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When I first heard this album, I thought I had the wrong CD playing; the Extol I knew was brutal, death/black/progressive metal, and in more recent times, a technical but still brutal thrash metal band. The Blueprint Dives, while still Extol, showed their most dramatic change in musical style, going from fast, technical thrash to an almost depressive rock with some thrash metal and post-rock influences.
It definitely takes some getting used to, on all fronts. Gone is the insane drumming, replaced by a much more subdued approach. Gone are the lightning fast guitars playing ten different things at one, replaced by a much more rock influenced sound. Gone are the brutal and savage vocals, replaced by an almost hardcore scream with lots of clean vocals. The vocals, in my opinion, are quite good, with the screams retaining at least the ferocity of Peter Espevolls style and the clean vocals going quite well with the softer and calmer portions of the album.
However, despite the drastic change in style, Extol prove to be excellent at their newfound sound. Fast tracks like the opener "Gloriana," and "Soul Deprived" show that they still have what it takes to put out some fast, intense music, while calmer numbers like "Lost in Dismay," and the fantastic ballad "Pearl" really showcase the softer and more relaxed side of the band. More somber songs like "The Things I found," "Void," and the closer "The Death Sedative" are much more depressive in tone and definitely highlight Extol's ability to really create a dark atmosphere and show more of the post-rock side of the band.
The production on this album is just perfect; every single instrument gets to shine and it all sounds gorgeous. It's heavy, clean, crisp and perfectly balanced. Kudos to whoever mixed this album for doing a fantastic job.
There's not a lot of real bad moments here that I can point to; "Essence" is a slightly weaker track that probably could have been cut from the album, and "Another Adam's Escape" just doesn't click with me as much as the rest of the songs, but aside from those two everything here is pretty solid.
Is this album a brutal masterpiece like "Burial," or "Undecievd"? No. But, as a standalone album, it's pretty darn solid, and one I enjoy fairly often. If you're a fan of Extol's old sound, look elsewhere, as there really is nothing here that even hints at their former styles. The band really has moved on, and The Blueprint Dives, while a very different animal than the rest of their discography, is still an excellent album, and one I recommend to any fans of depressive and post-rock. Give this album a listen, and just enjoy it for what it is; good, dark, relaxed hard rock.
This is by far Extol's worst release. They have slowly but surely been working towards a lighter sound. Extol is an overall progressive metal band. Burial and Undeceived had much black and death influence. Then with the release of Synergy, they stripped most black/death influence in favor for a more thrash influence. And now, with The Blueprint Dives leaves most metal influences for a predominately progressive rock/metal sound.
Now, here's where this starts getting difficult. This is a good album. There is much to be found; great melody and atmosphere. If you didn't know it was Extol, this would be great release, but there in lies the trouble. I'm not one for getting overly upset and giving 0-20 ratings when a band changes there sound, especially Extol, because they do it with each album.
This album got a 70 because, overall, it is a good album. Much more depressive than other releases, but overall the progression of the album is very nice. I really don't feel like reviewing each song, because I just don't want to evaluate each one. But this is a solid release. Good production, solid tracks, etc. The only problem in the song department is that every song isn't really that much of a stand out song. Every song on each album preceding this one was very good and stood out, even the filler's. (Pretty much not making them fillers, but interludes)
This album did not get higher than a 75 because it IS Extol. This is a band who have given us some of the best metal since the mid 90's. Every album leading up to this was exceptionally incredible. The Blueprint Dives just seems much less Extol, and a little less inspired.
Hopefully this much "softer" period for Extol will end, because nothing would make many Extol fans out there happier than for them to regain some of their older sound. Overall, this is a solid release, but from a band who can chew off much more than they decided to bite. If you're a fan of light progressive metal with many alternative influences, then definitely check this album out. If you loved Extol for their ability to perfectly combine prog with black/death/thrash, well then don't even listen, because you will be gravely disappointed.
Extol has usually been a band of progressive technical black/death/thrash metal variation since their first release back in the 90's. However, the Blueprint Dives is obviously the album that the group has aimed to break the mold with.
