Extol gets another chance to rise extreme metal towards the light

Extol is one of the little treasures stemming from progressive death/thrash metal that a few curious amateurs might have already come across, most likely by mere coincidence. Indeed, we have to acknowledge the fact that Extol’s career has remained rather underground despite having acquired a “cult” status through a few insightful albums. Amongst these albums, some will name Undeceived as a reference. Despite a rather weak production, the record still manages to surprise its listeners through its riffs, melodies and inspired ideas. The band could be compared to Believer, for its Christian thematic, predictably enough, but mostly for its effective sense of composition.

However, the band’s career has been extremely shaky, unstable even. Extol even threw the towel in 2007 mostly due to personal problems encountered by its leader Peter Espevoll; which led three of the remaining members to quit and form Mantric, a new band which definitely inherited Extol’s main attributes. But it would have been a real shame to deprive the metal scene from such an act, capable of pushing further the boundaries of its own musical genre. As a result, Extol is now back in the game, only pushed forward by the strong drive of three of its original members. Thus was released a new eponymous album on June 24th through Indie Recordings. This album marks a return to basics in its form, and a step forward in its substance. The record will definitely provide Extol with a nice business card, just like Undeceived did in the past.

These topics – including the break that the band went through, its reformation, the album and even the documentary covering the band’s story and putting to light its background – will be covered in the following interview with Peter Espevoll.

 » We wanted to do an album which really displays what Extol stands for, what our ambition is, what our dreams are »

Radio Metal: Extol came into existence in the early 90’s during a period of time when heavy metal was commercially dead and heavy music was characterized by new metal and grunge. But you went against this trend and released complex death metal albums. Do you think that the will to fight against this unfavourable musical context is actually what gave you strength?

Peter Espevoll (vocas): Maybe in some ways. At the time, we were young and with everything that wasn’t « true metal” we were like: « This is not true metal enough ». So I guess it’s all inspired us to write the stuff we did at that time.

On the artwork of the new album, we can see a hand rising from a pretty anarchic pile of things. Is it a metaphor for the band, rising out of the masses?

No, not really. It’s more like a symbol of what Extol means and what we stand for, which is reaching for heaven in this world of chaos, destruction, materialism and everything. We still want to lift our height upwards and reach for the heavens.

The band went on hiatus and three of the band members founded a band called Mantric. What actually happened?

It’s quite a personal story for me, but basically I had some personal issues so I couldn’t do any music, I had to take care of myself, just back off for a good time. And the other guys didn’t want to do a new Extol album without me, so the other two guitar players and the bass player from the band decided to take some of the new material that was meant to be for a new Extol album and founded Mantric. Everybody agreed on this. No hard feelings or anything like that. The reasons why we went into a break was mostly my fault, I guess.

What led to the band’s reformation today?

David, the drummer, me and my brother Christer started the band in 1993, 1994. During this break, David came to me every now and then: « Hey, Peter, are you ready to do a new Extol album soon? » He asked me several times and also talked with Christer my brother and Ole. But I wasn’t ready until a couple of years ago, when Ole, David, Emil, Christer and me said : « Okay guys, we want to do a new metal album. If you guys are in, it will be a new Extol album. » At that time, I felt more ready to do music again. We just agreed we wanted to try to do a new album.

Guitarist Ole Borud is back in the band, do you think he brought back Extol’s spirit with him in some ways?

The Extol spirit is a lot, you know. Everybody who has been in the band has contributed in his own way. Ole has his atmosphere and style. The two other guitar players, who played on The Blueprint Dives, have their own vibe. Ole brought back some older Extol vibe, I guess you can say.

« It has been very rewarding coming back, so I’m pretty sure there will be more Extol in the near future. »

You’re now only three remaining members in the band. Weren’t other ex-members were interested in doing another Extol record, like your brother Christer?

