words by Jon Garcia
Audrey Horne vocalist Torkjell “Toschie” Rød recalls an engineer’s reaction to the band’s hard lean into their classic and hard rock influences while recording their 2013 album Youngblood.
“He said, ‘I love that you’re doing this. You know, it’s commercial suicide what you’re doing right now, but it’s cool.’”
The world already had enough straightforward hard rock bands, the engineer thought. But the members knew something needed to change.
“After our third album we realized, fuck we need to bring the fun back into this. How do we do that? Well, let’s go back to the starting point,” Toschie said. “When you start a band you're in a rehearsing room and you just have fun and write stuff that’s fun to play. You don’t think too much about ‘is this a good career move?’”
Turns out not worrying about career moves was the best move of their career.
Nine years after those sessions, the Norwegian rock quintet are ready to unleash their seventh album, Devil’s Bell, still proudly incorporating the sounds of the 70s and 80s bands they love.
Audrey Horne is known for bombastic hard rock belters, infusing a Rorschach test of influences — ranging from Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy to U.F.O. and Ozzy Osbourne — into a fresh, contemporary package. What the listener hears depends entirely on their own musical journey, but they’ll be fist pumping and shouting along all the same.
“We’re getting better at what we’re doing, and we’re still sort of hungry enough that we’re still able to make albums that are alive and kicking in a way,” Toschie said.
Like most albums these days, the path to Devil’s Bell was not a conventional one. Written and recorded during the thick of the pandemic, the band had to get used to not being able to meet up and hash out songs in a rehearsal space. Instead, they wrote separately, sending files back and forth to each other. At first it felt like something they were forced to do, Toschie said. However, after a while they realized the new process was giving them a different perspective on their writing, and gave them more time to work on going deep into the songs.
They talked about their strengths as a band, and how they wanted to make a heavier album because they tend to leave their slower songs out of the live set. They focused on twin guitar melodies, rather than having a solo in every song.
“The cool thing about doing it this way is when we recorded it, we ended up making something more progressive than what we’ve done earlier, or at least in a really long time,” Toschie said. “Which was kinda cool because that was not the plan. The plan was sort of to make a heavy album, let’s just straight hard rock. Let’s not fuss about, let’s just make kick-ass songs. When the album was finished, I enjoyed so much the more instrumental parts.”
In addition to having their first-ever instrumental, Devil’s Bell is also the first record Audrey Horne recorded, produced, and mixed within the camp. Guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal — who also mans the axe in Enslaved — produced, while former Audrey Horne and Enslaved keyboardist Herbrand Larsen mixed it. Toschie admitted some apprehension from the band to do things this way, but the results speak for themselves.
“In hindsight I think it was really the right thing to do.”
As for wearing their influences on their sleeve, Audrey Horne doesn’t set out to write a Deep Purple riff here and add a Scorpions lick there. They focus on melody and songwriting, taking queues from the greats that taught them the joy of rock.
“We just write music, and we have so much love for the bands that we grew up with, and the bands that we still listen to ’til this day. And that rubs off on our music, as well.”
The turning point for Audrey Horne came when questioning their direction during those Youngblood sessions. Wondering if they were overdoing it or “having too much fun,” they reached out to a producer for reassurance.
“We asked him, ‘do you think the references were too obvious on this album?’” Toschie said. “And he said, ‘they are very obvious, but you can hear that it’s done honestly. You can hear that you guys fucking love this stuff.’”
He told them they could basically steal whatever they wanted, as long they had one element that was honest and strong.
“He used Amy Winehouse as an example. What she did, musically was basically just doing something that had been done by artists before her, but she had something that was honest enough. That made it credible. That made people believe in it. And I think in a way that’s what we have as well. Everyone who gives us feedback on our music or our live shows, they say that this is just so fucking fun. It’s just pure honest fun. We can tell that you love doing this, and it rubs off on us as an audience.”
And as long as Audrey Horne is having fun, they’ll keep making albums.
“We’ve always been a band that does this purely because we love to do it,” Toschie said. “We don’t have to make an album that sells a lot. If the album doesn’t sell, is not a commercial success, then it’s not the death for us.
“We always feel like we have to make an album that is 100% there. We cannot afford to make an album that we can look back on and say, yeah that wasn’t as good. Every album has to count. This band doesn’t make us rich. This is sort of our legacy, in a way. You have to look back and say, ‘fuck, I’m proud of that album.’”
Toschie fully believes they’ve achieved that with Devil’s Bell.
Audrey Horne's seventh album Devil’s Bell is available now via Napalm Records. Get it - HERE
Watch the full interview with Toschie below.