Opeth Feared Splitting Fanbase With Heritage

Opeth Guitarist Fredrik Akesson admits he had concerns over the band's direction in latest album "Heritage" and feared it might split their fanbase.

Ultimate Guitar

Opeth Guitarist Fredrik Akesson admits he had concerns over the band's direction in latest album "Heritage" and feared it might split their fanbase.

But if they hadn't allowed their music to evolve, he's not sure they'd still be around today.

"Heritage" was released last year and its production saw the departure of keyboardist Per Wiberg after an eight-year stay. He's been replaced by Joakim Svalberg.

Akesson thinks that wouldn't have been the only change if Opeth hadn't continued their move away from their extreme metal beginnings and they had no choice but to risk alienating some long-term followers.

The guitarist tells MK Ondergrond: "We thought about it. In the beginning it took me a little while to get used to the new idea of the sound, not having any screaming vocals and stuff like that.

But I think the album was necessary for us to do. Maybe the band wouldn't have continued if we hadn't done "Heritage".

I think the old Opeth fans understand this album. There's always going to be some haters, but you can't be loved by everyone. Opeth has always been about not repeating ourself. A lot of people don't think "Heritage" is metal but I think it's metal to go somewhere people don't expect. It doesn't mean we're not embracing the past sound of Opeth".

The Swedish prog-metal outfit, led by Mikael Akerfeldt, aren't the only band currently looking back in time to find inspiration.

Akesson says: "You have a Swedish band called Graveyard, for instance. There's a lot of bands with seventies, more organic, production.

Classics are always going to be there. When I get drunk I listen to Maiden, Accept, Judas Priest the classic metal stuff. We listen to some death metal as well".

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Thanks to Classicrockmagazine for the report.

