Bunker memo re: The All Is One – album 2020

By Bob LeBad, an insider.

2019 was in many ways a demanding year in the Psychoverse. The band released two albums, recorded three more, toured Norway and Europe twice and both the band and all us others in the organization kinda acted like we knew we wouldn’t be allowed to do much at all in 2020. We didn’t of course, and having to shut the operation down just days after playing the national Norwegian Opera with Ole Paus in February was a truly unreal experience.

What now? Hide out and wait ’til the plague passes?

Rest assured: the guys are all alright. We have not had any illness or other close encounters with Covid-19. The Mothership abides, but our lives – along with everybody else’s – got put on hold. 2020 has been far more demanding so far than last year. In a different way for sure, but in no way any easier.

The All Is One is an album we’d hoped to release this spring. It was already well underway when the virus hit, and the mix process wasn’t affected much by the shutdown, but things took a little more time and the album was eventually postponed by a couple of months. It somehow seems a little better for it to us as things’ve had time to mature and settle before being unveiled to the public.

It has become one intense listen, an epic and dense piece of music that might be perceived as demanding by some listeners, but that also hopefully rewards those with patience and a longer attention span. This period of self-isolation and reduced social activity has made us go deep into our own geekery and in our music consumption. We figure we are not alone, so here is our contribution.  Simply put, the album needed all the time and attention we could possibly give it to be as good as it is and also finished this soon. We hope you won’t mind the wait when you hear it.

The album was recorded in two major chunks: the first in September, the second in November last year. The first session took place in Studio Black Box in France. Reine Fiske joined us as we focused mainly on relatively concise material with more or less traditional song structures. These songs have no thematic through-line, but they all sort of fit into the conceptual continuity that our last few albums seem to have been a part of. They all seem to have dealt with living in a much more polarized society than before, and with the loss of faith in democracy and in civic institutions that the countries of the world all seem to be going through. All these ‘strong leaders’ we see on the world’s political stage today all carry the stink of earlier totalitarian experiments, and …well, we all know how that went, and we do not like that smell!

As people, we are grown-ups in a big, increasingly unstable world, and we need to comment on what we see. These albums are our soapboxes and we take advantage of the privilege to rant on like almost everyone else would given such a platform. We know full well it’s probably a futile exercise, but still: The Clownprinces and Presidunces we are currently enduring have somehow managed to reach a new nadir in statesmanship, and the world is worse off because of their inept machinations. No man is an island (he’s a peninsula!), and somehow our own navel-gazing doesn’t seem quite as important as it used to without being reflected in a civic mirror and watched through a wider, political lens. Everything needs contrast for scale, music and lyrics too.

The second main recording session for this album happened at Ocean Sound Recording in Norway and basically dealt with recording the long piece called N.O.X.

This piece has its roots in commissioned music we wrote and performed at the St. Olav Festival in Trondheim last summer with two of our favorite Norwegian musicians, Lars Horntveth  (Jaga Jazzist, Amgala Temple) and Ola Kvernberg (Steamdome). It was conceived of as our discussion  and celebration of the themes Håkon Gullvåg (the artist who has done the covers for our last three albums, including this one) has dealt with in his art. One seldom finds the kind of affinity we have found with his art, and although the music didn’t end up seeming too celebratory of anything, the size, scope and lyrical contents are inspired by Håkon’s work. Where our approach to some of the themes is a little more, shall we say ‘esoteric’, than his, we seem to find these themes as fascinating and inspiring as he does, and we recognize that we touch on some of the same topics and have quite a lot of common ground even if we operate in different mediums. The themes of The Tower and The Crucible have resonated incredibly well with his art in the past, and both N.O.X. and the shorter songs on this final chapter in what we loosely and lightheartedly call our Gullvåg Trilogy fit extremely well in that lineage too. Beyond that, we do not want to give you a clear and concise explanation of what the piece is about, if such a thing is even possible, so we’ll leave figuring out the meaning of it up to the listener: there should be clues enough!

We are obviously totally stoked that Håkon wanted to paint the cover for this album – it is an act of goodwill that crowns this four year/three album project in proper style. We are humbly grateful and immensely proud!

Some of the smaller pieces on the record were recorded at home at Kommun’ in Trondheim. What these pieces lack in finesse and intricacy we think they make up for in mood. We hope you do too: it seemed like they gave all this other big, opulent sound a healthy, sober perspective.

Since the world as of writing still is only in the middle of the first wave of this pandemic, the rock and roll world is still not revolving like it used to, and no matter how much we wish it was, we could not plan any promotional escapades involving personal appearances in the promotion of this record. There will be no tour as we know it to celebrate and play the material in the foreseeable future either, but we hope the music world will open before too long and that we can get back to playing to a live audience soon.

In the meantime, we hope that the music on the album will resonate with you and help you both keep the horror at bay and perhaps dream the apocalypse away, at least for a little while.

Bob LeBad


Photo by Terje Visnes