Extreme Christian metal band EXTOL formed in Norway in 1993 at the height of the black metal craze. At the time, founding members guitarist Christer Espevoll was 16 years old while his brother, vocalist Peter, was just 14. With its celebrated Christian message and various metal influences cursing through its music and lyrics, Extol soon gained a loyal local following.
Extol’s first recorded material appeared on a compilation album called Northern Lights in 1996 with other local Christian artists, which was released on MORTIFICATION singer Steve Rowe’s label. Extol’s 1998 debut album, Burial, is a true extreme metal masterpiece, appealing to both Christian and secular fans. But various member changes throughout the band’s existence, including founding member Christer Espevoll’s exit in 2004, eventually led to the band’s hiatus in 2007.
Extol will be releasing its new self-titled album, its fifth overall, and first in eight years on June 25. It follows the same brilliant out-of-the box sound that fans have come to expect from them. There will also be a documentary on the band to be released this Fall. Vocalist Peter Espevoll answered some questions through e-mail about the new album, the band’s message and what the future holds for the Norwegian triumvirate.
BraveWords: Hailing from Norway and forming in the early ’90s as grunge and groove metal was starting to take off, as well as the second wave of black metal, how did you stay focused to develop your sound and message?
Peter Espevoll: "We’ve always been focused on doing our own thing and making music that we can stand for. All the grunge and groove metal in our early days made us even more focused on writing real metal. Regarding the message, it has always been just as important to us to write about what´s in our hearts, and that´s what we do. Faith is a big part of our lives and it influences our way of seeing and understanding our existence, the world and the positives and negatives we encounter."
BraveWords: Many black metal artists of that time period have said that the media sensationalized the whole scene. But being not too far from Oslo, what was it like from your perspective? I’m sure you were well aware of the scene and its main players, but what was that whole time period like for you?
Peter Espevoll: "In many ways I agree that the media sensationalized the scene. However, a lot of crazy things happened and it was a very destructive scene, in my opinion. We were not too involved with the scene, so we were sort of watching it from the outside. We had some unpleasant experiences with some people and bands, but mostly it was ok."
BraveWords: The band split in 2007 but re-activated in 2012. Was it just the right time to start it up again?
Peter Espevoll: "We had been talking about it every now and then over the last years, and now it just seemed to fit for all of us. Christer, my brother and also founding member, was also going to be a part of it, but after some months he unfortunately realized that he couldn’t fully commit the requested time and energy into the album, so he decided to step down. Ole, David and I decided to continue, with Ole doing all guitars and bass in the studio."
BraveWords: 'Open the Gates' from the new album has a heavy prog element to it with some majestic multi-layered harmonies. It almost has a YES influence. Your varied influences and variations make Extol stand out and your music is just so well-executed. What’s your formula to staying creative as well as innovative?
Peter Espevoll: "Well, it helps having amazing song writers like Ole and David in the band. I guess we always have a need for doing things a little bit outside the box and something that doesn’t sound like everything else. And of course something that all of us can be really happy with. Combining strong melodies, groovy parts, brutality and beauty has always been part of our songwriting. And also including influences from other genres."
BraveWords: As a music fan and metalhead, I can separate Christian and secular metal. I can listen to DEICIDE and DISSECTION one moment, then turn around and play Soldiers Under Command by STRYPER or the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar the very next. I enjoy the music of both and the message doesn’t necessarily sway me one way or the other on my beliefs. How are you when it comes to a non-Christian band or even a so-called Satanic band; if the music is good, does it matter to you what its message is?
Peter Espevoll: "I can for sure enjoy good music even though the lyrics are not something I could stand for or agree with. I could also enjoy quite bad music that has lyrics that give me a lot! So I guess as long as there is something to enjoy, whether it be the music, the lyrics or both, I could listen to it."
BraveWords: With the so-called white metal movement, I’d say you were more in league with MORTIFICATION and TOURNIQUET than Stryper, of course you formed after their heyday, but were bands like them as well as bands such as BARREN CROSS, WHITE CROSS, MESSIAH PROPHET, PETRA, BLOODGOOD and others at least an initial influence or inspiration for what you do?
Peter Espevoll: "Yeah, for sure! We listened to those bands a lot in the early days. I can still put on Stryper and it will make my day better! Though, it is as you say, we were more influenced by bands like Mortification, BELIEVER and Tourniquet when we started up."
BraveWords: Speaking of Mortification, your first recorded appearance was on a Norwegian metal compilation called Northern Lights, which was released on Steve Rowe’s record label Rowe Productions. What was this experience like?
Peter Espevoll: "At the time it was really cool. As I said, Mortification was a big influence in our first years, and to be picked up by Rowe Productions and be able to get some songs on that compilation was very encouraging to us. I remember getting the box of CDs in the mail and opening it and seeing the cover and our (very bad) logo in the inlay. It was very awesome!"
BraveWords: How’d the Light and Shade documentary come about? It looks like a thorough documentation of the band and a good introduction to fans that are maybe just discovering you. What was the experience like and what was your involvement in the making of it?
Peter Espevoll: "It´s a film made by Norwegian filmmaker and director Åsmund Janøy. I’m co-producing it. We´re starting post-production now and the film will be out Fall 2013. I think it´s going to be a very interesting and fun documentary, for fans of Extol but also for people that don’t know anything about the band."
BraveWords: What’s the future hold for Extol? Is the lineup solid, because I think the other members also have side projects. Will there be any touring for this new album and is there new material being worked on already for a future release?
Peter Espevoll: "We´ll see what the future holds, but for now it doesn't look like we´ll be touring. We haven’t started writing any new material yet, but hopefully we´ll make more in the years to come!"