63 comments sorted by best / new / date

    A lot of people seem to either love or hate Heritge, I though it was just okay. But as long as Opeth keep changing their sound I'll be happy. Although I do hope that the growled vocals return on the next album.
    I really don't care if they do growled vocals or not, but I couldn't get into Heritage that much. I thought Damnation was brilliant, but Heritage didn't quite stick with me the same way. Maybe I'll have to give it another listen.
    I didn't think much of Heritage at first, but after more and more listens, it stands out to me as some of the best music Opeth have ever written. It is a shame to say goodbye to the harsh vocals, but it's true, you can't really have progressive music without change. It would have been infinitely worse to see Opeth become stale than to see them expand into other genres musically
    If not Metal, atleast its prog, so not really that much of a betrayal to their style.
    In all honesty, I didn't get into Heritage much. I do think he's right though - it would have been weird to get another Watershed just knowing that Opeth is about progression and change.
    Yeah I'd rather Opeth made music they want to make, rather than music they feel obliged to make to keep the fans happy. That being said, I think they were better at making death metal that they are at making prog rock.
    I never got in to Heritage much, but I respect these guys for doing the kind of music they want to do. They have earned that right after putting out such great albums. This album didn't affect my love for the band, and I still look forward to anything these guys will ever release.
    The Spoon
    I mean, if you like Opeth, you're expecting at least some heavy stuff, naturally. So it makes sense why some fans get mad...they wanted the Opeth brand of heaviness and didn't get it. At the same time, a band who tries hard to "maintain" their old sound to appease old fans just comes off as being a try-hard and it wouldn't be good anyway. If a band writes new stuff, at least it has a better chance of coming from a good place and is more likely to be better material. As for me, Akerfeldts singing voice is too good to complain about getting too much of.
    The Spoon
    *If a band writes what they want* What I meant to say. I must've been drunk this morning or something haha.
    IMO a lot of the song structures on Heritage are poorly thought out. They've always been a band with complex compositions, but on Heritage (and Watershed) the different sections in their songs just don't sound like they fit together, like they wrote a bunch of random riffs and slapped them together instead of actually thinking the entire song through. Basically, the problems have nothing to do with the direction they took, but rather with the execution of that direction. It's still a good album, just one with some very obvious flaws.
    I should probably state that it's a much bigger issue on Watershed than on Heritage, and that not every song on either album suffers from that problem. Burden, I Feel The Dark, Heir Apparent etc. are pretty solid all the way through.
    Also, this:
    The Swedish prog-metal outfit, led by Mikael Akerfeldt, arent the only band currently looking back in time to find inspiration. Akesson says: "You have a Swedish band called Graveyard, for instance. Theres a lot of bands with seventies, more organic, production.
    Everyone should go listen to Graveyard immediately.
    Its about time Graveyard got some acknowledgement. Them and Opeth have constantly occupied my playlists.
    I've always been a die-hard Opeth fan, i love all of their work... But "Heritage" doesn't sound like Opeth to me. It sounds a lot more like something Riverside would write. I don't think it's a bad album, don't get me wrong. I simply feel that it's missing all the things that i look for in an Opeth album. And, btw, "Damnation" is still one of my favourite albums ever. So my problem is definitely not the lack of death metal growls.
    Damnation is also one of my favorite albums ever. Definitely my favorite Opeth album. Don't really care at all for his growls on the older ones. Heritage, in my opinion, was good but not great. I appreciate that they're doing away with the cookie monster vocals. But I just wasn't all that impressed. I had higher hopes when I heard they did another clean vocal album.
    Im pretty sure every Opeth album has risked splitting thier fanbase. Just look at Dammanation and Deliverance. Its part of what makes Opeth who they are.
    A true Opeth fan knows how progressive and challenging their music is. It's nice to have a band which crosses so many genres. Yes, I would like the return of some growled vocals but let them do what they keep doing best, make amazing music regardless of the genre.
    They can't keep putting out the same thing over and over... anyone on this site should understand styles, influences etc. change from time to time and you write differently. There's no point forcing a close of your past work; how is that interesting? For the record, I thought it was a great album.
    I was very satisfied with Heritage, not my favorite Opeth album but still awesome nonetheless and a really nice breath of fresh air into their music. The fact that they got the courage to do another less death-y album like Damnation, but still with so much depth and melody, knowing the risk that some (ignorant) fans might abandon them only makes me admire them even more than I already do. Great guys.
    I'm a guy who pretty much completely dislikes death metal and growling/screaming/whatever singing. Opeth is my favourite band in the whole wide world. Witchcraft can only be the answer.
    I love Heritage. The main problem I had with it is that it doesn't flow as well as some of their other albums do. Also I don't know if everyone has this problem or if it's just my speakers but there's too much low end for the majority of the album. I hope they do another album in a similar style to Heritage to further explore some of the ideas they had there, but maybe with better execution. That said, I hope we hear more metal from Opeth in the future. There's not much metal around that interests me right now.
