Nowadays, as the sheer number of accessible artists has exploded, lines of genres have been blurred as people experiment with different sounds. This is especially true for Opeth’s guitarist/vocalist, Mikael Åkerfeldt, who has moved away from a heavier sound, for now at least. In an interview with Full Metal Jackie, he explained how he feels lost in the modern metal climate, saying
"I'm sort of lost about metal, especially since I've done some interviews where I've just said what I thought, and people get upset, because they have different opinions on what metal really is. And, for me, I think I might be too old, to be honest, to understand what the younger generation thinks that metal really is these days."
"I grew up with the '70s and '80s hard rock and metal bands, so those bands, to me, were very diverse and [they had] lots of things going on in their music, and they were metal bands in my book, but I'm not sure if they would come across as a metal band in the climate of today, basically. But I think metal, to me, has become a bit of an attitude as well — a question of attitude — and I think we have still that attitude intact. Like, we're a bit, for lack of a better word, rebellious."
There is a sentiment that hasn’t been tossed around in awhile; the idea that music can be defined as an attitude, and not necessarily defined by a specific sound. It’s especially used when referring to rock or pop music, since those are very broad terms, but it seems as though metal is beginning to grow into that category as well. The amount of different sounds out there in metal today makes it painful to marginalize the music into it’s most basic qualities. You can have a near post-rocky sound like Deafheaven, a purely satanic sound like Behemoth, you could be a group of pirates like Alestorm, or vikings like Amon Amarth. There are always artists out there changing things up a bit, and not necessarily following the tropes that surround the metal genre. So, to Åkerfeldt, just produce the sound you want, with the attitude you have, and don’t worry what label people choose to give it.
As for the sound of Opeth’s new album, Pale Communion, Åkerfeldt goes on to talk about his influences, saying
"A lot of the stuff I am listening to, it has, like, a constant… Like, the bands that constantly are on my, so to speak, playlist, are those types of bands I grew up with — bands like [JUDAS] PRIEST, [IRON] MAIDEN, the SCORPIONS, DEEP PURPLE, LED ZEPPELIN, [BLACK] SABBATH — those types of bands — as well as the progressive and rock stuff that I collect. But, generally, it might be a few more artists that are a bit important than others, when I'm writing for a new record. Like, for this record, I was listening a lot to, you know… I'm kind of bracing myself before saying this, but I was listening a lot to David Crosby, and CROSBY STILLS NASH & YOUNG, which explains a little bit of the vocal harmonies on the record, because I'm a big fan of Crosby's vocal harmonies. So I listened a lot to that, but also a lot to obscure Italian progressive rock, early '70s stuff that I collect, because it's bombastic, bordering on pretentious, and 'more is more,' which I like. So, a lot of that stuff. I'm a big Scott Walker [American singer-songwriter, composer and record producer] fan; I always listen to Scott Walker. Yeah, everything. I take some stuff in, but I try not to, kind of,with the exception of the song 'Goblin', I try not to be directly inspired by something that makes me write a song that is kind of gimmicking that inspiration, if you know what I mean."
You can read the transcript for the interview here
So it seems that Åkerfeldt is forming his new sound around true inspiration, from bands that aren’t exactly from the metal genre, and it seems he’s not interested in following an already established format. Despite the fact this should be the status quo for most artists, it’s nice to hear it. No matter what he does, as long as he has the metal attitude in mind, it will be metal to him, and that’s all that really matters.