"This album sounds like a dozen or so different bands in one" - hmv.com talks to Opeth
Swedish fivesome Opeth have moved from the harshest death metal to gentle proggy folk over the course of their career and unite the two on new album Sorceress. We spoke to frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt to find out all about how it came together...
How did writing and record this album compare to Pale Communion?
"It was somewhat similar. I wrote the bulk of the material in advance - demo'ed and sequenced the songs before I sent copies to the other guys. We don’t really rehearse much, but Axe and Mendez rehearsed the drums and bass, as we record those live nowadays. The recordings were great fun and we did it all in around 12 days. Too fast for my taste as I absolutely love being in the studio. It’s my favourite part of this job."
How did you want this album to move on from what you’ve done before?
"I didn’t think about it too much. I didn’t have anything outrageous in mind, I just wanted to come up with good songs. I welcome progression and I think it’s a new step in some direction, whatever that may be. You only know once you do the next album really - it doesn’t sound like the last two! In fact, I don’t think any of our 12 studio records are very similar."
"Sorceress is more straightforward than anything we’ve done since Damnation as far as I’m concerned. But it’s much more diverse than anything we’ve done ever, I feel. Perhaps the songs themselves are less dynamic within the song structures, but the diversity between the songs almost makes this album sound like a dozen or so different bands in one."
You recorded in Rockfield Studios once again. Why did you decide to go back?
"It’s cosy there. Right in the sticks. Nothing about, other than this old stone farm. Horses. Sheep. Rockers. We have our own rooms, so it’s very comfortable - like a resort actually. It’s a legendary studio and everything just works well for us there. We had in-house cooked meals three times a day. You step outside and it’s practically like a vacuum. So quiet. It’s nice, every now and then, to be able to hear a conversation that’s almost reduced down to whispers. Especially when you’re city folk like we are."
This is your first album for your own label, Moderbolaget Records, how is life on your own going?
"It’s not really a life of our own. We’re owned by Nuclear Blast as we have signed a license deal with them. They’re great. We set up Moderbolaget since it's something we'd thought about it for some time and it provides some interesting new ideas for the future. It’s just an imprint right now really, but we might take it further."
What was the song on the album that took the longest to get right?
"'Strange Brew'. It’s not right still, it’s not right in its head. It’s a very strange song."
And which came together most quickly?
"'Will O the Wisp' probably. And 'Sorceress 2'. Both of them were written fairly quickly. All was done within the duration of six months."
What kind of album this is lyrically? Does it have a common theme?
"Not really. It’s more personal in comparison to my early lyrics, most of which I don’t even know what they mean! Ironically, I get more negative criticism for my later lyrics, that actually carry some kind of meaning, than I do for my earlier non-personal ramblings! This time I mostly wrote about a sense of feeling detached from the world and people. Love. Lost love. Bitter destructive love. Misanthropy. Even some politics, or rather the loathing of politicians."
When did you settle on the title of Sorceress? Were there any others in contention?
"I liked the word. It popped up somewhere. Probably in a lyric, I can’t remember. The most important thing is it's a nice word that resonates with the music and the cover. As for the lyrics, you can always twist and turn things to make them fit. I don’t believe in clever titles really unless they sound good. Like "I had too much to dream last night" by the Electric Prunes. Or, "Together we’re stranger" by No-Man. I love titles like that, but I prefer less syllables and more attack."
What are your plans to take the album out live?
"The world! Universe! Cosmos! Highest bidder?! Mostly the latter I suppose, even if that sounds super crass!"