by Ash Levitt
Heavy music word association test... ready Ok: Florida : Death Metal New York : Hardcore Sweden : Melodic Metal Norway : Christian Metal Ha! You thought the Norway one was going to be Black Metal, but you were wrong. At least in the case of Extol. Coming from the icy, frozen land known for producing corpse paint wearing misanthropes, it's odd to be a successful band that is a polar opposite (for all intents and purposes_ from what that country is known for. To anyone familiar with Extol, the band has taken many turns musically, and historically they haven't all been popular shifts. The bands older sound was very dark and ominous, similar to their black metal neighbors in many respects. Albums like 2000's Undeceived was almost classic in some respects. The cold and calculating metal was transforming into a more musically progressive beast. However, in 2003, when the band released Synergy, much of the aggressiveness and sheer quality seemed to wane.Extol's newest offering, The Blueprint Dives, has somewhat returned to heaviness the band was once capable of, yet still maintains a prominent emphasis on singing and lighter sections of songs. The band is still working from the progressive mold by experimenting with time signature changes, and modulating between screaming and singing while weaving various textures from metal to progressive rock. Although much of the singing could be eliminated, there are many aspects of this new album, such as interesting, unique melodies, that overshadow the less powerful and less memorable moments. Bottom Line: Extol is a band that by now the listener should know where they stand. If not, this might not be the best album to start with, since this is probably their most diverse release. This diversity is good and bad; it displays a good amount of musical talent within the band, yet seems very random and unfocused at times. Ultimately though, this release is a solid reflection of a solid band.