Many music information sites, and perhaps even your local band store, categorize this group from Sweden as a heavy metal band. An Opeth album owner and fan however may beg to differ because the group does sometimes fall outside the box. For two decades, the band has been infusing its metal sounds with folk and jazz. It is not unheard of to find tracks filled with acoustic sounds. Despite the presence of the usual growls, one can also hear clear, spine-tingling vocals.
The path that the band is on is attributed to Mikael Åkerfeldt. This is surprising, considering that Åkerfeldt is not the founder or first member. It is perhaps appropriate to say that from the moment he took the steering wheel, the band moved more towards mixed tunes and strangely lengthy pieces rather than towards typical metal.
The group was originally set up by vocalist David Isberg in 1990 who recruited Åkerfeldt to play bass. This move however was to be the start of the contentious band lineup that became a pattern for the group. Isberg did not inform other members of his decision to take in a new member and this led to all band members walking out except for Isberg and Akerfeldt.
With just two people in the band, they had to resort to recruiting more members. This was when Andreas Dimeo, Anders Nordin and Nick Doring came in. Sadly member issues continued and both Doring and Dimeo abandoned the group even before Opeth albums could be made. New members were recruited again but Kim Petersson and Johan DeFarfalla left too and were replaced by Peter Lindgren. Isberg, who should’ve stayed on if only because he was the founder eventually also gave up and left. This kept the field open for Åkerfeldt to take the lead.
The quick changes in players are perhaps one major factor to the delay of the release of Opeth albums. Their debut album, Orchid was released only in 1995. Although it is considered the heaviest metal of all of the band’s work, it already held the distinct features that would set their music apart from all the others. The debut album was not a great success but it was nonetheless a good start.
Morningrise followed their first release a year later. This second album featured a startlingly long twenty minute song. Despite the clear departure from the norm though, the album was received very well and paved the way for the international release of the group’s work.
The good reception for the first two releases created the foundation for more releases. In twenty years, the band was able to dish out a total of nine studio albums. Following the first and second albums were Still Life, Blackwater Park, Deliverance, Damnation, Ghost Reveries and Watershed. Albums one to eight were already actually quite popular in Europe. The band was only able to reach success in American soil with Watershed which took number 23 in the Billboard 200.
It isn’t easy to listen to an Opeth album. To truly be able to appreciate and listen to their long pieces, you have to be a solid band fan with a knack for original Opeth merch. There is no way you can listen to their songs in a casual way.