Norwegian noiseniks EXTOL are full-on proclaimers of the Christian faith, as Justin Style found when he met up with them.
No one could accuse Norwegian thrash band Extol of hiding their light under a bushel with Evanescence-style double speak. They recently told Kerrang! magazine, "Faith has always been the biggest part of our lives. Without it, and without God, playing in the band would be meaningless." Yet, as proven by the Kerrang! article and the highly enthusiastic reviews for their latest album 'Synergy' ("an inspired blend of intricate, technical riffing and sublime, off-kilter melodies" is how Kerrang! described it) this team of hard music evangelists are clocking up a lot of mainstream interest. I met up with Extol (Peter Espevoll, vocals; Christer Espevoll, guitar; Ole Borud, guitars, vocals; John Robert Mjaland, bass; David Husvik, drums) when they visited the UK to play at London's Destruction Festival. I began by asking bass player John Robert about the songwriting process. "All of us write the lyrics, especially Christer on the new record, but also Peter and David and myself. Usually we write the music first then add the lyrics, but if it's like clean vocal parts we try to make it fit the melody lines. If not, we usually add the lyrics afterwards. Or we will have several options were we will have different lyrics that we try to match to different songs, and see which ones fit best."
How, I wondered, does 'Synergy' compare with previous releases? "I think we have matured a lot. It's been a while since we've done anything. I think the new stuff is far more technical and complicated but still maybe more straight forward, it's got more guts in one way. A lot of the new stuff is quite demanding for us to play so we used a lot of time and concentration on the new material just to learn how to play the songs. We have really worked hard and long on the new album and tried our best to progress, musically and also within the band to go one step ahead. But we also like to move on from this album and so we will just see what steps to take next time."
Extol came to life in the fall of 1993. David Husvik (drums) and Christer Espevoll (guitar) had been jamming for a few months and wanted to start a band. So Peter Espevoll joined on vocals. At that time David and Christer were 16 and Peter was 14. 17th May 1994 saw Extol's first gig and just in time to rehearse the songs for that show, Eystein Holm joined on bass. After a while the band wanted to try out with a second guitarist and so Emil Nikolaisen hooked up in 1995. Extol started to get a name in the local scene and in January 1996 the group recorded three songs for a Norwegian metal compilation 'Northern Lights' that was released by Australia's Rowe Productions. Two months later Extol played their first show outside Norway, in Stockholm, Sweden.
In the late summer of 1997 Extol recorded their first full length album 'Burial'. "We weren't on a label at the time, and almost a year went by before Samuel Durling and Endtime Productions picked us up," explained Peter E. The band signed with Endtime and played their first shows in the US (Texas Rockfest and Cornerstone festival) with 'Burial' being licensed to Solid State for the US and to Avalon for Japan. In the summer of 1999 Extol did a four week US tour with Blindside and Grace For The Fallen. An EP was followed by the album 'Undeceived'.
In November and December 2001 Extol undertook their first European tour outside Scandinavia. Then, on 9th March 2002, after more than one year of negotiating, Extol finally signed a contract with Century Media. 'Synergy' has subsequently been released to much acclaim. John Robert has pretty strong views on the Christian band debate. "Many people have become uncomfortable with the term 'Christian band' and choose to say that they are Christians in a band. But, I think, even that has become just a way to try and cover up. We are Christians, we play in a band. And if you call us a Christian band or whatever we don't care."
Extol have plenty of evidence of the fruit of being bold in the proclamation of their beliefs. "We have had some testimonies of how kids have been going through a really tough time and they have come up to us after a show and said how our music has given them strength to carry on. And also people who say that they have got saved and got to know Jesus Christ through our music and lyrics. So that is what makes it all worthwhile, there's nothing that is more comforting than that."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.