Cover Story: Opeth - Still Life

Travis Smith

Opeth - Still Life

(Peaceville, 1999)

This was the fourth album from Opeth, and saw them moving further away from theitr death metal roots, and into a more progressive sound. It was the second time the band had gone for an overall concept, which they’d first done a year earlier with My Arms, Your Hearse. It was also the start of an ongoing relationship with Travis Smith, who has done the artwork for every subsequent Opeth album.

How did you meet the band?

“Well, I told a client of mine that I would love to work with the band. Now, they happened to be a friend of Mikael Akerfeldt’s as well. And the next thing I knew, I got an email from Mikael. And we kept in touch after that.”

How did you come up with the idea?

“It really came after Mikael explained the concept behind the album. As he went through the story of how the main character was banished from their home town because he didn’t share their faith, then returned several years later to reconnect with his girlfriend and what happened afterwards, the image just came to me.”

Had you heard the music beforehand (and what did you think)?

“No, I hadn’t heard anything at all from the album. In fact, I didn’t get to hear any music until I was sent a finished copy of the album. But once I listened to what the band had done musically, I loved it. And it seemed to fit my thoughts as to the overall atmosphere.”

Explain the concept

“What I was doing was trying to capture the feelings and emotions of Melinda, the female character in this tragic story. It’s Melinda coming to terms with the death of her lover, and the deep-rooted of loss she has at the time. I chose the colours to reflect the fact that, as with so much of Opeth’s music, there’s an overall darkness here, but it has a mysterious quality as well. I also got to come up with new artwork for Still Life in 2008, when a new edition was released.”

What was the reaction (from band, management, label, fans)? “Well, it certainly seemed to be a good one on all fronts. It started a relationship with the band that’s ongoing, so I assume they were happy with what I did here. In fact, I’d say my relationship with Opeth is one of the most rewarding I have with any band I’ve worked alongside.”

Malcolm Dome

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica, published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009. He died in 2021