Hailing from the cold north of Finland, Chevalier play a brand of uncompromising, dungeon-like speed metal inspired by acts such as ADX, Brocas Helm, Omen, and Savage Grace just to name a few. The band already has 2 EPs under their belt and is now finally ready to unleash their debut album, Destiny Calls, this week. You can find our review of that album here. We caught up with founding member and guitarist Tommi to discuss the upcoming album.

You can listen to Destiny Calls here:


Hi Tom! Thanks for answering these questions. After a couple of EPs and a split 7” with fellow Finns Legionnaire, “Destiny Calls” is your debut and long-awaited full-length. How do you see the evolution of the band up until this point? As far as I know, Chevalier was somehow your brainchild, so do you feel like it has now reached a stronger unity as a band with all musicians involved?

Yeah, having the band going for a few years now has of course helped us to shape the whole thing up into a more solid and focused entity. I still handle the songwriting mostly by myself but with more experience of playing together it’s easier to bring the new song ideas to life, and since all the recordings up to and including “Destiny Calls” have been recorded live (excluding vocals and solos), it has been important to spend a lot of time rehearsing and working on the songs together rather than straight away recording them track by track.

Vocals are particularly great on these new songs, and one of those things that made me think that Chevalier got stronger as a band. As far as I know, this is Emma’s first band, and you can clearly see how her vocals have improved and become more self-confident during these couple of years. Do you agree? How have you guys worked on the vocals for this album?

It’s evident that there have been improvements in the vocal sector as well, after all when we did “A Call to Arms” it was Emma’s first time ever doing vocal lines by herself and not long after she had really started to sing at all. Since last year she has also received lessons from the vocalist of Dark Quarterer, Gianni Nepi, which has contributed greatly to the vocal delivery in Chevalier. She mostly works on her parts alone and then me and Mikko offer some additional ideas if there are any.

Vocalist Emma in action

The songwriting on “Destiny Calls” is brilliant. Some of the songs clock at over 7 minutes, quite unusual for a speed metal album. But even those long songs are exciting and have a truly epic feeling that keeps you interested, with plenty of changes, a progressive touch, killer solos and somehow a storytelling feel to it. Were these tracks developed naturally without having their final length in mind, or was it something conscious to create these lengthy, epic songs?

I don’t even consciously try to make the structures long and complicated, it just happens. I would have to struggle to keep a song to 2-3 riffs only and it wouldn’t end up feeling natural for me. For some bands that works, for me it doesn’t. For example “Road of Light” might seem like it was put together from various separate ideas just for the sake of progressiveness but in fact it was written in one guitar session with the inspiration flowing and different riffs and sections coming naturally one after another. The narrative feeling in the songs is a vital part of the Chevalier sound and also requires different moods and changes, which then of course extends their length as well. I don’t see the long speed metal songs as a problem as long as they don’t start to drag on and on, getting repetitive and boring. A perfect example of the kind of flow that I hope to achieve is found on the first two Dark Quarterer albums where every song just builds up even after you think it wouldn’t be possible anymore and keeps you captivated no matter how long they are!

You also added a few preludes as well as an intro and an outro, and some of the songs also have spoken word intros among many other atmospheric elements and arrangements, with a strong presence of keyboards and acoustic guitars. This makes me feel this album as a whole, like everything is somehow connected. Was it your intention? Did you make a special effort to immerse the listener in this very special atmosphere?

Yeah, this was the result of being patient with the material and planning the album carefully. Too often new bands rush to a studio to record their debut album right when they have scrapped together enough songs for it and the album will then sound just like that – a random bunch of songs, probably with a lot of repetitiveness in them due to the short time span they were written in. We had a lot more material in the works, and picked songs with enough variation that would make the album an interesting and complete package. The intros and interludes are supposed to set up the mood for each song, as well as give those “real” songs some room and time to breathe, I think this kind of balance works very well as opposed to just having one speed metal ripper after another from the beginning to the end. And everything in “Destiny Calls” is tied together in a common theme, including the cover art, lyrics and the band photo, so that the album would enforce the desired atmosphere on all aspects.

Even if this is your first full-length, the sound is still raw, with plenty of reverb and a primitive yet aggressive and powerful production on all instruments. The result is great though, and I’m sure this was fully intentional. I also think the recording process was all analog (or at least most of it, correct me if I’m wrong). How important is it for you to keep that sheer sound? Do you think many albums nowadays are overproduced? Can you tell us more about the recording process of “Destiny Calls”?

Apart from the guest appearances and a couple of special sound effects it was all analog, and while the intention was to keep the sound rough, natural and (what I consider in the world of metal music) medieval, not everything was that intentional – I for one had not much idea what I was doing! The recording process itself was done in quite a rush in two separate sessions due to time limits etc., and it was the first proper studio experience for everyone in the band, but I think this kind of inexperienced and chaotic way to do it has resulted in many magnificent and interesting sounding records, especially in the early 80’s when even the people working in the studios had no idea what they were dealing with when a metal band came in to do an album.
As always with our releases, there’s complaints coming about the production, how someone can’t hear this or that properly, and one thing I came across quite often with our EP’s was people saying they can’t wait for us to hit a proper studio and do a well produced full-length. Well here you have it, I hope your ears will bleed! I will never go for the polished and safe sound played perfectly to a clicktrack, sure it works too if you’re for example Crimson Glory but when the intention is to sound dark, medieval and wild, it would totally kill that atmosphere. Even many of the new bands who claim to worship old Sodom, Hellhammer and whatnot fall into this trap of too well produced and executed recordings that destroy every bit of the feeling of danger and chaos what makes that old stuff what it is. I myself hate it when everything on an album is totally in your face and it doesn’t challenge the listener at all, one listen and you’ve heard everything. I’ve said it in plenty of interviews already and will say it again, Brocas Helm’s Black Death has the kind of production that I’m looking for and what sounds like a medieval battle on LSD. I still keep discovering more details and nuances behind the mysterious veil of that production. Praise be!

