This is a review written for a CCM webzine. Incidentally one of my all-time favourite records.
Genre: Progressive Metal
Usually, when I hear a band announce a self-titled album I get a deep sense of foreboding. Will I hear something amateuresque and ill-constructed like all too many rushed debut EPs, or worse still something completely generic? OR will I be completely surprised?
I confess, my initial reaction to Extol’s announcement had nothing to do with the title, and everything to do with the fact that after 5 years without any news at all – the band are back!
Moving on to the album itself: I’m not going to go through it track by track detailing features and surprises, because I’m not sure I will do it justice. What I am going to do, is tell you why you should buy it. Immediately.
Anyone familiar with Extol will know already that they are not easily defined by any of metals overwhelming wealth of sub-genres. Their discography to date includes everything from gentile melodic metal to crushing black metal, with technical death metal thrown in wherever they feel the need.
Extol are all of these things.
The new album is also all of these things.
I cannot tell you exactly how, but the album is almost an anthology on the one hand, drawing from the entire Extol repertoire while on the other hand making it into something fresh, modern and exciting.
Besides this musical smörgåsbord, the production itself owing in equal part to the band themselves and the inimitable Jens Bogren (Opeth, Amon Amarth) effortlessly captures the energy of the album, giving space to each instrument in beautiful definition without sounding contrived.
Opening with with the uniquely harsh tonality they defined on Synergy, they fade into the serene melodic beauty of The Blueprint Dives by the first chorus. I honestly wouldn’t have thought it could work unless I had heard it, but the song sweeps you away, and the rest of the album continues to draw on the full breadth of the bands varied career in ways that are simply implausible.
Lyrically, the album is varied too: ranging from social responsibility to the struggle with our human condition and God’s promise of redemption. It is an honest album, sincere in its darkness but with a real sense of purpose and hope which I continue to find deeply uplifting. In fact, you get more from this album with every listen.
There is something here for every Extol fan, whether you think Burial was their finest album with its crushing riffs and gravelly vocals or that The Blueprint Dives should have won that Norwegian Grammy with its soaring melodies that became instantly accessible to a wide audience somehow without losing its metal integrity, making the album not only career defining, but genre defining.
This is a big deal – there are very few CCM metal albums that will be marked as definitive, or all-time classics, but if enough people hear it, this will be one of them.