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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.