Opeth’s new record will hit stores in a few days, here’s what Fredrik said to RUL about “Pale Communion”.
Hello Fredrik how are you?
Fredrik Akesson (guitar): Good, just had a nice lunch here in Paris, enjoyed a good glass of French wine.
The album was delayed, is it kind of frustrating? How do you feel a few months before its release?
F: A little bit, the reason is because of the artwork. We have some festivals this summer and it of course would have been nice to play at least a couple of new songs; but there’s no point of playing them since the release.
“Pale Communion” is the 11th record, your third with the band. First, what is the idea behind this strange title?
F: Since Mikael wrote all the lyrics, I think the title is like, all the lyrics all kind of sad, it’s about Mikael personal life. It all gathers that the “pale communion”. It also looks like a great title and it sound great, it has to sound good. (laughs)
Why isn’t there a title-track? Are the eight tracks forming the “pale communion”?
F: Yeah something like that. They all gather, with the melancholic lyrics and the titles, to the “pale communion”.
After “Heritage” in which state of mind were you musically? And Mikael?
F: Well I think we mixed a lot of material from “Heritage” which are quite different from previous Opeth material. I mean we still enjoy older stuff as well. It wasn’t really planned, the only thing we talked about was the sound approach compared to “Heritage” which is more 70′ sounding production wise. We wanted later 70′ early 80′ type, louder drums in focus. We talked about “Holy Diver” with Dio that kind of sound picture. It didn’t really ended up like that (laughs) but that was one of the things we talked about. With the song wise, I think is was just the hit of the moment thing, just the way it came out.
Can we say that it’s “Heritage part 2”?
F: In a way. Few albums got together in Opeth’s history “Ghost Reveries” and “Watershed” maybe, even though they’re different, and also “Heritage” and this new one. On this new one some parts are heavier than on “Heritage”. Still there’s no growling vocals on it so I can understand if people may link them together. But it’s a quite different album: it’s more melodic and the third track “Move Above, Sun Below” reminds me a little bit of old Opeth song structure with a lot of sections and riffs.
You recorded at Rockfield Studios. How different was it from the previous process?
F: Compared to “Heritage” where we recorded in Stockholm, where we all live apart from Martin Méndes who lives in Barcelona know, this was more focus recording. Rockfield is a residential studio so we lived there and we were able to get more focused, no distractions. It’s basically like a farm, sheeps, cows and horses and you have to walk twenty minutes to the next village which we did a couple of times to have a few beers sometimes. That made the recording very focused and did all the songs in thirteen days. It was of course inspirational to be there because of the history of Rockfield with bands like Rush, Black Sabbath.
Did that vibe influence your way to play a song or multiple songs?
F: Maybe not on conscious but we may have experimented with sounds of course. There are some spontaneous stuff with some psychedelic echo effects that weren’t really planned but we started playing with that echo pedal and making those repeats which were fun. We also did some experimentation with a grand piano where we hit the strings with drumstick then hit all the strings and reverse it on the track, some experimental stuff like that. It’s fun when stuff like that happens and works out.
The music has once again vintage vibes but also oriental vibes. With all this modern hardware that’s kind of strange right?
F: Yeah we talked about recording on tape machines the old school way but it was more modern using ProTools. Still we used their old mics that they didn’t change for example and those enforced for the vintage sound maybe. But one of the thing that we didn’t want to do is too much editing, no sound replacement which is very common in the metal world. We wanted the sounds that we recorded and only that. Lot of albums these days are corrected and it can be sterile at one point. Lots of our favourite’s old albums got small mistakes but it adds a bit of charm to it, it become more human.
In which way did you live/experiment the evolution of Opeth’s music since your arrival and “Watershed”?
F: Hmm… Good question. First of all I had to learn all the old songs and get into Mikael type of playing because he has a different approach when it comes to writing riffs and stuff. It’s a lot of touring of course and now being in the band more than seven years I feel very relaxed and it took me a while to get the sound and all the different parts of some songs. Mikael felt that after “Watershed” he took the extreme metal to a certain level and the band needed to do something different to get new power or stamina. I remember that he told me “maybe the band could have not existed anymore” if we hadn’t done “Heritage”. I enjoy playing music as long as it’s good music even though we all came from a metal background, that’s the foundation and we still love metal but this is different of course. It’s something that grown out and we don’t know what will happen for the next album. It could be a grindcore album, you never know.
Once again some fans will be disappointed because “no growls”. Do you think that Opeth changed its musical identity?
F: Not really because some lyrics wise and structure wise it is still about the same areas but of course the dynamics between growl and clean vocals has been an important part of Opeth’s songs. There’s still nine albums with that so. I mean live, we mix it up and… The first tour we did for “Heritage” was without growl songs, which I can understand some people missed it but know these days we play maybe 60% of the songs so it’s nothing we’re tired of. Recording wise, I think the band needed to do something different or at least Mikael felt it because Opeth it’s not about repeating ourselves. We want to do something different on every album. I still think it was like that in the past even though it’s been growl vocal songs on albums, they were quite different to each other.
How would you define your music today?
F: It’s a good question. I usually say: Opeth music but that’s a bit cocky. (laughs) It’s difficult to label it. It’s more progressive hard rock now, something like that.
Tricky question: which three tracks (global) or which unique track will you pick to illustrate the record?
F: Good question, I think every track is very different. “Cusp Of Eternity” and “Moon Above, Sun Below” are probably the heavier songs and this last one reminds me of old Opeth’s sounding. “Moon Above, Sun Below” is probably one of my favourites but also… I mean the album starts a bit heavy and comes something else and ends something very… I think the song that is probably different is “River”. It almost start, I wouldn’t say as a country song but something with a Crosby kind of stuff. That ends up for something more metal almost. It’s very a tricky question because there are also individual sounding on each one of them. But we also reach some new sounding like on “River” and “Voice Of Treason” where it’s more cinematic, it reminds me a James Bond movie.
What about the album artwork? What will be the vibe of it?
F: It’s actually be based on three different paintings like three different parts of life like born-middle-death.
What did you listen lately? Which bands kept your attention recently?
F: Somehow I’ve been listening to “Ride The Lighnting” from Metallica recently a lot (laughs) and a Swedish band called Plankton an instrumental-guitar band with seventy sounding but also latest metal standards like Grand Magus.
Will you perform “Pale Communion” in its entirely during forthcoming tours?
F: Not at the beginning but maybe at some point in the future. It’s a too young album to do such a thing. Of course we’ll play a few tracks from it and we’re looking forward to it.
Last question: we are “RockUrLife” so what rocks your life Fredrik?
F: Actually now I became a father nine months ago and she’s totally into guitar when I play to her. That rocks my life right now.