Let me say first that if you are a fan of death metal and/or black metal, you may not appreciate this album fully. There are hardly any blast beats or double kick drums, the guitars are less technical, and the deep growls are very limited. What we have here is a progressive rock/metal album that has a goal to add ambience, flow and feeling rather than technical expertise. It's very unique, and if you are more a fan of Extol than death or black metal in general, you will still probably like it - what we have here is definately Extol. And it's no rehash.
When I first heard the song Gloriana, I didn't like it very much. The screaming was stinted, the drums sounded weak, and the guitar felt limited. It's not the best song on the CD, but it made me realize that they had the minimalistic "less is more" philosophy when creating this work of art. The drum beats aren't all over the place like in standard metal, they were well placed and did their job. The guitar is not there to show off or anything, it's to add ambience and melody. Acoustic guitar passages in the middle of songs like "From the Every Day Mountain Top" and "The Things I Found" were simple, haunting and dark. What amazes me is how much emotion and thought goes into such a simple melody created by finger picking. It's claustrophobic and dark, yet hopeful, and at the same time expresses something greater than I can barely explain (it makes me feel like I'm floating in space, look at stars).
The faded and surpressed screaming in "The Things I Found" and "The Death Sedative" have a quality that is sorrowful and beautiful almost beyond description. The screamer sounds like he is trapped in the bottom of a well, and his cries for rescue are unheard. That's the thing, really. You can't always discern what he is screaming, but you can sure detect passion and emotion in it. The clean vocals are delayed a bit to try something unique. They aren't the best, and certainly not as good as the clean vocals on Undeceived, but they get the job done. I've heard people say that they are emo-sounding, but that's not completely true. I don't really hear the similiarity.
The only other problem (besides the clean vocals) I had was with the production. It sounded like there was too much emphasis on the treble and not enough on the bass.
Overall, I'd say this album is their biggest progression yet. It is all about creating ambience and emotional out of minimal complexity.
Best tracks: 2,5,7,11
Respectively, "Soul Deprived," "From the Everyday Mountain Top," "The Things I Found," "The Death Sedative"
I have been a huge fan of extol for several years. I love the creativity, the technicality, the progressive aspects, and the heaviness of all their music. Synergy and Undecieved are definitely on my top 10 metal albums of all time.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from The Blueprint Dives. I knew it would be a change. All Extol albums are drastically different from eachother, so a slight change in style or sound would not have bothered me at all. By the time I was through the first track, Gloriana, I knew that Extol was no longer the band that I knew and loved. Their sound has changed to that of a mainstream, melodic band that can hardly be considered metal. If you are new to Extol, please DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS ALBUM. Pick up a copy of Synergy or Burial to start with. This album does not reflect their style or technicality in any way, shape, or form.
As I made my way through this album, the fact became clearer and clearer to me: this band has changed into something completely different. Sure, the clean vocals are done nicely and the recording quality is outstanding, but it is nothing like the older, heavier Extol that I remember.
If this album was done by any other band, I would say that it is a good listen and that it is worth at least checking out. The melodies and the songwriting are bearable, and peaceful to listen to. But this album is closer to modern prog rock than death metal. The ongoing theme of Christianity is nothing new, and the melodic chord progressions are understandable and even catchy at times.
I'll give Extol a break for trying something new, something softer. I'm sure that all bands attempt this at one time or another, for better or for worse. I give this album a 65 rating, simply because it deserves to be recognized for it's melodic qualities and composition. Like I said before, if you have never heard the band Extol before, please do not listen to this album. Go buy yourself a copy of Undecieved and see for yourself what this band is capable of
This was one of those albums I picked up on a whim from the used CD rack at Hastings, having only recently read a couple of good reviews for it on this site. If a band is classified as death/thrash on here, I usually end up liking them, so, I figured, why not?
Ugh. When I first gave it a spin, I was astonished. THIS used to be a technical death metal band?! THIS is "thrash/death?!" Trust me, there is nothing even remotely thrash or death on this album, and certainly nothing technical (unless you mean in the metalcore sense - pointless temp and time changes and whatnot). It's hard to describe what exactly this is (I think that's what they were going for, actually), but it's safe to say it's not metal and most definitely not my cup of tea. The harsh vocals are all right in a Devin Townsend-esque sort of way, but they get old pretty quickly due to the monotone delivery. The cleans, in addition to being overused, are quite bland and haunted by a specter of that forced emotion that makes emo vocals suck so much. No, they're not My Chemical Romance bad, but they have a slight tendency in that direction.
