lunes, 19 de agosto de 2013

Review: Extol - Extol (2013)

There are discs which you can be craving for long. Ever since Extol announced its comeback and the release of a new album, my expectations gradually grew, as anyone who’s listened their previous records should have.  It’s just that this Norwegian Christian band has had many changes and mutations along its career, which consists of four full-length albums (not counting this year’s of course) which I’ll review right away.

So we find ourselves with “Burial”, the band’s debut album from 1998, which offered a great quality Technical/Death Black Metal with 12 precise, memorable tracks, handled with a subtle melody management which ends up being the band’s trademark. “Undeceived” arrived in 2000, and presented a movement towards MeloDeath-touched progressive Death Metal, thus without losing neither strength nor quality, conceiving an album that is both, solid and enjoyable. However, three years later arrives "Synergy", a thrash-like work that, in my opinion was very irregular, having many low spots and just a few high ones. By 2005 “The Blueprint Dives” would arrive to see them mutate again, but this time to an Alt rock/metal progressive that is as astounding as impressive. Unfortunately, they would break right after this one.

As you can see, Extol has been a restless band that has explored many faces, trying to pull the best out of each and getting a victorious result almost all the time. This 2013, the band got together again and a new record came along. Will they surprise us again? Will they reinvent themselves again? The answer is yes, but not n the way that one should expect. And you’ll see what I mean through every song.

We start with “Betrayal”, which easily traps us with its complicated riffs. The song develops with strength and a chorus worthy of songs like Gloriana (“The Blueprint Drives” first song), which complements excellently with the continuous irregular sections offered by Ole Børud, in charge of the six cords. In this disc’s first encounter both the strength and the melodic delicacies fit in, leaving a very good impression.

“Open the gates” starts with quite some attraction, which is vital when it comes to speaking about this album. Each and every song has its solo, riff or distinctive and memorable base, which allows each song to be engraved in our brains. And the double guitar-drum gets the best of itself in a formidable combination which manages to squeeze the juice of each song out, showing all of its skills without falling into a mere, unmeasured pretention, but all the contrary, each and every element is exposed to focus on the enrichment of the piece. A good example of this is given by David Husbik in the section 01:50 – 02:10.

“Wastelands” takes us to a darker spectrum, where the “thrashigs” are privileged and Peter Espevoll’s mighty voice happens to be more than adequate, even reminding us for some moments of the fury displayed by the band on their first full lengths. An intense song that has its moment of peace during the solo, but rapidly gets us on guard again all due to the dynamism and richness of elements given by each member on the service of the work. 

Fourth movement. With “A gift beyond human reach” we retreat to Extol’s most melodic side, where each riff is extremely hypnotic, noticing that this song practically lacks of any clean voice that helps to add sensibility or to “relax the hearing”. Everything sounds compact, balanced, in a mixture which can remind us of previous works, but keeping a unique style. And that is the key of this disc: it’s the result of all prior discs; it has a bit of each and takes the best out of them, onward to an absolutely own sound.

After the sort-of happy song, “Faltering Moves” appears, which develops as the last’s antithesis, filled with surliness melancholy and feeling, even though it seems a little weird. Without losing their progressive nature, the Norwegian deliver dense sections , alternating them with others filled with feelings, all this with an impressive sensitivity, for them to merge with the necessary cohesion for it to be fluid during the almost six minutes long. Espevoll makes an enviable performance to complement himself with the harmonies and accomplish the desired effect, the alternation between rough and soft.

The second half of the song starts with “Behold The Sun”, where a very technical and elaborated work is shown, filled with complex riffs, changes of time and character, with a very pleasant exchange between clean and guttural voices. Probably this is the most complete song in the sense of having a bit of everything in a very demanding composition. Which doesn’t become boring, but lures us to continue on the four intense minutes that compose this song.

In my opinion, “Dawn of redemption” is something different. A brief reflecting period through Børud’s chords, which calmly leads us to a point in which we notice that each note and pluck is touching our soul. It’s right there when you open your eyes and realize that this is a different disc. It’s a very special disc, not only for the hearer, but for the band itself. “extol” is the pure reflection of their fifteen year old career, it’s the climax of a whole stage, and above all else, it’s the start of a new beginning . However, we still have some songs left…

Eight song, “Ministers”, after the “reflexive” moment brought by the last song, the three-piece band decides to make a strong attack with a song that lyrically is a declaration of principles, therefore, it must show those principles musically as well. Without many melodic down pours (just the necessary) Extol smoothly develops a song that reminds me to the highs of “synergy”, where the aggression was well aimed and administered, so it wouldn’t fall into boredom.

And for the grand finale, two songs in a row. “Extol” (homonymous song) and “Unveiling The Obscure” are connected in an spectacular combination. The first, for having the disc’s most memorable riff, filled with fury and melody at the same time, an absolute wink at “Burial” which added to the use of the clean voices becomes unforgettable. Vicious blast beats at first to move later on to perfectly executed ghastly notes which amaze due to the band’s fluidity to combine such elements without even sounding abrupt, everything enveloped by this melodic treatment which is the house’s trademark.

The second, despite slowing down a bit, doesn’t stand too far thanks to the riffs’ magic brought to us by Børud, who at the end, is the band’s soul, the one in charge of making each song different and unique, having an special touch. And he shows us again this last song with that inventive made to create and recreate himself constantly. A memorable ending indeed.

And thus “Extol” went on, an album that not only puts the Norwegian among the best this year, but also becomes the highest point on their career, and it might probably be very difficult to overcome for the band itself. Although, thinking on the band we are talking about, they can surprise us again. For now, we have a great disc to keep enjoying and analyzing.

Rate: 98/100

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