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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"