When put into perspective, it is pretty incredible that Stockholm’s Opeth slowly became one of the most successful acts to ever emerge from the grimy depths of the Swedish death metal world. Though they spent their early days almost solely as a studio act, their reputation for adventurous songwriting within the style as well as their prolific and consistently excellent albums really set them apart. As the years and releases have gone by, Opeth’s now looking at a 25+ year career, eleven albums and one of the biggest names in progressive metal. There’s simply no denying that albums like Blackwater Park and Still Life have influenced countless contemporaries and are often looked at as benchmarks for the style. And with such a reputation as this, there’s obviously going to be plenty of die-hard fans who want to completely immerse themselves in the band that means so much to them. The bluntly-titled Book of Opeth is quite the treasure for just the pictures alone, but the lengthy interviews and looks into the album art also make this a must-have for someone who can’t get enough Opeth in their lives.
The opening interview section of Book of Opeth takes up the bulk of the book, which goes in chronological order all the way from Mikael Akerfeldt’s days in the band Inferno to the band discussing their latest LP, Pale Communion. If you’re looking for the most detailed play-by-play of the band’s time spent writing albums and eventually going on more tours, this is going to be about as good as it gets. And while the selected interview transcriptions are organized quite well and do have a relatively steady train of thought, what’s unfortunately missing is almost any mention of the songwriting process itself. It’s mentioned in passing during a passage of Akerfeldt talking about the Still Life period, but there’s very few discussion about what certain songs meant to the band members. Dom Lawson definitely deserves to be commended for what he has compiled here in this book, but some of the material can appear less personal than a superfan might hope for (which, at the end of the day, is who this book is intended for). Book of Opeth does redeem itself at the end though with the inclusion of designer/artist’s Travis Smith’s inside look into some of the band’s most iconic pieces of album art.
The other glaring omission of Book of Opeth has to be the complete lack of ex-drummer Martin Lopez, who performed six Opeth albums, most of which are considered to be the band’s best work. While Lopez’s health problems and waning performances certainly warranted a member change, it was just upsetting to see that such an important member of the band’s puzzle was left in the dark here. It’s especially puzzling when the book contains plenty of information provided by ex-guitarist Peter Lindgren. Luckily, the reader will still be able to see Lopez in plenty of photographs, which are the strongest attribute of the entire collection. The photography that accompanies the book’s written material is simply beautiful; ranging from the band’s ethereal promo shots to nostalgic looks at the band recording with fellow Swedish death metal legend Dan Swano.
Despite these flaws, Book of Opeth is an undeniable page-turner for any music geek who may be looking for a little motivation. The narrative arc of Opeth starting off as a group of metalhead teens who were so completely focused on perfecting their craft and always sticking it out in spite of the lack of consistent recognition could definitely serve as inspiration to young musicians the world over. And despite the band’s stylistic changes over the past two albums, it’s also nice to read that the band still feel as driven as ever. Still, Book of Opeth shouldn’t be passed over, no matter which era of the band you prefer. Don’t forget to preorder it right here.