- Mikael Åkerfeldt – guitars, lead vocals
- Fredrik Åkesson – guitars, backing vocals
- Martín Méndez – bass
- Joakim Svalberg – keyboards, synthesizers, piano, mellotron, backing vocals
- Martin "Axe" Axenrot – drums, percussion
There are few bands that can or will match Sweden’s Opeth. Since forming in the tiny Stockholm suburb of Bandhagen in 1990, the Swedes have eclipsed convention, defiantly crushed the odds, and, most importantly, crafted 12 stunningly beautiful, intrinsically intense albums to become one of the best bands on the planet; whether that be live or on record. Ask any Opeth fan. Enquire with any band that’s shared the proverbial pine with the Swedes. Or, get a label representative to talk Opeth. They’ll all tell you the same thing: Opeth are peerless. And they’re only getting better.
Opeth’s new album, Sorceress, their first for Nuclear Blast via label Moderbolaget Records, is proof chief architect Mikael Åkerfeldt has a near-endless well of greatness inside. From the album’s opener “Persephone” to “The Wilde Flowers” and “Strange Brew” to the album’s counterpart title tracks “Sorceress” and “Sorceress II”, Opeth’s twelfth full-length is an unparalleled adventure, where visions cleverly and secretly change, colours mute as if weathered by time, and sounds challenge profoundly. Sorceress is, by definition, moored in Åkerfeldt’s impressive record collection—his one true vice—but, as always, there’s more invention than appropriation at play.
“This time around I didn’t think about what I wanted to do,” Åkerfeldt reveals. “I was forced to write. But once I started, it was easy. This record, like the last record, didn’t take long to write. Like five or six months. The thoughts behind this record developed as I was writing. The only thing I was thinking about with this record was to write that songs didn’t musically connect. I made sure if I had a song that was new sounding for this record, I’d make the next song completely different. I think the songs are very different from one another. It’s very diverse.”
Certainly, every Opeth record has had diversity. In 1995, Orchid reset the rules of death metal. Six years later, Blackwater Park hit the high note for musicality in a genre generally devoid of it. Damnation, in 2003, was the work of a band determined to upend the norm. Five years after that, Watershed closed Opeth’s chapter on death metal by visiting its darkest corners and holding its native brutality aloft. And in 2014, Pale Communion officially bridged the progressive music gap by twisting the intrepid sounds of ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s into contemporary brilliance. So, really, what’s so different about Sorceress?
“My music taste got a little wider,” grins Åkerfeldt. “I started listening to jazz. I bought a lot of Coltrane records. I never really thought Coltrane would be for me because I like ‘dinner jazz.’ I like comfortable, soft, nice, and lovely jazz. Like Miles Davis’ ‘50s stuff. Porgy and Bess, for example. I guess Dave Brubeck fits in there, too. So, that’s the only new influx of musical inspiration for me. Other than that, I’ve been buying the same type of records I always have. Prog, symphonic rock, singer/songwriter, metal, hard rock… But there wasn’t anything that set me off like The Zombies or Scott Walker. Nothing got me going this time.”
Actually, that’s not entirely true. Åkerfeldt’s always mining for progressive gold. Good, rare music is particularly good at getting his motor running. He found double-gold in one-off Italian outfit Il Paese dei Balocchi and Bobak, Jons, Malone’s ultra-obscure Motherlightalbum. To wit, get Åkerfeldt talking about either and he’s all too pleased to discuss the finer points of Il Paese dei Balocchi’s string-based darkness or how he fan-boyed Malone via email to get the famed British orchestrator and one-time Iron Maiden producer to contribute to Sorceress.
“I absolutely love Il Paese dei Balocchi,” Åkerfeldt professes. “They did one album. It’s insanely good. It has everything I love about progressive rock in it. This album is so orchestrated and epic. It’s got lots of string sections. It’s very moody, dark, and sad. It’s a mystery they didn’t do any more. As for Will Malone, he did the strings and stuff for the Sabbath records—Sabotage and Never Say Die! But now he does strings for pop artists like Joss Stone, The Verve, Depeche Mode. I looked him up, mostly because he was the house engineer for Morgan Studios in the ‘60s. He was also in a few bands. Like Orange Bicycle and played on the Motherlight album. He also had a solo record, which is also amazing and superbly rare. It’s orchestral. The bulk of it is strings. It’s kind of like Nick Drake.”
