A Flying V, and
other whims of Mikael Åkerfeldt
(with Paul Reed
Smith's say so)
Opeth has become one of the symbols of contemporary metal with their fusion of progressive rock and heavy metal of the 80s. Camel, Jethro Tull and a long swig of Judas Priest - the ‘Judas’ of Sad Wings of Destiny- are a point of departure for one of the most interesting guitarists at the moment, the Swede Mikael Åkerfeldt (Stockholm, 1974), to shake up the arrangement of a genre which not only exists in Dream Theater. He began, like a good Scandinavian, branded by ‘death’ , now almost a memory on his twelfth record Sorceress, released recently at the end of September 2016, and nearly as good as Pale Communion (2014) or Heritage (2011).
At 42, Åkerfeldt has unabashedly finished a progressive rock journey without resigning himself to becoming a mere rival. But for the guitarist does not live for death metal alone, he is also a composer with a vision of the future. His work and his wager have seen rewards this year with his contract for Nuclear Blast; Sorceress, his first release in these new times, has far exceeded expectations.
Åkerfeldt is also a guitarist that his mates don't want to lose sight of. He's a ‘trendsetter’, not just for his technique, but also his ability to invent a new guitar on almost every note, turning even the ‘kits’ they sell at the corner shop into wonders.
The do-it-yourself-project of course, has nothing to do with his favourite, the PRS Custom 24, well portrayed in his cabinet full of Paul Reed Smith delicacies. When playing live, it is by contract, the only guitar on the stage.
To record Sorceress, however, he was able to use a few 6-string ‘cravings’ he allowed himself of late. A Gibson Flying V from ´79 -a tribute to the Scorpions- and a couple of Strats in which he claims he made ‘a few’ changes: a Custom Shop Acrylic from '68 ‘ that sounds glorious’ and one from '62, which the pundit press says is only same in shape as the original. That's what Åkerfeldt is like, a maniac, right up to choosing an amp. His, is a Marshall, a signature Yngwie Malmsteen.
His ‘helper’ Fredrik Åkesson, by contrast, never takes off his Gibson Junior p90 except to pick up a PRS Angelus, like his boss’ for the acoustic bits. When it comes to the rest of the band, it responds to the technical mastery that progressive rock demands. A stand-out is bassist Martin Mendez, who has switched his Fender Jazz Bass’ for some 4 and 5-string Sandberg Californias, and makes up a combo with drummer Martin Axenrot and keyboardist Joakim Svalberg, whose piano lends a special touch to this essential album.
(All images: ©CordonPress)