Are Opeth really 25 years old?
If you’re in any doubt a leaf through the Book Of Opeth will remind you of their considerable career. To celebrate their quarter-century anniversary Mikael Åkerfeldt and chums have decided to treat their fans to a glossy, illustrated history of the band, spanning from the early years to the present times, as told by the band’s current and past members through a series of first-person anecdotes. The introduction assures us that there will be special tours and releases in honour of the milestone but Opeth wanted to give us something special, as if they haven’t already…
An open honest account, but The Dirt this ain’t.
Bound in a luxurious, hard cover and reading like a heavily detailed Wikipedia entry, Book of Opeth takes a pragmatic approach to a ‘tell-all’ that sets out the what, wheres and whens of the band’s story. Mötley Crüe’s The Dirt, this is not. Sure, Opeth are not exactly the sort of band to snort lines off a pavement after a night out with a cheap hooker, but the fundamental lack of anything juicy is a little disappointing. In fact, as far as personal revelations go Book Of Opeth is about as open as Spain during siesta. Rather, this is an honest account of (mainly) Åkerfeldt’s perseverance in creating something that would challenge the status quo, and a celebration of his musical ingenuity.
The treatment of Opeth’s formative years evokes the hard graft that the band undertook to get them recognised.
“I wanted us to be a heavy metal band that could really play,” says Åkerfeldt emphatically before recalling the moment he discovered Yes and Genesis vinyl in second hand shops. “I loved the length of the songs, the moods, the movements; it was exactly the sort of thing I wanted to do.”
Opeth have always been intensively driven and this book captures the passion that is shared by the full cast, from bassist Martin Méndez’s relocation from Uruguay to Sweden “just to play death metal” to Fredrik Åkesson’s admission that he’s a “guitar nerd and a bit of a control freak”. This all may result in the commentary sounding a little business-as-usual, but if much of Book Of Opeth lacks a certain poetry, Steven Wilson makes all the difference. Personal, eloquent and insightful, his entries are a joy to read, helping to colour the various epochs of Opeth with a well-rounded vision of how they came to fame.
And like any good biography the photos tell a story in their own right. A few inclusions of a young Åkerfedlt in flares and platforms remind us that we were all uncool once.