Opeth: 'Doing What You Want Musically Doesn't Get Much Respect These Days'

"Metal people are very opinionated and want to spread their opinions as much as they can," frontman Mikael Akerfeldt explains.

logo
Ultimate Guitar
46

Although "Heritage" is nearly three years old, Opeth's prog rock detour is still a very fresh and touchy subject among a portion of the metal scene. Frontman Mikael Akerfeldt recently discussed such state of affairs, explaining to Invisible Oranges how metal fans lack respect for creatively open musicians.

Saying how it's impossible to be liked by everyone, Mikael noted that "we had a run, a good long run, where it seemed like we could do no wrong. People just loved everything we did."

But the run wasn't a lasting one, and had started ending with 2008's "Watershed" according to Akerfeldt. "I think maybe once we signed to Roadrunner, we started getting some negative feedback even before we put an album out, people saying we sold out because we signed to Roadrunner or stuff like that," he said.

But it's not just simple criticism that the band's been getting, but full-on bashing on more than a few occasions. Asked about the group's most passionate haters, the musician replied, "Yeah, I also sometimes can feel like, 'Why are they jumping on us?' At least we are doing what we want to do!

"But that's not what gets a lot of respect these days. Integrity is important, but people can dismiss me talking about integrity and talking about doing what we want to do. People can dismiss that and say, 'What you're doing is s--t.' And people have their own taste.

"People, especially metal people, are very opinionated and they want to spread their opinions as much as they can. People want to make sure that they hate this and that song, this and that album, this and that lyric, this and that member. And that they loved what we did 10 years ago or whatever, and they want to make that perfectly clear, which is both annoying and interesting and uplifting at the same time because I do appreciate that people care.

"I would rather have that type of negative criticism than [nothing] because nobody cares. I'd rather have some type of reaction, and surely we've got that. We've got a lot of reactions," Mikael concluded.

Akerfeldt also discussed touring "Heritage," calling it an eye-opener as it was at that time he realized that fans don't care about when the song was released, but only about whether it's heavy or not.

"From pretty early on, I could tell that there were people in the crowd that were pretty upset about the fact that we didn't play any of the heavier stuff. So it's like if you take this thing out of the equation, then people don't like you anymore, regardless of what songs you play from the past. We played a song from the first album, but nobody cared, it didn't matter, because we didn't do any of the death metal songs. So that was a bit of an eye-opener for me," he said.

In related news, the band discussed their upcoming album "Pale Communion," once again dubbing it more melodic than previous efforts and therefore "easier to get into than 'Heritage.'" Check out the full Roadrunner chat below.

Marking the band's 11th studio effort, "Pale Communion," is due out on August 26 via Roadrunner. The group has recently unveiled a brand new single titled "Eternal Rains Will Come," make sure to give it a spin below, you'll hardly regret it.

