The great Opeth released “Pale Communion” last year and the fans responded in a big way. The record sold roughly 13,000 copies in its first week of release in the U.S., which was enough to debut at #19 on the Billboard 200 chart. It proved that no matter which direction their music takes, their fan base is still as dedicated as ever.
That fact was more evident than ever when they came through New York City with In Flames late last year, and put on one of the best shows of the year! As you saw from our photos from Atlanta and New York City, they live and breathe every note they perform, and it’s infectious to the crowds everywhere.
Before their recent set in New York City I got a few minutes to speak with Mikael Åkerfeldt about the tour, the “Pale Communion” response, 2015 plans and more! Enjoy reading our chat below!
Metal Mark: Mikael, thanks for taking out some time before you go on. How are you good sir?
Mikael Åkerfeldt: Doing very well thank you. How about yourself?
MM: Opeth is here, so how can I complain? The last time I saw you guys at this venue was back in 2010 when I flew up from Atlanta for the 20th Anniversary show, which was magical, and now you’re back and will be celebrating the 25th Anniversary next year? How cool is that for you?
MA: Yea twenty five years is pretty crazy to think about. They say time flies, but you never realize it until an interviewer brings it up (laughs). It’s been a great journey to get where we are, so we are going to enjoy it as much as we can while we are here.
MM: You will be celebrating the 25th Anniversary by performing “Ghost Reveries” at the London Palladium in 2015, which has fans everywhere running to get tickets. Obviously some of these songs you haven’t performed live in years, are you more nervous or excited to play those songs again?
MA: Not nervous. At least now right this instant (laughs). Maybe when I go back to relearn some of the parts, that’s when I’ll be like “Oh this isn’t as simple as I remember,” but I think it’ll be fine. We wanted to do something special, and fans really grasp to that record, so why not ya know? It’s going to be a special night for sure.
MM: Well tonight looks to be a special night as well. You’re out touring in support of “Pale Communion,” which has received a great response from everyone. “Heritage” obviously had a mixed response, due to the new direction, but it seems like they are enjoying it more, especially with the new record.
MA: I agree. I think fans have approached this record with an open mind, and like you said, the response has been extremely positive.
MM: I think, in a cool way, “Pale Communion” might get fans to listen to “Heritage” again, and really appreciate it for what it was.
MA: Yea I would like to think so. I’m glad you mentioned that, because I never really thought about that until the other day when a fan told me that. For myself, I love “Heritage” with all my heart. We are super proud of that album, and don’t think we could repeat it if we wanted to ya know. I understood a lot of the fans’ response, because “Heritage” was kind of all over the place, which I like, but for some people, they just want “Ghost Reveries” written again. I thought, and still think, it was the right time to write that record, and “Pale Communion” picks up right where it left off. I feel “Pale Communion” is easier to listen to, it sounds better, and it flows a little better than the last record, but I don’t regret “Heritage” at all. It’s an important record for Opeth, and one we’ll keep building from in the future.
MM: You’ve mentioned how “Heritage” did rejuvenate the band, so what has “Pale Communion” done for you guys?
MA: “Heritage” definitely brought the band closer together. All of the members finally clicked on the road, and we really bonded over that run. We didn’t really have much time between the end of the tour and recording the new record, so this one was a breeze to put together. Honestly, it might have been the easiest recording of an Opeth album ever. All of our heads were in the same place, we knew where each member was going at each time, and it made it a lot easier than before. I’m pretty sure we were done in two weeks, which is the fastest we’ve done since the first record I believe. So I think this album really shows where we are now, how close we are as a band, and I’m extremely pleased with it.
MM: Obviously recording the songs is one thing, but how’s it been performing the new stuff live so far?
MA: Honestly, it’s fun. It’s so much fun. I don’t know how else to say it. We are only playing two new songs on this run, but we will be touring for a while, so next time we come around we’ll throw some more new stuff in there, but so far, so good.
MM: You mentioned in a previous interview that you heard the fan’s response to the last set list in the States, and decided to bring in more older material on this run to please them. In a perfect world, what would be your ideal set list to please you?
MA: One song per album would be my ideal set list. I think that would be fair, be entertaining, and really show everything that Opeth has to offer. I was somewhat confused by the response to the “Heritage” tour set list honestly. We always intended to bring back the heavier material, and said that numerous times, and now we have. At the time, maybe people didn’t believe us, but we also had a new album to promote that we were super proud of, so we did what we did. As a musician or entertainer you have to listen to your fans, so fair enough, there were not any songs with screaming in them, so for this run we brought them back, and the set flows really well.
MM: I love the whole meaning of heavy to some fans. Yes, the older material had screaming, heavier riffs, and what not, but the mood, lyrics and ambience of the last two records are still heavy as hell to me. Yes, there is no screaming, but the songs are extremely heavy in their own way.
MA: I appreciate that, because I feel the same way. Not many people I guess hear that, so it’s good when someone like you says that, because I feel you’re really listening and in tune with what we are doing. It was an odd reaction at first from our perspective, because I feel the Opeth sound is very diverse, and always has been, but again, I understand the fan’s perspective and respect it. For myself, I can only write what makes me happy, and that’s what I’ll continue to do, or else what’s the point ya know? It’s music, so everyone has their opinion, and whether it’s good or bad, that’s the beautiful thing about music. It’s always subjective.
MM: I totally agree. Even with the “mixed” response, the record still landed in the Top 20 of the Billboard charts, so not many people are steering away from you guys.
MA: Well that’s true. Obviously we appreciate any fan that goes out and buys our album, and to land that high is exceptional. Contrary to what people may think, that doesn’t give me a new house, new car, and gold shoes though (laughs). We’ve never been a chart topping band, but to still get that response, like I said, is greatly appreciated. The fans are why we are here after all.
MM: Well fans everywhere want to know the plans for 2015, as 2014 is quickly coming to close. Any tour news you can share?
MA: Not at this moment. Like I said before, we’ll be touring for this new record longer than we did for “Heritage,” so it looks like we will be hitting anywhere and everywhere we possibly can in 2015. We love the “Pale Communion” material, and how it blends with our older stuff, so the set lists in the future should be exciting to play for sure.
MM: Very cool. Thanks for taking out the time to speak with me, do you have anything else you’d like to say to the fans?
MA: Just a big thank you for the undying support for over twenty years. We continue to make the music we love because of you, and for that, we are eternally grateful. Cheers.