I mentioned uninspired clean passages, but just about all of this album is uninspired, actually. The melodies just don't work - they're not interesting, and they don't stay with you. The riffs, such as they are, are fairly dull as well. In fact, there's not really a memorable moment on this album. Now, I can appreciate music that isn't instantly catchy, but if I can get through a whole album without encountering ANYTHING that jumps out at me right away and makes me want to go back for a second listen, then there's a problem. And that's the way this one is - you get to the end of it, and you realize you have no desire to hear any of that again. Sure, maybe I could appreciate it more if I listened to it again and again, but what's the point of that if one has to force oneself?
In short, this album is mediocre through and through. Mediocre songwriting, mediocre musicianship, and mediocre vocals. Oh, and the lyrics suck. Normally, I'd give an album this thoroughly banal a 50% rating, but I halved that total; first, because I've since listened to some of this band's older stuff and I know they're capable of doing better, and second, because this album fails so badly at being metal. I've got no problem with non-metal, but these guys were clearly trying to make an album that, for all its experimentation, was still a metal album...and they failed. Hard.
Last year Extol surprised everyone with their new take on their sound, but now they continue to progress their style even more, and let me say that the direction this is going....is a great one! First of all, let me start with this warning: if you didn't like Extol's last album, you're not going to like this one at all! That's it, plain and simple. But if you liked their last album, well, this album will win you over with its melody and technicality. "Blueprint" is really a nice way to evolve their new sound. It adds even more melody to the music but without loosing their complexity. Extol still take risks in their music, and without a band doing that, how will music progress?!
Another aspect I love about them is their lyrics. Their Christian, but so what? You gotta admire that even though their surrounded by bands that write about satanic shit or other religious related themes just to seem rough, Extol still hold their ground. I'm not religious or anything, but I really appreciate that passion about them, you can really see that those lyrics are real, especially through their melodies, and that's the next thing I'm gonna talk about. This album is full of it, in some parts you really don't expect to hear melody but somehow they got it in there and it fits the music. These melodies really make this album shine, it's really beautiful. Sometimes you can hear the vocals full of anger or sadness, just full of emotion. They're not afraid to write about love either, "Gloriana" is a perfect example of that, a beautiful song. But my absolute favorite track has to be "The Things I Found", this song seems to have almost a dark feel to it at first, but when it reaches the chorus, all you hear is emotion flowing through the words, just amazing!
For me, the standout tracks are: Soul Deprived, From The Everyday Mountain Top, The Things I Found, and Essence. A fact that I almost skipped was that there's more clean vocals here than any Extol album before it. That's not a bad thing because this guy sings great, screaming or doing clean vocals, he hits it perfectly! Listen to "Pearl" for this, completely clean vocals in it. I love this album, so if you are an open minded metal head, get this!!
Extol's fourth album 'Blueprint' is a good one. The songs seem more song oriented as apposed to the off the wall technicality of the past, which to fans probably spells disaster, but 'Blueprint' is no album to fret about, there's a lot of good on it.
Extol are using clean vocals more than ever now, but still have quite an abundance of harsh vocals. Some say the clean vocals sound a bit off, but honestly I think they sound great, and add an aura to the music, which is probably what the band intends here.
In terms of musicianship, less technical then it's counterparts to be blunt, but still quite technical and well played. Extol aren't susceptical to the term 'sellouts' just yet. While much more accessible, the band still has it's integrity intact.
As for the songs, I'm impressed for one, they all have atmosphere and personality. Where some lack in being catchy, other's make up for it, such as the lead off track 'Gloriana' or the single 'Pearl'. Speaking of 'Pearl' it's easily the most radio-ready song the band has done to date, which isn't a bad thing at all, as the song rules. A few songs aren't very memorable and don't really stand out, but they're not bad songs by any means. Also, the harsh vocals are used at odd times in some spots so that seem annoying, and frankly a bit obnoxious, this can be overlooked though.
In conclusion, I would recommend this album to you. It's easily Extol's most accessible album to date, and has a few songs you really don't want to miss out on. Although it has a few minor weakspots, it's a strong album. So go and check it out, you may just like it alot.