Released: 2005, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Gabriel C. Zolman
"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!"
Extol…once-great, mighty Extol—how fallen thou art! What hast thou wrought?
Bastards. They should have called it “The Blueprint DIES,” or “The Gameplan Has Abruptly Changed,” or better yet, “The Fanbase Is Ignored.”
Extol were once the hope of Christendom. They were a Blackened Death band out of Norway, who differed from their blasphemous brethren in their lyrics, which exalted Christ instead of Satan, and often in clever and creative ways. Was it preachy? Not generally; in fact, often they presented quite impressive arguments. You did not need to be a believer to appreciate the music, and that was of divine importance. Extol’s Century Media debut, UNDECIEVED, was a milestone from any point of view, and was instrumental in demonstrating that a “Christian” band could walk the “path of blackened fire,” that darkened hearts and seasoned chicken, as easily as Satyricon, and frequently with greater class and stride. They did not serve the Gouda God; they were not cheese-miners like Mortification or Crimson Thorn. Like Believer, Vengeance Rising, and The Crucified before them, they were legitimate, and important. You could counter their sacred texts, or assault their ideology…but you could not fault their music. They were for real.
The following LP (SYNERGY) brought changes to the mix, a growing technical veneer—leading to a tour with prog-death masters Opeth—and a change in vocal styles, to a Carnal Forge sort of holler. This was of questionable merit, but it worked in tracks like “Grace For Succession” and the like. Things were still upon the up and up, but then…
Chris Espevoll and Ole Borud left, and we have this. Now, it must be said that the resultant record rocks just fine. But the sounds therein—regardless of how fine—do not conjure the name on the CD. Call it “Nextol” or “Ex-Extol” or “Ex-two”—fuck it, call it “Meredith” and put it in a party dress—but songs like “Pearl” and “Another Adam’s Escape” are not the product of anything this band has represented in the past. The music doesn’t blow, per se... But if you plan to “sing a new song to the Lord,” do so as a New Man, dying to the Old Man like the Apostle Paul implored.
Musically, it’s still very progressive, albeit glossed a bit and pussied up like Embodyment, when they found their Emo inner child. The melodic vocals—sure to be a thorn to longtime fans—are well-executed, but rip the heaviness from the songs. They don’t suck; but they serve to change the genre classification of the band. This is not a change to Shadows Fall or Sinai Beach-type vocal interplay; this is closer to Atreyu territory—these melodies croon to broken hearts, and girlfriends wearing Hello Kitty T-shirts, reeking of patchouli and stale mall-shop perfume.
Ironically, the harsh vocals have improved a hundred-fold. They’re not original—but they work, more times than not, with Peter Espevoll invoking his best Kurt Bachman (Believer) impression.
Some tracks, like openers “Gloriana” and “Soul Deprived,” work; “From The Everyday Mountaintop” and “Essence” are just fine, and could have appeared on the previous LP. But “Lost In Dismay” belongs on TRL, set to the sounds of screaming teenage lovelorn girls with glitter on their cheeks. In the end, it is allegedly technical Prog-Thrash that could open up for Poison in the States.
It is said that Christians shall be given a new name upon admittance into Heaven. Extol might want to pester the Divine to give them their’s ahead of time, like Esau’s birthright, for a bowl of tasty porridge, a semblance of some dignity, and the last strains of respect from their old fans.