Åkerfeldt’s quick to point out, however, his newfound progressive music loves didn’t directly inspire him to write Sorceress. The majority of the album was penned in Opeth’s rehearsal space, where, nestled comfortably in a corner, a computer, a keyboard, and a microphone sit ready for the next Opeth epic. It isn’t plush, but it’s exactly the type of environment the frontman needs to focus his creative self into song.
“When I’m in a writing mode, I have tunnel vision,” says Åkerfeldt. “I have a really good work ethic. I go down to the studio everyday early in the morning and I work. I absolutely love it. It’s so much fun. It’s much easier now, too. I write complete demos. I sequence the songs in the order I want them to be on the record. I do mixing. I do overdubs. Once I’m done, I give copies to the guys so they can listen to the album. They practice to it on their own. When it’s time to go into the studio, everybody does their own thing. It obviously works.”
For Sorceress, Opeth returned to Rockfield Studios in Wales, where the Swedes had tracked Pale Communion in 2014 with Tom Dalgety. The experience was so positive and historical—the countryside studio was also home to pivotal Budgie, Queen, Rush, Judas Priest, and Mike Oldfield recordings—there really was no other option for Opeth and crew. Rockfield Studios or bust! The studio, with Dalgety yet againin tow, provided the necessary isolation, the right bucolic atmosphere, the best gear, and three square meals a day for Sorceress to come out the other end spitting fire. All in 12 bittersweet days, too.
“There was a time when I came out of our recordings a wreck,” Åkerfeldt bemoans. “But now I come out with a wish. I wish it wouldn’t have gone so quickly. There’s emptiness after I leave the studio. I love writing and recording in the studio. It’s lovely at Rockfield. It’s in the sticks. It’s got horses and cows. There’s lots of sheep in Wales. But the studio is just a studio. It’s so beautiful there. So quiet. It’s a residential studio as well, so we live there while we’re recording. We have chefs for us, too. So, we can just be there, playing, recording, and hanging out.”
If life is like a Peter Max poster, the lyrics to Sorceress aren’t. There’s color, but they’ve been treated, corrupted, and befouled. That is to say, they’re much darker. Some of bleak lyrical tones stem from Åkerfeldt’s personal life—and are thusly contorted beyond recognition—while others touch grimly on topics like love and what happens to people on the other side of it. In fact, some of the lyrical ideas are similar to what was happening on Blackwater Park.
“I made sure to write good lyrics,” Åkerfeldt laughs. “This sounds very old-fashioned black metal to say, but the lyrics are misanthropic. It’s not a concept record, so there’s no theme running through the record. Most of the record deals with love. The negative aspects of love. The jealously, the bitterness, the paranoia, and the mind games of love. So, it’s a love record. Love songs. Love can be like a disease or a spell.”
Luckily, for Åkerfeldt and crew—bassist Martín Méndez, drummer Martin Axenrot, guitarist Fredrik Åkesson, and keyboardist Joakim Svalberg—the lineup doesn’t have to deal with Sorceress’ main theme. They’ve been together since Heritage was completed, and according to Åkerfeldt he’s not been in a better band situation before. Not since Orchid. Not since Still Life. Not since Ghost Reveries.
“It’s the best band situation I’ve ever had. Fans will look at our eras and have their favorite lineup, but this is the best. Even the happiest days of the first and second lineups aren’t comparable to what I have now. We never fight. It’s like a good work team. We know each other professionally and personally. As much as we’re a band, we’re also friends. We hang out when we’re not doing Opeth.”
A core team is a good thing, when Opeth’s credibility is in full view of fans and critics. Åkerfeldt’s very aware of what the masses have had to say about Opeth since Watershed. While some disliked the musical shift on Heritage, most have applauded it. They’ve come to expect something new from Opeth. True to form, Sorceress will give long-time fans and weary critics reason to re-think Opeth and what it takes to be musically fearless.
“I hope they’ll like the record,” posits Åkerfeldt. “I can only talk from my perspective and taste here, but we offer diversity that’s not really present in the scene today. Whatever genre. We’ve always been a special band. We’ve gotten a lot of shit for being different. We still do. Our time will come, I think. It comes down to perseverance. It comes down to not giving up or giving in to public opinion. Music is about doing your own thing or going your own way.”
