OPETH played its first show with drummer Sami Karppinen (THERION) Tuesday night (November 16) at ExploreAsheville.com Arena in Asheville, North Carolina at the opening date of the band's tour with MASTODON and ZEAL & ARDOR. Fan-filmed video footage of the concert can be seen below.
Karppinen stepped in to play with OPETH after the Swedish progressive metallers parted ways with their longtime drummer Martin "Axe" Axenrot due to what they called "a conflict of interests."
When Axenrot's exit was first announced earlier yesterday, OPETH frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt said in a statement: "However sad it is to not have Axe in the band anymore, we're not in a position to linger on anything that is going to hold us back. We need to soldier on.
"Needless to say, we're incredibly thankful that Sami is helping us out, making this tour possible and all. On top of that, he's quite outstanding, really!
"All of us wish the best for Axe in all and any of his future endeavors. He has been a incredibly important part of the band for many years now, and we're all heartbroken it didn’t work out in the end. But that's life, I guess…"
Axenrot officially joined OPETH a decade and a half ago as the replacement for Martin Lopez, who left the band in May 2006 after being plagued by illness and anxiety attacks, which forced him to miss several of OPETH's tours.
Shortly after he first started playing with OPETH, Axenrot told Drummerzone about how he landed the gig: "During OPETH's tour in the U.S., Martin Lopez got ill. The band temporarily used the services of Gene Hoglan [who is also featured in OPETH's video for the song 'The Grand Conjuration'] but needed someone else for their European trek. While they were still in the U.S., I received a phone call from singer Mikael Åkerfeldt whom I already knew from our mutual project BLOODBATH. Soon after we all met in OPETH's rehearsal studio in Stockholm and here I am today."
Back in 2007, Åkerfeldt slammed the "new breed of idiot OPETH 'fans'" for questioning the abilities of Axenrot when compared to that of Lopez. Responding to a discussion on the band's forum regarding Axenrot's more "straightforward" playing technique compared to the "jazzy" style of his predecessor, Åkerfeldt wrote in an online posting, "Wow, looks like we got ourselves a new breed of idiot OPETH 'fans' on our tail, huh? Mindblowing guys...really!" He then added: "Axe is in the band now and we all fucking love playing with him.
"When somebody picks on [Martin's] drumming I can't help but to feel that that person is a deaf moron who knows nothing about music or drumming," Mikael continued. "I get defensive not only because I brought him in the band, but mainly because he's a fucking fantastic drummer."