Dead Man Touring: Mikael Åkerfeldt Of Opeth Interviewed
, September 21st, 2016 09:40
Dan 'The Doom' Franklin talks to legendary death metal mainstay turned heavy progressive rocker, Mikael Åkerfeldt, about death, rebirth and creative regeneration
Band portrait by Stuart Wood
When I call Mikael Åkerfeldt to discuss Sorceress, the twelfth studio album by his band, Opeth, I don't realise yet that I'm speaking to a dead man. A dead man doing housework: "I'm vacuuming up banana fly!"
On Sorceress Opeth consolidate a left turn they took with 2011’s Heritage. Before then, they built a cult following as a progressive heavy rock band whose medium was death metal. Their albums were ornate, high-contrast works; they juxtaposed brutal force and intricacy with a mellow lightness of touch. They made bludgeon that was intrinsically beautiful. They dug deep: circuitous journeys into the underworld perfected on 2001’s Blackwater Park (taking its name from a German prog band that lifted it from the gothic mansion in the novel The Woman In White).
With Heritage, Opeth’s songs no longer plumbed the depths, but fanned out. Åkerfeldt dropped his death metal roar entirely – to the consternation of a portion of their audience – and queered the pitch further with an assortment of advanced mid-70s prog sounds, ‘difficult’ arrangements and textures. Its follow-up, Pale Communion (2014), though a continuation, was an altogether less bamboozling record: more subtle and introverted, and occasionally exhibited a grittier edge again.
What marks Sorceress out is the hard rock backbone that runs through it – the songs still flirt with fusion, jazz, funk and pastoral folk but cleave to a stripped-down melodic centre. In short, it’s a punchier, hook-driven album that pits Jethro Tull’s Aqualung against King Crimson’s Red while Ronnie James Dio makes ringside interventions. It also contains some of the band’s heaviest material since they departed from extreme metal.
For a band with such a storied discography, It’s tempting to read Sorceress as the third album in a trilogy. Åkerfeldt does not: "That would’ve been cool if it was meant as part of a trilogy but it's just a record. It's easier to connect the three records because a lot of people think we made a massive change with the Heritage record and this is the third album since which is kinda similar, meaning there is slightly less extreme metal influences – the vocals, of course: I'm not screaming on these three records. But they're not meant to be connected in any way, really."
But nevertheless the albums lend themselves to groupings don’t they?
"It's in retrospect really. If I look back at the discography maybe ten years from now I'd [see] these three records as a trilogy but now it's not meant to be. If you follow the evolution of this band there's a couple of records that are connected more than others. I think the first two for instance [Orchid, 1995 and Morningrise, 1996], I see them as one record in a way. And number four and five, meaning Still Life  and Blackwater Park, I see them as connected for some reason too: they're similar to me. Ghost Reveries  and Watershed  I also see as connected. And that doesn't necessarily mean they were at the time – there wasn't an actual plan to connect records in the discography."
I’m struck by the persona of the Sorceress, a figure to be in awe of and to fear. More specifically, Opeth take Persephone – daughter of Zeus and queen of the Underworld – to encapsulate the album in the primary sense of the word: beginning with ‘Persephone’, a melancholy Spanish guitar instrumental with a female voice warning, "A wicked deception I am creating’ and concluding the record with ‘Persephone (Slight Return)’.
"The whole Persephone thing – that was a love affair with Hades, or rather by his choice, and that was something that I just stumbled upon more or less. I think I saw the name first (it might seem weird) but I think from the band Kula Shaker – they had a song called ‘Persephone’ on a record I liked [Strangefolk released in 2007]. I saw it there on the record and said 'What's that? it sounds interesting', and I wasn't too into Greek mythology or anything like that so I had to look it up. It stuck in my head that it was a nice little story and it could make this album feel like a concept record, framing it the way I did with the intro and the outro. The reason being that some of the lyrical content dealt with tragic love, in a way."
Persephone’s presence recalls Melinda, the central character of Still Life, for whom the hero returns with catastrophic consequences. Still Life is a death metal classic principally because it dismembers the form and infuses it with a multiplicity of colours and shades. It is a thrilling, boundary-breaking journey from the opening epic panorama of ‘The Moor’ through the revelatory blossoming of ‘Godhead’s Lament’ and the jazz-tinged ‘Face Of Melinda’ itself, bringing into focus the object of the narrator’s doomed love. Melinda is a highly romanticised heroine who is also harshly besmirched: a "harlot of God upon the earth" for whom "No joy would flicker in her eyes". "Harlot" is also a term used in the title track of Sorceress. Still Life showed a strong storytelling sensibility and improved on the musical and lyrical ambition of My Arms, Your Hearse which preceded it in 1998.