Sorceress / 2016
1. “Persephone” (instrumental)
3. “The Wilde Flowers”
4. “Will O the Wisp”
6. “Sorceress 2”
7. “The Seventh Sojourn”
8. “Strange Brew” (Åkerfeldt, Fredrik Åkesson)
9. “A Fleeting Glance”
11. “Persephone (Slight Return)”
Limited edition bonus tracks
12. “The Ward”
13. “Spring MCMLXXIV”
14. “Cusp of Eternity” (live with The Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra)
15. “The Drapery Falls” (live with The Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra)
16. “Voice of Treason” (live with The Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra)
Sorceress is the twelfth studio album by the Swedish band Opeth. The album was released on 30 September 2016 via record label Nuclear Blast and the band’s own imprint Moderbolaget. The album was produced and mixed by Tom Dalgetyand recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales.
Following the album’s release, the band embarked on a world tour with bands The Sword, Sahg, and Myrkur as supporting acts. The album was streamed via SoundCloud on 29 September
Pale Communion / 2014
1. “Eternal Rains Will Come”
2. “Cusp of Eternity”
3. “Moon Above, Sun Below”
4. “Elysian Woes”
5. “Goblin” (instrumental)
7. “Voice of Treason”
8. “Faith in Others”
Pale Communion is the eleventh studio album by Swedish progressive metal band Opeth. The album was released on 25 August 2014 through Roadrunner Records. The album was produced by Mikael Åkerfeldt and mixed by Steven Wilson. Pale Communion is the first album with keyboardist Joakim Svalberg after the departure of Per Wiberg in 2011. The album sold 19,090 copies in its first week of release in the United States, debuting at number 19 on the Billboard 200.
Mikael Åkerfeldt said of the album, “I wanted to do something more melodic with this album, so there’s stronger vocal melodies and more melodies overall for this album.” Greg Kennelty of Metal Injection said the album does not contain “growls or death metal vocals”. He also described the album as “the missing link between Damnation and Ghost Reveriesor if Heritage was written directly after Ghost Reveries without Watershed having ever existed”.
AllMusic’s Thom Jurek has compared the album to Deep Purple’s In Rock and King Crimson’s early music, as well as noting the influence from jazz fusion.
Heritage / 2011
1. “Heritage” (instrumental)
2. “The Devil’s Orchard”
3. “I Feel the Dark”
8. “The Lines in My Hand”
10. “Marrow of the Earth” (instrumental)
11. “Pyre” (Limited Edition bonus track)
12. “Face in the Snow” (Limited Edition bonus track)
Heritage is the tenth studio album by Swedish Progressive metal band Opeth. It was released on 14 September 2011 through Roadrunner Records. The album was recorded in early 2011 at Atlantis/Metronome Studios in Stockholm and produced by Mikael Åkerfeldt, engineered by Janne Hansson, and mixed by Steven Wilson. It takes on a full-fledged progressive rock sound, something the band had wanted to do for some time. It is a stark contrast to the progressive metal and death metal sounds of their past albums.
A critical and commercial success, the album sold 19,000 units in the United States in its debut week, charting at number 19 on the Billboard 200. The album was their first since 2003’s Damnation not to feature Åkerfeldt’s signature death growls.
Watershed / 2008
2. “Heir Apparent”
3. “The Lotus Eater”
5. “Porcelain Heart”
6. “Hessian Peel”
7. “Hex Omega”
Disc 2 – DVD/Rehearsals
2. “From Another Planet”
3. “The Lotus Eater”
4. “The Junkmail Studios”
Watershed is the ninth full-length studio album by the Swedish heavy metal band Opeth. Released by Roadrunner Records, Watershed is the first studio album by Opeth to feature guitarist Fredrik Åkesson and drummer Martin Axenrot, who replaced longtime guitarist Peter Lindgren and drummer Martin Lopez. The artwork for the album was made by Travis Smith (who has created the artwork for eight previous Opeth releases) in collaboration with Mikael Åkerfeldt. The album is, as of 2017, the band’s last studio album to contain death growls or any death metal elements. The song “The Lotus Eater” was featured in the video game Saints Row: The Third. As of December 8th, 2015, the song “Heir Apparent” is available for download in the video game Rock Band 4.
