Steven Rosen of Ultimate-Guitar.com recently conducted an interview with guitarist/vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt of Swedish progressive metallers OPETH. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: Does [the new OPETH album] "Pale Communion" continue on where "Heritage" ended?
Mikael: I guess that's inevitable because that was the record before. It's not like I've gone through some Renaissance. I think what we wanted with this record, I wanted it to be slightly heavier, and sound-wise, I wanted it slightly more updated.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: Updated in what way?
Mikael: Not modern. I always liked how "Heaven And Hell" by BLACK SABBATH and "Mob Rules" and how those records sounded. I liked late-'70s and early-'80s productions and I guess we wanted to get something like that, which is why we went to Rockfield Studios in Wales [QUEEN recorded "Bohemian Rhapsody" here] and recorded. But musically, I'm not sure. In a way I guess it's a continuation of "Heritage", but I don't think they are similar.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: How are they different?
Mikael: This record is more melodic, slightly heavier and a bit more schizophrenic. Inevitably, it is also a continuation of "Heritage", I guess.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: How would you characterize the sound of the new album?
Mikael: I think this new album is still clinging to the '70s sound, which is a warm, natural sound but the technology was updated and more advanced. So it sounds like '70s but better in a way. If you know what I mean? I guess that's what we wanted. I don't like modern-sounding heavy records. I think many of them sound just not human. You also get tired and your ears get tired listening to new metal records. While some of those records I mentioned still sound fresh and never sounded old.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: You've talked about being "discouraged" with current metal. Is this part of what you were talking about?
Mikael: Yeah. I think many of these records — and I'm not even talking about the music on there but I'm thinking soundwise — would probably benefit from having more of an old-school sound to them. The musicians themselves I think would also benefit because less cheating would probably push yourself as a musician.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: You're talking about using digital technology where you can play one bar perfectly and then cut and paste that for an entire song.
Mikael: Many of these metal records, you listen to them and it's no better than drum machines to me. It's all quantized and fixed and everything and it sounds like a typewriter with added bass. Like the bass drum sounds like a typewriter — clackety clack clack clack — and added bass. Everything is supposed to be clearly audible, which is not the case with real records or real sounds. You have to take one for the team and maybe one bass drum hit won't be there in the mix if you know what I mean.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: I totally get it.
Mikael: That's what the metal world is working against and it's to make everything there and in the process something was lost. And that's the humanity of the sound because we've done that too and I wanted to get back to real.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: In the past, you've talked about a solo record. Where is that now?
Mikael: There's no need for me to do that because I'm really comfortable writing for OPETH. I can put pretty much anything into OPETH and there's no need for me to create some type of solo project in order to fulfill my dreams as a musician because I put everything into OPETH. I said that a few years ago because I was interested in doing a singer/songwriter record because I loved that so much. Which obviously would need a full band. But it was also something I wanted to do just to see if I could produce a record from scratch on my own in my own studio. It was a bit of an experiment and to be honest not something I yearned for. I had a big mouth and then people thought it was actually gonna happen. "When is it coming" and I was like, "Well, it's talk. Just talk." But who knows? If I end up with a bunch of songs like that maybe I'll put it out.
Read the entire interview at Ultimate-Guitar.com.