Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt on Black Sabbath, Contemporary Metal “Boy Bands,” More

Text: Luke Winkie

Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt has always been one of the more genial dudes in heavy music — but he pulls no punches when it comes to how he feels about the state of heavy music these days.

In advance of his progressive band’s forthcoming 13th album, In Cauda Venenum, Åkerfeldt sat down with Rolling Stone for their video series The First Time, in which the musician talked about some disarming memories from his youth and career. When the topic of Opeth’s divisive move away from their earlier extreme sounds came up, the frontman said the following:

“We put out a record called Heritage, which some of our fans absolutely hated, and they figured we’re traitors and it’s not metal, and that had me starting to question what is metal? Because what I hear, it’s not metal to me, some of the contemporary stuff. It’s like boy bands, if you know what I mean — no aggression, no rawness, no honesty, nothing rebellious about it. … I’ve been on a permanent leave from contemporary metal since the mid-Nineties, but I still play the Priest records and the Maiden, Scorpions, Deep Purple, all that stuff. I love that stuff. I love it”

While he may not be feeling new metal these days, Åkerfeldt does share some charming stories from his budding metalhead days and early Black Sabbath love. The first heavy song he fell hard for was “Iron Man.” As a kid, he remembers being scared of the cyborg voice that introduces the song, which is one of the most universal experiences in anyone’s music development. 

“I wanted to be a metal kid because that was cool. I wanted to have long hair, but my mother would only allow me to have a mullet. Business in the front, party in the back. I wanted patches and stuff,” he says. “I remember Christmas Eve there was a gift, and I opened it up and I got the backside of a back patch that you could sew on. I turned it around, and it was David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance.’ I love David, I loved that record, but I didn’t want a back patch of it. I wanted “Ace of Spades” or something.”

 Opeth’s In Cauda Venenum will hit September 27th. While you wait, watch the recently released visualizer of the album’s second track, “Dignity”: