Opeth: 'We Will Never Sound Like on Our Old Records'

Mikael Akerfeldt gives an articulate explanation on why you should shut up and let Opeth do their thing; also talks new Pink Floyd.

Ultimate Guitar

As the debate of "death metal Opeth vs. prog rock Opeth" still rages on on the web, frontman Mikael Akerfeldt gave an articulate explanation on why the band's vision is the only way to go.

So if you're bashing Opeth for taking the prog rock route, you should definitely read this. But even if you're not, it's still a good read.

"We get a lot of s--t for our choices musically and I've had some fans even tell me to my face, 'What are you doing? Why aren't you writing the good stuff any more?' And I'm sorry to hear that but we don't play it safe," Mikael told iHeart Guitar Blog.

"It's not like we deliberately want to be strange and f--k things up. It's almost like I'm latching on to how I've always been writing music, what I like, and I want to keep that intact. That's been intact since the first record.

"I understand the sensitive people who have loved the band but maybe don't like the new stuff, but I don't like it either for them to feel like we're turning our backs on them. We're still doing what we want to do, we're writing songs with the same process we always have, and besides, when we go out on tour we're going to play the heavy s--t they want to hear too. There's going to be a mix of material."

On whether Opeth will ever sound like on their older albums, the frontman added, "When it comes to new music that sounds like the old records, it's simply not gonna happen. We want to move on, y'know? But that's not necessarily saying we're never going to do a death metal scream."

As the interviewer compared the backlash to the criticism Pink Floyd have been getting after deciding to release a new album, Akerfeldt drew a few parallels himself, sharing some personal thoughts on "The Endless River" along the way.

"People have so many odd opinions about that. Like, referring back to us, it's like people saying it's not Opeth any more, like they have the power to decide when it's not Opeth any more because it just simply doesn't fit their idea of what we are, y'know?

"But I think that’s a bit unfair. I think people should be happy that Pink Floyd are doing a new record, and it's debatable but they should just shut up and enjoy it! If they like it or not, it is David Gilmour who has been the head of Pink Floyd since the mid '80s, and if the music features Rick Wright who passed away, why wouldn't you want to be able to listen to it? And Nick Mason's probably gonna play drums as far as I know, and Roger Waters is not gonna be angry! For me I look forward to it, very much."

As reported, the latest Opeth album, "Pale Communion," was dubbed by Akerfeldt as far more melodic than the rest of the group's opus. Focusing on vocal harmonies, the musician noted:

"A lot of metal fans might be sad to hear that I went into old man's rock territory. I was listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and I was introduced to David Crosby by Steven Wilson who played me his first solo record, and obviously he was in The Byrds and he's a master of vocal harmonies. I picked up on that and there was a time when I was writing this record where I figured I wanted to do harmony vocals all the way through. Like, only harmony vocals."

"Pale Communion" saw its release on August 25 via Roadrunner, marking the band's 11th studio effort. You can order it here.

