Music: Opeth

The dudes themselves. Opeth logo visible in the background.
Opeth is a Progressive Death Metal band formed in Stockholm, Sweden, by David Isberg and Mikael Åkerfeldt. After the band was formed, David later quit and left the band; Mikael became the main vocalist and guitarist.

In 1995, Opeth released their debut album Orchid, which was critically praised for its unique style of death metal, having twin guitar harmonies, also adding acoustic guitar, piano, and clean vocals, something rather unusual for the Scandinavian death metal scene at the time. A couple of years later, they released Morningrise, which continued to explore the techniques used in Orchid. While it was quite popular, Opeth noticed that other metal bands began to copy them and Mikael urged the band to change their signature style. This lead to the release of the dark Concept Album My Arms, Your Hearse. A couple of years later, they released the fan favorite Still Life, in which they began to deconstruct their sound. However, they never went on tour because their music, while well liked, was not mainstream.

This all changed with the release of Blackwater Park, which many fans and critics considered then to be Opeth's Magnum Opus. After the massive success of Blackwater Park, they began their first world-wide tour. Within a six month period of time, they released two albums: Deliverance and Damnation. The former is considered to be the band's heaviest work while the latter is a more elegant acoustic based album. While Deliverance was well-received, Damnation instantly became a fan favorite, most notably the song Windowpane. (Note that Opeth originally planned these two to be a Distinct Double Album, but Executive Meddling nixed the idea). After extensive touring, they released 2005's dark and majestic Ghost Reveries, which (just like other previous albums) became an instant hit. After the release of Ghost Reveries however, Peter Lindgren and Martin Lopez (guitarist and drummer, respectively) left the band, leaving Opeth's future in doubt. Nevertheless, in 2008, Opeth released Watershed, which has been praised as their deepest and most mature work to date.

Starting with 2011's Heritage, Opeth underwent a Genre Shift to Progressive Rock, with which they had already experimented on Damnation. This continued on 2014's Pale Communion, and the band members appear to have no interest in returning to their metal style. The shift has predictably met with mixed reaction from existing fans, though it has won them some new fans as well.

Despite their departure from the genre, Opeth are generally accepted to be one of the poster children for Progressive Death Metal. While they are firmly rooted in Scandinavian death metal, they have shown many elements of Progressive Rock throughout their albums. They are known to combine elements of heavy metal, progressive rock, Scandinavian folk music, blues, jazz, and acoustics into their songs. While Mikael has stated that groups that inspired Opeth were ones like Slayer, Black Sabbath, Death, and Celtic Frost, he fully admits that other bands like Yes, Camel, Magma, and other progressive bands inspired the progressive rock side of them. They are well known to try something new even after an extremely successful album (à la Blackwater Park and Ghost Reveries). They remain one of the world's most popular Death Metal acts, and are considered to be engaged in the work of opening up that scene to a wider audience, as their acoustic, jazzy, and folkish elements can easily draw fans of those styles into a position to appreciate the legitimate musicality of the abrasive, sonically violent, and dissonantly deconstructive nature of the death metal soundscape.

Opeth is not a band for everyone, however. Their songs are extremely long (the average clocking in between eight and ten minutes) and musically complex. This makes their music very difficult to listen to without some dedication. A large majority of their songs demand repeated listening for full appreciation. This can make listening tedious to those who find the music alienating either for its lack of simple accessibility or death metal sensibilities. One critic put it this way: "It is very hard to be a casual Opeth fan, due to the length and complexity of their songs."

Not to be confused with Otep, as they often are.


  • Orchid (1995)
  • Morningrise (1996)
  • My Arms Your Hearse (1998)
  • Still Life (1999)
  • Blackwater Park (2001)
  • Deliverance (2002)
  • Damnation (2003)
  • Ghost Reveries (2005)
  • Watershed (2008)
  • Heritage (2011)
  • Pale Communion (2014)

Current Band members:

  • Mikael Akerfeldt: vocals, guitar, bass on My Arms Your Hearse (1990-)
  • Fredrik Akesson: guitar (2007-)
  • Martin Mendez: bass (1997-)
  • Martin "Axe" Axenrot: drums (2006-)
  • Joakim Svalberg: keyboards (2011-)

Past Band members:

  • David Isberg: Original guitarist and vocalist (1990-1992)
  • Micke Bargstörm – guitars (1990)
  • Rille Even – drums (1990)
  • Dan Nilsson – guitars (1990)
  • Martin Persson – bass (1990)
  • Anders Nordin – drums (1990–1997)
  • Andreas Dimeo – guitars (1990–1991)
  • Nick Döring – bass (1990–1991)
  • Kim Pettersson – guitars (1991)
  • Johan DeFarfalla – bass, backing vocals (1991, 1995–1997)
  • Mattias Ander – bass (1991)
  • Peter Lindgren – guitars (1991–2007), bass (1991)
  • Stefan Guteklint – bass (1991–1994)
  • Martin Lopez – drums (1997–2006)
  • Per Wiberg – keyboards (2005–2011)


  • Nathalie Lorichs sang the second verse and chorus on the song "Coil" from Watershed.
  • Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree has provided backing vocals on Blackwater Park, Deliverance and Damnation, and was producer for those albums.
  • Renowned Swedish flautist Björn J:son Lindh played flute on the song "Famine" from Heritage.
  • Peruvian percussionist Alex Acuña (who has performed with many other notable musicians, including Elvis Presley) also played on "Famine".