60 comments sorted by best / new / date

    slush
    It's almost like Mikael has never heard of Metallica...
    christopwhalen
    As the old saying goes - "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"
    thedyslexialove
    As much as you wanna hear Blackwater Park rereleased every 3 years musicians tend to like doing new and different things to keep them inspired instead of listening to labels and fans to do what they want and instead doing their own thing.
    blackleo89
    You're right. As a fan I'd love to hear more of the same but as a musician, in their shoes, I would do the same thing and change things up or else I'd get bored to death regardless of peoples opinions.
    TheLiberation
    As the newer saying goes, this saying is used 99% of the time as an excuse for being an annoying close-minded ass.
    umbrella666
    Yeah, and then you'd all bitch about how they aren't doing anything fresh or new. If you don't like a band's change then just cherish what you do like by them and let that be it. They're not going to cater to you.
    Aryan Death Man
    Metallica is the example for not getting the proper respect for doing something different
    finallife6
    I liked Load, Reload and St. Anger because they were different, but "it not true Metallica becuz not first 5 albumms" is the attitude of every one else
    HavokStrife
    I dunno. I thought it was cool that they signed to Roadrunner, because I thought they'd get money/publicity/etc. that they deserved. I think Ghost Reveries and Watershed are stellar albums. I think songs like Burden, Coil, and even that Roads on Roadrunner United are incredible pieces of work. With all that said, I don't like Heritage, and I don't like anything I've heard from Pale Communion. It's a total departure from anything they've done and I can't get into it.
    Linkerman
    I completely agree with you. I profoundly love everything they put out until "Heritage" -- that album is mediocre at best, they were trying to do something that other bands do better. Judging from the new song that has just been released, the new album will be another exercise in mediocrity. If I want to hear prog-rock, I have other bands that satisfy me much more than Opeth. What Opeth gave me was something else, something unique, that other bands sort of emulated but never achieved. And I'd like to have new albums of that special something. And by the way, when I say I profoundly love everything they put out until "Heritage", I'm including "Damnation", which is definitely on my top 5 albums, and the only Opeth album on that list.
    Emenius Sleepus
    If they wrote good music in the last six or so years, no one would have complained.
    tonello
    Is good music defined as death metal for you? If so then your opinion of good music and my opinion of good music differ a bit.
    tonello
    I didn't enjoy Heritage. I don't even enjoy Opeth really. But I agree with the message of the interview. It's the same problem I have with people who bash Metallica for the 90's because it "wasn't the stuff they wrote in the 80's".
    stefan_771
    I prefer Opeth's new style. Shame they didn't sound like that for their entire career
    Spenner2810
    My own view is that Opeth Mikael wrote more interesting and soulful music when the journalists didnt know who he was. Its like since Ghost Reveries the journalists have discovered that he is a very articulate and witty guy and they cant gey enough of him so he ends up telling them about this and that like his love for Comus...and then...everybody listens to Comus....so to emphasise the point. he makes a Comus album and calls it Heritage. Mikael - stop being a Prog Metal celebrity and get back to being a Prog Metal musician and gives us a blistering new album that you've put your heart and soul into rather than one that you want to talk about to illustrate your love of obscure bands from the 70's. I still rate Opeth as one of the top 5 bands in the world today and I hope Pale Communion lives up to that.....
    evanfurillo
    Just listened to Ghost Reveries for a bit yesterday. Not sure how people think that's considered selling out. Let me know the next time you hear Ghost of Perdition on the radio lol
    Emenius Sleepus
    Why is it that when bands write shit music and call it "experimental", they feel that everyone who didn't like it is just "close minded and can't accept creativity"? Is the truth that they put out a rubbish record too much to accept?
    guitardork97
    Keep doing what you do, Mikael. They're still plenty of fans, like myself, who respect and support the direction you take. I for one think the less heavy prog thing is a great idea and it sounds great. I bet it really reduces the monotony of playing strictly heavy.
    reeksofsteel
    Well, for one, respect does not equate to good feedback. However, there are differences between not liking an album and constantly shitting on one just because it's different.
    filipe26
    I think he meant lack of respect coming from the people who hate it just because it's not death metal, not from the ones who simply don't like it.
    Iommianity