Although markedly different from those albums, Sorceress has something of the mood and tone of that work, driven by Åkerfeldt’s personal experience, including a recent divorce, more than a reflective, authored distance.
"Well that's right. When you're comparing it to My Arms, Your Hearse, that was a type of ghost story. I was struggling to write lyrics in those days. I didn't have anything to say. Like today, still, I feel like I don't have anything to say lyrically. So that was a way for me to have some lyrics that meant something. I was inspired by King Diamond so I wrote the lyrics to [that album] as a concept record and the same with Still Life which is also kind of a love story you could say. I hadn't really thought of that. That's probably been the case for years in our discography that there's a couple of lyrical themes that deal with lost love or those types of topics. This one, it's not a concept record in that sense, like those previous records. It's more that I've been going through some personal type of problems in my own private life and have been writing those kinds of lyrics. That's all it is. It's also not autobiographical in anyway it's the thoughts that happened to come out on paper when I was writing the lyrics."
Understating as he does his lyric writing and musical ability generally, I should be clear that Åkerfeldt is one of the outstanding rock musicians of his generation with a voice, guitar tone(s) and styling that is unmistakably him. And by extension, despite the musical evolution, unmistakably Opeth.
A less sprawling sonic journey, Sorceress touches on other periods in the band’s history. One of the pre-released tracks, ‘Will O’ The Wisp’, returns to the bucolic folk of Blackwater Park’s ‘Harvest’ but the vocal confidence and melody is even keener. The singing doesn’t drift on the tide of the music but leads or provides counterpoint. In short, Åkerfeldt is getting very good at writing strong verses and big choruses, both ‘The Wilde Flowers’ and penultimate track ‘Era’ hang off the latter.
"I'd like to think it kicked in naturally but I wanted that I think. I'd been writing a lot of songs that just had layers of stuff basically. Sometimes I haven't achieved a coherent type of feeling to the musical content. Sometimes I've been meaning to but never succeeded. I was deliberately trying to find a few kind of spots in the songs that the listener could cling on to, that they would recognise. I was probably thinking more in that sense of classic type songwriting. I can write a song that's meandering, going nowhere and all of sudden it's finished but it feels good anyway. I wanted – especially for this record and to a certain extent the one before – strong vocal lines, strong passages. I wanted the vocals to carry the song a bit more than how it's been in the past, so I made a deliberate effort to have a few of those types of songs and few of those types of parts in the songs. That one [‘The Wilde Flowers’] was actually nicked from an Aerosmith song. It's the chord progression I heard on an Aerosmith record I don't even have: Night In The Ruts, from the late seventies . Not considered to be the best Aerosmith, but there's a song on there called ‘Mia’ that I heard this kind of chord thing and a vocal thing that I thought, 'Mmm that's interesting.' (I shouldn't say these things but y’know!) ‘Era’ was not stolen from anywhere – I thought, 'Fuck, that sounds really nice', like a classic type of chorus. But then I heard people saying that it sounded like Cutting Crew, ‘(I Just) Died In Your Arms tonight’! But that was just a coincidence."
What stood out on ‘Cusp Of Eternity’ from Pale Communion was Åkerfeldt pushing his clean voice to a more gravelly, salt-of-the-earth classic rock vocal. He’d previously spoken about aspiring to big Scorpions-style power ballads with Watershed’s ‘Burden’ and it’s on Sorceress that the promise is fulfilled.
"There's more confidence. I've been doing this for a long time. You have to bear in mind that I never identified with being a singer. I never wanted to be a singer. When we formed the band [he has previously claimed in a sauna, but certainly in Stockholm in 1990] I just wanted to play guitar. I was pushed into that position. So gradually after X amount of years, I felt I became more confident and that it was something I really needed; that I could progress and improve as a singer. I needed that type of confidence and that's been escalating ever since. Only now in recent years have I come to accept that, yes, I am the singer in this band. After 12 records."
