In a new interview with Guitar World, OPETH mastermind Mikael Åkerfeldt looked back on Blackwater Park as the band’s monumental fifth studio record turned 20 earlier this year.
“It’s weird talking about these songs now being 20 years old,” he said. “I was living in a small one-bedroom flat and didn’t really have much going for me or the band. We’d done four records prior and there was little interest, I would say. I mean, the people who liked us really liked us but there were too few.
“We never had any feedback or any help,” Mikael continued. “So to me, our future looked bleak… just like the song! I didn’t have any high hopes, but I was proud of the material I’d written. I’d also kinda come to terms with the idea that ‘it’ might not happen for us. When we started, I was young and figured a record deal meant it was pretty much done… I wasn’t so much of a f*ck-up or failure after all! But that didn’t turn out to be true. We’d done four albums and I was a complete loser. [Laughs]
“You’d compare yourself not even with musical peers but people from your school. Old classmates, who you might run into from time to time, and they’d have flourishing careers. Even if I thought their careers sounded boring, at least they had something to survive on. I was bitter and beaten down, I think, writing for this record. I didn’t have much hope for us. All I knew was that I liked the music I’d written…
“Most of the tracks had some major changes. I’d demoed parts of ‘Bleak,’ ‘Harvest,’ ‘The Drapery Falls,’ and perhaps the title track at a friend’s house, but I came up with a lot of stuff in the studio.
“This album and its predecessor, Still Life, were done like that and left up in the air. It was a stepping-stone into that way of writing and recording, because for the following records, Deliverance and Damnation, I had no songs!
He added: “I was brimming with confidence in some weird way, so decided to make two albums with no songs written, which was a bit rich! I figured I was some type of genius who could come up with all of this music overnight. That turned out to be a bad decision for the sessions! [Laughs] For ‘Still Life’ and ‘Blackwater Park,’ it seemed to work. I had so much music inside of me…”