OPETH - BLACKWATER PARKedit.jpg (12365 bytes)Opeth rocks America
By Naughty Mickie

The Swedish band Opeth is making a scene in the States. Their fifth album, "Blackwater Park,'' was released in March leading to their debut at number one as the Most Added at Metal Radio. This comes as no surprise, as Opeth has a unique sound, with songs that range from death metal rages to acoustic harmonies.

Opeth got their start in Stockholm in 1990 when vocalist/guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt auditioned as a bass player in a group that his friend fronted. The band split, but the lead singer and Akerfeldt, who moved to guitar, forged ahead. By 1991, Akerfeldt survived more changes and took over on vocals, finally reforming Opeth with guitarist Peter Lindgren, bassist Johan DeFarfalla and drummer Anders Nordin.

Practicing six to seven times a week, the band's rehearsal tape clinched them a record deal with England's Candlelight Records and in 1995 they released their debut effort, "Orchid.'' Not long after their second album, "Morningrise,'' DeFarfalla and Nordin left the group. Opeth fan, drummer Martin Lopez, filled in the gap and they continued on as a three-piece until 1999, when Martin Mendez assumed the role of bass player.

Akerfeldt explains Opeth's multi-layered songs by describing the band's many influences. "jazz, pop; everything.'' When he was younger, he listened to a lot of metal and hard rock, but lately Akerfeldt's been exploring progressive rock.

"When I first heard Yes I was so surprised,'' he remarks.

Yet it was Morph Angel and the American death metal scene that grabbed the band's attention and pushed them in their current direction. When you listen to Opeth, you will hear nuances from all kinds of music.

"We don't care if it suits the genre or not,'' claims Akerfeldt.

Akerfeldt's introduction to performing came as a surprise. When he was seven years old, he was called into the music room at his school and told that he was going to learn how to play the flute.

"'What the hell?' I thought,'' Akerfeldt laughs. "'You have to start somewhere,' my parents told me."

Opeth 1.jpg (32033 bytes)At age 10, his grandmother gave him an acoustic guitar, but Akerfeldt, busy playing tennis and soccer, all but ignored it. Finally at age 12, he got his first electric guitar and was on his way.

"In Sweden,'' Akerfeldt says. "You have to take music. piano, drums, sing.''

When he took over the vocals in Opeth, Akerfeldt admits, "I started out screaming.'' But with the addition of acoustic parts to their songs, he had to sing. At first, Akerfeldt was shy and as he sang and recorded more, he gained confidence in his voice.

I try to goad him into comparing music in Stockholm, England and the United States, but Akerfeldt sidesteps stating, "Regardless where you are at, there's always some trend which prevails. I try not to listen to what's going on in the trend.''

In his free time, Akerfeldt is a self-confessed "Play Station addict'' and collects vinyls (records). He also enjoys checking out E-Bay and hanging out with his friends.

"I don't surf that much anymore,'' he says about the Internet. "I use e-mail and I think the Opeth Web site is good.''

"A band like ourselves will never be mainstream,'' says Akerfeldt about Opeth's future, but as for the current tour he is more optimistic. "We're pretty much excited about playing.''

Catching their essence live is quite a feat. Akerfeldt humbly states, "We try to do our best on stage. We play the stuff that
people hear.''Opeth-006edit.jpg (55744 bytes)

He explains to me that Opeth focuses on the main sound from their recording when performing live. For example, if the guitar stands out, then the guitar will remain prominent in their stage show with the "unnecessary'' layers of the tune laid aside.

Their sound certainly didn't seem to suffer for this approach when I caught their act recently at the Key Club in Hollywood. And if the flock of fans who surrounded them after their show is any indication, Opeth's spark in the states is rapidly growing into a raging bonfire.

For more information on Opeth visit www.opeth.com or www.kochentertainment.com

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