Ghost Reveries / 2005
1. “Ghost of Perdition”
2. “The Baying of the Hounds”
3. “Beneath the Mire”
5. “Reverie/Harlequin Forest”
6. “Hours of Wealth”
7. “The Grand Conjuration”
8. “Isolation Years”
Ghost Reveries is the eighth full-length album by Swedish heavy metal band Opeth. It was released on August 29, 2005. It was their first album after signing with Roadrunner Records.
Ghost Reveries is the first album by Opeth to include keyboardist Per Wiberg as a “permanent” member (although Wiberg contributed keyboard work to Opeth’s live performances starting around the time of Lamentations), and it is the last Opeth album to include drummer Martin Lopez and long-time guitarist Peter Lindgren.
The album’s only single is “The Grand Conjuration”. A music video of the song was released, although about half of the song was edited from the video, due to the length of the song. Lopez does not appear in the video, as he was sick and was temporarily replaced by Gene Hoglan.
Damnation / 2003
2. In My Time of Need
3. Death Whispered a Lullaby
5. Hope Leaves
6. To Rid the Disease
7. Ending Credits
Damnation is the seventh full-length studio album by heavy metal band Opeth. It was released on 22 April 2003, five months after Deliverance, which was recorded at the same time. Damnation was produced by Steven Wilson. Mikael Åkerfeldt dedicated both albums to his grandmother, who died in a car accident during the time the albums were being recorded.
The album was a radical departure from Opeth’s typical death metal sound, and the first Opeth album to use all clean vocals, clean guitars, and prominent mellotron, as well as being inspired by 1970s progressive rock, which typically features no heavy riffs or extended fast tempos. Despite the change in style from Opeth’s previous albums, Damnation was critically acclaimed and boosted their popularity, leading to the release of Lamentations on DVD in late 2003.
Deliverance / 2002
3. “A Fair Judgement”
4. “For Absent Friends” (instrumental)
5. “Master’s Apprentices”
6. “By the Pain I See in Others”
Deliverance is Swedish heavy metal band Opeth‘s sixth studio album. It was released on 12 November 2002. It was recorded between 22 July and 4 September 2002 (see 2002 in music), at the same time as Damnation, which was released the following year. The two albums contrast starkly with one another, purposely dividing the band’s two most prevalent styles, as Deliverance is considered to be one of the band’s heaviest albums, whereas Damnation experiments with a much mellower progressive rock-influenced sound.
The band originally intended for Deliverance and Damnation to be released as a double album, but the record company eventually decided against this and released them separately, approximately five months apart from one another in order to promote them properly.
The recording sessions also became a writing session of two albums worth of material, causing the recordings to be long as there were no songs written prior to that point. Åkerfeldt wrote the songs in the night and recorded them with the band during the days.
The track “Master’s Apprentices” was named after the Australian hard/progressive rock group The Masters Apprentices.
The track “For Absent Friends” was named after a song of the same name, originally appearing on the album Nursery Crymeby progressive rock group Genesis.
At the end of “By the Pain I See in Others”, the final note fades slowly and ends at 10:40. Silence follows until 12:00, followed by two backmasked verses from “Master’s Apprentices” at 12:20 and 13:15. These two backmasking verses are a ghost track.
Blackwater Park / 2001
1. “The Leper Affinity”
4. “The Drapery Falls”
5. “Dirge for November”
6. “The Funeral Portrait”
7. “Patterns in the Ivy” (instrumental)
Reissue bonus disc
1.”Still Day Beneath the Sun”
2.”Patterns in the Ivy II”
3. “Harvest” (multimedia track)
Blackwater Park is the fifth studio album by Swedish band Opeth. It was released on February 27, 2001, through Music for Nations and Koch Records. The album marks the first collaboration between Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson and the band, as Wilson had been brought in to produce the album, which led to a considerable shift in Opeth’s musical style.
Blackwater Park did not chart in North America or the United Kingdom. The album had two singles released from it: “The Drapery Falls” and “Still Day Beneath the Sun”. Blackwater Park was highly acclaimed on its initial release and has been praised by critics, with Eduardo Rivadavia of AllMusic stating that the album is “surely the band’s coming-of-age album, and therefore, an ideal introduction to its remarkable body of work”.
