CYCLOPHONIA "Flight of the Warbird"

By Lord Randall

In this, the season of winter, the intrepid Lord Randall has ventured far, far north to the lands of Norway, the county of Troms to be exact to bring you the first of two bands dragging the often-stale world of melodic/power metal into the future kicking and screaming. Hailing from Sorvik, a teeming metropolis of just over 450 souls, CYCLOPHONIA has crafted their initial offering "Impact Is Imminent". Guitarist Oysten K. Hanssen and Lord Randall strap on their helmets and brace for Impact…

Wormwood Chronicles: Speak about the beginning of what would become CYCLOPHONIA. For the international scene, you’ve kind of come from nowhere.

Oysten K. Hanssen: It all started with a couple of sixteen-year-olds wanting to play in a band and be cool. My friend and I managed to persuade my little brother and a couple of other guys to join us in a cover band, doing songs by the three big “M”s -MAIDEN, METALLICA and MANOWAR. For a while we held the world record in being really really terrible. Of course; we didn’t know that, because we thought we were cool.

The line-up changed a few times, as did the name, and in 1997 CYCLOPHONIA was a reality. Luckily, we didn’t suck so hard anymore. We won a local “battle of the bands” type event, and felt cooler than ever. Then we split up, members joined other bands and nobody really understood why. A brief reunion in 2003 led us absolutely nowhere, until the current version of the band formed in January of 2009.

WC: What was your original plan when forming CYCLOPHONIA, and how did the band’s sound begin to take shape. When did you realize this wasn’t just “friends playing and drinking beer” but a band that might even (gasp!) create an album?

OKH: The original plan back in ’97 was to play as hard and fast as we could, and be as awesome as possible while we were at it. At that time we did covers of certain melodic Metal bands, both European and American, interspersed with our own original material. As time went by I kept writing more and more songs, but it wasn’t until the 2009 band got together that I realised what we could and should do. By that time I had most of three full albums composed, and plans and ideas for a few more… 

WC: How did the members know each other beforehand? Of course ,Sorvik not being as populated as, oh, a street in Oslo might have something to do with it! I guess it made it very easy to find fellow musicians, as you could hear them practicing from your house.

OKH: Haha, easy to find? Well… Our bass player Kristian is my brother, whom we forced to start playing the bass back in around ’94. Andreas (one of our singers) is someone I first heard in another local band, then befriended and recruited for my own sinister purposes. Kai Joar (our other singer) suddenly became a singer after we became friends. When the original drummer couldn’t join us, we called up Nikolai, a young local whom we knew played the drums a little bit. We didn’t know if he was up to the task, HE didn’t know if he was up to the task, but we made him be up to it! Håvar, our other guitar player, was the easy one. He was at the first gig we did, thought we were awesome and told Kristian he wanted to be in the band. He’s a great musician, so we said “Hell yeah!”


WC: I came to know a handful of people from Harstad in the early-mid ‘00s, and it is a truly different way of living there from the southern, more “cultured” parts of Norway. How do you think not coming from a major known Norwegian music center like Trondheim or Bergen gave you your own sound and way of writing music?

OKH: Yeah, we’re all barbarians this far north. I’d say we live in a vacuum of sorts, which is both good and bad. There are practically no other Metal heads around except us and some of the people we hang out with, so we don’t really have a lot of input from other people on the music we make. That leads to us doing pretty much exactly what we want to, which is great. On the other hand, we’d really love to have more Metal heads here! Oh well. 

WC: The one thing in listening to "Impact Is Imminent" (Thank you for not covering the shit EXODUS song!) is the total absence of folk melodies, something most associate with more rural Scandinavian areas. Was this something you knew you wanted to avoid, or just that none of you know how to play fiddle?

OKH: I can’t speak for the other guys, but folk melodies (the Scandinavian kind, anyway) have always been a huge turn-off for me. They are boring as all hell, and in Metal I’ve always felt that they’re completely out of place. I think one of us maybe saw a fiddle once. It could have been a violin, though. Who knows? 