Opeth shows example of:

  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Martin Axenrot. It certainly helps that his nickname is "Axe".
  • Breather Episode: While songs like "Hours of Wealth" and "Patterns in the Ivy" count, the best example is Damnation, which is wedged between the heavy Deliverance and the extremely dark Ghost Reveries.
    • And just to remember some other breather songs, there's "Silhouette", "Requiem", "Madrigal" and "For Absent Friends".
      • And subverted as well, as the heaviest song on "Ghost Reveries", "The Grand Conjuration", is stuck between the two lightest and shortest songs on the album, "Hours of Wealth" and "Isolation Years"
    • "Burden" is a very peaceful, if mournful, prog-rock ballad, which follows the extremely heavy "Heir Apparent," and very heavy and experimental "The Lotus Eater."
    • "Benighted" from Still Life is a very mellow, acoustic song between "Godhead's Lament" and "Moonlapse Vertigo." It is also much shorter than both songs.
  • Careful with That Axe: Plently examples.
    • Song "Advent" features quite many sudden screams between the constant growls. "The Leper Affinity" has a solid one near the climax ('deafening shrieks pierced the NIIIIIIIGHT!!'). Also the start of "Ghost of Perdition", halfway through "The Grand Conjuration", etc.
  • Concept Album: Quite a few...
    • My Arms Your Hearse is a story about the ghost of a man who follows his wife in suspicion that she wasn't truly sad after his death.
    • Still Life is about a medieval atheist who returns to face the Christian government and regain his love, Melinda.
    • The songs on the album Watershed are connected by the theme of parting with the loved one and subsequent alienation from society.
  • Cover Version: The band has covered Celtic Frost, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Robin Trower, Marie Fredriksson, Alice in Chains, and (at a recent live show) Bon Jovi.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mikael is pretty renowned for this. See his speech under Funny Moments.
  • Epic Rocking: Their longest song, "Black Rose Immortal", lasts 20:14 and many of their songs exceed 10 minutes in length. Eight minutes is probably about Opeth's average song length.
    • The average is currently 7:31.5 (not counting live and re-release tracks).
  • Genre Shift: As mentioned above, Heritage and all studio albums after it have no metal influences.
  • I Love the Dead: The subject of "The Leper Affinity".
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Burden" - nothing said. Also "A Fair Judgement".
    • "Nectar" manages to get two in the space of about a minute.
  • Lighter and Softer: Damnation and everything from Heritage onward.
  • Loudness War: Their metal albums are pretty squished, even the ones Steven Wilson produced. Damnation isn't that dynamic either. By the time of Pale Communion they had stopped doing this.
  • Miniscule Rocking: Much of the instrumentals such as "Requiem", "Madrigal", and "Patterns in the Ivy".
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Generally around 9, but they go all over the place. Damnation in particular is pure 3/4.
    • Interestingly, many individual songs vary wildly between rankings, such as "Dirge for November," which starts about a 2/3 for the first couple minutes, then rockets straight to a 9 pretty much without warning. Almost every song on Watershed has these extreme variations as well.
    • Their 2011 album, Heritage, would be in the 3-7 range for the most part. It's quite a bit more straightforward and less scattered than other Opeth records (except, of course, for Damnation), so it's much easier to rank on this scale. Pale Communion, their latest, follows in a similar vein.
  • Mood Whiplash: Oh god YES. This is your average reaction to a song by Opeth: "Who the fuck put Death Metal into my jazz?!"
  • Murder Ballad: Still Life, Ghost Reveries.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted twice, When Martin Lopez was replaced by Martin Axenrot.
  • Progressive Metal
  • Progressive Rock: Damnation, Heritage, Pale Communion. Most of their metal albums have at least one song that fits into this style as well. (Watershed has four).
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: THE! GRAND! CON! JUR! AAAA! SHUUUUNNNN!
    • Also, pretty much the entire lyrics of "Blackwater Park" (song). "THE SUUUUUN SEETS, FOREEEVEEERRR, OVER, BLACKWATER, PAAAAARRRRKKKK!!!"
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Two examples:
    • Mikael and Martin Mendez, the former being a very energetic and brash man and the latter being very quiet, rarely speaking in interviews.
    • Deliverance and Damnation, the former being the band's heaviest work while the latter is the band's softest work.
  • Self-Deprecation: Much of Mikael's snark during their live shows usually revolves around calling the next song "The most boring song on the album" and mocking the pretentiousness of their music. Or maybe mocking their fans.
  • Sincerest Form of Flattery: Mikael has stated that the song "Ending Credits" off Damnation is "totally a Camel ripoff". Given how he's also said how much of an influence they are to him, the song becomes more of a tribute than a Follow the Leader kind of thing.
    • Mikael has also admitted that "Slither" off of Heritage was basically his attempt to rewrite "Kill the King" by Rainbow; fitting, as it's a tribute to Ronnie James Dio.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Mikael is a shining example of the one-man version. He is effortlessly able to change between a towering, operatic clean voice to a deep, crackling death growl. It's much better exemplified by "The Lotus Eater".
  • The Stoic: Martin Mendez, and the fans love him for it.
  • Subliminal Seduction: There's a section in "Hessian Peel" that parodies the infamous "Stairway to Heaven" backmasking Urban Legend. There are a couple of other examples of deliberate backmasking in their catalogue, such as the intro to "Demon of the Fall" and the hidden track after "By the Pain I See in Others".
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "To Bid You Farewell", "Credence", "Epilogue", "Benighted", "Face of Melinda", "Harvest", "For Absent Friends", several others, plus the entirety of Damnation, Heritage, and Pale Communion, all of which qualify as Surprisingly Gentle Albums.
  • Together in Death: "White Cluster", the ending track for Still Life.
  • Uncommon Time: Pretty much mandatory for being a Progressive Metal band. "Deliverance" contains one of many examples (quite a lot of the song is in 7/4).
  • X Meets Y: Dream Theater meets Deicide (minus satanic lyrics).