This new clean-voice confidence was an approach he’d honed also in his previous choice of covers: David Coverdale-era Deep Purple track ‘Soldier Of Fortune’, Alice In Chains’ ‘Would?’ and most pertinently Robin Trower’s ‘Bridge Of Sighs’, which boasts a godly James Dewar vocal.
"My idols are those types of guys and I've never been able to sing like that so I have high aspirations when it comes to my vocal tone, so to speak. I want to be a good rock singer, classic rock-type singer: like Paul Rodgers, Coverdale and those kinda guys. I know I won't arrive at a place where I feel I am as good as them but it helps me to advance to work towards a goal musically that is completely out of my league. It really helps me to develop I think."
For an album that coheres together as effectively as Sorceress it actively seeks out diversity in its tracks. This is most explicit on ‘Sorceress’ and ‘Sorceress 2’, the first a morose, down-tuned sledgehammer and the second an ethereal, wraith-like acoustic track. The former caused both relief and consternation on its unveiling, it showcasing a simpler, straightforward bludgeon for a band predicated on lightness of touch.
Its main riff is almost atavistic: "That came straight out of stupidity I think. I didn't have any better ideas. I was noodling around with that part that opens the song, the more fusion-esque sounding bit. I just had a little lick I started playing on the keyboard, a kinda swinging little piece. I thought maybe there's something I can do with this and I recorded that first section and then I went, 'What now?' I was sitting there for fifteen, twenty minutes and I couldn’t come up with anything that felt natural and I guess – I can't remember if the song would technically be in A from the beginning – I just tuned down the guitar much more than I've ever done before. I just tuned it down to A and I realised, 'Fuck, I have two A strings: is that good or bad?', and started playing this shuggah-shuggah part. And I thought, 'Why not', you know? As soon as I tuned down the guitar I came up with that riff. It's very simple but very effective. And it has that type of classic quality to it which had me continue and I finished that song the same day pretty much."
In deliberate contrast, ‘Sorceress 2’ is the band at their most Floyd-ish – there’s a detachment and sparseness to the arrangement that immediately made me think of ‘Us And Them’. Built around a simple acoustic motif it could have been lifted from Opeth’s 2003 Damnation album (a companion to the none-more-black Deliverance from 2002), which saw the band step into full-on MTV Unplugged songwriting mode, and has an emotional authenticity that the archness of their recent guise has somehow lacked.
"I wanted something like that because I was singing in a falsetto voice. When I wrote that there was the first verse and I came up with that little guitar thing and I started humming along in a falsetto voice and I wanted to keep that kind of feeling because that sounded very fragile and it also didn't sound like anything I'd written for this record. I wanted to keep the very nice, calm, fragile piece of music pretty much. And there was no aspiration to have the drums kick in or anything like that. It was one of those from the get-go: one of those withdrawn tunes. I can't remember listening to anything else really, but I felt for the guitar chords that I'm playing on the verse it had a really nice ring to it which reminded me of an Ozzy Osbourne song called ‘Diary Of A Madman’: the acoustic part at the beginning had that type of ring it. I can't really say it sounds like it but it had something interesting which made me continue.’
Typical of Opeth that one song recalls both Pink Floyd and Ozzy Osbourne. It also made me wonder whether the band have learnt to deliberately play within themselves.
"Of course. I never considered us to be a virtuoso-type band. If you leave me out of it, the other guys are fucking great musicians. They can play circles around me and a lot of other musicians on the planet I think: they're fantastic. But I've never really been interested in that. I've always valued the quality of a song more, at least what I deem to be a quality song. So I don't think we ever gave in to the temptation of songs with showing off parts. Some parts are a bit show-offy but I've always felt that there's been something else to those sorts of parts too that I think adds value to the song, if you know what I mean. I can't remember a single part that I've written that is meant to impress people in that sense of, 'Oh fuck, these guys are great musicians.' I think of us more as a collective and once you do that you automatically think more of the quality of the song, as opposed to exposing each individual as a fantastic player. I mean, they are, but we never flaunted that."
That said, the masterpiece of the album is ‘Strange Brew’, a liquified concoction of full-throttle individual performances that shouldn’t mix together, but the melodic consistency of the band at this point and Åkerfeldt’s arrangement pulls it off.
