Divided Multitude – The Aggressor is BackSaturday, 19th October 2019
While Norway has always been a legendary country for the black metal scene, there has also been a prevalent progressive metal movement. Divided Multitude have been putting their stamp on that style since their beginnings in 1995 – signing with Sensory Records as one of the first bands for the label back in 1999 with the Inner Self record. They’ve gained the opportunity to play both ProgPower festivals in Europe and America, tour across Europe multiple times, and perform on the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise.
Their latest album Faceless Aggressor comes on the cusp of their 25th anniversary as a band – and could possibly be their strongest record to date. Adding their latest singer Jan Thore Grefstad to the lineup gives Divided Multitude a dual vocal presence along with guitarist Sindre Antonsen – opening the possibilities against their melodic hooks and heavy, power/progressive-oriented metal music combinations. We reached out to guitarist/songwriter Christer Harøy who kindly brought us up to date with the latest happenings in the band – going through some of the key moments in the band’s history, why certain breaks occurred, their outlook on music, and a look into some of the important albums that shaped his songwriting and attitude about heavy metal.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding music growing up, how did you end up getting into metal and then eventually picking up an instrument to play in bands?
Christer Harøy: My father is a musician, so I always remember he was playing in a band. They were called UFO (laughs), but it was the UFO in Norway. He always played music – one of the first records he played me was Deep Purple – Made in Japan. I really got the sense of the energy in the music, especially in rock and hard rock. As I grew up, I had friends that exposed me to more heavy metal. My father had some guitars, I tried them out. I thought I was going to be a drummer, but then I tried the guitar and that was my thing.
I did not take lessons, my father showed me some chords and a friend showed me some riffs over some time from Dokken, Iron Maiden, Dio. I started in a band very early, I was 14 years old. I would listen by ear and pick up songs that way, playing covers.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you remember about the early formation of Divided Multitude – because it started around 1995, correct?
Harøy: Yes. It was myself and my brother Rayner writing some riffs, and we wanted to have a band to fit those riffs in. We were a bunch of friends just hanging around all the time. Eskild (Kløften) the keyboard player, he was around my age and we were playing together in many projects together before and also with my brother. And then we asked Olav (Skei), but he was not the first drummer we had. And we asked Sindre to do the vocals because he had this powerful voice, and he was singing in another band so we asked him to do the vocals on the tracks that we had. We just started writing, we never played any covers so we started writing our own music right away. It was a very creative process and some really fun times. Lots of energy in the group.
Dead Rhetoric: Faceless Aggressor is the seventh Divided Multitude album, and first in four years for the band. Can you bring us up to speed as to why there was a bit of a break between albums?
Harøy: We had to change the formation within the band. Because Eskild decided to leave the band due to other things, we just had to regroup in a way. Eskild is a great composer and a great keyboard player and a singer – we wanted to keep another great singer in the band. It was really hard to find a good keyboard player that is a good composer, singer and player. We decided to have Sindre do the guitars and vocals, and add another vocalist. We asked Jan Thore, because we did a couple of gigs with him, and he said yes. Of course I had to write all the songs myself this time, that is the reason why it took four years.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you believe newest vocalist Jan Thore Grefstad brings to the table to elevate Divided Multitude and the options you have with the material?
Harøy: Jan Thore is a really good singer, and a true heavy metal singer. Just the way we like it. When you add Sindre’s vocals to Jan Thore’s you have these dual vocals all the time. For the next record we will try to do even more of a vocal duel between those two. The harmony vocals with those two are amazing – both of those vocalists can be very high-pitched and they have a big range of vocals. Jan Thore’s voice is made to showcase heavy metal.
Dead Rhetoric: Will it be a challenge for him to juggle the different bands he’s in, as he also is the singer of Highland Glory and Saint Daemon?
Harøy: Yes. We have no problems with it yet. We are good friends with the guys in Saint Daemon. We met Jan Thore in 2010 when we were touring together with them in Norway. We don’t want any conflicts on this – we try to make the best out of it in a way. If Jan Thore is booked with Saint Daemon first, then it’s Saint Daemon that is first.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the songwriting and recording sessions go for this record? Were there any surprises, obstacles, or challenges that had to be overcome, and how do you feel about the record now that it’s finally completed and released?
Harøy: I wrote all the tracks outside of the cover song “Uninvited”. The way that it happened was, I wrote the single for “Evolve” and we recorded that one, and I wrote three more songs, then had Jan Thore come in and record the vocals. I wrote more three songs, had him do the vocals, and we did bass and drums after we had recorded the guitars and vocals. We wrote guitar and vocal parts first, and then we recorded them and added the bass and drums last.
I don’t think there were many changes from the songs that we wrote. There were minor changes, we were really happy about the first recordings of the songs, really. We could see now that the way that I chose to write these songs, they were really more epic. I used to think earlier that I needed to make them more compact, in a way without adding too many themes into it. This formula seems to fit us really well, and we are really happy about the album. I think it’s maybe the best album that we have done, so far.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to writing and performance, how do you handle the balance between technique and feel?
Harøy: I compose something that I know that we can perform live. I’m not this super technician, I can’t do Dream Theater stuff. I write something that sounds cool in our way, and I try to make stuff that fits every person in the band. I know that when we put it together as a band, it’s going to sound good. I also try to push limits, and we sometimes end up having to put some extra hours in at the rehearsal room.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the video shoot for “Counterparts” – and how important do you believe the visual medium is in the social media platform in comparison to your early days when video channels seemed to have more of an impact for bands to gain attention?