Lyrics on Chevalier revolve around medieval themes, sword & sorcery worlds and warriors of past centuries. But can you delve a bit more into the band’s concept? Do you see it like a way to evade reality through fantasy, or more like a metaphor of daily struggle in our earthly life?

I think escapism has always been a big part of heavy metal music but from that fantasy side of the world a lot of things can reflect to the “reality” and vice versa. Our lyrics are made to aethestically fit the medieval concept with inspiration often coming from the distant past, but they always have something at least between the lines that also reflects what’s going on here and now. It would get a bit boring to write lyrics about medieval swordfights without anything meaningful to say about them, or to just recite old stories without adding your own thoughts. The main theme in the lyrics and artwork of “Destiny Calls” is something that applies to the present day and anyone’s earthly life right now.

Artwork for the album was made by Karmazid, and I think it captures the spirit of your music perfectly. It can be seen as a triptych, with three different scenes compiled into one illustration. What did you want to express with them? How did you develop the concept of the artwork, did you give Karmazid total freedom or did you have some clear directions in your mind?

The artwork was loosely based on three separate, old illustrations which I put together and changed a bit to create the concept closely tied to the lyrics of the album. This rough sketch I then sent to Karmazid for him to bring to life in that fantastic style that fits the music perfectly. The viewer of this artwork is offered three options of how to live one’s life, and again, even if the illustration is based on medieval times, it can be easily transcribed to the present day.

The Destiny Calls cover featuring artwork by Karmazid

It caught my attention how it’s always mentioned that French bands are one of your main influences for Chevalier. What is, in your opinion, so special about the French sound, that makes it different from other countries?

This doesn’t of course apply to all of them, but remarkably many of those 80’s French bands had a specific way of conveying a “medieval fantasy” atmosphere with their perfect sense of melodies for that, as well as the sound of French language when being sung in such a style. I mean, if you listen to Blaspheme’s “Excalibur”, can you not be reminded of medieval castles, swords and sorcery, without understanding anything but the title of the song?

During the past few years we’ve been seeing many of those French classic bands coming back, such as Blaspheme, Titan and now Sortilège, who seemed to be the holy grail of all these French reunions. Meanwhile, bands like ADX or Vulcain always remained more or less active even if they had their ups and downs. Are you interested in seeing any of these bands nowadays? What do you think of these comebacks?

I definitely am, just by the end of last year I went to the Metal Vouziers festival in France to see for example ADX, Titan, Killers, Vulcain and Blaspheme, and for a French metal enthusiast such as me it was unreal to witness a line-up like that in just one day! I am not one of those cynics who prefer to sit at home complaining on the internet how bands they like shouldn’t be playing anymore because “it’s just not the same” (missing this or that member that IN MY OPINION made the band what it was, they sound different now which I totally wouldn’t expect to happen after a 30 years hiatus, their new material didn’t impress me the same way their classic album did when I was 14 and so on…), which is especially ridiculous if they weren’t even there when the bands still had the “magic” they feel so nostalgic about. Sometimes it seems that these people feel as if they owned the bands they’re fans of, and think they should have the final say in what the band should or shouldn’t do. Dreaming of such control and then repeatedly realizing you don’t have it must be painful. Sure, not all of the reunions are that good, but it doesn’t take much effort to just ignore the ones that you don’t care for, and instead enjoy the ones that are worth it. After all, we’re living the very last years, myself being part of the last generation that will ever have the chance of witnessing these old bands live on stage, and I fully intend to get the best out of it – Imagining myself in 30 years from now, I’m fairly sure I will rather remember seeing 4/5 of the original Sortilège lineup on stage playing those immortal classics I know note by note than to remember myself whining on social media that the founding guitarist isn’t a part of the reunion and therefore no one should be enjoying their shows because I won’t.

Blaspheme live at Metal Vouziers 2018

One of your upcoming shows is actually in France, at Pyrenean Warriors Open Air next September. I guess this will be very special event for you guys, considering the background we talked about on the previous question. It’s an underground festival with a great atmosphere, and this year it may be their best line-up so far with killer bands such as Omen, Aria, Mindless Sinner, French legends Blaspheme and a headliner yet to be announced. Which are your expectations about this fest?

Looking forward to it a lot, I’ve wanted to attend that festival for a few years already but haven’t managed. Now we fortunately have the opportunity to play there ourselves, sharing the stage again with one of the biggest influences that is Omen, as well as playing in France for the second time which is special for Chevalier of course.

Besides this fest, which are your next live plans? Do you see Chevalier doing an actual tour in the future to promote the new album, or do you prefer to stick to one-off shows at fests?

For now we are very satisfied with the upcoming festival appearances, namely Muskelrock in Sweden, Metal Magic in Denmark, Pyrenean Warriors in France and Til Dovre Faller in Norway. Doing a tour sometime in the future is not out of the question but at the moment also not in the plans.

Well that’s all, thanks a lot for your answers. Any other Chevalier news you’d like to plug?

Thanks for the in-depth interview! For now all there is to say about the near future plans of Chevalier has been said already, “Destiny Calls” will be out on 26.4. so make sure to check it out if you’re in for some sword edged metal

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2 Comments

Adam Brown · April 29, 2019 at 4:15 am

Very cool interview. Thought the Q and A was great. Thanks. \m/

John Jacob Jingle Heimer Smidt · May 16, 2019 at 5:57 pm

Underproduction and overproduction exist. There is a scale and being towards the middle is best. No one is asking for quantized music.

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