Brought together in Stockholm by guitarists Peter Lindgren and Mikael Åkerfeldt in 1990, Opeth added progressive influences and acoustic instrumentation to their brand of Swedish death metal. As the group progressed, it was very common for an Opeth live set to fly in several different musical directions -- and an average song lasted no less than ten minutes. Impressed by their originality, Candlelight Records released their debut full-length in 1995, which was titled Orchid, and featured a rhythm section of bassist Johan de Farfalla and drummer Anders Nordin. Edge of Sanity mastermind Dan Swano produced the band's ambitious second album, Morningrise, in 1996, after which they embarked on a brief tour with Morbid Angel. Century Media took notice and not only licensed Opeth's first two albums for the United States, but also planned on releasing their next album on both sides of the Atlantic. With the recruitment of bassist Martin Mendez and drummer Martin Lopez (ex-Amon Amarth) to replace the departed de Farfalla and Nordin, Opeth's third album, My Arms, Your Hearse, was released in 1998 to glowing reviews, establishing the band as a leading force in progressive metal with death roots.
Released in 1999, Still Life displayed even more of the band's prog rock influences, and the following year the band played its first U.S. concert at the Milwaukee Metalfest. Blackwater Park, titled after an obscure psychedelic prog outfit from the '70s, was released in early 2001. The album created a huge buzz among progressive metal fans, who had begun to lump the band in with other experimental metal bands like Tiamat. Instead of waiting until the buzz died down, the band released Deliverance in the fall of 2002. The following year, Opeth surprised fans with the release of Damnation, an album that was almost completely devoid of any heavy metal trappings and focused instead on acoustic instruments and traditional songwriting. Ghost Reveries arrived in 2005 and proved to be a return to form for the band. Opeth returned in 2007 with Roundhouse Tapes: Opeth Live, and in 2008 with the all-new studio album Watershed. In 2010, the band followed up with another live album, In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The set was recorded at the famous London venue and featured the band playing its breakout album, Blackwater Park, in its entirety.
Opeth shifted stylistic gears dramatically for 2011's Heritage. While writing for the album, Åkerfeldt fell under the spell of the music of Swedish folk music, Alice Cooper, and many spaces between. The sound, while remaining Opeth's, was also quite different, far more prog than death metal. In fact, if anything, it was the sound of the band leaving death metal behind. The album's cover was loaded with symbolism depicting the change. Heritage was also the last Opeth recording to feature keyboardist Per Wiberg. The album was released in September on Roadrunner. The new musical direction displayed on Heritage was, if anything, the origin for the next chapter in the band's musical evolution. After a global tour and a long rest, the band returned to recording in Sweden with mixing engineer Steven Wilson. Pale Communion, released in August of 2014, was a complete abandonment of metal for prog rock. ~ Mike DaRonco & Thom Jurek