Harøy: Now it’s really important. The “Counterparts” video shoot was done right outside where we come from. It was kind of a mining place. The location was really cool, and we hired a guy from our city, up north. We spent the day shooting the video in two different locations of the mining area. At the end I went into the sea to do the reverse… like coming out of the sea. I think the video came out really cool, and we had this drone filming as well.
For us, it’s really, really cool to have a video, to post it across every social media platform and digital channels. That’s the modern world.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been on numerous record labels over the years – Sensory, Elevate, Silverwolf- Productions, and Fireball Records before signing with Ram It Down. How would you assess the ability of these labels to elevate Divided Multitude into the marketplace?
Harøy: The Ram It Down label is run by Timo Hoffmann. I’ve been encountering Timo for so many years, trying to get his cooperation with him in some way. When I had the opportunity, I said let’s go – and I was really happy for it. Timo has all these contacts and he’s a really great guy. We are really happy to be on his label.
Dead Rhetoric: Divided Multitude is approaching your 25th anniversary as a band. What would you consider some of the highlights of the band’s career – either specific albums, shows/tours, or benchmark moments where you knew you were achieving something special and a new level of respect/ following?
Harøy: Yes. The first thing I guess was getting the contract for a record with Sensory Records with Ken Golden. The next one was being booked for ProgPower Europe in 2002 – that was a highlight for us to play that festival. And of course playing ProgPower USA was a really, really great moment for us. And also playing the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise was a huge accomplishment for us. I knew the festival from before, I think it’s a really cool festival – and you get to hang with the bands on a ship. It’s really well organized, and it would be great to play again. Same with ProgPower USA, it was a great festival and run well.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it a difficult time to have that eight-year gap between Falling to Pieces and Guardian Angel, and how did you keep the spirits up within the band?
Harøy: That was a low period of activity for the band. We were into other bands at the moment, so the activity musically was really high. I was in Triosphere for a few years, playing with them. Eskild was in a band, and we played in another band. Some of the guys would decide to do a gig, so we were doing one-two gigs a year at that time. We weren’t developing new music. But we came up with ideas for a new album, we decided to start working on that in 2008. We just started back in the rehearsal room, we got Anders in as a drummer as well. We wrote more, and recorded it in 2008. It took us a year for us to get a label – Silverwolf signed us in 2009, we got the album mixed by Jacob Hansen and it ended up being released in 2010.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the state of the power/progressive metal scene today? It seems like there is so much expansion that has taken place over the last 5-10 years, especially in terms of influences and bands on a global scale…
Harøy: Yes, there are so many good bands in this area of metal. I think it’s a good thing because it’s an exciting type of metal. It’s a great mixture of the melody with the heaviness, the technique. I love it. There are so many bands that are into the genre, really.
Dead Rhetoric: Especially in Norway, there seem to be a lot of special bands playing progressive metal. You are all trying to do your own thing- are you friends with bands like Pagan’s Mind, Circus Maximus, and Leprous?
Harøy: Yes we know them all. Circus Maximus, we did a European tour with the band in 2016. We knew them really well. The Pagan’s Mind guys, the first time we met them was back in 2002 I think. They are also friends of ours, and we’ve played together at ProgPower USA. We have also played a couple of gigs with Leprous, so we know them as well.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Divided Multitude live on stage versus the studio performances? What would you like the audience to take away from seeing you perform?
Harøy: Since there are loads of guitars on the album, we try to make it sound as close to the album as possible on stage. What we really bring as an extra feature on stage is we put loads of energy into our performance. We are a good band to do harmony vocals without any backing tracks on it. We try to keep things true and as much live as possible.
Dead Rhetoric: Who do you admire or look up to most as far as bands/musicians that maybe set a benchmark in terms of musical outlook, playing ability, or just the way they care themselves professionally?
Harøy: For me personally, there have been some albums that really changed my way into looking at music. The first one is Metallica- Master of Puppets. It was an eye opener for me – great album with great sound. In the 90’s the first Pantera album, Cowboys from Hell. The first time I heard that I was like wow- is it possible to have that kind of guitar sound? And then there was Anthrax – I was really into thrash metal in the early 90’s. Before I heard Dream Theater – Images and Words, that was a great album that changed a lot for me. I also got into Fates Warning and a lot of progressive stuff. I wanted to do progressive metal, but still keeping the really heavy edge to it. Since I also like bands like Rush, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Dio – so I tried to do a mix of these influences and make things my own sound.
Dead Rhetoric: What lessons have you learned the most in your career that you believe you had to go through and grow from?
Harøy: I think it’s that hard work pays off. We know that we can’t make this a living, we all have day jobs. I think it’s important to have a solid base, to do the music on top of it. If you work hard enough, you can take steps to elevate things all the time. That’s always been our goal, to be one step better with each album we release. Play better gigs, make better albums, develop the band to be one step better than last year.
Dead Rhetoric: What types of activities or hobbies do you enjoy in your free time away from music that give you a recharge or reboost?
Harøy: I like playing soccer. I also train my soccer team for my son. It’s sports, and I like going into the mountains and enjoy the silence and think a bit. I guess it’s training and spending time with my family, that’s important for me.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for activities for Divided Multitude over the next twelve months to support this release? Are you also starting to work on ideas/new material for the next record, so there won’t be as long of a gap between records?
Harøy: I have a couple of riffs going for a future release. First, we want to promote the album live. We’ve been booking gigs and festivals for next year. I hope to do another European tour next year. It would be great to do festivals in the US. We are working constantly on booking things now. I’ll write some riffs in between, so we will see what happens.