Review Summary: Extol is the glorious return to form fans have been hoping for.
I’m not one to judge bands based on lyrics, let alone metal bands. Most metal lyrics are indecipherable in the context of the music, which is perfect for me since I find the music itself to be the most fascinating part. Despite this, I was genuinely surprised finding out that Extol is a Christian metal band (even though extol does mean "to praise"). In a genre full of bands screaming about blood, gore, Satan, and the like, Extol manage to be just as ferocious and captivating as their competitors, if not more so, singing about the exact opposite. Undeceived
in particular was an effortless coalescence of Opeth-style progressive death with heavy blackened undertones, exploring the genre’s boundaries from the most uplifting melodies to moments of sheer moroseness and despair. As far as I’m concerned, they could’ve been screaming about Satan reigning as supreme God of the new world the entire time and it wouldn’t have made the slightest difference – the music spoke for itself. The main difference between Extol and their competitors is that instead of succumbing to boring genre stereotypes, they sing about something they’re all truly passionate about, and this passion bleeds heavily into the actual music.
continues in a similar vein as its predecessor, with progressive influences playing a much bigger role and blackened elements being few and far between. It’s safe to say Extol hasn’t lost a step since the hiatus – ‘A Gift Beyond Human Reach’ contains some of the happiest metal riffs they’ve ever recorded, sole interlude ‘Dawn of Redemption’ is one of the more subtle and beautiful ones they’ve written (albeit a couple minutes too long), and technically the band is as tight as ever. While no song is as outright haunting as ‘Undeceived’, the sense of gloom lacking on The Blueprint Dives
is lingering in songs such as ‘Wastelands’ and ‘Faltering Moves’. Not much has changed vocally either – the screams are raspy and hollow, the singing is airy and elegant; however, contrary to early releases where screams mostly dominated the vocal department, on Extol
harsh and clean vocals are split about equally. The abundance of singing, while overbearing at times, helps drive the songs with lush Devin Townsend-esque layered choruses (Open the Gates) and the occasional male choir effect (Unveiling the Obscure).
Oddly enough, the biggest problem with Extol
is its crystal clear production – it’s so divinely polished that it nullifies the atmosphere the band used to thrive on. The overproduction compensates for the increase of progressive elements, which admittedly sound better than ever, but fans of Undeceived
’s raw blackened approach will likely be disappointed. Regardless, it doesn’t take away from the magnificent songwriting, which Extol has always managed to bring in spades. This is a true return to form for the band – their ambition is as strong as ever, and while there are no real signs of experimentation, it’s essentially the sound carried through their four full-lengths melded into a compact 50-minute package. If you’re already a fan of Extol, surely you’ll enjoy this; if you’ve never listened to them before, now’s as good a time as any to start.