48 comments sorted by best / new / date

    People say "Pale Communion" is "70s prog worship" but it's actually a very innovative album with gorgeous melodies and fantastic musicianship. I like the road they're taking for one!
    Heritage was 70s prog worship, Pale Communion actually has its own identity while still residing within that genre.
    Hmm, I might give it a listen though. I didn't really like Heritage, maybe it was the shock, but to me it sounded exactly like generic progressive rock. I still can't really handle the change. I mean, cool for them, and I've never flamed them, but I really prefered the old stuff.
    The Record actually is innoative in some ways. You CAN hear Åkerfeldt wrote this. But they have a lot of the same grooves and ideas going on from Heritage. I would like to see some more development from that record. If I had to criticize the album from the particularly innovative point of view, they stole so much shit from old 70's prog rock records I have listened to troughout the years. He can do that because many don't know that music anymore... unfortunately :/ But still he pulled it off, and I like he has put his soul into (something a lot of musicians could learn from). The record is ****ing nice. But - Let's hope he will develop some completely fresh and new on the next record.
    Practically everything has been done before. I'm a HUGE oldschool prog fan, but as days go by, it becomes harder and harder to be "fresh." In this day and age, it's nearly impossible to be truly "fresh." Odds are if you feel something's fresh, you haven't listened to enough similar music. Regardless, you can't honestly believe he "stole from old 70's prog rock records." The guy's a true musician and writes from the heart. In the end, all that should matter is that the music comes from a genuine place of self-expression. The fact that it comes out in odd time signatures and obscure compositions if anything deserves him more merit. If anyone -still- hopes for "fresh" or "hip" music from Opeth, or almost any band... you will often be let down. Whether Opeth's new music more often than not "sounds" like 70s progressive rock, it's original. (well at LEAST in this day and age)
    That's all I was trying to get at. It is a lot of that 70's prog that's been written before, almost verbatim, just with Akerfeldt flare. I will say I enjoyed more than Heritage
    Innovative? ehh.. idk about that
    Hahahaha, how did this become downvoted? The observational derivation is present. It is not as though AdriAn934 said how the album was terrible or the like. The product is obviously a strong reference to 70s prog. Why is that observation so unappreciated? Haha.
    Artists change/evolve all the time. Just because their medium is music, doesn't change the fact that it's still an art form. Opeth will be fine without the butt-hurt fans that don't understand what it's like to be an artist.
    I prefer the old stuff but they already have 8 death metal albums and if they did any more it would just start to get boring.
    How can anyone say please do more heavy songs to a man who wrote songs like April Ethereal, When, Black Rose Immortal, Advent, The Twilight Is My Robe, Demon Of The Fall, The Moor, Heir Apparent, Deliverance, Black water park.... you get my point. I think He's earned the right to do what he wants whether it's prog or anything else he wants to do.
    Opeth's sound, from Orchid all the way through to Pale Communion has always incorporated a massive range of sounds and genres. Heavy metal, prog rock, classic rock, blues, jazz, folk, psychedelia, ambient...the list goes on. Besides, even when Opeth are at their most aggressive (Heir Apparent / Master's Apprentices) it's hardly brutal enough to be considered "death metal"... To label them as such is not only incorrect but completely ignores all the other elements that have such a huge part of their sound... Pale Communion has these, and more, it is just missing the metal element. If you only ever listened to Opeth for the parts with double kick pedals and screaming then you never were really an Opeth fan. Go away and listen to Carcass.
    "Go away and listen to Carcass." Not the "Swansong" CD, tho. \m/
    Carcass are true innovators and changed their sound too. I'm sure there are people out there that are still mad about them not playing grindcore anymore, in fact they got quite a bit of "sell out" accusations thrown at them when Heartwork came out because it was so different from Death Metal at the time, and now it's regarded as one of Extreme Metal's most important albums. Looking back those people probably feel stupid since Carcass ended up being the first band to play Melodic Death Metal, which is now one of the most successful styles in extreme metal. Carcass ended up being instrumental in creating two genres of metal: grindcore, and melodic death metal. Not many other bands can claim that. Opeth has simply copied 70's prog and done a pretty mediocre job at it. The people claiming Pale Communion or Heritage are "innovative" have clearly never listened to King Crimson, ELP, Yes, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, or Rush. Opeth were innovative on Orchid and Morningrise when they were making Black and Death Metal with prog elements, sadly those times are long gone.
    This whole thing reminds me of all the Devin fans who just want more Strapping Young Lad, who don't understand that artists do what THEY want as opposed to making music for someone else. The fact that people like Devin and Opeth are successful is just a bonus for them.
    That being said, I love what SYL and DTP do equally. But man, you're dead on about it. I hope my music pisses off my fans like this someday too.
    Cunts need to stop their winging, the only actual difference is the lack of death metal in their music. If you cut all of that from their previous records and listened only to the proggy parts, they wouldn't sound a whole lot different from their new material.
    On UG Headline: Opeth softens their music. Reaction: This is great they are trying something new! Headline: Metallica softens their music. Reaction: What a bunch of sellouts!
    100% agreed. For example, when "Lulu" was released, it was a flamefest. Only a couple of people said what many people are now saying about Opeth -- "I don't like it, but kudos to them for doing different stuff, I respect them, and f*** everyone who doesn't think like me ". And "Lulu" wasn't even a Metallica album, it was a completely different project. Double standards would be hilarious if most people weren't so ridiculous and completely unware of it.
    Have you been reading the comments in Opeth news since Heritage was released?Most attack the band for not being death metal anymore.
    Their fanbase is so awful... I've never seen people whine so much about prog music being made instead of death metal.
    I have maximum respect for Mikael! 1. His tremendous and varied talent aside, he speaks his mind, speaks the truth--directly and unapologetically. 2. Mikael and his bandmates make music they want to hear. They don't "sell out", they don't do what others say they should do, they don't do what will make them the most money. In a nutshell: they keep their integrity, they engender respect! If I don't like a certain Opeth CD, I will play all the others that I love. They have 11 of 'em FFS. That's a lot of music, a lot of choice. Thanks Mikael!!! : D You are a phucking legend and we love you. \m/
    Philip Xander
    As someone whose favourite Opeth-album has always been Damnation, this makes me happy. But then, I do think Opeth are kind of a bunch of bastards for not making 8 albums like that instead of only 1. *ahem* When will 'fans' learn not to expect anything from the bands they listen to? You do not own them. Be glad you get to enjoy their genius. If they change and you don't like it, hold your tongue and move along. The best art is made in freedom.
    I've been listening to Pale Communion non-stop since it came out. I am absolutely in love with it. Heritage had some great moments but was too scattered for my liking. This one is more of an 'album'. Really happy with it.
    Doesn't even matter if their choices are good or not. If they don't choose themselves and let others decide what to create it's bound to suck.
    of course "they" won't, since the singer has taken control of the "band" and completely replaced the lineup every year or so.
    Mikael has always been the main songwriter for the band, even more so when Peter focking left the band.
    "I no longer feel like make death metal records." That's all I need, I dont like the new stuff but more power to him ya know? They gave us 9 amazing death metal records that never get old, rock on Akerfeldt.
    People generally get into a band because they like the genre, not the band in particular. That comes after. So, when a band changes genre, yes, it feels like they're turning their backs on you because they're changing what made you like them in the first place. Opeth do maintain a high quality of musicianship though, in my opinion.
    I absolutely NEVER get into a band simply because I like the genre. That makes no sense whatsoever. I will LISTEN to a band if they are in a genre I tend to like. But whether or not I end up getting into said band and listening to them more is dependent upon the band alone. If a band decided not to do something because it would make them turn their back on the fans, then said band would be.....selling out.
    Before I got into Opeth I didn't like death metal at all (or at least I didn't like the death metal bands I'd heard before). The only reason I listened to Opeth was because my friend kept going on about them. The complete opposite of your statement on both counts.
    Guys: Mikael runs the band, not you. These are his decisions. Anyway, the new record is really good, especially when you let it grow on you. Maybe not as good as their old stuff, but it's not bad
    I didn't care for their death metal stuff that much anyways. This new style suits them so much better.