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Praiseday for The Mesmerizing Deceivers - 94%

bayern, April 14th, 2017

I heard about Extol some time in the mid-00’s as there was quite a bit of hustle’n bustle around them for being trve purveyors of the technical and the progressive. I naturally tracked down their most recent album, “The Blueprint Dives”, and in all honesty I was fucking shocked; I couldn’t believe people were salivating over a band who could come up with this alternative/progressive metallic rock charade. There had to be some mistake here…

Well, there wasn’t any; the next effort I got a hold of was the debut “Burial” which sounded like an entirely different act. The guys had done a very good job with this interesting blend of technical/progressive death in the vein of early Darkthrone and the Dutch Phlebotomized, and elusive black metal atmospherics along the lines of their compatriots Fester (“Silence”, above all). Then I listened to “Undeceived” which saw the band logically elaborating on the technical death metal idea producing a masterpiece of complex, spastic rifforamas. In other words, the band had by all means deserved the extolments thrown their way based on their previous catalogue.

The album reviewed here was the last recording I found. This work could be considered the first actual “deceiver” in the band’s discography as it was a change of style from the previous two into a more melodic thrash direction. Fans of those early showings may have been pulled back by this new trajectory, but it shouldn’t take long for one to get warmed up to it as this is one of the undisputable peaks in the annals of progressive/technical thrash, a milestone in the genre which also brought thrash back on Norwegian soil (with a little help from Scariot as well) after the legends Equinox’s “demise” in the mid-90’s.

Legends says it that the Extol team were very big fans of Believer, the progressive thrash metal masters, also hailing from a similar Christian lyrical background, and had decided that they could at least match the Americans’ magnum opus “Sanity Obscure”. They were warming up on the first two instalments, perfecting their “weapons”, also giving way to their dark/black/death side until the latter was fully satisfied. They felt ready for this challenge at the dawn of the new millennium, and announced their intentions with the 4-track “Paralysis” EP which also contained the Believer cover of “Shadow of Death” from the Americans’ debut “Extraction from Mortality”. They wouldn’t dare touch the “obscure titan” yet, but the execution was already on a fairly intricate level with death metal still “roaming” around “duelling” with the dazzling blitzkrieg thrashisms.

The moment “Grace for Succession” begins with these absolutely stunning acrobatic guitars extricated directly from Deathrow’s “Deception Ignored” and Coroner’s “Mental Vortex”, the listener knows the band have reached “Sanity Obscure”, and later he/she will find out that they have also surpassed it, at least on a musical level. In the vocal department the audience will experience a constant shift between harsh deathy, screechy blacky, and soulful clean tirades which omnipresent alternation at least favours the mellower progressive insertions ala Opeth. Less spastic, more mechanical thrash awaits the fan on “Paradigm” which even introduces a fourth “ace” in the singing cavalcade, a beautiful female croon. “Psychopath” is indeed a “psychopathic” shredder with its jumpy volatile rhythms and the surreal quiet breaks; more amazing technicality is served later among short impressive lead sections and more nods to Opeth. “Blood Red Cover” is a relatively pensive progressiver with dreamy lead-driven strokes ala later-period Fates Warning, and probably the first and only at this stage forerunner to the metamorphoses witnessed on “The Blueprint Dives”.

“26 Miles from Marathon” arranges blistering overlapping riffs on top of each other the pile becoming faster and faster with time until it “collides” with a puzzling “salad” akin to Atheist’s “Unquestionable Presence” in the middle; it eventually recovers from the “collision” to carry on with the technical shredfest in the second half amidst more spacey throw-ins. “Confession of Inadequacy” is a vigorous progressive thrasher with a constantly shifting rhythm-section the sudden balladic stopovers a slightly debatable asset although once they’re done the guys continue the elaborate melee on full-throttle “scraping the surface” of “Scraping the Surface”, a dramatic stomper which is propelled forward by nearly death metal-ish swagger and several more stylish decisions some of them bordering on Arcturus-like pathos. The diversity encountered is put back into the thrashy moulds with the excellent “Thrash Synergy” which title already suggests at the musical palette which is a stupendous technical array of fast soaring guitars this cut a worthy candidate for “Sanity Obscure” with some of the finest alternations between speedy technical and slower, psychedelic digressions on the scene. “Aperture” is just 3-min of lyrical melancholic acoustics, but “Emancipation” would be a rude awakening with its aggressive hectic riffage the sudden balladic switches again a somewhat acquired taste their questionable presence compensated by more virtuous guitar acrobatics later. “Nihilism 2002” death/thrashes with all the technical audacity it can summon binding this recording with the previous ones thanks to its more aggressive nature the latter dissipated by the exiting portion of warmer progressive psychedelia.

