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Martyr Music Group

Heavy metal is often stereotyped as the devil's music, so, when rock and roll's bastard child spawns a Christian act, skepticism abounds. Despite being popular in Christian circles, Norway's Extol is surefire proof that rockin' out for the Lord does not always yield weak results. Their Century Media debut, 'Synergy' pushes technical thrash to the limits and matches the intensity of any Satan loving metal band. Metal Update had a chat with guitarist Christer Espevoll about their new sound, their new look and the ins and outs of being a Christian metal band.

METAL UPDATE: First of all, who is in the band?

Christer Espevoll: There's myself. My name is Christer. That's Norwegian. I play guitar. Then there's my cousin David. He's the drummer. My brother Peter, who sings. Ole plays guitar and John Robert on bass guitar.

MU: Extol have always had a talent for combining multiple styles of metal into one sound. People are commenting that this new album embraces thrash more than anything else. Would you agree?

CE: Definitely. That's what we've been saying all along also. We wanted to take that direction on this album.

MU: I've always thought you sounded similar to Believer all the way along.

CE: Really?

MU: Definitely. It's certainly a good thing. Not blatantly ripping them off but more so in the vocal style - kind of reminiscent.

CE: We'll take that as a compliment.

MU: Now people have also said 'Undeceived' was leaning towards death metal while 'Burial' was more black metal. Do you guys have preconceived directions for each album? Was that a thought out thing each time?

CE: On the last album, yes. On the first two albums it was more like we just wanted to write music. The whole style and direction just kind of came along with it. Especially on 'Burial' when we were kind of new. We just wrote what we liked and it turned out the way it did. On this last album, before we started making the songs, we sat down and discussed what the direction of this album should be, and thought about the whole thrash thing, and that is what it became.

MU: What is the reason for the guest musicians on the new album?

CE: Just to get some spice in the music. The female vocals, that's actually the drummer's girlfriend. She is a famous pop singer in Norway, actually. As for Samuel Durling, he's from our old label. He's a really good friend of ours so we decided to have him on the album a little bit. The other guy, the guitar player, we just wanted to have some really guitar hero solos on there.

MU: Did it cost much to utilize their services?

CE: No. Not at all, because they were friends and people that we knew. It was not a financial issue at all.

MU: Why did you do away with the Extol logo on this new one?

CE: The cover artist, Hugh Syme - first of all, he is really good - when he makes front cover artwork, he makes a logo so it fits his work. He didn't think the logo would fit well with the artwork. We asked him if he could do it and he said he always does that.

Extol Synergy Album Cover

MU: Does the artwork have any connection to the music inside?

CE: I wouldn't say the music, but, of course, I think it has something to do with the title. Before he did the cover artwork, I called this guy and told him the concept behind the title 'Synergy' and from that he made the painting.

MU: What prompted the switch from Solid State to Century Media?

CE: Actually we were never really on Solid State. That was a license deal. Our mother label was Endtime Productions. We signed a contract with Endtime for two albums. After we were done 'Burial' and 'Undeceived' we wanted to move on so we shopped around for bigger labels. Borge (producer) knew some of the guys in Borknagar, also on Century Media. We gave him a couple CDs and asked him to pass them on. The Century Media guys liked it. We just wanted to be on a bigger label.

MU: Are you happy with the move?

CE: Definitely. Century Media so far has been treating us very good.

MU: Looking at the band picture for the Synergy, I thought I was dealing with an entirely new lineup. What made all you go for the new look?

CE: (laughs) Actually it's been three years since 'Undeceived'. That's a long time. So, from then to now, three of us cut our hair and if you go to the thrash sound, back in the early 90's it was more like wearing white shoes and white t-shirts. It's got a different look than the death and black metal look. We just wanted to do that because of the change of sound.

Extol Band Pic

MU: I understand, your other guitarist, Ole left the band for a brief time.

CE: That's right.

MU: Why did he leave and how long was he gone?

