INTERVIEW: Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt

Opeth Opeth unashamedly alienated some of their fan base with their 2011 album Heritage. While a large portion of their fans were drawn to the Swedesh masters for their progressive death metal leanings, Heritage was primarily inspired by 70s fusion in the style of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra – and there wasn’t a single death-growl to be heard anywhere. And now, with Pale Communion, Opeth has moved sideways again, a little away from some of the jazzier moments of Heritage and towards more of a 1970s progressive rock feel, while still a million miles removed from death metal. It’s an album which will challenge some fans while thrilling others, but the overall impression from a chat with frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt is that he’s driven solely by his artistry, and this is what he’s feeling right now.  Read More …

CD REVIEW: Storm Corrosion

Porcupine Tree and Opeth are both bands with distinctive sounds – Pink Floydian prog rock on one side, and sprawling progressive death metal on the other. So you could be forgiven for expecting a collaboration between each band’s masterminds (Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson, Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt) to be a progressive death metal epic full of odd time signatures, crushing riffs, growled vocals and ambient guitar solos. But for hints as to what you can expect from Storm Corrosion, you need to look into each artist’s most recent works. Wilson’s Grace For Drowning leans more towards lush soundscapes and psychedelic ambience, while Opeth’s Heritage could have come straight out of the seventies, with its vintage progressive rock (rather than progressive metal) elements that share more in common with King Crimson and Yes than Dream Theater and Symphony X.

And it’s here, in the middle of these two releases, that we find Storm Corrosion. The album’s six tracks – the term ‘song’ doesn’t quite cover it in this case – typically end up in a very different place to where they start, with structures that seem dictated by the previous note rather than any adherence to accepted song structures. And that’s a big reason why it’s such an engaging experience.

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Roadrunner signs Steven Wilson/Mikael Åkerfeldt collaboration

Aside from the new Van Halen, it’s got to be the most highly anticipated album of the year in my little corner of the world: Storm Corrosion, the collaboration between Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree and Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth. And they’ve just signed to Roadrunner Records. Loved Wilson’s Grace For Drowning and the fusionesque Heritage by Opeth? Wilson says this album completes that trilogy. Can’t wait to hear it!

PRESS RELEASE

OPETH’S MIKAEL ÅKERFELDT & PORCUPINE TREE’S STEVEN WILSON TEAM UP FOR STORM CORROSION

Roadrunner Records is pleased to announce the signing of Storm Corrosion.

Storm Corrosion is the long-discussed and highly anticipated collaboration between two of the modern progressive rock scene’s most innovative and multi-talented artists: Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson and Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth. The pair will release Storm Corrosion on April 20.

Wilson and Åkerfeldt have been friends since the late ’90s, when Wilson co-produced Opeth’s reveredBlackwater Park album. Over the years, they’d often spoken of working on a project together, but it wasn’t until recently that they managed to make something happen, when Mikael flew over to visit Steven in the UK and they ended up in Wilson’s home studio throwing ideas around. That visit was the nascence of a whole self-titled album, written and produced by the pair and mixed by Wilson.

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INTERVIEW: Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt

Opeth have always been a little left of centre, especially when taking the iconic sounds of death metal out of the 90s and into the naughties and infusing it with a progressive edge. But nowhere has that prog influence been more inspired – and even jarring – than on their new album, Heritage. There’s barely a hint of metal to be found on the album and absolutely no death growling anywhere. In its place there’s distorted organ, nylon string guitar, and – you’re not gonna believe this – fully authentic 1970s-style jazz fusion in the style of Mahavishnu Orchestra. Mikael Åkerfeldt explains the abrupt change in style…

There’s an obvious fusion feel to a lot of the material on Heritage. Where did that come from?

We’ve been listening to not only fusion but all sorts of music. And the fusion aspect comes from Mahavishnu Orchestra, Billy Cobham… I listened to Alphonse Mouzon, the drummer who was with Larry Coryell in The Eleventh House; some Herbie Hancock; the Headhunters, who are a mix of free-form and jazz and pop and whatever. But we listened to all styles of music. Some influences are more there than others, but I think we’ve been quite taken by the sounds of fusion for quite some time now, all of us.

How did you write it? Fusion is very ‘musician’ music.

I write everything on my own. I’m not really a good keyboard player, although I’m learning and I would love to be better. But with Opeth I can play what I want to hear, and I can play it fairly well. But I really, really rely on the other guys to make it proper for the actual recording once we go into the studio. I make demos of everything, and the demos, if I do say so myself, they’re pretty fucking good-sounding! I work a lot on the drums. Every ghost hit on the snare has got to be there. Everything’s there. So I want to have a splendid demo that I can present to the other guys so they should almost feel intimidated! I tell them, “You make it better than this and we have a real fucking thing going here!” And they always do! I think it’s inspirational for them to get that kind of level from the demos. Once they come up with something it’s gonna be fucking outrageous.

It must be great to have musicians who are professional enough to deal with that!

Yeah! I surround myself with really, really good musicians, but they are also more than metal musicians. They listen to all sorts of music, they’re interested in their own instruments and in developing their skills for those instruments. That’s been the case since the beginning. We always aimed to be fairly competent musicians because it makes experimentation so much easier. I mean, we could not have been doing this album with just a bunch of musicians who can only play metal. It’d be physically impossible.

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