The Raven Cry's... Oddleif Speaks out.
Norway has it's fare share of decent metal bands from the likes of TNT, Pagans' Mind, Conception, Jorn Lande, and more extreme bands like Mayhem, Dimmu Borgir, and now 'Communic', a band that plays Progressive Metal somewhat close to the likes of Nevermore or even Psychotic Waltz, but with an added twist.
This band was formed out of the ashes of 'Scariot', who released 1 album with Oddleif on vocals. Communic was formed in 2003 and have released 6 previous albums, their debut 'Conspiracy in Mind' was released through Nuclear Blast in 2005. The band released a further 3 albums for that label before switching to AFM for their next album 'Where echoes Gather' in 2017.
The band have just released their new stunning album 'Hiding from the World' which is one of their best albums to date. I managed to chat with front man and guitarist Oddleif Stensland to find out more about one of Norway's best kept secrets. Here is what he had to say. In the meantime check out this awesome album.
It's great to speak to you again Oddleif, it has been a while since we last talked. There is one thing I forgot to ask you last time we did an interview, who are you're vocal influences?
"Yeah Jason, nice to speak to you again, yes it has been a while since the last interview. To answer you're question, I don't really have any vocal heroes or influences. If I had to pick any then Dio would be one of the top ones, but for me and maybe the way Dave Mustaine was playing the guitar and singing at the same time has influenced me and I like the way he sings in a strange way with his guitar melodies. I don't consider myself as a good guitar player or singer. I use the guitar as a tool to create the music in my head and I never felt that I spent enough time to become really good like Dave.
I don't also consider our music to be too technical and some people may think it is technical but when you look at it the music is not that complicated. (Ed: When I listen too you're voice it reminds me of Warrel Dane from Nevermore/ Sanctuary, do you agree?) Yes I agree I have been compared to Warrel and that is an honour for me to be compared to him, he had something unique and I think people compare me to his voice because of the phases and expressions within my vocals."
When I 1st heard you're band 2 bands came to mind, Nevermore and Psychotic Waltz, do you agree?
"Yes I agree, I have been following Psychotic Waltz for a long time a great band. Yes I think both bands could be in our music, we have to listen too the journalist from what they tell the fans and say about the albums and we take it on board."
2003 was when 'Communic' was formed, but yourself and drummer Tor Atle Andersen were in another band prior to this band under the name 'Scariot', who released 4 albums. How would you compare their music to Communic?
"We we recorded one album with the band and it is pretty close to that of Communic and a little more less technical and maybe a little more towards Nevermore I guess. There was more guitar solos and I was only the vocalist in that band, we were working on the 2nd album and some of the songs I had written for ended up on the debut Communic album 'Conspiracy in Mind' album. I thought that those songs would be more suitable for our debut album and there was no room for my music in that band and that is why I asked Tor if we wanted to record the demos with me and Erik was friends with me and we recorded our 1st demo together.
After the demo we recorded a proper demo in a better studio and that demo ended us signed with Nuclear Blast and then I left 'Scariot' and our demo song were intended on been on the 'Scariot' album, they were an awesome band and we did some great shows. For me I needed to give 100% to the album that I feel should be into my own band. I started to play the guitar later in life about 18yrs old and it was difficult for me Erik and I had a few projects but we never managed to find a vocalist because we live in a small town and there were not many people we could ask to do vocals so in the end I did it myself."
Do you think the debut album 'Conspiracy in Mind' sold well for the band?
"Yes it sold really well actually, the demo that we did was demo of the month in 'Rock Hard' in Germany and a lot of attention in the European press and when we signed to Nuclear Blast it was taken directly from the demo and when the album came out if was the album of the month. We had producer Jacob Hansen and coming from the underground to such a big label like them was amazing. I think the 1st edition of that album sold out and they had to print again and looking back we had 4 albums with Nuclear Blast Records they are all out of print now, the label has released a 4 disc box set and we don't have the rights to them but we still get credits for them and we are still good friends with the label. We would like to release them on vinyl and the only LP which was released on vinyl was 'The Bottom Deep', as well as the last one and new are also on vinyl."
From the debut album which songs are you're favourites and why?
"Well if we play songs from that album now I would have to say 'They feed on our Fear', and it is one of the songs we 1st wrote together and it is a long song that we like to play live. I think that is the epic track on the album."
