thoughts in mind, here’s the interview (I found the translation at Blabbermouth):
“This coming Friday, September 6, Swedish progressive metallers OPETH will set sail on Melloboat 2013, a two-day cruise between Stockholm, Sweden and Riga, Latvia featuring performances by a number of progressive cult bands and heavy hitters, including Morgan Ågren (featuring a guest appearance by Devin Townsend), SAGA (Sweden), CRESSIDA, ICECROSS, TRETTIOÅRIGA KRIGET, ÄNGLAGÅRD, PANTA REI 2.0 and BADGE.
“The cruise will mark OPETH’s very last show in support of the band’s latest album, “Heritage”, which came out in 2011. The group will spend the remaining months of 2013 putting the finishing touches on the writing and recording process for its next studio effort, which will be released sometime next spring.
“According to OPETH frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt, four songs have already been written for the upcoming CD and three others are in various states of completion. “We’ve been looking at [tracking the next album at] Rockfield Studios in Wales where QUEEN recorded ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, but we haven’t made a decision yet. But it will be an expensive album. There’s a lot going on, lots of string arrangements that we haven’t had in the past.”
Will it be heavier or softer than “Heritage”?
“Maybe a little bit heavier. Not death metal heavy, but hard rock/heavy metal heavy. There’s also lots of progressive elements and acoustic guitars, but also more sinister-sounding riffs.”
“I am. I love the way DIO’s ‘Holy Diver’ sounds, this early-’80s sound where you can still hear the ’70s, but the production is heavier. Right now I’m into having a similar production that isn’t retro but it still sounds like real instruments and it’s heavier than ‘Heritage’.”
Reading this, I have a feeling that those fans who were disappointed by Opeth and who hoped it would prove to be a temporary diversion from Opeth’s “classic” sound are going to be disappointed again. A heavier production may ease the pain a bit, but the pain will not be relieved.