OPETH Guitarist Discusses 'Heritage' Album 'Controversy' In New Interview

Mark Holmes of Metal Discovery conducted an interview with guitarist Fredrik Åkesson of Swedish progressive metallers OPETH on November 12 in Nottingham, England. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Metal Discovery: There was initially a bit of a stir caused by [the latest OPETH album] "Heritage" last year amongst longstanding OPETH fans with the absence of death vocals but album sales and glowing reviews didn't reflect that. Do you think some people lost sight of the fact that OPETH are a genuinely progressive band who actually progress?

Fredrik: I can understand that point of view, but [OPETH frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt] writes most of the material and he really felt that the band needed to do something very different to still go on. I think a lot of the fans probably believed he wouldn't play any more of the death metal stuff… which we did on the first tour; we didn't play any. But this heavy set we'll play tonight, I think a lot of the old-school fans will be very pleased with it.

Metal Discovery: I was at the Birmingham show last year and there seemed to be more controversy about having no death vocals in the set than the controversy caused by the album, and you could hear people shouting out, "Play heavier stuff"… which is where, I think, some people missed the point because some of the tracks were still very heavy but just lacking the death growls...

Fredrik: That spanned the whole tour, and I'm kind of proud that we fulfilled it and did a step back, because now we're doing an entirely different set. I think that's probably as far as you can take it if you just want to do a concept. But, then again, on this tour we do a set without the growls as well when we play the Union Chapel in London.

Metal Discovery: Did you get heckled much during the tour last year with just the clean-vocal set?

Fredrik: No, I think it was very well accepted. There were a few incidents, more in America maybe. Some guy screamed to Mikael, "I challenge you to a duel!" What?! But, overall, a lot of people who listen to OPETH are pretty open-minded and understand. It seems like that. A lot of people still showed up to the concerts. I mean, of course, it takes a while, I would say. When we started the "Heritage" tour in America, when the album had just been released, it took people a while to digest this kind of style of the "Heritage" album.

Metal Discovery: Do you think that's the same for each new OPETH album anyway, because the music is challenging and takes time to… like if the album's released one week and then the next week you're on tour, people aren't so familiar with the material so it always takes time?

Fredrik: Yeah, and you can clearly notice that later on during the tour as it progresses, like three or four weeks later, people were more into the songs because they're more familiar with them.

Metal Discovery: Being as successful as you are, do you think OPETH have helped changed people's opinions about what it should mean to be regarded as a progressive band in the twenty first century — that is, a band that actually progresses rather than imitates itself or previous progressive bands?

Fredrik: Yeah, I think since Mikael is such a huge collector, if he's in different magazines he's very highly featured in talking about old bands that he's into. So I think there's a lot of OPETH fans he's opened new musical doors to. Absolutely. And also the OPETH style, if that's what you're referring to, it's definitely prog-ish, but it's still metal as well.

Metal Discovery: Yeah, it's prog-metal in essence. But a lot of so called prog-metal bands just imitate other prog-metal bands, like DREAM THEATER clones and whatever. OPETH are one of the bands, probably one of the few bands, who are genuinely progressive.

Fredrik: Yeah, and when we were working on "Heritage", Mikael wrote songs in the beginning that he felt was starting to imitate himself so that was also one of the reasons why "Heritage" came about.

Read the entire interview from Metal Discovery.

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