It opens and returns to a haunting two chord refrain, which guitarist Fredrik Åkesson had brought to him: "That song was a long time in the making. I mean Fredrik actually came in with a thing that he'd written. I felt it was very interesting, we can do something with that, and I started kind of dismantling his demo basically and it was just one part on there. I took away the drums and the bass and there was an acoustic part. I made some type of swell instead. It's always a bit sensitive when you're working with something which somebody else wrote. But he came up with what I consider to be the verse – that soft thing that starts the song. And I basically stripped it clean of pretty much everything the original version had and made it the swell thing instead and that also gave me a nice vocal line, and some nice little twists. But I didn't really know where to take it. I ended up going along a pre-made path with that song. I felt like I wasn't doing anything interesting with the song for a long time. I kinda let it be for quite some time and then I picked it up at the very end of the writing sessions and remade everything again. And pretty much started from scratch and said, 'OK, this beginning part is nice' but I wanted something crazy to happen. And it was by mistake that I came up with this keyboard lick."
Yes, that keyboard passage is positively explosive – the band playing out of their skins before wrenching open space for Åkerfeldt’s cry of despair – "There's a chasm between you and me."
He says: "It was weird because I was gonna record drums and I have a little pad thing – because I play drums for the demos, I play them manually on the pad basically – so I was gonna play drums but I had the recording on the wrong track in my studio so I started playing what I expected to be drums but instead it was electric piano. And I just started playing really fast, thinking I'm gonna play drums, all I heard were these keyboard notes – du-be-didi – and I thought, "That's interesting."
So it was by mistake, and I ended up finishing that part, played it to Joakim [Svalberg, keyboards] and he said, "That's insane, that's gonna take a lot of practise from me" because it was really long leaps on the keyboard to play it perfectly. But I came up with that part and then once that was in the song the rest of it wrote itself pretty quickly. And I made a return to the opening part and reworked it into a doomy heavy rock section that finishes the song. And everything in between were just like layers. I thought that this song doesn't necessarily need a bridge or a chorus, anything like that. It's got strong vocal parts but it's not coherent if you know what I mean: it's an all-over-the-place kind of song. I love those kinds of songs. At that point I had already written a bunch of songs for the record that had a bit more control so to speak, so I felt there was space for a song that was out of control, which was ‘Strange Brew’ basically.’
At this point I have to bring up Gentle Giant with Åkerfeldt. Of all the progressive bands mentioned as bearing a relationship with Opeth, it strikes me that on this record more than ever that they are also operating in a similar space, poised between intricate, neo-medieval progressive arrangements and a hard-blooded heavy rock found on Gentle Giant’s first two albums.
"I absolutely love them. When I think of progressive rock sometimes I forget about them. You automatically jump onto King Crimson and Yes and Camel, those types of bands that I love too. And I tend to forget Gentle Giant, but once I think of them I'm like, fuck, they're actually the best of the bunch. And whenever I listen to them it's so ahead of its time I think. They have that type of sensitivity that a lot of those other bands don't have. Or at least it's not as apparent to me. I mean they had Kerry Minnear who has a beautiful voice and is just a genius of a musician. I think for some of the stuff he wrote, or what they wrote collectively, its time hasn't come yet. And certainly for the time those records came out in the seventies they were too complex and good for the scene then, even if they were quite popular in those days, so it feels like we haven't arrived at a time when everybody would understand them yet. There was actually talk of doing a cover of Gentle Giant for this record. The song ‘Aspirations’ from the album The Power And The Glory which is so beautiful. It's a Kerry Minnear piece but I'm kinda relieved we didn't do it because it's so difficult.’
Opeth are carrying that torch forward. Their progress has been steady and assured, from their showpiece gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2003, released as Lamentations on DVD and just this year reissued on vinyl and to download, through to the live albums recorded at the Roundhouse and Royal Albert Hall, the latter partly a homage to the likes of Deep Purple and Camel. A gig at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane last year for the tenth anniversary of Ghost Reveries has set up the big one: playing Wembley Arena on 19th November, splitting two sets between Sorceress and then the Deliverance and Damnation albums which constituted the vast majority of the Lamentations set.
I was at that gig in 2003 and saw a band in the ascendancy but also one that was incredibly nervous. Does he recognises himself and that band now?
