For this week’s Monday Music, I’m going to turn away from the softer stuff I’ve posted for the last few weeks and give you a sample of the stuff I, you know, actually spend a lot of time listening to.
Opeth is my biggest musical fanboy obsession. This group from Stockholm, Sweden has been cranking out albums since 1994 and is still going strong. Guitarist/vocalist, songwriter, and bandleader Mikael Akerfeldt is known for writing long (10+ minutes) songs with a wide dynamic range: the typical Opeth song combines pounding metal elements and growling death-metal vocals with long acoustic interludes and melodic singing. While rooted in Scandinavian black metal, Opeth continues to draw influence from 70s prog-rock, and it shows.
In 2002, Opeth went so far as to release two albums, recorded simultaneously: the Deliverance album was typical of Opeth’s work, but the Damnation album, its fraternal twin, contained none of Opeth’s typical metal elements. There was no double-bass drumming, no distorted guitars. The result is a beautifully melancholic album that was a massive critical success and a crossover hit for Opeth.
In 2003, Opeth recorded a live DVD, “Lamentations – Live at Shepherd’s Bush Empire” which was released in 2004. This concert contained the entire Damnation album plus “Harvest” from Blackwater Park as part of a “light” set, after which the band took an intermission and then came back out with a “heavy” set of material from Deliverance and Blackwater Park. Here is the opening number of the show, “Windowpane” from Damnation, showcasing the band’s mellow side.
And this is the opening number from the heavy set, “Master’s Apprentices” from the Deliverance album. Not their best song by any stretch; I chose this one because it was the best quality video of their heavy work that I could find today. This one is definitely a piledriver.
The last few albums have brought more and more success for Opeth, including a major-label record deal. The added success has brought with it change and stress. Longtime drummer Martin Lopez and even longer-time guitarist Peter Lindgren have departed the group within the past two years to be replaced by former Bloodbath drummer Martin “Axe” Axenrot and former Arch Enemy guitarist Fredrik Akesson, respectively. It remains to be seen what lies in the future for Opeth, but a new live album is due to be released in October, and work continues on the next studio album.
Personally, I can’t wait!