What about the 2nd album 'Waves of visual Decay' are there any favourite songs from that album and why? Why the title for this album?
"I actually like the whole album to be honest, the song 'Under a luminous Sky' is a great song to play live and it is a challenge, but we love it. At that time were there a lot of people curious to know how media worked and how people intend to believe that they hear and say and with media power."
How many albums has Jacob Hansen produced for the band?
"Well Jacob did the 1st 3 albums for the band, he did the production and he has changed over the years, the 1st 2 album were recorded before we had kids and we had time to travel to Denmark and we would book about 3 wks in the studio and we would record, eat and sleep in the studio. The 3rd album was also produced by the band here in Norway and it was mastered and mixed by Jacob in Denmark, we used a local guy to engineer it here in Norway his name is Roald Rasberg at 'Sanden Studios' in Kristiansand he had a really great studio here in Norway and and it was mastered by Dan Svano."
Moving on what songs from the 'Payment of Existence; do you like?
"For me the song 'Ravens Cry' and we still play it live, it has all the cool elements in one song."
Why did you decide to call the album 'The bottom Deep'?
"Well at that time it took us 5 or 6 yrs to get that album ready and after the 'Payment of Existence' album there wasn't much happening between 2009-2010 we didn't get any good tours and I went through a really difficult time that I told the band I was done with the band and they would have to continue without me and I had done everything I could for the band. It was 'The bottom Deep' for me, I just wrote the songs in my own studio and I didn't want to do anything with the songs. Then the others guys convinced me to start to jam with them again and that is were the magic is and so when we are in the same room making loud music it just felt right.
I was kind of scared about releasing it and I wasn't sure if I wanted to release something that was so personal too me. The album felt like a draining process to me getting it done on paper and having it released and in the end I am very proud of the album as it gave me hope and a chance to move on and I am still here."
I am looking at the song titles for this album and I can see why the lyrics personally effected you.
"Yes it was a dark time for me I felt like I was in a deep and dark place, but I feel like some of the best songs are on that album like 'Denial' which we still play that song live and it gives me a special feeling to the listeners and I feel like I am getting rid of some of the pain."
I noticed that you did a cover of Over Kill's 'In union we Stand', how did that come about and did you ask Bobby if he wanted to be involved with some of the vocals?
"Well it was one of my favourite early 80's Thrash Metal bands and getting that album out was like we needed to stick together and we have been together for 17yrs now with the same line-up. We have had times were we almost broke up, it was nothing to do with the band, it was more personal stuff. We gave each other time to recover and respect each other, so doing the Over Kill cover was the perfect song.
I asked Bobby if he wanted to sing on the song with me and I was on stage with him for one time at Wacken with Destruction doing their song 'The alliance of Hellhound' and we rehearsed it backstage with Bobby and Tom Angelripper and Schmier and I just left like a hang around guy (laughing) and felt out of my league but it was also awesome.
I talked to Bobby at that time and when I recorded that song I talked with Nuclear Blast and got Bobby's email and messaged him asking if he would like to appear on the song doing a verse and chorus together. He kindly told me that he didn't want to do it because he had too much respect for the original song. I totally respected him for that, and he heard our version and he loved it."
What was the reason for leaving Nuclear Blast? Are you still friends?
"Well there was no big deal with us leaving them, it was a natural thing to part ways with them and I think it too long for us to release the next album for them, and I understand the business side of things. You need to be recording and touring, and we just weren't doing that at that time. The album 'The bottom Deep' took like 6yrs to record and release, and it just felt like we we're starting all over again.
We didn't do much touring because we have day time jobs and families and kids so it became a difficult time back then. They told us that they were going to let us go and to be fair we needed a kick in the arse, it got us to be more motivated and that is what we did, in order to release the next album 'Where echoes Gather'.
We needed time to find another label and release that album, so we took time writing and not write songs and get ready for pre-production and when we had no label we thought about releasing it on our own, or complete the album and search for a label to put it out. We spent a lot of time getting the songs ready for the next album and and when we had the songs ready we started to contact a few labels and AFM was the 1st label we sent it to and they were the 1st to offer us a deal. AFM are a great label we are very happy to be on them, and looking back now I think Nuclear Blast were too big for us."
You seem to be a band that has many influences, how do they jell together in you're song writing?
"Well Tor is into extreme Black Metal and Death Metal, and Groovy Metal and we even have blast beats on this new album 'Hiding from the World', whereas I am more into Progressive, Doom, and Erik's Rush style 70's music it all comes together really well and everybody needs to be satisfied with the end results."
