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SWEDEN, Sörskogen

Date Formed 1990

Olle Carlsson View Gallery
Categories: Progressive Death Metal


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Although initially seen as yet another in the long list of albums produced by EDGE OF SANITY's mentor DAN SWANÖ, Sörskogen's OPETH would struggle out of the Scandinavian scene with their groundbreaking 2001 album 'Blackwater Park' to set themselves as a true force for change in the international arena. The group has propagated an unwavering fan base built on an appreciation for OPETH's ability to artfully sculpt often ponderous neo-progressive wanderings into masterpieces of modern Metal. Starting life influenced by the rawer Black Thrash acts, OPETH has steadily matured into more melancholic landscapes with each successive release.

Vocalist / guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt and drummer Anders Nordin are ex-ERUPTION players and had known each other as friends since the age of 5. Established during 1987, ERUPTION comprising Åkerfeldt, Nordin, guitarist Nick Döring and bassist Jocke Horney, had mainly pursued death metal covers by the likes of DEATH, BLACK SABBATH and BATHORY. Horney was swiftly replaced by Stephan Claesberg. The musicians first, faltering steps at composing original material produced tracks such as 'Procreation Of Maledictions', 'Obedient Souls', 'Condemned To Hell' and 'Sarcastic Reign', although ERUPTION never demoed or even performed live.

Singer David Isberg's previous band OPETH, centred in the Täby suburb of Stockholm and taking its title from the Opet moon city described by author Wilbur Smith, had floundered when Isberg had attempted to introduce Åkerfeldt into the ranks during 1990. This strategy did not find favour and the main mass of members split off to create CROWLEY, issuing a 1991 demo 'The Gate'. Meantime, the Åkerfeldt and Isberg subsequently combined to reforge the act subtly retitled OPETH. As a budding, occult influenced duo Åkerfeldt and Isberg's inaugural compositions took on titles 'Requiem Of Lost Souls' and 'Mystique Of The Baphomet', subsequently re-worked into 'Mark Of The Damned' and 'Forest Of October' respectively.

ERUPTION colleagues Nick Döring and Anders Nordin were invited to enroll then second guitarist Andreas Dimeo was recruited for OPETH's debut gig, comprising just two songs, supporting THERION, EXCRUCIATE and AUTHORISE in February 1991. However, shortly after both Dimeo and Döring decamped quickly after. The former CRIMSON CAT duo of Kim Pettersson and Johan DeFarfalla plugged the gap for a second show held in Gothenburg sharing the stage with AT THE GATES, THERION, MEGASLAUGHTER, DESECRATOR and SARCAZM. The new pair would also drift off, although Pettersson stayed loyal for a final 1991 concert with ASPHYX and DESULTORY, and more significantly Isberg left for pastures new in LIERS IN WAIT.

Just 3 gigs into their career, OPETH were now starting to pen much moodier material such as the prototype 'Poise Into Celeano', later to mutate into album track 'Advent'. Åkerfeldt took the lead vocal role as he rebuilt the band with ex-SYLT I KRYSSET ("Jam on the cross") guitarist Peter Lindgren and bassist Stephan Guteklint. OPETH never officially cut any demos, although a two track 1994 cassette was leaked comprising 'Forest Of October' and 'In The Mist She Was Standing'. Securing a deal with the British Candlelight Records label the debut album 'Orchid' was cut at DAN SWANÖ's Unisound Recordings in March 1994 using previous member De Farfalla on session bass, Guteklint journeying on to join MINDWATCH. A double vinyl edition, pressed by Dutch label Displeased, added an extra track with 'Into The Forest of Winter'.

For an extreme Metal album, 'Orchid's presentation, the album cover simply bearing the flower of the same name, proved deceptive. Once past the packaging, fans revelled in a labyrinth of sound, discordant song structures and apparent chaotic structure. Guitars ranged from crunching Death Metal to lilting acoustics, the bass took on an uncharacteristic prominence, percussion was more in keeping with freeform Jazz whilst vocals took on many tongues, from blackened howls, gut wrenching growls to ethereal pure tones. So confusing was this assembly that in the mastering process tracks were misplaced, with the closing segment of 'Requiem' mistakenly tacked onto the beginning of 'The Apostle In Triumph'.

