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  • Interview: Opeth

    Tue, 27 May 2008 11:21:07

    Interview: Opeth - Over the hills and far away

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    Seattle's the kind of place that's conducive to Opeth's progressively creative spirit. In fact, at points, Opeth's latest audio enigma Watershed even draws upon a grunge darkness that's so characteristic of that city. It's appropriate that Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt finally got a chance to explore the rainy town, while on the Progressive Nation tour with label mates Dream Theater. However, his current locale says it all. "We're just hanging out in a garage right now," laughs the singer. "It's pretty nice up here though. We've been here a bunch of times, but I've never really had a look around. We've always been hanging out inside of the bus or at the venue. We went for a walk around Seattle today. It's not really sunny out, but the weather was good for a walk, definitely." Walking through inclement weather doesn't bother Åkerfeldt, he's from Sweden, of course. In fact, some long walks through the snowy landscape even helped mold Watershed's psychedelic, prog metal trip to Hell and back. Talking to ARTISTdirect in this exclusive interview about the album, he's cryptic and friendly all at once. Perhaps, it's all part of the Opeth mystery? Perhaps, you'll just have to read on.

    Watershed seems to have a consistent thread throughout. Would you say that's the case?

    Well, I don't know. I think so. It's definitely a complete album. I can't really think of a single song that represents the whole album. I think they're all quite different from each other. It's not a concept record or anything. But, yeah, I would say it's an album that you enjoy as a whole, as opposed to playing certain "key" tracks or anything like that. They're all "key" tracks.

    It's interesting that you started off with the slow, eerie song "Coil," rather than something heavy.

    Yeah, I think it's a bit unorthodox for a metal band to do it that way. Normally, you want to come out all guns blazing with the heaviest number first to just blow the heads off the listener. However, this song would've drowned anywhere else on the album between the big chunks of music on there. I think the only place for it was first. It sucks the listener into the album in a nice way. Once the second song starts, it doesn't matter if you're a metalhead or not, you're already in. I really like the way it sucks the listener into the album. It's a nice beginning.

    Well, you ended Ghost Reveries with another slow song, "Isolation Years." So it's almost like the acoustic tracks bridge the two albums.

    Yeah, I guess. That was nothing that we really thought about. We thought the "Coil" song was so beautiful, so to speak. I didn't want it to become a gimmick. I wanted it to serve a purpose like all the other songs on the album do, you know? We really had to put it first on the album.

    You're conjuring a lot of different imagery on this album. Did your writing process differ at all?

    A little bit, but it was more from a technical aspect, because I bought a computer with a Pro-Tools rig. This way, I could record all of the songs and sequence them in the order that I wanted for the record. I went for long walks after working everyday and listening to the stuff. Then, I'd change the songs and re-arrange them. That was different. In the past, we did a string of records where I didn't have any of the songs. I just wrote everything in the studio. That was nice and all, but I think quality-wise, the material is better for me, doing it this way. For lyrics, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to write about, and I actually wanted to write lyrics this time around. I wrote them really fast. I wrote them all during one night in the studio. So writing this album was a pretty swift process. It was easy. It's been a struggle with all of the other records, and most of the recordings sessions have been horrible in the past, but this one was fun. We're definitely onto something with this one.

    What was that one night like were you wrote all of the lyrics? Were you particularly inspired?

    Yeah, I was, but I knew what I wanted to write about, and it was just a matter of bringing it out. So I just said to the guys, "You guys can go to bed, and I'm just going to stay up and write some lyrics." The next morning I had six of the songs done, pretty much. The "Coil" song was already there from the demo. So, yeah, I was pretty much done with everything in one night. It was pretty easy. The death metal vocals are easy for me to get into the songs rhythmically. I can always find the rhythm to fit whatever lyrics I come up with. The clean vocals I did on the demos, so I already had the rhythms and vocal lines. It was just a matter of fitting in the right words there. It was just easier this time around. All our records have been somewhat of a journey, in a way. Ghost Reveries and this one were done with more pre-production and rehearsal. We were able to change things. We were more certain about things than we've been in the past. When we did the double album, we didn't have a clue from the studio. Once the albums were finished, we didn't really know what was on there. Once we'd been rehearsing for a few weeks and the songs were finished, we knew we had a good album.

    The '70s vibe of the artwork is reminiscent of The Exorcist a little bit.

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