Extol: God is not representing freedom
Extol came into existence in the early 90´s parallel to the emerging Norwegian underground black metal scene. Extol insisted to pursue the dream of bringing death metal back to the alternative musical landscape. Extol knew the genre was in desperate need for change. The oppressive correctness, a lack of melodic freedom and a feeling of stagnation in the rhythmic patterns in metal, provoked Extols first full-length album; “Burial” (1998).
Extol have recently released a documentary after 6 studio-releases, Norwegian Grammy award nomination, worldwide touring with bands such as Mastodon and Opeth, the band went off the radar without any explanation. More than 5 years later, Extol reunites to embark on the production of new material. But life looks truly different for the trio Peter, David and Ole. With family duties and health issues to consider the challenges are lining up for the group that is determined to make “the best death metal album in ages!”.
The band that has been faced with attacks from two main oppositions; both Christians and forces within the Norwegian metal scene, known for their brutality and dark history. How does Extol combine their faith with this expression, in a genre that is built upon the aggressive, morbid and occult? Whilst some Christians react to the band aesthetic and effects with fear and loathing, parts of the metal scene react to the evangelical content of their songs.
The film is directed by Åsmund Janøy and produced by Peter Espevoll and Åsmund Janøy. Edited by the fabulous Torkel Gjørv (‘Tears of Gaza’ and ‘When Bubbes Burst’) with sound mix from Lyder Janøy and featuring amazing music from Aslak Hartberg, Jon Henning Orten and Extol.
HMA: I want to start by getting an insight to what most consider your uniqueness. Being a death metal band and also Christian. Do you think it has served you well in getting people curious about your music?
David Husvik: There are both pros and cons of being a Christian death metal band. There is no way parts of the metal scene is gonna show interest at all, as long as you sing about Jesus. But on the other hand, there are tons of metalheads who search for good Christian metal. I believe we just stopped paying attention to the whole discussion over the years. If you make good music, people, and the metal scene is gonna notice anyway.
HMA: Why is it important as a band to be part in a predominantly not theist scene?
DH: Well, that’s a good question. I believe we all have a big need of being taken seriously as musicians and songwriters. If you want the right crowd to discover and explore what you’re doing, then you got to reach out to the right people, no matter the scene they’re part of.
HMA: I believe you have also had some resistance. What was the main criticism and why do you think it was expressed in the first place?
DH: Yes, being from Oslo Norway, the black metal capital, we definitely had to work hard to get acceptance for what we did. And I think I can understand why it was like that too. I mean, if you think someone stole your dark style of music and image, and on top of it sing about God, then it would be natural to be sceptical and not too supportive of this.
HMA: Although your music has a positive edge, most if not all sense of what we believe falls under what we call ‘Satanism’ is fundamentally a Judeo Christian Middle Eastern belief. Is this consciously ignored or what is the new Christian evangelization?
DH: No doubt, Satan is a defined character in the Bible – God opposite and enemy. Central both in Judaism and in Christianity. I think Christians tend to ignore that Satanism came as a reaction to a failing, not present church. And in many cases, Satan is adopted and used as a symbol for what they feel the church and God is not representing – freedom and acceptance. Anyways, I very much believe that Satan exists, and I don’t believe giving him a room in your awareness will do you any good at all. Extol has always promoted the life of Jesus – His death and resurrection, as the very best road to walk down. As odd it might sound. I guess our music gets positive vibes by this.
HMA: Certainly things have changed since the middle ages when Christianity controlled people life, death and the afterlife. What are your views based on current world events and the threats fellow Christians are facing including prosecution, death and slavery. Are we forced back to the middle ages?
DH: The situation today is pretty chaotic in my opinion. The church has a different role now. Definitely less dominant these days. I actually believe the church nowadays belongs more and more to the people. And its spread all over the globe in different directions. And since we’re all human beings, we are extremely vulnerable. And the Bible predicts it – there’s gonna be tough days for many of those who wants to follow Christ. I don’t think there’s gonna be better or a way around it. But on the other side we see countries and extremists who still forces their agendas and egoism on others through war in the name of religion. And ‘Christianity’ is many times one of them. This topic is hard to really have views on at all, for me.
HMA: You have recently released a documentary, could you tell us what is the storyline and why was it important to make it?
DH: Well, most documentaries about bands normally covers the band history and has a lot of focus on the music. ‘Oh Light and Shade’ is somehow different, I believe. It’s in many ways a bit tragic story about a band that didn’t really succeed because of all the challenges that appeared through history. Peters anxiety problems and the bands struggle to be accepted – in the metal scene, but also in the church, are very important parts in the movie. It also covers Extols journey in the making of a new album. I have a big role in the movie so I won’t brag too much about it, hehe. But I believe it’s relevant and enjoyable for most people. And a must for all fans to see and buy. I think the film will make people think differently about Christians and death metal.
HMA: Lastly I wanted to ask about the cover artwork for the album ‘Synergy’. Is very unusual and I can only guess what it could symbolise. Can you tell us more?
DH: Yeah, that one is probably my favourite. Hugh Syme did an incredible job of making it. From what I heard, it symbolizes the synergy that appears when we start to work together. In our case, as Christians, we become stronger when we gather. As the artwork shows, the monk beats death. Not because he’s fat, but because he’s surrounded by others.
Interview & live photos by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2015 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.