"That’s a good question. It's odd that you would ask me and mention that show because I was just checking out some clips from that show today, a few hours ago. And I haven't watched any of it since we edited the film. I watched it because there are a couple of songs that we haven't played for a long time that we are going to play again and I was like, 'Fuck, I've forgotten how to play them!' So I checked out the younger me, what the hell I was doing, to rehearse basically, to relearn those types of songs. What kinda struck me when I saw that footage – I was fatter in those days, and there's also something about all of us… I mean Peter [Lindgren, former guitarist], I met Peter the other day. I did an interview at Spotify. Peter is a consultant at Spotify. It's really weird. Martin Mendez, looking at him: fuck, he's young and he's got hair! When I think back on those days the only thing I can say is I recognise the songs, and I feel both detached and connected to those songs. Because I wrote them so I kinda recognise them – it's odd, I can't really explain it. But when I think back to the band I feel completely detached. Like they're not the same guys. I am not the same guy. To the point that I'm wondering if that guy passed away and I'm an imposter. When I was young there was talk about Mötley Crüe and Nikki Sixx dying around the time of Shout At The Devil or Theatre Of Pain, or something like that. And that they brought in a lookalike Nikki Sixx. And you knew he was an imposter because he was slightly shorter than the guy that passed away. And that's how I feel sometimes. When I see pictures of me from those days, when I see what I saw today: is that really me? Because I can't remember how I was back then. And I see some similarities when I look myself in the mirror but it really feels weird, I feel detached from those days. But I also know it is me and I wrote those songs. And I know that's me playing."
This is a fascinating insight, that Åkerfeldt would consider that musician dead, the discarded chrysalis in his evolution. All the members of Opeth who played that gig are no longer part of the band, apart from bassist Martin Mendez. But don't be fooled, they were a very special band indeed with an all-Uruguayan rhythm section and Swedish frontline. The band’s performance is shaky at first but nothing less than exceptional.
But within a year or two, something changed Åkerfeldt onstage for good – gone was the apologetic bag of nerves and instead there was a quick-witted, sardonic raconteur. His self-effacement started to come from a place of strength rather than weakness. What happened?
"That’s because that guy died! I am still incredibly nervous. The only thing that connects me and the dead guy in Opeth is that we're both very nervous. And I am still quite shy and nervous to this day. But there was something that happened. I should tell you exactly what happened actually. We went on a tour [Sounds Of The Underground in 2005] – there was 18 bands on the bill, we were touring for about eight weeks in America. It was a festival tour with shitloads of bands. One of these bands was Strapping Young Lad. I'd never heard them. I'd heard about Devin Townsend and I knew who Gene Hoglan was [he subsequently filled in live for a period on drums for Opeth for the absent Martin Lopez]. I wasn't particularly interested in their music, I wasn't particularly interested in any of the bands on that bill to be honest. But I really connected with Devin: me and him became friends. He was troubled at the time, quite troubled if I remember, for several different reasons. But we sat down and talked a lot between the shows about life in general: about stuff, music, became friends basically. I saw him perform onstage and he was similar to how he was backstage: he's a funny fucking guy. He was cracking jokes and we thought he was funny but an introvert offstage. But when he got up onstage he was backstage but a bit more and sometimes a lot more. He transformed, yet he didn't, if you know what I mean. And he was saying things like what we'd talked about a couple of days before. He was saying things, talking to the crowd like he was talking to me to a certain extent. I'd never been comfortable, I never knew how to talk to a crowd before and I'd never been comfortable doing the whole kind of metal manner type screaming, 'Fuck yeah!' type thing. I've never been able to do that because I think it's fucking ridiculous to be absolutely honest. I find it a bit stupid and a bit below me. It's very effective, the crowd love that stuff, but I can't do it with a straight face. So instead I was that shy guy who you saw at Shepherd’s Bush. But after meeting Devin I gradually started talking about what we had for dinner or whatever it was. 'I shat myself' – stupid things, just because I felt like it, and what happened was not only did the crowd seem to like it but I relaxed once I talked to them like they were friends. It was very helpful to me as a frontman and since then people say, 'Oh you're so fucking funny, tell us a joke' or whatever, and I say, 'I can't tell jokes!' I'm not telling jokes from the stage, I'm just talking about... stuff. What makes it funny is that I'm supposed to be this rocker-type guy saying, 'Show us the fucking horns!' And I'm talking about warts, or whatever, anything. That really helped me to calm down and ultimately perform better. And since then I'm not as nervous when I go onstage, or for a few minutes I'm nervous, but after the first time I say something to the crowd I calm down. I'm a bit more nervous when we're just playing. I can't wait to say something to the crowd because that will help me calm down."
