It would be a bit harder to believe that Opeth have been kicking around the metal scene for a full 25 years now if they hadn't taken us on such a farflung journey during that quarter century, but this coffee table victory lap actually represents a long overdue career summation, showing the same care and craftsmanship in a biblio-visual sense that the band have become known for with their musical work.
As espoused by longtime manager Andy Farrow in the tome's introduction:
As with all biographies of this kind, of course, there are differences of opinion on what happened and why – and there are some things that should never be revealed . . . However, regardless of that, this is a unique, engrossing and very personal story of how a progressive metal band from Stockholm achieved international fame and success.
Toward that end, Book of Opeth operates within the venerable "oral history" genre, albeit often featuring extensive meditations and recollections that transcend the typical "quick hit" anecdotes of many works of the style. Beginning with extensive recollections of frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt's first band Eruption, the initial section of the book traverses the insulated early days when Eruption merged with already extant band Opeth to create the juggernaut we know today.
Opeth was David Isberg’s band; we went to the same school, but David was a year younger than me […] At my first rehearsal it became obvious that the other guys in the band didn’t know that I was replacing the bass player – and neither did the bass player, who also showed up – so everyone was asking who the hell I was. When I said that I was there to play bass, there was a big argument, after which I was asked to wait outside the room while they had a band meeting. David then came out and told me that he’d fired the rest of the band and that now it was just me and him; so that was the start of my time in Opeth!
Aside from founding and naming Opeth – albeit with a completely different supporting cast – Isberg's primary influence was to breach the trad metal and thrash influences that Åkerfeldt and soon-to-be recruit Peter Lindgren and introduce the two to the emerging death metal sounds that were already prevalent in Scandinavia but had yet to canvas the sleepy Stockholm metro area. The other members of Opeth were already planning to form a new band sans the troublesome Isberg when the latter unexpectedly volunteered to abandon his own band while on a skiing trip with classmate Åkerfeldt. Thus was born the classic early lineup of the band (Isberg has stayed busy through a variety of largely obscure projects spanning everything from extreme metal to gigs DJ'ing old school "Madchester" records).
From early on, the band took their musicianship seriously. Åkerfeldt had stumbled across a ton of classic prog rock just by picking up cheap secondhand vinyl based on the long haired band photos in the gatefold vinyl sleeves. He was all too aware that Opeth were already well behind the initial rush of Swedish death metal bands – Entombed was already well established by this time, with At the Gates circulating a heralded demo – but more so it was the sheer drive to incorporate elements of all the disparate hard rock and heavy metal bands that Åkerfeldt and Lindgren had come to revere that resulted in the broad strokes sound that came to define Opeth (the band's more recent "left turn" toward straight up vintage prog seems more an inevitability than a shock given this historical context).
Book of Opeth continues in this detailed historical vein for over 200 pages, with abundant photographs and artwork interleaved throughout. The first 4k copies of the book come with a 7" of previously unheard Opeth material, with a signature edition autographed personally by Åkerfeldt and housed in a deluxe clamshell case available at a premium. You can find more information on the tome as well as ordering options here.