Gigs followed in the Spring of 1995 including a London Astoria show alongside VED BUENS ENDE, HECATE ENTHRONED and IMPALED NAZARENE. OPETH's second album, 'Morningrise' produced once again by DAN SWANÖ and released in June 1996, was an exercise in oppressive malaise, a quintet of equally morose, lumbering leviathans imbued with near impenetrable poetic filigree. The album left reviewers either perplexed or in awe whilst existing fans lapped up the twenty minute 'Black Rose Immortal', detractors cruelly labelled the band's Progressive Rock persuasions as "boring". 'Morningrise' promoted with a support slot to MORBID ANGEL in the UK and to CRADLE OF FILTH in Europe. Following these dates both Nordin and De Farfalla made their exit. Perservering, Åkerfelt pulled in a brand new rhythm section of Uruguayans bassist Martin Méndez and ex-AMON AMARTH drummer Martin López, both members of REQUIEM AETERNAM.

This latest incarnation of OPETH cut the 'My Arms, Your Hearse' album, described as a "third observation", during the August and September 1997. The band chose a fresh location to have their art "absorbed by the electronical devices", utilising Fredman studios and employing the production team of Frederik Nordström and Anders Fridén. 'My Arms, Your Hearse' was delivered to the public in August 1998 and further UK live action saw supports to CRADLE OF FILTH in December 1998, shortly after which the band signed to new label Peaceville Records. This union resulted in the self-produced album 'Still Life', hammered out at both Fredman Studios and Maestro Musik during April and May 1999 being ushered out in October. Heavier than previous outings, the album benefited from a brighter sonic value and criticism aimed at their meandering approach to songwriting saw tracks cut down in length.

Meantime, a diversion was afforded by STEEL, an impromptu traditional 80's Heavy Metal liaison between Åkerfeldt and singer DAN SWANÖ with the OPETH credited Peter Lindgren and Anders Nordin supplied the rhythm section. Never intended to become a serious venture, STEEL nevertheless attracted the attention of Near Dark Productions who issued two tracks on a 1998 7" picture disc single entitled 'Heavy Metal Machine'. Åkerfeldt teamed up with Swanö, KATATONIA's Blakkheim (Andres Nyström) and Jonas Renske to create side project BLOODBATH in 2000.

Returning to Fredman Studios, OPETH hopped labels again, to Music For Nations, to generate 'Blackwater Park' in March 2001, these sessions produced by the band in alliance with PORCUPINE TREE frontman Steven Wilson. A limited double CD package, emerging the following year and restricted to just 1000 copies, hosted two extra songs, 'Still Day Beneath The Sun' and 'Patterns In The Ivy II' plus the promotional video clip for 'Harvest'.

OPETH toured the UK in May 2002 supported by ARCH ENEMY. Later that year the group revealed they were planning not one but two new Fredrik Nordström produced studio albums, a 'heavy' album to be mixed by erstwhile SABBAT guitarist Andy Sneap and a 'mellow' record mixed by Steve Wilson. The original concept was to unveil both works simultaneously but label pressure would result in 'Deliverance' arriving in November 2002 and 'Damnation' the following April, and, as it transpired, Wilson also ended up manning the desk for both collections. The band announced North American tour dates for January 2003, billed as the '4 Absent Friends Tour', allied with PARADISE LOST and TAPPING THE VEIN. Subsequent dates in May had the band packaged with LACUNA COIL and BEYOND THE EMBRACE. Dedicated fans were forced to move fast to pick up a 7" single through the Robotic Empire label. OPETH's first ever single release, 'Still Day Beneath The Sun', was limited to 1092 black vinyl and just 150 grey vinyl copies.

The status of 'Deliverance' was affirmed in February when OPETH received a Swedish Grammy award for the record in the 'Best Hard Rock' category. The band united with PORCUPINE TREE for summer North American co-headlining dates. The band drafted SPIRITUAL BEGGARS Hammond organ player Per Wiberg for these shows. October Scandinavian dates had Norwegians EXTOL acting as support. Further gigs projected in Australia for December were curtailed when air flight costs nixed the proposal.