Still Life / 1999
1. “The Moor”
2. “Godhead’s Lament”
4. “Moonlapse Vertigo”
5. “Face of Melinda”
6. “Serenity Painted Death”
7. “White Cluster”
Still Life is the fourth studio album by Swedish heavy metal band Opeth. The album was produced and engineered by Opeth alongside Fredrik Nordström, and released on 18 October 1999 through Peaceville Records. It was the first Opeth album to be released through Peaceville, following their departure from Candlelight and Century Black after the release of My Arms, Your Hearse, and the first album to feature Martin Mendez.
Like its predecessor, My Arms, Your Hearse, Still Life is a concept album. Frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt explains: “Still Life was not Satanic but an anti-Christian theme. It sounds pretty naive when I explain it like this. It kind of takes place a long time ago when Christianity had a bigger importance than it has today. The main character is kind of banished from his hometown because he hasn’t got the same faith as the rest of the inhabitants there. The album pretty much starts off when he is returning after several years to hook up with his old ‘babe’. Obviously a lot of bad things start happening with, as I call it on the album, ‘the council.’ The big bosses of the town know that he’s back. A lot of bad things start happening. They see him as a hypocrite in a way. It’s almost like a devil’s advocate or whatever it’s called. ” The album then proceeds to portray Melinda’s proclamation of love towards the protagonist. These events lead to her murder and the main character going on a rampage against the ones responsible. The last song of the record, “White Cluster” concludes the story with his execution and him meeting Melinda in the afterlife.
My Arms, Your Hearse / 1998
1. “Prologue” (instrumental)
2. “April Ethereal”
4. “Madrigal” (instrumental)
5. “The Amen Corner”
6. “Demon of the Fall” (Åkerfeldt, Peter Lindgren)
9. “Epilogue” (instrumental)
2000 reissue bonus tracks
10. “Circle of the Tyrants” (Celtic Frost cover)
11. “Remember Tomorrow” (Iron Maiden cover)
My Arms, Your Hearse is the third full-length studio album by heavy metal band Opeth. It was released in August 1998. It was Opeth’s first album to be released simultaneously in Europe, through Candlelight Records, and in the United States, through Century Black.
This album was the first Opeth album with drummer Martin Lopez, who answered a newspaper ad that Opeth put up searching for this spot to be taken after Anders Nordin left. Shortly thereafter the band also brought in Martín Méndez, a friend and previous bandmate of Lopez. However, Mendez did not have enough time to learn the bass parts for the album, so frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt played bass for the entire recording session. All of the songs on My Arms, Your Hearse are shorter than ten minutes, whereas on Opeth’s previous album, Morningrise, every song exceeds this length. The album is dedicated to Lee Barrett (of Candlelight Records).
Morningrise / 1996
2. “The Night and the Silent Water”
4. “Black Rose Immortal”
5. “To Bid You Farewell”
6. “Eternal Soul Torture” (demo, bonus track on reissue CD and LP only)
Morningrise is the second studio album by Swedish progressive metal band Opeth. It was released on June 24, 1996, in Europe by Candlelight Records and on June 24, 1997, in the United States by Century Black. The recording sessions took place at Unisound studio, in Örebro, between March and April 1996, and once more the band produced alongside Dan Swanö. Morningrise was the last Opeth album produced by Swanö. It was also the last Opeth release with drummer Anders Nordin and bassist Johan De Farfalla.
Morningrise showcases Opeth’s signature style, exploring the dynamics between the combination of black metal and death metal vocals, and guitar parts with lighter progressive and acoustic elements. The album was very well received by critics, with some calling it “epic” and “perfect”.
Orchid / 1995
1.”In Mist She Was Standing”
2. “Under the Weeping Moon”
3. “Silhouette” (Instrumental)
4. “Forest of October”
5. “The Twilight Is My Robe”
6. “Requiem” (Instrumental)
7. “The Apostle in Triumph”
Orchid is the debut album by Swedish heavy metal band Opeth, released on May 1, 1995, in Europe by Candlelight Records, and on June 24, 1997, in the United States by Century Black. It was reissued in 2000 with one bonus track called “Into the Frost of Winter”, an early unproduced rehearsal recording by the band. The recording sessions occurred at the old Unisound studio, in Finspång, between March and April 1994. Opeth produced alongside Dan Swanö. The band did not record a demo to get signed to a record label. Lee Barrett, the founder of Candlelight Records, enjoyed an Opeth rehearsal tape, and decided to sign the band. The album was well-received critically, even being called “unique”.
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