An unstoppable force for uniqueness amid a sea of generic swill, Opeth have been setting the rulebook ablaze and ploughing a uniquely progressive and exploratory furrow for nearly 25 years now. Formed in Stockholm in 1990, the band led by singer, guitarist and songwriter Mikael Åkerfeldt began life as maverick and honorary members of the then flourishing Swedish death metal scene, but from their earliest recordings onwards this band have neither conformed nor exhibited any desire to be restricted to a single genre. Displaying a relentless lust for evolutionary motion, Opeth’s first three albums – Orchid 1995, Morningrise (1996) and My Arms, Your Hearse (1998) - set the band firmly apart from everything else that was happening in metal during the 90s. Instinctively brave and effortlessly mysterious, these were groundbreaking records that could be superficially described as ‘progressive death metal’, but which were plainly much more than that: a singular expression of a profound love for music in its bewildering entirety that served the band extremely well over the decades that followed. By the time Opeth released Still Life in 1999 (prompting a spiritual and professional bond with prog icon Steven Wilson that survives to this day) they were simply in a class of their own, taking metal into uncharted territory as a matter of habit as they skilfully weaved all manner of disparate influences into their unmistakable trademark sound.
An instant classic that has gone on to become one of the most revered albums in recent history, 2001’s Blackwater Park proved to be a decisive moment in Opeth’s career, leading them to a succession of extensive tours around the globe and ensuring that the band were universally hailed as something very special indeed. With Åkerfeldt ’s musical vision and refusal to kow-tow to current trends propelling them breathlessly forward, the band moved on through the two-headed derring-do of 2002’s Deliverance and its startlingly mellow and pointedly non-metallic follow-up Damnation (2003) (winner of the 2003 Swedish Grammy award for Best Hard Rock Performance), enhancing their credentials as true inheritors of progressive rock’s restless spirit along the way. Perfecting their established sound on 2005’s Ghost Reveries and bending it into warped and disturbing shapes on the critically acclaimed Watershed in 2008, Opeth entered their third decade with a formidable reputation and a huge international fan base. A sold out show at London’s legendary Royal Albert Hall (later documented on a special live album and DVD) signified that the band were now fully deserving of their status as true greats of the modern age.