In November Mikael Åkerfeldt would be confirmed as a session guest on the 2004 AYREON concept album 'The Human Equation'. There would be less fortunate news for OPETH that some month as gigs in Chile and Jordan would be pulled, the latter due to a "stress related breakdown" from drummer Martin Lopez and the withdrawal of crew members because of increased terrorist attacks in the Middle East.

OPETH seemingly got back on schedule with their 'Lamentations Over America Tour 2004' commencing in Edmonton, Canada on 20th January. These shows had the band partnered with DEVILDRIVER and Portugal's MOONSPELL. However, the band pulled out of the Edmonton gig as Martin López was still in Sweden. Further reports suggested the drummer was undergoing treatment for panic attacks. Persevering, OPETH gave an abbreviated five song performance in Calgary with a drum technician acting as stand in. STRAPPING YOUNG LAD and DARK ANGEL drummer Gene Hoglan stepped in as stop gap for the January 23rd Vancouver stop, performing on two tracks 'The Drapery Falls' and 'Demon Of The Fall'. Earlier that evening OPETH had played a truncated acoustic set including a take on DEEP PURPLE's 'Soldier Of Fortune'. López returned for the band's Seattle date.

With their label Music For Nations being acquired by the Zomba Music Group in the Summer of 2004, OPETH would find `themselves without a label. Announcing in April of 2005 that touring keyboard player Per Wiberg had been enrolled as a permanent member of the band, OPETH entered Fascination Street studios in ?rebro during May to craft a new album, 'Ghost Reveries', for Roadrunner Records. Mikael Åkerfeldt would see inclusion on the ROADRUNNER UNITED 25th anniversary album 'The All-Stars Sessions', featuring on the track 'Roads' penned by TYPE O NEGATIVE's Josh Silver.

With Martin Lopez temporarily forced out, the drummer undergoing treatment for a blood disorder, OPETH enlisted STRAPPING YOUNG LAD drummer Gene Hoglan to fill in for live work. The Summer of 2005 found the group participating in the US 'Sounds of the Underground' touring extravaganza, a collaboration between independent labels Ferret Music, Prosthetic Records, Trustkill Records and Metal Blade Records. The mammoth billing for these shows saw the band sharing stages with CLUTCH, POISON THE WELL, UNEARTH, FROM AUTUMN TO ASHES, CHIMAIRA, NORMA JEAN, EVERY TIME I DIE, STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, THROWDOWN, HIGH ON FIRE, DEVILDRIVER, ALL THAT REMAINS, A LIFE ONCE LOST and GWAR. Regional additions included MADBALL and TERROR, splitting the East and West portions of the tour respectively, THE RED CHORD on the East Coast, FEAR BEFORE THE MARCH OF FLAMES in the Midwest and Southeast and HIMSA for Western gigs.

Upon release, 'Ghost Reveries' gave OPETH numerous international chart positions in important territories such as the UK and Australia. In the USA the record sold 15,000 copies in its first week of sale to debut impressively at no. 64 on the Billboard charts. Elsewhere, 'Ghost Reveries' made its presence felt in the national sales rankings across Canada, Finland, Denmark, France, Norway, Holland, Italy and Germany. Most impressive of all was a number 9 score in Sweden.

European touring in September saw support from Christian Metal band EXTOL. For these shows, with Lopez still undergoing treatment, OPETH pulled in the much travelled BLOODBATH, WITCHERY, NIFELHEIM, BLASPHEMOUS, MORGUE, COVEN, TRIUMPHATOR, SATANIC SLAUGHTER and N.C.O. drummer Martin Axenrot. OPETH returned to the USA in October, a first leg of dates supported by PELICAN and FIREBALL MINISTRY with NEVERMORE and INTO ETERNITY taking on support duties for the second leg. Unfortunately the first dates would be cancelled as OPETH band members encountered visa delays.

Entering BBC Studios in Maida Vale, London the band cut extra tracks for use on a re-release expanded edition of 'Ghost Reveries'. Included would be a 'When', 'The Grand Conjuration' and cover version of DEEP PURPLE's 'Soldier Of Fortune'. European gigs in November and December would be supported by Sweden's BURST. The band's 2006 season of live campaigning opened up in the USA during February alongside DARK TRANQUILLITY and DEVIN TOWNSEND. During these dates the group engaged in special concerts dubbed 'Chronology MCMXCIV-MMV - A Live Observation By Opeth'. Held in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, these seated shows encompassed a chronological set of material, some never before performed live, from each of their albums released throughout their career.

In mid May, still apparently beset by illness and anxiety attacks, Martin López officially stood down, allowing Martin Axenrot to take the drummer's role on a permanent basis. The band put in a significant appearance at the METALLICA and KORN headlined 'Download' festival in Castle Donington, UK on June 10th. South and Central American shows, taking in Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, were announced for September and October. However, these shows were curtailed as the band joined up with the MEGADETH headlined 'Gigantour' North American festivals in early September, sharing billing with LAMB OF GOD, ARCH ENEMY, OVERKILL, INTO ETERNITY, SANCTITY and THE SMASHUP.

Roadrunner issued an expanded edition of 'Ghost Reveries' in October, this double CD set adding the DEEP PURPLE cover version 'Soldier Of Fortune', promotional video for 'The Grand Conjuration', a 40 minute documentary 'Beyond Ghost Reveries' and a 5.1 surround sound mix of the entire album. A run of British dates in November saw strong support from PARADISE LOST.

Mikael Åkerfeldt joined CANDLEMASS onstage for their 20th anniversary concert at Stockholm's Kolingsborg on March 31st, performing the song 'At The Gallows End'. In April 2007 OPETH keyboard player Per Wiberg collaborated on a side project with CLUTCH drummer Jean-Paul Gaster and KAMCHATKA guitarist Thomas "Juneor" Andersson.

The album 'Watershed', produced by frontman/guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt and Jens Bogren, was recorded at Fascination Street studios between November 1st and December 13th 2007 with additional recording completed over five days in early January 2008. All tracks were written by Åkerfeldt apart from 'Porcelain Heart', co-written with new guitarist Fredrik Åkesson. One additonal non-album track, 'Derelict Herds', written by Mikael Åkerfeldt and Per Wiberg, was laid down in these sessions. OPETH also tracked three cover songs in 'Bridge of Sighs' from ROBIN TROWER's 1974 LP of the same title, the Swedish language 'Den Ständiga Resan' originally by MARIE FREDRIKSSON as well as the classic ALICE IN CHAINS song 'Would?'.

In April 2008 OPETH filmed a promotional video for an edit of the song 'Porcelain Heart'. The clip was directed by Lasse Hoile at the 1640s Bogesund castle in Vaxholm. In June 'Watershed' garnered impressive chart positions, including a top ten in Australia where the album entered at no. 7. 'Watershed' also racked up chart places in the Netherlands at no. 14, UK at no. 34 and Italy at no. 42.

OPETH performed five songs at the Nova Rock festival in Austria with guest bass player Johan Niemann, of THERION and DEMONOID, filling in. Martin Mendez had good cause to miss the show, as he and girlfriend Sandra Artigas welcomed the birth of their son Noak Mendez Artigas on the morning of June 14th.

The band co-headlined the 'Anthem Metal' festival held on August 14th 2008 at Hangar 11 on the shores of Tel Aviv, Israel, alongside MESHUGGAH, SATYRICON, DARK TRANQUILLITY, THE HAUNTED, NEVERMORE plus Israeli bands SALEM, BETZEFER, DISTORTED, THEY:SWARM and THE FADING.

OPETH played in India for the first time on 24th January 2009 as part of the Saarang festival in Chennai. The band performed at the inaugural 'Hammerfest' festival, sharing the stage with PARADISE LOST, SAXON, SEPULTURA and CATHEDRAL, held at Pontins, Prestatyn Sands, Wales in April.

Garry Sharpe-Young

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