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Lengsel

With 'The Kiss The Hope' the Norwegian band Lengsel probably released this year's most experimental metal record, at least until now. On the album they manage to mix Tom Waits-like vagueness with Converge hectics all the while not unwilling to let their black metal roots influence them either. The three gentlemen, also members of Extol, are beside from being musical mongrels, also religious which might not be the easiest thing to be in the militant black metal capital of Europe. All of this leaves us plenty to talk about, in this case with drummer and accordeon player Ole Halvard Steen, also known as Bolivar.

By: Jasper | Archive under different metal

Hi Ole, how are things with Lengsel at the moment?
At the moment, we're very exited about the release of our new album, “the kiss-the hope” – more and more distributors are picking it up, and the promotion-part of the release has kind of just started, so we've kind of just started receiving feedback and doing interviews. The creative boost we got during the whole process of making the album have only went on, so we're already working on new material, which might be released as an EP later this year.

Please introduce Lengsel to the ignorant Dutch audience:
Lengsel is an extreme band that was formed back in 1994 by Tor Magne Glidje, John Robert Mjåland and myself, in a small village in the south of Norway. Our debut album, “solace” was recorded in 1998, released in 2000, and now we're finally back with “The Kiss – The Hope”, released on the German label Whirlwind Records.

The name Lengsel is quite unusual, I tried to look up its meaning but I found nothing, what does it mean and how did you come up with it?
It's actually Norwegian, so it's not so weird you didn't find it. It translates “longing” or “yearning”. I don't remember anymore how it first came up, but I think it somehow catches the essence of the feeling and atmosphere influencing our music the most. It is a feeling of importance to how we live and understand our lives.

It took ages between the last record 'Solace' and the new album, I imagine that had something to do with a band called Extol?
Yeah, you're at least partly right about that. At least one of our members have been part of extol constantly since 1999, and for the last three years, all three of us have been permanent members. This has, of course, taken a lot of time and focus. We also played together in a band called Ganglion for several years, but this was disbanded when Tor and I joined Extol for the recording of “the Blueprint Dives”. Then, when Peter went on a honeymoon last January, and not much was happening with Extol, we found out that the time was ripe for Lengsel to return from the sleeping.

How do you guys see Lengsel in comparison to Extol, is it just a side-project or is there maybe a potential for more?
In our hearts, Lengsel will never be a side-project, though extol will be our main focus for long periods. This artistic fellowship has existed ever since we started playing together fifteen years ago, and is something very special to all of us. So, you might call extol our “main band” if you like, but Lengsel will always be more than a project to us.

Are you going to perform live with Lengsel? Is there perhaps a European tour in the making?
Lengsel has never done a live show yet, but who knows? We've always been short on members when asked to play live, and we still are. But we have talked about it. If it was to happen, we would have to gather quite a few guest musicians and make something very special out of it, I guess – not just go on stage and try to perform some songs as similar to the recordings as possible, which metal shows often are about. I'd love to make it happen, though, so I hope we someday get the time.

I think the new album is absolutely overwhelming, very good! It is completely different from 'Solace' which gives me the idea that Lengsel is the project in which you can vent all the musical ideas that could not fit into Extol, am I right?
Thanks a lot. And in a way you're right – again, hehe... We make music meant exclusively for Lengsel, and Lengsel has no limits for what is allowed and possible. Extol has. So you could say that there's a lot of creative madness in our heads that don't fit into extol, but that we can use to make music for Lengsel.

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'Solace' was more inspired by Norwegian black metal I guess, from which bands or other entity did you gather your inspiration this time?
Scandinavian bands like At the Gates, Ulver, Dissection, Emperor and Arcturus were, obviously, influencing our musical direction at the time. But we've always listened to music within a lot of different genres, and I suppose a lot of such artists have had their influence on us, though not soundwise.

You guys are convinced religious people, right? I could fit that into the picture with Extol, but the new Lengsel album is incredibly vicious at times, is there still room for religious themes on the album?
I'd say yes – like people are incredible vicious at times, but still have room for religious themes. We try to express our lives, which contain bright and dark days, ambiguity and paradoxes. And on the bottom of all this lies our faith, which our translations and understanding of our surroundings build upon.

With Extol you have made some name in The United States, does that automatically mean that things will be easier for Lengsel over there? Do you have an American record deal for 'The Kiss The Hope Yet'?
As far as I've heard, a small American label (or distro – I don't really know) will release 600 copies or something in the u.s. –In other words: I wouldn't say we've seen much of the extol-effect so far, when it comes to getting out on the American market, haha.... but last tim, with “solace”, they put small stickers on the cud's, saying “featuring Tor from extol”, and then they printed three times as many copies than what they managed to sell for the original prize.

Talking about labels, Lengsel switched record labels, at least in Europe, from Black Sun to Whirlwind Records if I'm correct. Did the switch have anything to do with the religious background of the Whirlwind label? All the bands on there seem to have some sort of catholic connection, don't they?
“Solace” was released on Endtime Productions, and then licensed to Black Sun. When we started planning our new release, we just wanted a change, and since we knew the WWR-guys, trusted them and got a deal we were satisfied with, we signed the (very short) contract. Nothing religious about that. And honestly, I don't know anything about any catholic connections on Whirlwind...except from the fact that John Robert was raised a catholic, hehe...

Being very progressive with both Extol and Lengsel, do you have any interest for contemporary heavy music? What are your favorite new bands?
To be honest – not as much of an interest as I used to have. As I see it, contemporary heavy music is influenced by money to such a degree that I find it tiring to go through so much crap to try and find something with a nerve to it. Luckily, there are some bands that still seem to have an artistic vision (not just trying to look tough, get their picture on a magazine, get free booze and sex). I could mention Mastodon as one of them. They are creative, something I appreciate when it comes to music.

What do you think is the best country in Europe and why?
Poland – all the working men in that country have got these awesome moustaches.

Where on the world would you very much like to play with Lengsel?
Right now? The Dominican Republic. (pretty tired of the evil, ice-cold, dark, Norwegian black metal winter by now.....I know – I'm not trooooooo).

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