We arrived in Gothenbourg and Nacksving studios on the evening of the 22nd of July. Tired from the drive, nervous and excited at the same time. I had about 2 songs ready, both for the heavy albums. The rest 3 heavy songs and 10 or so mellow songs we're not done, and not a single word for the lyrics. One rehearsal. Nervous? You bet! Isak Edh, the owner of Nacksving studios met up and waved his hands from the porch of the local pizzeria/bar. A sight we'd see more than once during this stay.
We got all the gear into the studio and just went to bed basically. The bed however, meant the floor. We had some air matresses with us to keep us from the floor and the roaches that we're infesting the place (hmm, sorry got carried away, no roaches here). We had sacrificed whatever normal lives we lead at home for this recording. Sleeping on the floor, the studio has no windows and outside is the warmest Swedish Summer for 3000 (!) years. There was no rest or days off in sight, so we pretty much started working early the next day.
We always use a click track to keep the same or whatever desired pace throughout the song. No more "Under the weeping moon" endings for us. In Nacksving we were surprised to see that the preferred computer of choice was a PC while nearly all other studios have a Macintosh. The software within wasn't real originals either.
Hmmm, we haven't even started and we are suspicious already. Isak however had quote: "Never had any problems before". Obviously we had to trust him. We started working, and every now and then small things started to happen...things we're breaking down, the computer went on a strike, the tape machine broke down, the sync signal wasn't synching, the drum mics mysteriously changed positions or disappeared. Although we have to give Isak credit for sorting out most of the technical problems that occurred we got a growing suspicion about the guy...does he really know what he's doing?
He spent most of his time down at the local bar drinking beer, literally almost every time we called him on his cell phone he was down in the bar. I had had a serious conversation about his role in this recording. That we needed his help as there was no help from anyone else. Writing this, it feels like I'm playing a joke on myself. Isak's "help" was utterly vague. In the end he was more "in the way". We had several "band-meetings" about "what the hell should we do?". We're there to record our music, not to fix technical shit or to learn about the studio parts. On top of that I had the music to think of, and the rest of the guys too. They need to concentrate on their playing and not on whether the mics will work or the tape machine will work.
When everything was fine, we were working like hell. Recording drums from 10 am to 10 pm, and then I had to find a secluded spot to finish off the songs I had, and even write more material. And everybody else were kind of depending on that I'd be there to help them sort out their own contributions, which I obviously wanted to. Lopez and myself went through 3 different drumbeats at the time. Then we just recorded everything as we came up with the ideas. We had the demos as basics and Lopez more or less did "Lopez" beats out of my original ideas.
We we're working around the clock pretty much and the only rest we would get was them 5-6 hrs sleep on a air mattress on the floor. It was bad, real bad! We're all smoking like hell, 2 packs a day per person. No ventilation...no air, no sun, just problems. Stressed out beyond belief, and although we're working hard, we got thrown back by technical problems, sometimes severe, every day. Literally every day something happened that made us feel like we have to stop. Just go home and forget about these records and Opeth. I wanted to cry several times! This is my life and I saw it crumbling to dust. And it was my fault since I choose the studio and just how we're supposed to do this.
For the guitar sound, the original idea was to have 2 guitars with a nice, crunchy and heavy sound. But we didn't haven anyone to help us set the sounds. It's a difference in knowing what sound you like to play with, and what sound that actually sounds good on record. We ended up tracking the rhythms 4 times with little distortion on each guitar. This gives a full and rich textured sound. We had met this guy, Fredrik, in the pub....a rare night out, and I was complaining about our problems. He said he could help us out, I said fine.
So, we had this guy we've never seen before in our lives & just met at the pub, helping us setting the guitar sound. Weird! Anyways, he's a companion with Anders Friden (In flames) in their studio, which just happened to be a part of Studio Fredman. So basically he knew pretty much how to set a similar sound to what we've had in the past.
We were progressing, although slow. We got some work done....all the drums for "Deliverance" was done in about 10 days and then we spent another 5 days for "Damnation".
We re-miked the drum kit for the mellow album to make it sound more "old". Actually, that's one of the only "rays of light" I can remember from this recording. That we were 50% finished...pathetic!
During the first 4 weeks I had half a day off. The other guys we're in a little better position as they could go home after they'd done their part, but for me it was like I was in prison. And the technical problems were piling up.
Steven Wilson was coming over to help produce the vocals and some other stuff, and we could see just how bad everything would fuck up in this studio. There was no way we're paying for someone to help us when the equipment is not up to date. We had to move. I made some pleading phone calls to Fredrik and Fredman studios. "Can we come over, please?" Fredrik was kind enough to let us come over and use one of his mixing rooms for the remainder of the recording. And since the change of studios, things started to become better. I remember we were so fucking nervous when we were first listening to the tapes in Studio Fredman. I honestly thought that the tapes would be blank...nothing on em.
I was pleasantly surprised. Everything we'd recorded in Nacksving sounded alright. Messy, but alright. Steven came over and the recording process suddenly became more interesting. I was worried about the sound, and moreso about the songs themselves...was it good enough? I recognized this feeling from all the previous recordings, so I more or less dismissed it as a "usual" recording "sickness". And rightfully so, I believe.
All the drums, rhythm guitars, some acoustic guitars were there. It was time to record the bass, but we were under a lot of time pressure. Mendez only had 2 days to record 16 songs he'd never even heard fully and obviously never played before. Me and him sat up during 2 nights and just recorded everything. I remember the first night, around 07:00, we we're still working, but were so tired we were laughing like children. Laughing at everything.
Nothing probably remotely funny in a rested state, but back then, hysterically funny. It was almost like you'd been taking some fucking drug. We had to concentrate ourselves not to let anything pass as OK instead of great. But he made it...I'm kinda blown away by it today.
As we came back home, there was a couple of days of rest, but we had a gig booked, our first Stockholm gig in 6 years, so we had to rehearse somewhat for that one. Besides I had more work to do within a couple of weeks. Most of the vocals for "Damnation" was yet to be done and I'd decided with Steve that I should come down to London and record them at his legendary home studio, No mans land. I had lots to think about, lyrics, the gig, and on top of everything my grandmother had just been hit and killed by a car. I was stressed out, exhausted and ridden with grief by this loss.
Her funeral was scheduled just one day before I was booked on a flight to the UK. It's weird how your perspective on things change once a family tragedy like this takes place. The songs I'd written got a new meaning. For the first time these songs were actually describing my inner turmoil even though most material was written before she was killed. And all the same music wasn't so important anymore. It is my life and all of a sudden it wasn't important. I did the remaining vocal tracks for "Damnation" in the UK during 3 days I believe it was. That was when I first realized just how different this album will be in comparison to anything we've done before. Rest of the time I spent together with Steve and his girlfriend, or just chilling at the hotel. I wasn't done chilling you know!
Now, looking back on everything, I'm proud of myself, I am proud over the guys + the band. We made it and this is the biggest thing we've ever done. We're all very proud.
The music we've recorded sounds fantastic, and so far it seem like most of our fans seem to agree. In retrospect I think we were stupid and naive to even think that this would be an easy recording. It's the toughest thing we've ever done but I hope it will also be the most rewarding thing we've ever done. And one thing is for sure...we'll never do a thing like this again.
"Deliverance and Damnation" was recorded in the summer of 2002. * * *