    I didn't care for the last couple Opeth albums, and a lot of their work, but so what? What does that say about anything except my own perception? I love when bands weed out large portions of their fanbase just for making an artistic choice. A band like Opeth is successful enough that they literally don't need those kinds of fans, and I think that's great. Your choices are to like something or dislike it: anything else is really just idle commentary that's not a reflection of anything other than your personal tastes, let alone something the band is doing wrong. They're playing music they like, and enough people like it that they can continue doing so. The band wins, everyone who disagrees loses, if they make it a point of contention.
    Peres.T.Peanut
    Or maybe, just maybe, people do have legitimate reasons to strongly dislike Heritage.
    YanUder
    If you read the whole interview instead of this horribly abridged version he does acknowledge that viewpoint as well. Plenty of us also have reasons to strongly enjoy Heritage though. It doesn't suit my palette quite the same way as heavy Opeth, but it's still some damn good songwriting. I've also got prog-friends and math-rock oriented friends who really enjoy Heritage and can't get into anything else by Opeth. The songwriting is still there, I think its just a matter of being able to be interested in hearing an entire album of Opeth's prog-rock side, methinks.
    peachesenregali
    Heritage was a poorly crafted great album. Can't really put my finger on it. Great tracks but just didn't work as an album the same way Blackwater Park or Ghost Reveries did.
    ripper992
    You can't strongly dislike Heritage, it's a quality record. You can say it's not your cup of tea, but bashing it is just stupid
    TheLiberation
    There's a massive difference between "strongly disliking" and bashing. Also, I find the attitude of many Heritage "defenders" to be as annoying as the idiots who bash it because it's not heavy - disliking or criticising the album doesn't instantly mean the one doing so is a caveman. And there's still the point out there they keep missing: Damnation was less metal than Heritage and almost everyone loves it. Heritage actually has metal moments and caused a shitstorm. I think the "u just hate it cuz it prog!!1" argumentation of the "ultradefenders" is falling apart there somewhere.
    qrEE
    Heritage actually made me begin to stop liking Opeth. I realized that Opeth was so limited as a band that opening themselves up to "new things" just kind of proved how limited they've always been. The only moments of excitement they'd had for a long time were in Watershed where they threw new ideas into the mix. I don't think a band has to stay the same, and I also don't think a band has to change. Good music is good regardless of who wrote it or when. Opeth's pretty good but they were limited before and they're limited now. They didn't unlock doors for themselves with Heritage, they closed doors that were finally beginning to open with Watershed. Heritage isn't bad but it just represents why I don't listen to Opeth much anymore. If you want an example of a band that pissed off fans by expanding their sound in a good way while also going softer, Mr Bungle is the way to go.
    crazysam23_Atax
    Or, you know, maybe the fact that it sounds like a modern band trying to do '70s prog bothers you.../shrug
    Peres.T.Peanut
    Thats why I said dislike. I didn't say it was a lump of crap without any redeeming factor to it.
    ripper992
    I'm nitpicking, but there's a difference between disliking and strongly disliking, which is what you said
    justtryme90
    No, you can strongly dislike Heritage. As liking or disliking something is an opinions. Which have no right or wrong.
    Mr Winters
    That's not what he's talking about. He's talking about the people who insult and bash Opeth for doing what they want instead of what the fans want them to do.
    jaybrink10101
    I respect Opeth, and Mikael immensely. I loved their early work, I obsessed over Blackwater Park and oohed and ahed over all the little instrumental breaks. I liked Heritage, and I like the new material I've heard so far. Unfortunately, Opeth cut their teeth as a Prog Death band, and they'll be forever tied to that. Nobody cares how many new albums Axl Rose releases, Guns n' Roses once wrote Appetite for Destruction, and it will forever be their magnus opus. Yeah, metal heads are inclined to be dicks over bands changing direction. We all whinged and blamed Jonathan Davis when Korn started dubstepping out, Slayer firing Lombardo was metal heresy, we're all united in our hatred for Kirk Hammett's wah, and we unanimously declared Avenged Sevenfold 'hipster fags' because they're not br00tal. Yeah, maybe the metal scene is judgemental and it wears on me pretty quickly, but you can't go from Blackwater Park to Heritage and expect people to take it in their stride without some sort of backlash.
    jordo246