So why the title 'Where echoes Gather'?
"Well I am writing all the lyrics and basic ideas for the songs, and the title idea came from old songs, something like 90% from like 15-20yrs old material. (Ed: Why are the songs so old?) It was song that I had written earlier in my career even before Communic and I recorded them but I thought my vocals sucked and so those vocals and ideas for the songs were kept stored away until later on in years, they were not completed and I knew I would work on them in later years.
Erik and myself played on those demos and we thought about re-arranging the songs and so we did and we re-wrote the songs and with the basic ideas in mind and the title came from echoes what were in my mind and gather on my hard drive. So that is where the title came from."
What songs from 'Where echoes Gather' do you like?
"Well I really like the song 'Moon Dance' and it is a song about been bullied and been an outsider. Also been alone on earth and watching all the stars been you're closest friends but in reality they are so far away. I also like the title track which is awesome."
Do all members of the band have their own studios?
"Well I have just finished my own studio, so I can record everything here, drums guitars vocals.... and it's a lot easier for me."
OK so now lets talk about the new album 'Hiding from the World', why did you decide to call the album this title?
"I guess you could say it was written about the situation were living in today with covid-19, but the title was came about almost 2yrs ago and when we started to work on the songs that title came a song title for a song from the album. The 1st line in the song was 'Let me hide from the world', which became the working title and it stuck me with all this time and a theme that I had. The older you get you find it hard to find time to get away and to be together as a band there is so much going with daily life.
When we started to put together ideas we needed a weekend or a week away to lock ourselves away from everyday life and to concentrate on writing new song. We ended up going to my parents cabin and we took the recording studio with us and made the living into a jam recording session. We had 3 - 4 songs writing in that period of been in the cabin. I think we will do the same idea for the next album, it gives us time to get our ideas down without any distractions. I guess the title has a twist to it, it's like what do we do before we die and what is left after we have gone?"
The album was recorded at you're own studio 'Stoneland' studios and the drums recorded at 'Mayhem' studios, why 2 studio's when you could of recorded at yours?
"Yes well there was a lot going on and if we had recorded the drums at my studio we would of saved about 2 months recording time, Tor lives in Kristiansand 'Norway' and I am in a different town and so it was a lot easier for him to record his parts in that studio, which is only 5 minutes from where he lives. Erik recorded his bass parts at my studio which made things a lot easier and there was no pressure at my studio like there was for Tor. For me to record the vocals I just felt like I needed the right time to record them without at pressure, so I could do my vocals when I felt like it and some of the 1st takes I did were the best, so I didn't need to re-record my vocals.
The whole process of recording this album took some time because we started in January 2020 and then there was a month were it was delayed, we then continued the drums and my the end of May I delivered all the songs from my studio and Lasse Lammert in Germany to master it, he has worked with 'Alestorm' and I have known him from the internet and Facebook and I liked the sound of some of his work, especially the guitar sounds and we have talked about mixing at his place in the early stages of this new album.
He would start the mixing at the beginning of May 2020, so the recording was about 3 - 4 months at my place and then we sent it to him and his partner was expecting a baby so that kind of held things up a little, and then Covid-19 it all get held back, but we got there in the end. AFM are doing a 3 to 4 month promo before it is released so we are excited about that as well . I think the album turned out really well and the communication along the way with Lasse and it was good to work with him because he's a technical geek, I mean he studies what needs to be done correctly.
If I am sitting in my studio and recording I can't always hear that others hear, and so it distracts me from been creative, I want to focus on what I am playing and not concerned about the sound of the snare drum etc...and having an extra set of ears does help, like the 4th member."
I see you worked with Travis Smith for the 1st time, we all know his artwork with 'Death', 'Nevermore', 'Psychotic Waltz', etc.. How did you get in touch with Travis, what made you want to work with him?
"We got in touch with him and I wanted to contact him a little bit earlier but I never dared to (laughing), I had always been a fan of his work and he has a missing touch to his weirdness to what he is doing and when I was sitting about think of what we should do for the artwork because we used in the past called Eliran Kantor who had worked with 'Testament', 'Iced Earth', and he had been working with us since 'The bottom Deep'.