It can be argued whether this opus was the setting on which the succeeding album was constructed, like some fans out there think; it was by all means a mellower transition, but except on a very few isolated moments there were no indications whatsoever of any potential rock-oriented feats. The band never sounded the same on either of their first four albums, and it they were looking to achieve that intentionally, then a move towards a purer progressive metal sound shouldn’t have been such a surprise; but wouldn’t it have been better if they had chosen the progressive power/speed metal arena for this purpose instead, something along the lines of Control Denied? Or Cauldron Born? Or Spirit Web?

I say enough with the speculations, especially after the self-titled opus is now a part of our tangible reality. If this part of the fandom who were wondering what could have happened if the band had preserved their more dynamic thrashy histrionics by at the same time expanding their more laid-back progressive tapestries, the latter album provided the answer with the utmost details. It can safely be labelled as progressive thrash, not so much overt technicality anymore, by also carrying this elusive psychedelic aura which makes it sound like a more brutal version of Rush at times. It could have been released before “the Blueprints”, but then it would have left the latter hanging awkwardly in the guys’ discography as a not very dignified swansong… Anyway, there’s definitely more room to be covered based on this attractive mixture although with a visionary, non-conventional outfit like Extol one can never be sure how they may decide to deceive the audience, and what musical rule they may choose to bend the next time around.

Extol - Synergy - 70%

whitefrozen, January 13th, 2011

If there's one thing Extol cannot be accused of, it's of staying in one style for too long. "Synergy" was released before the depressive/post-rocky "The Blueprint Dives," and after the technical death/black album "Undeceived," and really, none of these albums sound like they came from the same band.

"Synergy" focuses mostly on high-speed technical thrash, and sadly thrash is a genre I really just don't like, so it's hard for me to really like this album as much as I want to.

The instruments here, being Extol, are brilliant. Fast, technical, heavy and as tight as ever. The production is perfect, with everything being mixed loud, clear, heavy and balanced with each other. I'm reminded of Dream Theater at their most progressive here in parts, with all the technicality and stop/starts the Extol likes to use here. The downside here is that there's not a lot of songs I like to listen to; the playing is phenomenal but it almost just sounds like speed exercises at times. The vocals are comprised mostly of high pitched screaming, and while they still have traces of Extols old vocal style here and there it's obvious that the brutal growls and shrieks are a thing of the past. Peter Espevolle begins to take over the clean vocals here, which is a little bit of a letdown because Ole Borud absolutely blows him (and almost every other vocalist) away with his singing.

It's not all just technical fanfare though, as there are some good songs present. The opener "Grace for Succession" has a killer chorus that really brings back memories of the "Burial" days. "Emancipation" opens with a solid riff that sticks out from the rest of the album and is one of my favorite tracks here.None of the tracks are really bad, per se, but they tend to run together after a while.

The exception here is the acoustic ballad, "Aperture," which really is out of place on this album. Being made up of only an acoustic guitar and Peter's clean vocals (which really sound great on this track) it's a gentle, quiet interlude on the album that probably wold have been more at home on "The Blueprint Dives," as a bonus track.

As a whole, I'd rank this as one of Extols' weaker albums; the songwriting here just isn't up to par with what they're capable of. Aside from a few really good moments that pop up and two or three strong tracks, there's not a whole lot to see here. It's technical to the max, it's heavy, but it's just not that good.

Rushed - 40%

noinnocentvictim, May 28th, 2007

"Undeceived" was a very amazing album, and I don't see why Lykathea Aflame fans don't give it a shot, as the styles are aesthetically similar. "Undeceived" was all it could have been, and was a very worthwhile album to listen to. It made me more aware of the melodic possibilities within metal.