    People are damn stupid if they only want growling. It makes death metal fans seem stupid. Heritage is one of the best albums made. Technically and musically. If you can't hear that, then it's your own damn fault.
    Opeth are awesome. Their old stuff's awesome. Heritage is awesome. 'Nuff said.
    I don't have problem with a new direction. I didn't mind Damnation as an album. Heritage just really sucked ass
    Opeth always bored me. I know that they are very talented and know that the music is good but I could never get with it. Heritage however impressed me.
    I dislike Heritage quite a bit, it just doesn't interest me at all (except Folklore; good song). I don't care if Akerfeldt keeps Opeth all cleans as long as he doesn't do this pseudo-70's prog crap again. In fact, I would prefer him to not growl. His harsh vocals have been on a steady decline since about 2007 and (regardless of what people will tell you) he isn't getting any better. I saw them back in March and he pretty much ruined Deliverance in terms of vocal performance.
    The good thing about Opeth is there will be an album for everyone. for example, if you don't like growly vocals there is Heritage.
    I couldn't get into Heritage, myself, but that doesn't make what they've already made any less kickass. Maybe they'll go back to it someday, maybe not but they made a ton of music I enjoy that I'll never get sick of.
    I will admit it took a while to get into heritage but it's still a great album, I do wish they played a few more tracks from the older days when they are live though. But I met most of the band when I saw them for the first time live, and they did admit they where a bit nervous to see how it would turn out still they have my support. Super chill guys in person though!
    Ghost Reveries if you want a more classic opeth, Watershed is kind of the middle man between Heritage and old school opeth.
    Here's the thing, I love Opeth and Death Metal vocals, but, it sounds too much like Jethro Tull 70's progressive rock, I think if the album was more of a Hard-Rock Zeppelin Approach with Opeth's signature sound of making their own music it would have been a really special album. Damnation was an amazing album and had no Growls in it; I think Mikael forgets that. Heritage has some amazing moments but some of the songs aren't that solid to me.
    Eclectic Lizard
    I really enjoy Heritage. Many songs like Famine take a while to get to the meat (in this case the doom part with the flute) and Folklore could have been absolutely amazing had they made some transitions smoother and kept that groove over the keyboard going. But the album just has so much feeling and emotion! It's my favourite Opeth album although Orchid and My Arms come close
    Finaly, an Opeth album that isn't ruined by growling.
    "Waaaah, growling isn't music!" Also, Damnation.
    Well, I do hate growling, it just sounds funny to me. Seems like every growler is trying too much to be br00tal. It sounds forced and is as uncool as pop stars posing to look "sexy". On the other hand, I really like some of early Mastodon songs and all of Crack the Skye and the Hunter.
    So, basically, there's no such thing as making a legitimate artistic decision to use growls, and everyone who uses them just wants to look cool and edgy. And every genre of music that uses growls would work just as well if they used all clean singing. Gotcha.
    You can play piano with your penis, but I wouldn't call it legitimate artistic decision . Look at Motorhead, or Slayer. They don't growl, and it sounds so much better.
    The point is that Opeth's music would not evoke the same atmosphere/emotional reaction if they stopped using harsh vocals. Your penis analogy falls apart because the use of the penis to play the notes does not impact the notes being played in any significant way. You can't take something like Immolation, change the vocals to clean singing, and expect the music to communicate the same things. The growls are necessary because of the direction the music takes, and in most cases it flat-out would not work if the vocalists sang instead. Now, in Opeth's case, you could put clean vocals in most of the music and it would still work, but again, it would cause the music to evoke a completely different mood. In the case of Slayer, if Araya growled, it wouldn't impact the music significantly, but if he actually sang , it would (and I classify Araya's shouts as a type of harsh vocal). Motorhead's music wouldn't work with growls, although music in a similar vein can (see Speedwolf).
    I agree, but they've already done that. Check out "Damnation." I consider it a masterpiece.
    Opeth releasing Heritage=At The Drive In becoming Sparta and the Mars Volta. And if you don't listen to ATDI and don't get it, Heritage sucks. I don't get it. People go right into how it's great they don't play hard all the time and don't scream now. That's the reason I got into them in the first place. Now they're just a goofy pointless folk band whose music goes absolutely, completely nowhere. How they went from Watershed to Heritage is beyond me.
    I think you need a primer on 70's progressive rock, as it would probably help put Heritage into context for you. Check out First Utterance by Comus, Red by King Crimson, and Mirage by Camel. All three are hugely influential to Opeth, and that includes their heavier material. It's not like Opeth just did a complete 180: everything on Heritage was present to some degree in their earlier material, they just stripped out some of the other elements so they could explore - well, their Heritage. (And, since you have an APC avatar, it should be pointed out that King Crimson in particular were a huge influence on Tool.)
