Third time's the charm

Updated: 23 November, 2019 09:05 IST | Karishma Kuenzang | Mumbai

On their third visit to India, Opeth talks about their evolution from heavy metal to sombre vibes, and their Weekender set list.

Opeth’s Martin Mendez, Martin Axenrot, Mikael Akerfeldt, Fredrik Åkesson and Joakim Svalberg
Opeth’s Martin Mendez, Martin Axenrot, Mikael Akerfeldt, Fredrik Åkesson and Joakim Svalberg

They were called the gods of prog-death, and have gone from their heavy metal sound to add relatively mellow tinctures over the years while retaining their serious grunge vibe. As Opeth prepares to make their Pune debut at the NH7 Weekender, we catch up with Mikael Åkerfeldt (guitars, lead vocals) of the band to tell us about their music over the years.

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Mikael Akerfeldt

You started as a progressive metal band in 1989, and have now moved from a death metal sound to a mellower vibe. Why the shift?

I joined in 1990. I'd be worried about my mental health if the sound hadn't changed over 30 years. I am glad I have been able to write something different from time to time. I grew up with heavy metal. Radio was still popular and we would buy, lend and copy audiocassettes. We listened to a lot of Iron Maiden, The Scorpions, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. But then I started searching for heavier music and death metal happened. I still play those classic rock records though as they give me musical ideas.

How have changes in the line-up affected the sound?

This line-up is of a higher caliber than before. Not to put down any of our previous members, but some of them wouldn't cut it with the stuff we're doing now. Per Wiberg is an amazing keyboard player and singer, who left as he wanted to write music 'his way'. Lopez was troubled but has shaped up his own band, Soen. I don't think I've been held back by any member. I have always written most of the music and veered off in odd directions. I can throw anything at the current members and they'll play it perfectly. This would have caused problems before for even I can't play all that I write.

What plans do you have for NH7 Weekender, and your third trip to India?

We don't customise set lists as we put our trust in the dynamics of the gig. But there will be both heavy and softer moments. I listen to Ravi Shankar's sitar records and his nephew Ananda Shankar's LP. But the coolest Indian LP has to be Black Scorpio by The Savages in 1973. It had a funky garage-y psych rock. We've been to Chennai and Bengaluru before this. I remember our sightseeing trip to an old temple in Chennai, which was amazing. And it's also a lot of information for the eyes as I have never seen traffic like I have here.

On November 29 to December 1, 3 pm to 10 pm
At Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Mahalakshmi Lawns, Pune.
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First Published: 23 November, 2019 08:00 IST

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