Opeth Originality is a rare commodity in these media-dominated, cynical times, but every now and then a band comes along that produces music of such mind-bending brilliance that only the culturally blind could fail to recognize. Extreme metal, a genre that has produced a high proportion of rocks most distinctive voices in recent years, may not have as yet fully infiltrated the mainstream, but a major breakthrough seems at hand. The vanguard for that movement is Swedens mighty Opeth, the essential metal band of the 21st century, who seventh release, Damnation, tear down the genres walls and frees it to be cast in a whole new light.

Opeth began their inexorable rise in Stockholm, way back in the late 80s when the then teenaged Mikael Akerfeldt was asked to contribute bass guitar to a fledgling incarnation of the band by its founder member, David Isberg. Isberg eventually abandoned the band altogether, leaving Akerfeldt both the bands name and the task of picking up the creative pieces. This he did, eventually recruiting what is now acknowledged as the first, real line-up of the band: Akerfeldt himself on guitar and vocals, Stefan Guteklint on bass guitar, Anders Nordin on drums and Peter Lindgren on guitar.

Even at this early stage, Opeth were developing a sound entirely of their own; a darkly progressive combination of death metal and more subtle, melodic and acoustic elements that manifested itself in lengthy and elaborate songs that exuded imagination, invention and class.

"It all came very naturally," says Akerfeldt. "We never set out to be different from everyone else. This was just the music we came up with when all our influences came together."