Undeceived (Solid State)
An interview with vocalist Peter Espevoll
by Tim Den
Not one single death metal album of the new millennium so far has matched up to what’s been created by these five, virtually unknown guys outta Norway calling themselves Extol. A perfect combination of technical muscles, whirlwind brutality, Romantic-era classical leanings, and modern jazz chord progressions, Undeceived is mood swings made audio, it’s transcendental pleasure. It breaks your face, makes you cry, it holds an intellectual conversation with its compositions. Christian or not, Undeceived is one of the best albums to ever come out of the genre. There’s no excuse: Everyone should be a fan.
Tell me about the trip to the German music festival.
The trip to Germany was very cool. We played something called “The Christmas Rock Night,” just outside of Bissendorf. There were around 1000 people there, and the German fans were crazy, they were nuts.
How was the audience? Were they all metalheads?
They were really mixed, but I think a lot of Germans are really into metal anyway, even if they don’t look metal. Metal is so huge over there, it’s even on the Billboards.
Why is that?
I don’t know. It’s weird, metal’s always been huge over there. Nowadays, they’re really into power metal like Hammerfall, Gamma Ray…
Extol’s melodic. Fits their taste.
I think so. A lot of people came up to us after the show and said they liked it because it was so melodic, but still very brutal.
How does metal’s popularity in Norway compare to Germany?
Norway is such a small country, but the metal scene is pretty big for such a small place. Everything from black metal – of course – to stuff like Gamma Ray and Hammerfall.
But is it on the radio and Billboards?
Not on the Billboards, but on the rock and heavy charts.
Let’s say you’re walking down the streets of Oslo… Would you see lots of metal kids?
Hmmm… I guess. It’s not that there’s tons of ’em, but if you go to the right places, yes. I guess Oslo is okay; there are a few metal or Goth clubs there.
What are some of the bigger bands from Norway? Isn’t Immortal from Norway?
Immortal’s from Norway, Dimmu Borgir is from Norway, Satyricon, Darkthrone, Mayhem… all the big names. In the early ’90s, when those bands started the whole “thing” (black metal wars), it was kind of crazy. Churches burning…
… people killing each other… stuff like that.
But nowadays, they care more about the music. The scene is more music-oriented. But it’s cool cuz Oslo’s still the core of all the really big black metal bands. It’s been cool getting to know these people.
Through our recent interviews with Emperor and Mayhem – among others – I get a sense that most of the older black metal bands have totally mellowed out.
Most of them are really nice people. You would think, at least from their earlier stuff, they’d be really crazy guys. But most of ’em are just regular guys.
Probably because all of the really evil ones are dead already, like the gangsta rappers of America. So what dominates the charts in Norway?
The same ol’ stuff. Same stuff all over the world: Britney Spears, Radiohead… some Norwegian pop groups are really big too. Aqua, who are half Norwegian and half Swedish. A-Ha, who just released a new CD after eight years. The new CD’s okay, but I really like their old stuff.
What other stuff are you into?
Everything that’s good quality. I don’t put music in genres… Well, of course I do, but I’m not like “I only listen to metal.” I like The Cardigans a lot. I like their first three CDs. I like King’s X. That’s probably the band I’ve listened to the most in my life. All of us in the band love them; they’re our favorite band. They played here once in the early ’90s with AC/DC, but I was too young to go. I’m only 21. But I got to see them a year ago, and it was the most incredible experience I’ve ever had. It was so cool. Their new CD is very good. I think a couple of their last few weren’t very good, but this new one is good.
Do any of you listen to Believer? That’s the influence I picked up on the most. I’ve never heard another band sound so much like Dimensions. Everything from the guitar sound to the notes you chose…
Oh yeah, definitely. Believer, next to King’s X, is the band we listened to the most. To us, they’re so… the technicality and the crazy melodies… just way cool. We did an interview with Metal Maniacs, and the guy asked us the same question. He remembered Believer and he loved them too. Did you have their earlier albums as well?
Their first album’s never been available in the States…
Really? So you haven’t heard the first one, Extraction From Mortality? Really? That’s the best! It’s so fast. It’s really old school punk, but with the same Believer attitude. Some of the riffs are sssoooo fast. We did a cover of one of the songs, called “In the Shadow of Death,” when we toured the States this summer, but we can’t play it that fast.
You guys can’t play it that fast?? I find that hard to believe.
It’s true! We had to really practice. Crazy.
How do you guys play the orchestrated songs (violins, cellos, violas) on stage?
We don’t. For the song “Undeceived,” we put on the CD for the intro and then have one of the guitarists play the violin melody. The guitar also plays the strings part in “Inferno.”
How was the reception in the States when you toured?
Very good. We played some wrong places, like hardcore shows – we toured with a hardcore band called Blindside, who just toured with P.O.D. before they toured with us – but all the hardcore kids loved it as well. It’s weird cuz, over here, we’re not used to so many different people liking our music.
Hardcore kids love metal in the States.
I like The Dillinger Escape Plan. Some of the technical stuff’s cool. But what we noticed with American bands is that so many of them sound the same. No good melody, playing with only a regular hardcore groove. I’m not into that at all. To us, you gotta make music interesting; with really good melodies. You have to mix in a lot of stuff.
Do any of you listen to the early-’90s jazz death metal bands? Atheist and Cynic?
Our drummer loves Cynic. And then stuff like Death too.
Cynic’s supposed to get back together without Paul Masvidal (guitarist/vocalist).
I heard Believer may be getting back together as well. We emailed Kurt Bachman (guitarist/vocalist/mastermind) a couple of times, and they said they might do something new. But a lot of people say that.
Believer was Kurt Bachman anyway. Everyone else kept changing… except maybe the drummer.
That’s kind of like us, too. The drummer and my brother, who plays guitar, are the core of the band. Other people have been changing.
What about the other guitarist – the guy who sings the clean vocals (Ole Borud) – he’s not a part of the core? He seems to write a lot of the stuff…
On the first album, he joined just before recording. He wrote maybe 30% of that album. On the new album, he wrote a lot of stuff. He’s really talented; he’s been a musician since he was a kid. He’s done nothing but play his whole life. He had too much of the metal stuff and he just wanted to get out. He quit the band half a year ago. It was cool because he’s got his own way of writing and we really liked it, but we felt that we needed to move on. We had one CD with him and it was perfect. We have a new guitar player now and a new bass player as well. The bass player on Undeceived (Tor Magnes S. Glidje) plays guitar now, because he’s really a guitar player.
He’s in Lengsel, right? How does he split his time between the two?
Actually, our new bass player is from that band too. Our drummer has been playing with them also… and I’m probably going to start singing for them.
What!? Waitwaitwait… I thought that band was just three people?
Yeah, it used to be. But they can’t play live with just the three.
So Lengsel, now, is really just Extol without your brother?
(pauses) Except that they’ve been around for a long time, so it’s totally different music.
But it’s weird. “Hi, we’re Extol… oh wait, my brother’s late. Never mind, we’re Lengsel.”
(laughs) Yeah, it’s kind of funny. But good musicians don’t grow on trees. And we work really well with each other. It’s really important for us – me and my brother, and our drummer, who’s actually our cousin (laughs) – to be really tight in our ways of thinking, and these other guys fit in perfectly.
That’s awesome. But who’s gonna sing the clean vocal parts?
I started to do it live. Well… I don’t do the really high stuff, and we’ve tuned our guitars lower so it works out okay.
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