EXCALION was born in December 2000. The place was Konnevesi, a town in central Finland with about 3,000 inhabitants and some youngsters with a hidden fascination with heavy metal music. Keyboard player Jarmo ”Jappe” Myllyvirta had written some melodic power metal-style songs and began looking for a group to play his ideas aloud. So, on one fateful day, four people found themselves in a tiny rehearsal room: Jappe, drummer Henri Pirkkalainen, bassist Timo Sahlberg and guitarist Tero Vaaja. They played some music, they chatted and found out that they got along well with each other; the chemistry was there. The four guys realized that they had a band. Those days, the guys were aged between 17 and 19. The band was named Excalion by Timo, almost by accident.
The next obvious task was to find someone to sing the songs. Luckily, a perfect solution was near. Jarmo Pääkkönen was a local guy known of his great voice; Jarmo had been in a demo band before, but that band had just recently split up, so he was available to join the guys in Excalion. In winter 2001 the band made a bold attempt to record some of their newborn songs in rehearsal conditions; vocals and four instruments were present, but not much else than drums and keyboards are actually audible on the tape. It is probably needless to say that the energy and enthusiasm was there, but the technical requirements quite weren´t. But it was fun, and it was the start of a journey.
The Early Years and the First Line-Up
Excalion played its first gig ever in spring 2001 at a small local venue. Apart from Excalion´s own songs, the setlist included Stratovarius covers and some Nightwish songs without vocals (!) Soon after this Excalion acquired its full line-up when Kimmo Hänninen, who had played together with Jarmo before, joined the band as a guitarist. In autumn 2001 Excalion recorded their first real demo. This was done at Studio Kaktus near Jyväskylä, the main city of central Finland, where they had two days to record and mix three songs. Among those were a catchy tune titled Forlorn, and a certain song named Heart & Home.
Years 2002 and 2003 saw some scattered gigs and reasonably hard rehearsing. Jappe also wrote new songs with more detail and variety than before. This was above all a time of learning how to be a band, and growing up together – musically and otherwise.
In autumn 2002 Excalion started to make their second demo, this time with their own equipment and studio software. There was not much money around to pay studio fees, so the band had to learn how to do things independently and experiment. The demo was worked in short sessions all the time through spring 2003. This demo had five songs: Temptation Wasteland was there, as well as Megalomania, which was at that time a ten-minute-long, heavily progressive song. A new and powerful song, Stage of Lies, was recorded and added a bit later. Megalomania was later dismantled and turned into a shorter and a more compact song.
The Debut Album
The demo was rough but it was powerful; it was self-made but much heart was put into it. And you could hear it. Anyway, it came almost as a surprise for the band itself when they were offered a chance to make a real album. At the end of 2003 the band signed a deal with a small Portuguese metal label, and the recording of Excalion´s debut album was fixed at autumn 2004. The tracks to be recorded included brand new songs written during 2004 and some reworkings of the older songs. The work was done in September 2004. This was the first time the band entered the Studio Watercastle in Jyväskylä, and that studio became their place of choice for years to come.
The debut album, which was named Primal Exhale, was released in autumn 2005. The album ended up featuring ten tracks, notable of which was Dire Waters, a song written just a little before going to studio, with its new kind of influences. A song sung in Finnish, Luopio, which was actually the old Forlorn with new riffs and lyrics, was thrown in as a bonus. The album received some very positive feedback, but the small print was soon sold out, and this album has been hard to purchase ever since. However, it is highly possible that it will soon be available again via web distribution.
The debut had been made, but a big change was inevitably coming nearer. Early 2005, before the release, changes in the line-up took place. Kimmo decided he wanted to leave the band because of lack of time and motivation, and Excalion had to look for a new guitar player. Soon after this, bassist Timo also left the band. But luck was once more with Excalion. A new, excellent guitarist Vesa Nupponen found out about the band and took his place in the group after just one short rehearsal – it was a perfect match. A decision was made that Tero would switch to bass, and Excalion would continue as a five-member band with one guitar. The decision was ultimately very easy, because the new line-up immediately started to work extremely well.
New Life Through the Waterlines
It felt like a rebirth. The year after Vesa´s joining the band was characterized by a completely new kind of enthusiasm and confidence on the band´s potential. Jappe quickly started to write new songs, and those were worked on during late 2005 and early 2006. The band´s style was clearly evolving. Some things were slowly but steadily becoming more straightforward. Primal Exhale was marked by acrobatic playing, long songs and overall some clear prog metal influences. That was all fine and good, but now the songs seemed to be taking a natural turn towards simple heavy riffs, clear-cut vocal lines and rock elements. A new kind of ”less is more”-attitude was discovered. So, when the band entered the studio again in May 2006, it was clear that the new album was going to be stripped of everything that is inessential for the songs. It was made to be simple and mind-blowing.
Having the experience of making an album already under their belts, the band new this time much better what they were doing and what kind of sound they were after. The work was done in June 2006, but the release date was postponed because there was uncertainty about the publisher. Eventually, things took a very positive turn when the German label Limb Music bought the rights for the album and arranged its release worldwide. The album, much loved by the band, was named Waterlines and released in early 2007.
It was working. Everyone seemed to be recognizing the power of the album, and some leading Finnish music media published superb reviews. Combining the sheer strength of songs like the opening track The Wingman, and the array of emotions communicated by intense pieces of heavy metal beauty like Losing Time and I Failed You, it was exactly what Excalion was aiming at. The band knew that it had done a great job and stepped onto a completely new level, but they also wondered where to go next. New songs were written, but things were not happening as fast as before. It started to feel like the band was in need of a breathing break.
2009: Fresh New Sounds
In early 2009, things felt right again. There was a bunch of new very promising songs, fresh ideas, and more was coming on a weekly basis. Talks were started about releasing a third Excalion album. Details became clear during the summer. Limb Music was willing to continue with the band, and the preparations for the new album sessions were begun with fervor. New songs were written, arranging and re-arranging the songs and rehearsing was intensified. That was the beginning of a very busy period of a few months. It culminated in late August, when the band opened once again the door of the trusted Studio Watercastle. What became of the work done is now there for everyone to hear: the new Excalion album, titled High Time, has been released in January 2010.