The transformation is in evidence on two outstanding live albums recorded during the period that shortly followed that tour: The Roundhouse Tapes (2007) and side project Bloodbath’s The Wacken Carnage (2008). Not only do they find Åkerfeldt strutting and pretty full of it ("Hush, hush my children" to quieten down the crowd, for example) but they represent the pinnacle in his guttural abilities, which have understandably weakened over time and certainly play a part in the development of his clean singing skill-set.
But only Lamentations has a live recording of the song ‘Deliverance’ which Åkerfeldt describes during the set as one of the top three heaviest tracks the band had recorded, a position it has retained down to its outright malignant atmosphere, and obsidian beauty. Does he regard it as a classic?
"Not sure. It doesn't really matter. I never figured that we had classic songs. I'm not sure what determines a classic song. That song was never a single, of course it never could have been a single [it’s nearly 14 minutes long]. If it was a single it surely wasn't played much. But it was a good song at the time it was finished. And it quickly became a crowd-pleaser, a song which pretty much everyone in the crowd would like. But we were also wary about playing the same songs over and over again. We've been struggling for years over what to play. 'OK, we’re going back to Houston. We played Houston two years ago: on the setlist I seem to recall we played ‘Deliverance’ so we can't play it now.' We always mix songs around so we don't play the same things, which is honourable or whatever. But this last couple of years I've been talking to the guys in the band: 'Why shouldn't we play ‘Deliverance’?' People love that song every night, most people in the crowd get into that song. Why shouldn't we play that song? Don't we have the ‘Breaking The Law's and the ‘Paranoid's? So maybe it's a good idea to keep at least some of those songs in the set. But when I play it, it's fun for that reason I think. It's fun to play that song because I know it will go down well. I rarely listen to it – it's a completely different thing for me to play a song and to listen to the song. If I were to sit down and listen to ‘Deliverance’ on the stereo, I'd probably go, 'Mmmm... next.' But when I'm playing it’s fun every night. It's a completely different thing."
And how about for the syncopated ravages of its last few minutes – surely a contender for one of the best metal moments of all time?
"For me, listening to that part and playing that part to a certain extent is a bit naive because I know where it came from, I know why I came up with that type of riff. I'm thinking it feels a bit old to me. But the crowd loves it and that's all I need. When I'm up on stage, I'm not necessarily a creative person – there's no need for me to break down everything I've done. It's fifteen years old, I'm not going to say it sucks because it's old. It's part of our discography and I enjoy playing those songs live. I'm not necessarily a creative person onstage. For lack of a better word I'm more of an entertainer. I want people to leave feeling happy and that they had a good time. As opposed to forcing my new creativity into them. I've learned with time how to separate those things. I care a lot about the creativity of this band and musical direction that we’re taking next. When I'm writing music I don't really think in terms of crowd-pleasing at all. But when I'm onstage that's all I think about."
Expect ‘Deliverance’ at Wembley then. I recently watched footage of their performance at the Monsters Of Rock festival in Helsinki from July this year. Åkerfeldt introduces ‘Demon Of The Fall’, a centrepiece of My Arms, Your Hearse (and also the extra track they performed at Shepherd’s Bush when they’d turned the cameras off). In doing so he makes the point that the nineties are the new seventies. This is an interesting framework to view the history and development of the band, where "the nineties for death metal is like the seventies for classic rockers. When I think of the nineties it's still fairly recent to me but it's a long time ago: it's twenty years ago pretty much since I wrote ‘Demon Of The Fall’ but it's like it’s just yesterday or a couple of weeks ago." He recognises that the band belongs to a cluster of death metal bands in the nineties that constitute the classic generation of the genre.
The other Mikael Åkerfeldt might be gone, but the current embodiment is not afraid to wear the death metal mask of his band. This situates Opeth in a compelling and somewhat uncomfortable position where they refuse to fit conveniently as a straightforward metal or a purist rock band. They hold each countenance up to face the other in front of now sizeable audience that continues to grow and grow. Opeth is dead; long live Opeth.