    I really don't understand how a lot of Opeth fans couldn't see an album like Heritage coming, the 2 albums before especially Ghost Reveries had plenty of moments that sound like some of the stuff on Heritage. I've only been an Opeth fan for about 2 years but It seems stupid to me that people said "this isn't the real Opeth" and shit like that when a lot of their other albums are praised for having some of the same elements as Heritage, and there was 10 years between BWP and Heritage that's more than enough time for someone to change their mind on what music they want to make.
    filipe26
    Exactly. Plus if you don't like something, just dismiss it, no need to be crying over what you don't like.
    hystericalplaty
    There's a difference between not liking something because it's different and simply not liking it for other reasons. Damnation, Heritage and Pale Communion are quite different from Opeth's usual style, but the reason why I love Damnation and Pale Communion but not Heritage is because I didn't like the song writing very much in Heritage. It felt like they were just taking song ideas and throwing them at a wall as opposed to writing songs like in Damnation and Pale Communion.
    qrEE
    Here's the reality Mikael - it's your band and I can respect that, but the general metal population will see it as THE band, not YOUR band. The reason why Heritage annoyed people is because it wasn't in line with what Opeth had been for several years. A sudden change to the core sound of a band will often bring about a huge amount of "haters". You have to set up, very early on, that you're a band who likes the freedom of experimentation in order to be respected for doing something like that. An example is Mr Bungle - by the end of album one, if you couldn't tell that Mr Bungle was just going to do whatever they felt like whenever, you must not have been paying attention. Even Mr Bungle's changes in styles got haters, but my point is that Opeth shifted so hard that it's not Opeth anymore, and people wanted Opeth. Not Mikael and Friends' Prog Throwback Extravaganza.
    FallenAsh
    Don't be ridiculous. Opeth is EXACTLY the sort of band that has "set up, very early on, that you're a band who likes the freedom of experimentation in order to be respected for doing something like that." Opeth's sound is DEFINED by being immensely diverse, from Orchid all the way through to Heritage, each record has a hugely varied sound, with a huge array of different styles present. You've gotta be deaf not to realise that. The difference with Heritage and Pale Communion is that there is no heavy metal production or screaming vocals, which is just ONE element of their sound. Writing off their previous material simply as "prog death", is just silly...!
    Alex011
    >You have to set up, very early on, that you're a band who likes the freedom of experimentation in order to be respected for doing something like that. No they don't, they should do whatever they wanna do.
    filipe26
    Exactly. Plus people are not retards, they can understand he's just sticking to what he wants to do.
    BigBi
    I've listened to the whole album, and it's f**king genius. And I don't care if Abba or Opeth wrote this album. It has nothing to do with the early Opeth but it's good, and that's all I need.
    southernsoulo
    the thing with opinionated listeners,they are to stuck in one thing it seems,and its generaly what they only want to here while drowning out any other part of the spectrum of music in that opinion.Whats the point of that opinion when it dosent actualy grow?or will not broaden?
    xeloparr
    Why do people even bother complaining about Opeth changing styles? It's prog, for ****'s sake. Honestly it's sad how a diverse genre like metal is filled with elitist fans that get butthurt when bands don't sound like their first couple of records they've released.
    DarthTyrannus83
    Because a band starting as death metal stays ****in death metal. Do you fathom Dying Fetus doing a prog rock album? Yeah, me neither.
    BlackRose93
    Dude,it's his band not your band.He can make progressive death jazz if he feels like it.He never swore a holy vow to only write death metal songs.
    Rimfrost
    That would be called selling out, as he obviously isn't interested in just creating Death metal. Though i will say that he probably should consider innovating death metal, since he's always complaining that extreme metal is stuck in its ways.
    BlackRose93
    A lot of people/musicians complain about mainstream pop.Should they try to innovate that too?
    Alex011
    What? No, a death metal band stays death metal if that's what they feel like doing, they don't have to conform to your arbitrary rules, and Opeth always had that proggy edge.
    RX120D
    Some people don't realize that even though the new material is different, the old material isn't gone. Just listen to the old albums if you don't like the new ones. I enjoy all their records. They're all unique in their own ways. Thanks Opeth!
    Sixxstarr
    Oh it gets you respect from people that like what you do but when you go from death metal to light prog you are bound to alienate most of your fans...I personally love the new stuff but I wasn't a fan of the original stuff. At least you aren't KoRn who's alienated even some of their most loyal fans with the dubstep. Also I think it's less disrespect and more disappointment that a band they love just isn't the same