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Extol cemented themselves in metal history as one of the most inventive, progressive and technical groups in the industry. Not only within their sphere of Christian metal, but with regards to metal as a whole. They became a band where sound changes and the exploration of new musical territories became something predictable, and to a degree anticipated by their fans. It didn't matter what sound they decided to exhibit in an album, it was always done so well. Thus, with this album, the tradition continues...
Extol took a long break after their last album "The Blueprint Dives," which served to be a mixed bag to some, and a usual work of genius in the "Extol fashion" to others. This unpredictable shift, and a long string of years without any new material was thought to be a sign of the bands demise. No initial signs of resurgence were shown, and fans waited and waited. This is what they waited for, and I daresay that it may have been worth the wait.
The album kicks off with the technical and groovy riff of "Betrayal." For as much of a familiar sound that there is to be heard in the riff, and in the feel of the entire song, there is something new. The sound is very much polished, the technicality more exploratory and the music overall, more progressive. Heard in the chorus of the song is a voice that had not been heard for a long time, and a voice much of Extol's fan base sorely missed. Ole Borud returns in this album for some very well performed clean vocal performances. The layered harmonies of his vocals dance about in choruses of the song. The aggression of the verses in stark contrast with the major key choruses provides for a bittersweet feeling in many of the songs. This only furthers the inventiveness and intrigue that lies within the album.
Peter Espevoll performs his vocals in the album with anger, aggression and ferocity. It is a fantastic vocal performance on his part, and such a performance can be likened to some of his former acts in albums like "Undeceived" and "Synergy." He proves to be much more varied in this album however. Throughout the songs, he screams highs lows and everything in between. This adds to the variety of the guitar work, drumming, as well as Ole's clean vocals. It works out well.
The guitar work in this album is fantastic, and technically speaking, perhaps their finest performance. Solo's are intertwined with odd and progressive chord patterns. Unexpected chord shifts and technical soloing seems to be the name of the game in this album. It is not nearly as predictable as "The Blueprint Dives," and even rivals "Synergy" with regards to chord progression and overall technicality. The guitar tone is in my opinion most likened to "Undeceived" when it comes to the low chords, and "Burial" when it comes to higher guitar parts and solos. A lot of variety is exhibited, not only in tonality, but also in technicality.
The drumming is impeccable in the usual Dave Husvik fashion. His performance is extremely technical, without the excessive blast beats and overblown sound of typical drum performances in this type of metal. Dave has yet to have a disappointing drum performance.
Overall, what Extol did with this album is put the variety of sounds from their discography into one album, this one. Literally, in all regards, this album can be likened to and compared to another album in their discography. No band I've come across has been able to put the sounds of a discography into one album as well as Extol has done with this album. Being a long time fan, this album has been a refreshing one. With such a combination of the new and old, it has brought about a completely new Extol and a very good one at that! I thoroughly recommend this album for fans of the band, as well as for people who enjoy inventive, technical and well crafted metal. Great album!
Highlight tracks; "Betrayal," "Open the Gates," "A Gift Beyond Human Reach" and "Unveiling the Obscure