However, "Synergy" has nothing of even recognizable quality compared to the former. The entire CD feels as though someone was in a rush to experiment with their guitars until they found passable riffs and structures, then just shoved them all together, creating nothing worthwhile, but a lot that is simply acceptable. Unfortunately, what is acceptable here has already been done, recycled multiple times and did not need to be shat out on the listeners of a formerly quality band.

It seems as though, out of desperation, the band has become obsessed with clean vocals. This is such a disappointment, as "Undeceived" had utterly sick vocals. However, the clean vocals are the best part because ANYTHING is better than thrash vocals. The band attempts to be complex, but it simply sounds like someone was looking at other songs, thinking "Hey, maybe if we play one note synchronized with the drums between a couple chords here and there, we'll be distinguishable from everyone else." That is the essence with this CD, as well as both guitars playing melodies that are simple, kind of "nails on chalkboard" sounding, and together form a chord. This works for Morbid Angel. This works for Carcass. It does not, however, work for Extol.

"Synergy" sounds somewhere like Atheist meets Alarum and Lykathea Aflame. Doesn't sound like a good idea, does it? Well, it's not.

Why doesn't this get beneath a 40 for only being "passable?" The solo at the end of "Nihilism 2002" is what Extol used to have the potential to evolve to.

Synergy - 80%

metalbassist777, June 20th, 2005

Well, this is definately not the Extol that made Undeceived and Burial.

What we have here is the first of Extol's genre-jumping so to speak. Here they have dumpled their progressive death metal style and have taken on a progressive/technical thrash sound. A lot of people into old Extol will probably say that they don't like this new sound, but personally I think its a breath of fresh air. To often do bands write themselves into a corner and deliver the same goods everytime (Cannibal Corpse I'm looking at you). Not like this is necessarily a bad thing, but its good to have some variety.

The instrumentals have definately gone up in quality in my opinion. David Husvick continues to serve up his unonventional drumming technique and add a very technical feel to the album. Christer and Ole both contribute awesome technical guitar lines with a lot of discordant riffing and odd time signature changing. Peter has turned his whole vocals style around and now does more of a hardcore yell opposed to his past use of black metal screams and death growls. He still occasionally will use a metal scream but the yell is the most popular, and it fits the music very well. And the bass...oh wait, where is the bass? Thats my main complaint about this cd. The bass is next to non existent on a lot of the songs, meaning that when Christer and Ole are going at it there is no low end to keep it even. Occasionally you will hear the bass but for the most part it isnt there. Its a shame, because no doubt John Robert has some awesome bass lines on this disc.

My last complaint is the memoribility of the songs. Sometimes they can get a bit TOO technical and lose any catchiness they may have once had.

Overall, I won't necessarily reccommend this to fans of Undeceived or Burial, since this is COMPLETELY different, but if you're into thrash or like technical music or am open minded then you should definately check this out!

Best Tracks: Grace For Succession, Blood Red Cover, Emancipation

better than the last album?! - 86%

SoulSeekJay, July 2nd, 2004

If you never heard of them don't take their home-country as reference for their style because Extol are far from classical Black Metal.

They combine brutal metal with rocking and symphonic tunes and luckily they don't use bugging keyboards for it, just with two guitars, bass, drums and an outstanding vocalist! But in fact every member of this band is a fucking good musician, not only Peter's vocal ability, who also takes over the acoustic guitar parts.

The other guitar work is in a class of its own too. It consists of a lot different elements, heavy walls of guitars, black metal sounding pieces and dissonant rock stuff alternated through a lot speed changes. The album starts with "Grace For Succession" a hard attack with tempo changes between fast and mid-tempo passages and they also throw in playfull breaks when the vocals change between clean singing and harsh screaming like heaven and hell! But that's just the beginning, the second song couldn't be more beautiful and is one of my favourites on this album called "Paradigms" because Maria Solheim (Norwegian Pop/Rock singer) and Peter sing together on the chorus with their awesome voices! Extol just combine brutal hard-hitting technical metal with atmosphere and sweet harmonies, just go and get it!

You cant go wrong!