    While I completely disagree with you on Heritage, I take a special offense to you saying that The Mars Volta sucks... The Mars Volta makes ATDI look like crap, and I like ATDI. But Frances the Mute? That album is one of the greatest Prog albums ever written. It even beats most Opeth albums for me.
    Yeah, the Mars Volta's music is great. That 45 second part in between 5 minutes of white noise and other sorts of nonsense. Meanwhile ATDI can hold my attention for an entire album. And I've heard of prog before. And Heritage isn't it. It's folk. WTF is progressive about "God is dead" 37 ****ing times? And it's not like I'm some metalhead--Burden on its own kicks the shit out of every damn song on Heritage.
    Music doesn't NEED to be catchy- there's plenty of hugely successful classical music that is very subtle and not attention grabbing. Also using noise isn't just random, there is an art to it. Finally, De-Loused in the Comatorium has plenty of catchy moments, it gets stuck in my head more easily than most A Perfect Circle songs that I've listened to...
    I liked Heritage. However, I think that if the next album follows this same direction and still some growls pop up every once in a while it would be really weird and (hopefully) awesome.
    Alright Opeth fans, I need some recommendations. I just started listening to them a few months ago and can't get enough. The only Opeth albums I have are Blackwater Park and Damnation, which are both awesome, Blackwater being the superior one, IMO. Which album should I buy next?
    When Opeth came to Knoxville in April, they closed their set with Demon of the Fall and then The Grand Conjuration. I think they stuck with the no-growls setlist for the Heritage tour just to keep with the flow of the album. On their setlist this past April, I would say that their next album will probably feature some more growls.
    What I really, really, REALLY dislike about this 70's style production is the way the drums always sound. They always sound flat and dull. I mean, you've all heard drums live, right? They don't sound little and contained like that, no matter how softly you play them, and I never felt that style of production did justice to drums. The guitars on heritage sound great, and of course Ackerfeldt is stupendous, as always, but ... URGH those drums just need more power behind them. Not even "heavy" playing, just more balls in the sound.
    Hyacinth House
    Personally I really loved heritage. The unstructured format of the songs and entire album actually really got me. IMO it kinda felt like a natural progression for the band after listening to watershed
    Based on the comments above, I think all the hate for Heritage is starting to die down. I know there was kind of a negative impression upon it's release. I'm glad they went that direction... heritage has become one of my favorite Opeth records, and I 'd listen to it 100x before I'd make it through a full spin of it's predecessor Watershed. Watershed was not very fulfilling & with the exception of a few great moments it's kind of a shitty album. Easily my least favorite Opeth album. If Mike would've written another Watershed, I'd have probably written off Opeth as a band that held my interest.
    Not a huge fan of Heritage, but power to Opeth for wanting to try something new.
    Heritage was boring and structure less. I'm not one of the metal only kiddies, but I don't think Opeth works well without that side of them.
    Here's my take on it, because everybody has had pretty honest, "Opeth-fan" takes. Not a lot of "haters". Heritage was a good album. It wasn't the necessary progression of the music, but it was the necessary progression for Mikael. If Mikael hadn't made Heritage, he would probably have stopped Opeth. Watershed is actually my favorite Opeth album, and the reason why is because Opeth have finally made an album where songs are no longer designated. "This is the heavy song. This is the soft song". Instead, Watershed was much more progressive in nature. The entire album flowed much more strongly than something like Blackwater Park. Heritage lacked that flow, and so I enjoyed it, but it wasn't perfect. Watershed + Damnation = Heritage. Now we just need Watershed + Ghost Reveries, and we might just get the best Opeth album yet.
    Heritage is good but I hope opeth's heavier side will return in their next album. My main problem with opeth is that their setlist when I saw them in November last year was weak as shit too many heritage songs too many soft opeth songs no heavy songs and most importantly no songs from BWP! Now that would be cool if they came back to my town soon and played a heavy setlist which I hope they'll do but I have a feeling it could be a while till they comeback. So it's a bit of a piss take I think them playing a setlist like that to people who might not see them for a while. While their performance was great and the crowd interaction was great the setlist ruined it for me and I couldn't listen to Opeth for many months dark times!
    i doubt that they will be performing any heavy songs in the near future, i saw them around the same time too, and i must say, i was slightly disappointed too. but it makes sense, if he is going to keep doing clean vocals on new albums (which seems likely) he wants to spare his voice so that his clean vocals stay nice. but contrary to you, i wasn't into Heritage very much, but their show turned it into my fav Opeth album!
    I get the feeling I should probably give Opeth a listen. Only seen one bad comment about them in this thread.
    I really like Heritage but I kind of knew I would before it was released - 70's hard/prog rock written by musicians of Opeth? Right up my street. I loved all the Hammond and Mellotron sounds. It thought it odd that Per left really. He has had a much prominent place in on this record than any others. Heritage certainly allowed them to stretch out a bit. It would be great to hear them combine more proggy elements with metal even more in future records.