Yeah, he was supposed to be on the album and he was with us the first month, when we were writing material for this one, but after some months, he realized that he had too much other things going on in his life. So unfortunately, he once told us he couldn’t commit the time and energy into the new album, which is really sad. So we decided Ole would do both guitars and the bass on the record, it was okay. But of course, it would have been fun to have Chris also as he was one of the founding members.

And the guys from Mantric didn’t want to come back?

No, they have Mantric, you know, it’s their band. There wasn’t really any question about it.

Are you going to hire some musicians for live shows?

If we’re going to do live shows, yes. We will definitely have another guitar player and a bass player.

Because you are not sure to do live shows?

No… One of the things that has happened when I had to take a break is that I had a really bad tinnitus, (Note: perception of a sound when no actual sound is present), you know, ringing in the ears, so that doesn’t combine so well with death metal. So yeah, we’ll see. For now, we haven’t planned anything, it is not very likely that we’ll do anything live, but you never know!

The album is being released via Indie Recordings whereas the previous were promoted by Century Media Records. Have you tried to get in touch with them when you reformed?

Yeah, we sent the album to many different labels and have some talks with some of them, and we just felt that Indie Recordings really liked the album and after a very good dialogue with them, it seemed that they wanted to do a really good job on the release. Also, we wanted to try something new, so we decided to go with them and so far, it’s been really good: they’re working hard and the album is available almost everywhere. And of course, it is also nice to have a record label that is very close to you, so you can speak in person and it is easier to communicate.

You’re releasing now a self-titled album. David Husvik (drums) said that « The album is the recap of 20 years of Extol-history, both musically and lyrically. » Do you think this is what the band and the fans needed after such long hiatus?

I don’t know if it was what the fans needed, but at least for our sake, we wanted to go a little back in time, pick up some of our roots, some of our influences from when we started up. We wanted to do an album which really displays what Extol stands for, what our ambition is, what our dreams are, both musically and also lyrically. And therefore this is why we wanted to self-title the album, like: « This is Extol ».

« We had some quite unpleasant experiences, people from the black metal scene that have been threatening us, but also extreme Christians that have been threatening us of doing some pretty bad things. »

What can you tell us about the title track of the album? Why did you choose this particular song to carry your band’s name?

It’s because of the lyrics, they are very specific. Extol means « to lift up, to praise, to glorify”. We’re Christians in this band and to us, our lives, the music and everything we do, I guess we want to glorify God in some ways. These lyrics from « Extol » talk about our longing to glorify God.

What will be the next step? What can we expect after an album like that?

It is hard to predict the future but I think both Ole, David and me, all three of us are really happy about this album and we had a great time making it, it has been very rewarding coming back, so I’m pretty sure there will be more Extol in the near future.

You released a video for the song “A Gift Beyond Human Reach” in a huge and very classy venue, which is a pretty unusual environment for an extreme metal band. What is the story behind this video?

There is not any real story behind this video. The director, the one who made this video, found this location and we thought it was very cool. It’s a theatre in the city I live in, Drammen; a really old theatre with a huge scene, huge lights and stuff like that. We thought it was a cool idea to shoot the video there and make it as cool as possible.

What can you tell us about Extol “Of Light and Shade”? Is it a documentary essentially for the fans or do you want with this documentary to talk to music listeners in general, like Anvil did it with its documentary.

This documentary will for sure be something not only for the fans but also for music lovers and documentary lovers in general. Of course, we are talking about the history of Extol, we’re talking about the making of the new album. We have a lot of archive materials from touring and stuff like that, but we’re also talking about telling some nice touching human stories. I’m going to talk about why we broke up, why we went into a hiatus in 2007, some quite personal matters. We will talk about the fact we are Christians and how people have responded to that. We had some quite unpleasant experiences, people from the black metal scene that have been threatening us, but also extreme Christians that have been threatening us of doing some pretty bad things. So we’re going to talk about all this kind of stuff. People in general will find it interesting.

Interview conducted by phone on June, 27th 2013
Transcription : Grégoire Perret

Extol’s official website : extol.com

Album Extol, out since June, 24th 2013 via Indie Recordings

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