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EXTOL is one of the very few Christian metal bands I’ve ever got familiar with. They are coming from Norway and playing technical thrash/death metal. Their latest album, "Synergy" has just been released a month ago and already got very positive reviews at different magazines. Their guitarist, Christer Espevoll, answered our questions.
Hi! How are you? What are the actual happenings around Extol?
I am fine thank you. Right now we've obviously just released our new album "Synergy". We played a release show in Olso, and this week we're leaving for a 6 week US tour which is gonna rock your grandma's socks off!!
I'm afraid Extol is not really known in Hungary, how would you introduce the band to the people who have never heard about you before?
We are from Norway, but we don't play typical Norwegian metal. If you like good old thrash bands like Believer, Cynic, Pestilence and so on, you'll probably like our last album "Synergy". It has the thrash beats, melody, originality and it is technical.
This is your second album for Century Media. How did you get to this big label? For how many albums have you signed to them?
We know the guys in Borknagar (also on Century Media), so we asked their drummer to pass on our old albums to someone important. They obviosuly liked it, and after one and a half years of negotiating back and forth we finally signed the deal last year. The number of releases we signed for is a matter between Century Media and us.
Who came up with the band's name? Does it speak for itself or do you want to tell something more with it to your listeners?
I came up with the name back in 1994. I guess it speaks for itself. It means to lift up or glorify. We want to glorify God with our music.
Ole Borud is in the band again. Did you ask him or did he want to rejoin the band after the departure of Tor Magne Gildje? What was it like to play with him again?
We asked Ole to re-join the band after Tor Magne left because he wanted to focus on his other band Ganglion, and he was more than happy that we asked him as he was ready to play metal again. It's good to have Ole back in the band. He is a very good musician and a quality addition to the band.
Please tell us about the making of "Synergy".
Last September we booked studio time in January in order to get an early summer release. At that time we had three or four full songs ready. So we were forced to be effective and productive to make enough songs in time for the recording. I think it was good to have that kind of time pressure, because that made us focus a lot more, and we actually got things done. So, by January we had a11 songs ready for recording. "Emancipation" was actually put together in the studio, and a couple of the lyrics were written only hours before Peter recorded them. "Synergy" is an album were all of the members have participated in the songwriting, but it is Ole, myself and David who has made most of the songs.
You worked with Børge Finstad in the studio. Seems he is becoming more and more better known internationally through the bands he has been working with. What was it like to work with him?
That worked out really well. Børge is a very nice guy and it was a pleasure working with him. We chose to work with him and we are very happy with the recording. We'll definitely want to work more with Børge.
You have guest musicians on "Synergy", Samuel Durling, Tore Moren and Maria Solheim. How did you get in contact with them? Do you know their opinon on "Sinergy"?
Samuel Durling is the president of our old label Endtime productions, and also member of industrial heros Mental Destruction. He is a good friend of ours, and because this is our first album that was not relaesed through Endtime we wanted him to contribute. Maria Solhiem is David's girlfriend, and happens to be a quite famous pop-singer. She has a very good voice. We actually didn't know Tore Moren before we started recording, but when we mentioned that it would be cool to have some wild guitar-solos on a couple of songs Børge mentioned Tore Moren, and so it happened.
I know that you are a Christian band and the song titles of "Synergy" sound interesting. What are the lyrics about?
"Paradigms" and "Nihilism 2002" are lyrics that are critical towards a very egoistic and self seeking western society, and how the media often displays a narcissistic and consumeristic lifestyle as the meaning of life. Words that are in today are self-actualization and tolerance. Self-actualization is so important that stepping on others' toes to get what you want is an inevitable fact of everyday life. Tolerance is so important that those who won't tolerate all will not be tolerated.
"Psycopath" was written to put words to an issue that is not much spoken of in Christian settings. Churches and good meaning Christians are a breeding ground for psychopaths. I've seen with my own eyes how leaders in churches have total control over their members. The members practically don't have their own will, because their leaders control their minds and actions. Their number 1 weapon is manipulation through guilt. Victims of psycopaths end up with a lack of identity because they totally rely on their leaders' identity to form their own. This is a bigger problem within Christian settings than most of us are aware of.
"Grace For Succession" is about the grace of God and how man is totally dependent on His love. "Confession Of Inadequacy" is about how we must understand that it is impossible to reach up to God by ourselves. We must admit that we can not satisfy God by our actions in order to receive Jesus (by grace) and through him have fellowship with God.
What gives you the inspiration for the lyrics?
I have mainly two sources of inspirations: Experiences from life and books that I read.
How important are the lyrics for Extol? Is the music or the lyrics more important, or are these elements completely tight to each other?
Well, I'd say the music is the most important. Had there not been music there wouldn't have been any Extol. But the lyrics are also important. We have issues that we want to address, and we do so through the music.