So I contact Travis to see if he wanted to work with us and at the start I thought about not working with Travis because he worked with 'Nevermore' people might compare us to them. I decided to use him because I didn't feel it was fair for people to compare us to Nevermore, and besides Travis is a great artist. I emailed him and he kindly replied and he wanted to work with us, we sent him the lyrics and he came up with some ideas which were sent back and forth. You can see it is his touch, every fine detail is in the artwork, we are very happy. The booklet has different aspects from the ideas we sent him and with more details and close-ups, and pictures also included in the booklet.
The booklet also has the dying branch and if you look carefully you will see the leave on the branch, which symbolizes that there is still hope. There's also bones on the ground and a lamp having from the tree, and in the end nature will always win."
Moving on now lets talk about the songs on the new album, what are they about briefly.
"Well 'Plunder of Thoughts', is a song about all the thought I had in my head when I was going to sleep and I am one of those guys who uses his time when trying to sleep to think about stuff, keep going over stuff in my head, things I haven't done yet in life and ideas and thoughts and sometimes I have melodies in my head when I am trying to sleep so I need to get up and record those parts before I forget them (laughing). Next is 'Hiding from the World', which we have already talked about. That song is about a man who is on the edge of self destruction and he is ready to give up and his reaching out for help and would anybody notice if he was gone? In our daily hectic life I don't think we tend to forget about our surroundings and just continue on and we don't see what is going on. Some people would say there ok but deep down there not and they don't say anything.
Next is 'My temple of Pride', is a song about standing up for what you believe in and protecting you're home and family and friends. When all hell breaks out you have to protect yourself and not give a damn what anybody else wants you to do, it's not a religious song, it's about looking after yourself if you need too and you're loved ones. Next is 'Face in the Crowd', that is about letting you're children grow up and been independent and it's a story about a mother sending her kids off to join the army or war and a father letting go of his daughter when she has grown up and letting her been independent, so it's about them believing in them.
Next is 'Born without a Heart', I am not one for telling people too much about my lyrics, you are doing really well to get it out of me Jason, the idea I had for that song came about when I had it stuck on my mind for many years to an experience I had I was in my youth and I was witnessed to some gang that were attacking a helpless drunken man, they kicked him down and they continued to kick him. I was just standing there and I don't know to this day if he survived or not. That has left an imprint into my head ever since that day and I wonder to this day how can people do this sort of thing? Those people must be 'Born without a Heart'.
Next is 'Scavengers Await', this song is about inheritance after somebody has died, the family and close friends gather after a funeral to see what is left for them in the will. I have seen families that have gone from been close to been enemies. It's a story about a guy on his death bed who is watching down and he sees his family and friends that he has not seen in a long time and they are there to see what they can get after his death.
Next is 'Soon to Be', this is an instrumental which leads into 'Forgotten', and this is the last song on the album and when I was putting the mastering together I decided to split the song and if you listen too the CD 'Soon to be' goes directly into 'Forgotten', with no gap in-between the songs. It's one of the longest songs on the album and it's a song that deals with how the good things in life is often forgotten and if you make one tiny or big mistake it will stay with you forever. All the good things you do are never talked about."
What songs from the new album did you enjoy recording the most?
"Well for me songs like 'Forgotten', I think we will try to add the songs or some from the new album into our live set, let's see how the world will turn out playing live once more. I also like 'Plunder of Thoughts', that is a great song too. Also 'Hiding from the World' is another great song from the album."
You have recorded one song at the moment for a video My temple of Pride', will it be difficult for you to pick another song from the album with most of them been too long?
"That song was pretty obvious to do 1st as a video because it is the shortest one and AFM thought it would be the best song to represent the album and I can agree with that. We did a video recently for the title track 'Hiding from the World' and it was done with camcorder in the mountains because the official 1st video was going to be done by a guy who lived in another town, but he couldn't travel due to Covid. We had lights and location booked but it was cancelled and so we filmed it ourselves and we pulled it off. We have some great bunkers and caves from the WW2 and you can walk into the mountains and walk into the tunnels and bunkers, so Erik and me filmed it and it looks pretty cool in the end."
Well Oddleif, thank you for the interview, keep safe. Do you have anything too say before we finish the interview?
"Yes thank you for the interview, keep safe too Jason. To the fans thank you for you're support we hope you like the new album as much as we enjoyed recording it. I hope that 2021 will bring us all back together and we cna play live shows once more."
Many thanks to Judith @ AFM & Oddleif For the Interview.