CE: He was gone for about three years. Back then he was really tired of the whole metal scene, like the music and everything. He just wanted to take a break. After the three years that he was gone, he really wanted to join the band again. And it fit really well when our old guitarist quit because he was going to his other band. We asked him if he wanted to join again and he did.

MU: Did you record anything without him?

CE: Yeah. We have the 'Paralysis' EP - a four song EP that we did to get something out between 'Undeceived' and 'Synergy'.

MU: Which is more important, Extol's lyrical message or the music itself?

CE: That is a hard question because both are very important. I would say the music. Without the music we would not be a band, so the music is the most important thing. But we still have something we want to say, so lyrics are important too.

MU: What is the stereotypical Extol fan? You probably have a split of metal fans, hardcore fans and, perhaps, Christian fans?

CE: In Europe it's mostly metal fans but in America there's hardcore kids and metal kids. The scenes are obviously more into each other and over here it is more like two separate scenes. I wouldn't categorize the Christian kids as one.

MU: Extol is strongly tied to the Christian tag. Are you content with that or would you like to eventually be freed of the religious ties within your music?

CE: We definitely don't want to be viewed as a Christian band. We know there are a lot of people that use the Christian tag. We are Christians in the band, that's what we believe in and we are not ashamed of what we believe and what we stand for. We can't just ignore that we have a faith, so I guess we'll always have that tag. But most people listen to our music and that's the most important thing.

MU: Who are some of the current influences of the band?

CE: That's a hard question.

MU: Is it diverse between you all?

CE: We listen to a lot of different stuff. I would say for this record some Believer, the old thrash band. They've been a big influence to us. We kind of wanted to do the thrash sound. But then we listen to all kinds of stuff - pop music like the Cardigans and stuff like that and also Meshuggah or Death, Pestilence, Cynic and stuff like that - technical metal stuff.

MU: Do you all limit yourself to music that only ties in with your religious beliefs?

CE: I listen to music that I think is good and that I feel is good. If the lyrics are clearly anti-Christian or anti-god or anti-what I believe in, then I don't think I want to listen to that. If it's just regular lyrics and nothing bad, then I listen to all kinds of stuff.

MU: Have a majority of the shows in the US, until recently, been the Christian related rock fests?

CE: Actually, we've had a good mix of Christian and non-Christian shows. A few festivals and a lot of clubs and pubs actually. I think we've had more pubs and clubs on this tour than we've had earlier. We like it that way. We think it's very good.

MU: Now, how is it that you've been able to come back every year?

CE: Well, we have a lot of connections, and obviously our biggest fanbase is in the US. People want us over so we come and play.

MU: The Cornerstone Festival has been paying the necessary cash to get you guys over every year?

CE: Yeah.

MU: What is the reaction like at an exclusive Christian event like that?

CE: To our music you mean?

MU: Yeah.

CE: Well, like I said we have a lot of fans, especially in the Christian scene and it's always fun to play and we always sell tons of merch. A lot of fans show up, and we also get a lot of new fans since it's such a big festival. It's always fun to play and always a good experience even though it is too hot and too much dust and other stuff. Festivals. . . you know?

MU: Have you had a hard time getting shows with non-Christian acts?

CE: Very little problems actually. And especially now that we are on Century Media, we are looking at three possible tours for the next few months. So we really just have to choose which one we want to go on. It's either a Scandinavian tour, a European tour or a UK tour. We just have to see what will be the best.

MU: Besides that, what are some future plans for the band?

CE: Depending on where we go on tour, we will do the tour and start thinking about other tours. Eventually, we will set up a direction for the next album. We might do another summer tour next year. We don't know where yet. Maybe we will come back to the US or we will do a European tour. We don't know.

MU: Yeah definitely, 'cause I don't think you guys have hit the East Coast yet.

CE: Yeah. That's right. We'd love to do the East Coast.

MU: So put that on the priority list!


review of Extol 'Synergy'






Interview: Scott McCooe [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
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