WC: What bands would you say were your influences early on, and how have you moved beyond them to create a sound that is CYCLOPHONIA?

OKH: From the start I spoke of before, we branched out, mostly into the melodic area. Bands like HELLOWEEN and BLIND GUARDIAN of the European stock, and QUEENSRYCHE, CRIMSON GLORYand AGENT STEEL from the US. From all these bands we’ve extracted a certain aspect; be it tonality, sense of rhythm, how to use guitar harmonies, etc. Our riffs and melodies are original, but they carry in them a legacy of which we’re immensely proud.

WC: There is a definite speed metal vibe like from the late ‘80s / early ‘90s on much of "Impact Is Imminent", but the use of 2 full time vocalists is very original, no matter the era. What do you think having both vocalists perform equally brings to the band that might be missing if there were only one?

OKH: Utilising two singers the way we do opens up possibilities we would otherwise lack, especially when it comes to the use of vocal harmonies. We love experimenting with that stuff, doing vocal lines where sentences overlap or the interplay is out of the ordinary – we didn’t show that off to a huge degree on Impact… but there’s gonna be more of it on the next one! On a studio recording you can do whatever you want to with only one singer, but to translate that into a live setting becomes a bit more difficult. Often you either rely heavily on backing vocals from the band, which isn’t in any way ideal, or you end up with one massively overworked singer. And like they say in Guitar Hero: “When the singer happy, ain’t nobody happy”. 

WC: Rumour has it the album includes a bonus DVD in the digipack pressing. Did this happen, and what is featured on the DVD? 

OKH: Normally I’d say rumours are not to be trusted, but in this case it’s absolutely true. At the suggestion of the record company (Battlegod Productions, tell your friends), we put all the video material we had on a bonus DVD. There’s a music video for “Retaliate” which is quite funny. Filmed on a budget of absolute zero, we decided to go the ‘80s comedy route. I think that works better than attempting to do a serious one which probably would have ended up looking like crap. Then there’s two videos featuring us on stage, “Hand of the Righteous” and “Screams in the Night”. They’re not live though, just the footage with album audio. Lastly there’s a bootleg recording of us live on stage, performing a few songs at a local event last summer. It’s a bootleg, it’s got bootleg sound, but it gives you an impression of what we’re like on stage.


WC: What would you say are the lyrical themes found on "Impact Is Imminent", specifically ‘Warbird’ and ‘Hand of the Righteous’?

OKH: I’ll write about anything that piques my interest; be it politics, literature/film or life in general. It’s important to me that the lyrics I write are open for interpretation, so that people can attach their own meaning to the words. Some have told me that they read “Warbird” as a tale about WWII fighter pilots, and that’s valid. What it’s actually about is a character from my favourite sci-fi show meeting his violent end. It’s not a deep piece exploring the emotional impact of the event or anything fancy, I chose to make it a simple, straight ahead tune. “Hand of the Righteous” takes a look at how the people in power abuse said power, and how the public at large react and overreact when they’re fed information and misinformation about big world events.

WC: Where was the album recorded?

OKH: We went to the semi-legendary Toproom Studio, a few miles north of Oslo. Fans of more brutal Metal might recognise that name from bands like MAYHEM, BORKNAGAR, SADUS and others. 

WC: How have the songs carried over in the live setting so far? Any tours coming up, and what is next for CYCLOPHONIA? Moving to Bergen to become a black metal band?


OKH: So far the songs seem to work very well in a live setting. The energy translates in a most satisfying way, and every time we learn how much we love being on stage. No tours as of yet, sad to say, but it’s still early. We have hopes and plans for the future; in time there will definitely be more gigs and albums from us! We’ll stay here, keep on evolving our sound, make (hopefully) awesome tunes and let the established people handle the Black Metal.