Opeth is a progressive death metal band from Sweden. Opeth adds some progressive elements to their music, with acoustic guitar, clean vocals, and influences from jazz and blues. A remarkable fact about the band is that vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt does both clean singing and death vocals, and is proficient with both styles of singing.
Due to the addition of melodic and progressive elements, they are said to not conform to the death metal, or any other, genre. Another factor that separates Opeth from the death metal genre is their lyrics, which are hardly as brutal as other death metal bands and often involve a poetic theme about the beauty of pain. The name Opeth was taken from the book Sunbird (1972) by author Wilbur Smith, and was originally spelled Opet. In the book, Opet is the city of the moon.
Opeth was formed in Stockholm in 1990 by David Isberg. Isberg invited Mikael Åkerfeldt to join the band at a practice session as a bass player, but failed to inform the current bass player or any of the other members of the band. All band members except for Isberg quit, and Åkerfeldt soon joined Opeth after his band, Eruption, began to falter. With Åkerfeldt on guitar, David Isberg on vocals, and several other members, Opeth was not doing very well. Needing more musicians, they were joined by long-time friend of Åkerfeldt and former Eruption drummer Anders Nordin and Nick Döring on bass. Andreas Dimeo was recruited as a second guitarist. Rehearsing in an elementary school with old equipment they had found, this lineup lasted less than a year and only played one show.
After their first performance, Andreas Dimeo and Nick Döring quit the band. For the second performance, Kim Pettersson (guitar) and Johan DeFarfalla (bass) joined the group. After the show, DeFarfalla left, not to return until 1994. Pettersson stuck with the band for another show before leaving in late 1991. For that show they got Peter Lindgren to play the bass, but once Kim left, Peter returned to the guitar, his original instrument.
David left the band in early 1992 due to "creative differences" and since Mikael had experience as a vocalist from the group Eruption (which he and Anders Nordin formed), he became the new vocalist, and immediately began writing material with Peter Lindgren. They rehearsed as a 3-piece for more than a year, but eventually found a new bass player, Stefan Guteklint, who played with them for about a year.
After the band received a contract from Candlelight Records, Stefan Guteklint was kicked out. They recorded their first album, Orchid, in 1994 with Johan DeFarfalla as a session bass player. He eventually became a full-time member. Candlelight Records released their debut album in 1995. In 1997 it was released in the United States by Century Media Records. Opeth themselves handled the production and Dan Swanö was the engineer.
Opeth's second album, Morningrise, was recorded in March-April of 1996 and released later that year. Again Dan Swanö was the engineer and this time he also handled the production. The album contains five songs, ranging in length from 10 to 20 minutes. Opeth's first European tour followed the release of Morningrise; a 26 date tour together with Cradle of Filth. After the tour, Johan DeFarfalla was kicked out of the band, and Anders Nordin quit the band, moving to Brazil. Morningrise contains "Black Rose Immortal", Opeth's longest song, clocking in at 20 minutes 14 seconds.
Their third album, 1998's My Arms, Your Hearse saw the addition of Martin Lopez (who left another Swedish band, Amon Amarth to join Opeth) on drums. Shortly before the recording of this album, Martin Mendez, a friend of Martin Lopez, was recruited as Opeth's bass player, but due to lack of time, Mikael Åkerfeldt played bass for the recording. This lineup (Åkerfeldt, Lindgren, Lopez, Mendez) continues to exist today (along with new member, Per Wiberg).
My Arms, Your Hearse exhibited a change in writing style. Instead of the 10+ minute epic tracks found on Morningrise, My Arms, Your Hearse contains shorter songs, with each song being an average of 6 1/2 to 8 minutes long. The album was lyrically a concept album, darker than the prior release, with acoustic transitions playing a smaller role. Mikael's vocal style also took on a more death metal influenced tone: deeper and more menacing. My Arms, Your Hearse contains "Demon of the Fall", a fan favourite and often played as an encore at live shows. The final song, Epilogue, is a 3-minute outro. My Arms, Your Hearse was Opeth's last album to be released with Candlelight Records.
Their fourth album, 1999's Still Life, released under Peaceville Records, is considered another concept album which, without going into unnecessary details, centers around a tale of unrequited love for a character called Melinda. Returning to the more balanced sound of Morningrise, contrasting stripped-down acoustic guitar melody with death metal elements. This album contains further experimentation with the dynamics between dark death metal elements, and clean, acoustic elements. Still Life could be considered to be a major turning point in the evolution of the Opeth sound. It is the first release that was recorded with Martin Mendez on bass, and was only rehearsed twice as a full band. Still Life was originally scheduled for release in late September, early October of 1999, but was postponed to October 4, and later to October 18, the final release date.
Opeth's fifth album, 2001's Blackwater Park, released under KOCH Records, received critical and commercial success in North America. Opeth brought in Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson to produce the album, as well as sing backing vocals and play some guitar and piano parts.
2002's Deliverance, also produced by Steve Wilson and released under KOCH Records, reached Billboard magazine's top-100 heatseeker chart. Deliverance contains five 10+ minute songs (the first album of this style since Morningrise), and an instrumental track clocking at a little over 2 minutes. Deliverance is one of Opeth's heavier albums, containing some song introductions that resemble Morbid Angel's style. Opeth continued their experimentation with time signature changes and syncopation, notably in the outro to "Deliverance" and "By the Pain I See in Others", the album's closing track.
Their seventh album, Damnation, recorded simultaneously with Deliverance, was entirely a progressive rock album without death metal elements, showcasing a 1970s progressive rock vibe. The album was also produced by Steve Wilson, who contributed backing vocals, keyboards, and co-wrote one song, "Death Whispered a Lullaby". Mikael Åkerfeldt dedicated Deliverance and Damnation to his grandmother, who died from a car accident during the recording.
In 2004, Opeth released Lamentations (Live at Shepherd's Bush Empire 2003), a DVD release of a two-hour live performance at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London, England. The show was divided into two sets. In the first set, Opeth performed the entire Damnation album in order plus "Harvest" from Blackwater Park. The second set included heavier tracks from Blackwater Park and Deliverance. Also on Lamentations is a one-hour documentary about the recording of the Damnation and Deliverance albums, featuring all four members of the band and Steve Wilson, each talking about Opeth, Deliverance, Damnation, and the recording process.
For their recent tours, Opeth brought in Per Wiberg (Spiritual Beggars) to play keyboards. Opeth have now officially confirmed that Per has become the band's fifth member.
Opeth entered the studio on March 15, 2005 to record their next album, entitled Ghost Reveries which should be released on August 30th 2005 under Roadrunner Records.
The band's official forum was closed on July 23, 2005 to prevent leaks of Ghost Reveries. However, leaks of the new album have spread across several bitTorrent and PtP networks.