- Olle Carlsson
Epic European metal bands don't often schedule tour dates in Indianapolis. Pretty much every other nearby city - even Louisville - but not here.
So it was quite a surprise when prog metal giants Opeth announced a May 9 stop at The Vogue, with fellow countrymen Katatonia as support. In fact the Swedes are playing several smaller markets, including Lexington, Ky., before the Indy date and Flint, Mich., right after. They haven't played here since opening for In Flames at the Egyptian Room some 10 years ago.
Opeth guitarist Fredrik Akesson noted in a recent phone interview there's a lot of new places and others on this itinerary they don't often visit.
"The booking agency and our management thought it would be a good idea to go to some different places on this tour, since we didn't do that on the last one," he said. "It's going to be interesting."
It's only been going three weeks and already they've co-headlined the long-running New England Metal & Hardcore Festival and shared a stage in Clifton Park, N.Y., with Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson, who's helped produce Opeth before and collaborates with band frontman Mikael Akerfeldt in the project Storm Corrosion.
This is Akesson's seventh U.S. tour with Opeth since joining the band in 2007. He likes playing on these shores for reasons others often don't.
"I enjoy the bus rides in America," Akesson said. "You don't have to worry about language barriers with going from country to country. I would say it's more convenient touring (here)."
If there's been any obstacles on this touring cycle, it was some early reaction to Opeth's 10th studio album, Heritage, released last year. The band has built an international reputation for labyrinthine compositions fusing varitel elements, notably death and black metal early on. Heritage features those long, complex passages Opeth are known for, but in a less harsh sound. It also has no growling from Akerfeldt, though it's not the first Opeth release that doesn't.
The idea when starting the creative process for Heritage was to have an "earthy, honest type of sound," said Akesson. "We wanted it to sound more live."
That included recording the rhythm section of bassist Martin Mendez and drummer Martin Axenrot live.
"We didn't want to do much editing at all," Akesson said. "That was one of the ideas (going in)."
Still, he admits there were some fans who didn't initially appreciate their approach.
"I don't spend much time on the Internet, but I've heard there are some who didn't like it as much," Akesson said. "There are still a lot of people who show up at the shows, and they seem to dig it. I think it took people a bit of time to get used to the album. I can understand that certainly. But it's still an Opeth album. The band needed to do something different."
So far on this tour they've been playing selections going back to their third record, My Arms, Your Hearse.
"On this tour we'll play a lot of old songs as well," Akesson said. "A lot of people had the impression Mikael would never do the 'growl' stuff anymore. He's fine with doing it, but creative-wise doesn't want to keep repeating himself."
Still, reaching back to the beginning makes it more interesting for the band performance-wise.
"It's definitely more challenging," Akesson said. "You don't stagnate. I enjoy playing the old death metal stuff absolutely. But the stuff we're writing now offers us more of a balance. It has a good flow and lots of color. But if you're into the heavier shit you'll still get your fill."