From one of the many metal acts that sprouted from Sweden’s fertile musical soil in the early ’90s, to arguably the greatest progressive rock band of this generation (and last), opeth‘s storied career spanning more than three decades has been as tortuous as their best compositions. Frontman, Guitarist and Principal Composer Mikael Akerfeldt is undoubtedly the creative force behind the Stockholm crew, who are just as adept at conjuring up brutal roars and unsettling guitar riffs as he sings soothing cleans and fingerpicks acoustic passages. With a happy 13 studio albums under his belt, opeth show no signs of stopping or slowing down.
After reworking their famous (or perhaps infamous) style at their commercial peak, the quintet have gained a lot of new fans over the past 10 years or so, but have also seen a small percentage drop out; maybe they are more content to listen to again Blackwater Park for the 10,000e time instead of exploring opeththe later albums. It leads to the band having a lot of deeply cut material, not just from the usual sources like bonus tracks and obscure covers, but also from lesser known songs, both old and new. So with that said, let’s go hunting for opethThe 10 Best Deep Cuts…
“Because of the pain I see in others”
The closing number of maybe opeth‘s heaviest album, the epic Salvation, “By The Pain I See In Others” has become a bit of a black sheep on the otherwise highly acclaimed release. Band headman Mikael kerfeldt has never shied away from his distaste for the song – and while it may not be as stunning as some of the material on the rest of the LP, even an above-average opeth tune is better than the old catalog of most other groups. It bobs and weaves through multiple tempo, feel and key changes – with some dissonant riffs and melodic passages side by side.
Plus the part that just gets past the three minute mark is just punitive. It cost opeth until the end of 2016 to perform it live, and even then it only played four times as part of their special Evening of Sorcery: Damnation & Liberation shows – so definitely a deep cut.
“Direction of the Circle”
A track that was initially only released on a Decibel Magazine flexi disc, before becoming the ‘connoisseur’ edition of . became opeth‘s most recent LP Poison in the tail. “Cirkelns Riktning” is quite rockin’, with a great loose yet driving groove, full of 70s style keyboards sitting comfortably on top of the mix. Not necessarily heavy, but a great uptempo track, and it features a rousing guitar solo from the super underrated Frederick Akesson. Like most of the material from poison in the tail, “Cirkelns Riktning” (“Width of a Circle” in English) sounds more passionate and unique in their native Swedish, as opposed to the English version. opeth‘s best album in years.
A very metal sounding song from the band, “Derelict Herds” has been lifted from 2008’s deluxe edition Watershed. As the final tune on the LP, “Derelict Herds” is technically the last death metal influenced track to opeth have released at the time of publication. It’s a great piece of music, and one that could have easily worked its way into the album. It contains many different elements in its six-and-a-half minute playing time – leisurely chugging, mysterious verses, a tasteful slide guitar solo and a demonic midsection. Classic mid-era opeth, and proof that the band could have continued with the more death metal leaning style, if they were so inclined. But, c’est la vie.
“Face in the Snow”
Another deluxe edition track, this time from the 2011 fanbase split Heritage† “Face In The Snow” fits right in with the rest of the album, with the acoustic intro transitioning into an understated full-band performance. Bluesy licks swirl around the laid-back bass and drum grooves, with its understated instrumentation leaving plenty of room for kerfeldt‘s always strong clean vocals. Heritage as a whole it certainly has its weaker moments, and “Face In The Snow” could have easily reached ‘standard edition’ status rather than a few of its track mates. But instead, it’s been brutally relegated to the deluxe edition, and digitally it’s not available on any of the major streaming services.
“In the Frost of Winter”
Possibly the earliest opeth recording publicly available, “Into The Frost of Winter” is a rehearsal demo from way back in 1992 – some three years before the birth of their debut album Orchid. The song only came to light when the album was re-released in 2000 by Century Black† by this time the band had incorporated elements of the song into “Advent”, the opener for ’97s Morning rise. The quality is rough and raw (as you’d expect), but if you look past the buzzing guitars and flat drums, it’s clear that the band had a unique sound from day one – the death and black metal influence is definitely there , but the unpredictable arrangements and unique riffs immediately separate them from what was going on in Scandinavia in the early 90s. opeth fans new and old alike are advised to check out “Into The Frost of Winter” to see how it all started for the group.
By the time of 1998 My arms, your hearse had come by, opeth – temporarily reduced to trio – really began to hone in on their own unique style and sound. My arms… contains some of their all-time classic material, but we’re going to focus on the penultimate track on the release, “Karma”. kerfeldt’s the vocal range really does shine, and while the song structure is non-linear, it contains some great music passages – the amazingly melodic guitar-led midsection makes it worth recording almost alone. Interestingly, it wasn’t played live on the LP’s next tour, rather opeth waited until 2009 before debuting “Karma”.
A ten minute epic from the band’s second album morning rise, “Nectar” is a bit forgotten by both opeth and a vast majority of their fans. Played only once in this century – and that was right at the beginning in 2000 – the two tracks that follow on the LP (“Black Rose Immortal” and “To Bid Your Farewell”) seem to be the main topics of conversation. While it must be said that “Nectar” may not be at the exact same level of excellence as those songs, it still has some great elements – especially the acoustic to electric final movement. opeth were still completely nailing their sound at this point in their career, but “Nectar”, and the whole… morning rise, deserves a return visit.
“Still Day Under the Sun”
A downright beautiful song recorded around the time of the Blackwater Park sessions in 2001, “Still Day Beneath The Sun” could be opeth‘s biggest non-album track to date. Apparently mainly recorded live in a Stockholm apartment (except vocal harmony overdubs), it’s based on delicate finger-picked acoustic guitar patterns and some of kerfeldt’s softest song. It’s hard to come by, both physically and digitally; “Still Day Beneath The Sun” is included in the deluxe 2CD reissue of blackwater park, as well as released as a 7-inch single – both of which are long out of print. Online it’s pretty much the same as the other stuff on deluxe editions – no official uploads to streaming services, just plain third-party YouTube links. It’s a shame because it really is a magical piece of music.
No cover of the Cream song, previously the longest song of 2016 Sorceress† The only tune on the LP co-written by lead guitarist Fredrik Akesson, it’s almost nine minutes of light and shade. Starting from the lengthy intro, built on calm piano-led tension, before the guitar-heavy release kicks things up a notch with scorching, yet flavorful blues-rock leads. While it certainly has some of the “dad-rock” elements that some have mocked the band for embracing it (certainly a bit Jethro Tul crawl in there) opeth have always been able to put their own spin on the classic sound and “Strange Brew” is an excellent example of this. Certainly an underrated effort for later.
A very cool and well done cover on the 2008 deluxe edition Watershed and as the B-side of the single “Wither”, opethis tackling Alice in Chains“Would” is one of those great musical crossovers we didn’t know we needed. The Swedes do a great version of this grunge classic, the arrangement wisely preserved, essentially the same except for a slightly more extended guitar solo section. kerfeldt does a great job tackling both Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley’s vocals, while the rest of the band locks in the song’s famously dark, but creeping groove. One great act covering the other is always a beautiful thing!
So, how did we go? With mountains of recorded material to slide through, we certainly had to make some tough decisions and cut some big lesser-known ones opeth gemstones. Let us know below which deep cuts we missed!