Heart of Steel: Interviews

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Interview With Opeth's Peter Lindgren

Interview by Keith McDonald

Death metal pioneers Opeth have returned with a more aggressive, brutal offering of epic proportions, Deliverance, via Koch Records. Their second release, and sixth overall, through the Koch/Music For Nations venture, finds the Swedish thrashers expanding their horizons musically. After the more commercially acceptable Blackwater Park, Opeth return to their death metal roots. The band has made a name for themselves since emerging from the metal scene in Stockholm in 1990. I had the opportunity to speak with Peter Lindgren while he was in New York City, who filled me in on the band and it’s newest metal offering.

Do you find it harder for European metal acts like yourself to break in North America where fans are so fickle?

We’re not sure what’s going on in N. America because it’s so far away. N. America is bigger than all of Europe. It’s probably harder, I guess.



How would you compare European metal bands to that of N. American bands? Is there much of a difference?

Music-wise there is a difference. In the U.S. it’s more of people having one direction, wider perspective and range. A different approach than in Europe, I think. Nu-metal is really big in the U.S. while in Europe it’s one of several things to do (metal-wise).


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Speaking of the two scenes, how would you compare the two?

I think for us we have a good fanbase in N. America. It’s a bit separated in Europe, good in some countries and not so good in certain countries. I think for us we have an equal fanbase. I think we’ve been just breaking ground in N. America where as in Europe it’s been building up for some time.



How would you describe your music?

Considering we have screaming vocals, I would say it’s pretty extreme. It’s like heavy metal but it’s still progressive, diverse and dynamic. You can call it several types of genres, I think. I’d say it’s really diverse, extreme metal.



I think a lot of people feel that death metal is all the same with fast beats and screaming vocals. What would you say to this stereotype?

Death metal, it’s a genre. But still it could be more. We’re not just a death metal band - we’re more than that. I think if you’re into death metal it’s more than screaming vocals and double kick drums. If you’re really into extreme metal than death metal is extreme.



After listening to the new album I noticed that even though the material is fast and extreme, it does have tastes of some type of commercialism, especially with the guitars. Was that the idea or something that came naturally?

I think this material is heavier than Blackwater Park but I think there are commercial aspects or parts. I haven’t done it from a commercial point of view, it’s just we like the music and like to incorporate certain genres into our music. I would say Deliverance is a non-commercial album and more aggressive.


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That leads me to my next question. What is the major difference between Blackwater Park and Deliverance?

Blackwater Park, production and songwriting-wise, was easier to get into, more like a hit record from our point of view. This Deliverance album is heavier and more aggressive and darker, music-wise and production-wise.



How much creative control did you have on this album, and how did it help?

We booked the studio and had to do everything ourselves. The only thing we didn’t do was put the microphones on the equipment. This is the album where we has the most input, but that wasn’t our intention. We didn’t mean to or want to do it on our own. We had to trust ourselves. It’s not a good thing because it’s a risk we had to take. It could have turned out bad at the end of the day.



Do you think that death metal has a ceiling as to how high it can go, and a band can only sell a certain amount of records? Or could a band from your genre break like Metallica did?

If you asked me five years ago I would have said no. Metallica is a good example. Nobody thought they would break as they did. But death metal has been around for so many years. People have trouble with the screaming vocals and I think that’s the main problem besides the heaviness. If you look at nu-metal it’s breaking everywhere because they don’t scream.



You are songs are of epic proportions. You pretty much guarantee yourselves little or no airplay from radio. Was that the idea?

I think we made the decision when we started the band. We chose the artistic freedom to do what we want. Long songs are what we are paying for now. If we wrote pop songs we’d sell five times as many records. This is all about being in a band that we enjoy doing music we really love. I think we’ve lost something commercially but we’ve also gained something on the other side.



With the Internet, are there more outlets for death metal?

A couple of years ago there were no college radio stations that played our music. It’s getting bigger. It’s expanding all over the States.


How has the Music For Nations label change from Candlelight affected the band? I see you’ve gained some momentum since leaving. Do you agree?

Candlelight was an underground label that was good for us to start with. They really took care of us, but they were limited. Once Music For Nations took over, things started happening. It was good for us to change at that time. We had been around for awhile and have a fanbase already. Has we been still on Candlelight we wouldn’t be here today, still be in Sweden playing small clubs. I think Music For Nations is the perfect label for us.



Would you ever consider moving to a major label the way Cradle of Filth did?

I don’t know. We still have our contract with Music For Nations. Unless somebody comes in and buys out the contract. I can’t see it happening unless we sell a shit-load of records.



What are the tour plans and will you hits S. America?

The tour plans are being drawn. We’re gonna do a world tour that will include S. America for the first time. Not sure when, portably next year. We’ve been offered shows from every country in S. America including Equador and Bolivia. I can’t promise anything because I’m not sure.

Band Website: www.opeth.com

Label Website: www.music-for-nations.com