The cover pic of "Synergy" is a very cool picture, I like it very much. Whose idea was this concept? Is the picture in connection with one specific song on the album? What do you want to say with this pic, what is the meaning of the see-saw play between death and a monk?
Hugh Syme made the cover artwork, and it was his idea. We described what the thoughts behind the album title were, and based on that he came up with cover pic. I like it very much myself. It has a sense of humour, but still it's a very serious painting. It expresses a synergy between the monks on the outside of the fence and the monk playing with death. Their support strengthens him and makes him stronger than if he was alone.
Unfortunately I don't know your previous albums. How different is "Synergy" compared to Extol's previous works?
Compared to our last album "Undeceived", "Synergy" is much faster, more technical and has a much more thrashy approach. The songs are also shorter.
The music on "Synergy" for me is very diverse. You have mellow parts with clean vocals, have fast songs with raw vocals, you have technical, progressive music passages, sometimes all of these elements are gathered in one song. How do you write the music? What do you put more emphasis on, what is more important? The structures, the complexity or..?
We kind of just make music riff by riff and part by part, then we try out different combinations to find out what sounds good. We don't have any rules for how we put things together, and maybe that's why we sometimes stumble upon interesting twists and complex combinations.
What bands influenced the music of Extol?
On this album I would say just one band have had mentionable influence: Believer. We've always been fans of them, and now that we decided to go for the thrash approach, Believer has been a natural source to draw influence from.
Has it ever happened that somebody became a Christian after listening to your music and lyrics?
Yes, that has happened.
Is any of you involved in other bands? If yes, are those Christian bands as well? What shall we know about these bands?
Peter and Jon Robert play in a rock/metal-band called Ganglion. David and I have a thrash side project called Absurd2, and David also plays in a tech-metal band that doesn't have a name yet. All the members of these bands/projects are Christians except Davids tech-metal band.
What is the Norwegian Christian metal scene like, if there is any?
There is a small, but steady scene. Personally I don't like talking about a "Christian" and a "secular" scene. We all play the same kind of music, why should we be in different scenes?
Have you ever got negative comments from the media or from the audience because you are Christians?
There will allways be a few who think that Christians shouldn't play metal, but most of the media and people in the scene respect us for the music we play. Some don't care too much for us believeing what we believe, but still they like the music, some think it's really interesting and some think it's great with a band that has positive message.
How did music and specially metal become a part of your life? When did you start to play on guitar? Which bands did you get into metal?
When I was 12-13 years old I started listening to hard rock and heavy metal bands because some of my friends did. Stryper, Petra, Whiteheart and Barren Cross were some of the bands that got me into metal. When I started listening to harder stuff Tourniquet, Mortification and Believer were some of my favorite bands. I started playing guitar when I was 16 years old.
What are your concerts like? I mean, I've never been at a Christian metal band gig so I really don't know if you just go out and play or do you have kinda sermons, preaches between the songs or anything else?
We have always said that the visible part of a show is very important. So we never stand straight up and down playing perfectly through our songs. There is lots of energy and fun when we play. When all of us had long hair, we were the masters of circle headbanging :) It's better to put on a good show visibly and play some mistakes, than not moving at all and play it perfectly good. We don't preach when we're out playing concerts. People come to a show to listen to music, so we won't disappoint them with a boring sermon. We are more than happy to talk to people about God or faith and stuff like that after the show.
Do you have any rite/ceremony before you go on stage?
We allways pray before we enter the stage.
You've played in the States several times. Are there European touring plans to promote "Sinergy"?
No specific plans (unfortunately) at this time, but we will come sooner or later...
Do you have any nice or bad concert memory to share with the readers?
Well...we had a bomb threat at a show here in Norway a couple of years back. The police showed up with a bomb squad and evaquated the bulding, but they didn't find a bomb. Probably just some 14 year old black metal kid having fun.
I've read somewhere, you used to have rehearsals in a church. What's the real story about it? :)
That is true. When we started the band we didn't have a rehearsal room, but the leaders in our church let us rehearse there. So we did :)
What albums have been in your cd player lately?
- Sixpence None the Richer - Divine Discontent
- Sanctum - New York City Bluster
- Kent - Isola
- The Cardigans - Long Gone Before Daylight
What's the best part of being in Extol? Any memorable experience?
The US tours that we have been to had been great. We got to see most of the country and we met lots of new people. Also the process of making and recording a new album is a great experience. It's hard work, and sometimes very tiresome, but when the end result is there, it's well worth it.
Everybody can read your biography on your homepage. But if you look back on these 10 years, what's the first thing that comes to your mind?
That's a tough one. Probably our first trip to the US, and our first year at Cornerstone festival.
Thank you for your time. Last comments?
God Bless and rock on!!
submitted by Katalin 25.06.2003