With the release of Ghost Reveries, Swedish thrashers Opeth are finally ready to be catapulted into the realms of success – 17 years after forming.
musicOMH collared guitarist Peter Lindgren in a London bar to hear about the band’s first video shoot and just how much it means to be gaining mainstream acclaim.
Peter Lindgren is commenting on the noticeable step up in Opeth’s status. He acknowledges that it is due – in no small part – to the band’s new deal with major metal label, Roadrunner Records:
“We had a lot of offers, and this one certainly wasn’t the most lucrative, but we realised that this could be the last deal we ever sign and we don’t just wanna get money now and have everything amount to nothing in a couple of years. The distribution of our old work is also important for the fans, and as we do our part with the touring, hopefully they will do their’s and sell some records!”
– Opeth’s Peter Lindgren tries to convince his friends he’s a rock star.
Selling records is often something that major labels seek to guarantee by ensuring that a band’s sound becomes more palatable to the masses. This “watering down” accusation has been thrown at numerous metal acts over recent years, and one that many Opeth fans were dreading upon the announcement of the band’s deal with Roadrunner. Peter is clear that there was never any danger of this happening with Ghost Reveries:
“Well the album was totally done before we even signed to Roadrunner; it was complete so that wasn’t even an issue. I mean we don’t even use producers on our records because we don’t trust anyone else with our music! It’s not that we don’t need anyone, it’s just that our music is a very personal thing to us.”
The quest to reach the masses includes reissuing of past work, as well as special editions of current projects. The relentless promotion even led to the guys shooting their first ever video in Los Angeles early on in the summer:
“There was talk of a shoot for months, and the label was supposed to come up with directors, but we were on tour. Meanwhile there was a five-minute edit [of the 10-minute track The Great Conjuration], which we hadn’t even approved, let alone practised, so it was really hectic on the day. We just turned up, played and then left!”
– Opeth’s Peter Lindgren on the bright side of shooting a music video.
Despite the band being less than happy with one of their songs being butchered in half to satisfy the confines of music television, Peter can see the bright side:
“I can understand why they want us to do videos and what they achieve I suppose. And at least when I’m 70, I can sit back in my rocking chair and watch it again!”
One area of hype that surrounds Opeth is their flirtation with the occult, something that lyricist Mikael kerfeldt has appeared keen to play on in other recent interviews. I ask Peter what, if any, spiritual influence there is upon their music:
“We’re just regular guys. We have an interest in the occult, but it doesn’t go further than it does with anybody else – if you like horror movies you like the occult, but you probably won’t go out and kill people!”
“We are atheists; we are not religious at all. At the same time we’re not anti-religious either. The occult is an interesting topic to write about and read about but it’s not extreme at all – like I said, we are just regular guys, but if people want to think were evil, then that’s cool!”
– Opeth’s Peter Lindgren admits that their occult ‘side’ is somewhat exaggerated.
Opeth may be milking the age-old clich about being in league with the so-called Prince Of Darkness in order to preserve a particular image, but there’s nothing trite about their music – a fairly unique blend of death metal with progressive, acoustic elements. Peter admits to occasionally being frustrated at the success of so many metal bands whose work is predictable and characterless in comparison:
“In a way, yes we do feel cheated. There are so many bands that I hear that don’t do anything for me or [make music that] take[s] much to play, but it’s a fact of life really. If you look at most people buying records, they’re not really record collectors – they just want an album to put on in the background so they probably wouldn’t appreciate us.”
“You need more patience to ‘get’ Opeth’s music, and I think there are a lot of potential fans who’ve got that. So no, it doesn’t really bother me. Actually if we had done this for money or fame we would have written a different type of music. I don’t know if we would have succeeded, but the 10-minute song format doesn’t get you on the radio!”
He’s not wrong. However, if there are as many true music fans in the world as Peter hopes, there may well be plenty more 10-minute epics to emerge from Sweden’s most creative metallers.
Opeth @ Roundhouse, London: gig review
Opeth + Extol @ Mean Fiddler, London
Opeth – Ghost Reveries