Extol

The Blueprint Drives

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After virtually reinventing themselves with their third full album, Synergy (which saw them abandoning much of their original death metal fury in favor of a more light-handed, rock approach), Norway's prolific Extol proceeded to clean house prior to recording their fourth, 2005's The Blueprint Dives. Two new guitarists were brought in to help realize their expanding ambitions, which here remain focused on applying technical arrangements and weird time signatures to predominantly cleaner sounds, but in many respects once again dove deeper into unprecedented realms of rule-breaking invention -- hence the title. Expect the unexpected is the wisest means of approaching this restless expanse of an album, where schizophrenic tracks like "Gloriana," "From Every Mountain Top," and "Essence" show vocalist Tor Glidje as likely to shyly croon as scream his lungs out (but never growl!) to the tune of his cohorts' fluctuating instrumental support, and occasional choral harmonies. To Extol's greatest credit, offhand comparisons to other bands are almost impossible! There's a glimpse of Swedish prog-deathsters Opeth (who, incidentally, toured with Extol the previous year) in the taught, stop-start riffs of "Soul Deprived" or "Void"; the shadow of a Tool or Deftones in the singer's plaintive delivery over stuttering rhythms on "In Reversal" and "Another Adam's Escape"; and even an ethereal, Pink Floyd or Radiohead-like quality to dreamy numbers "Pearl" and "Lost in Dismay." But when a writer has to reach down to something as obscure as ancient technical thrashers Anacrusis in the search for viable parallels, you're obviously dealing with a truly original sonic experience. Sure, hard-line metalheads may be quick to dismiss all of this risk-taking and boundary-pushing as mere window-dressing for the heinous act of selling out; but they would be ignoring the fact that The Blueprint Dives is still an incredibly challenging album, not built on easy hooks -- and there are few innate traits more traditionally "heavy metal"-like than that. [The U.S. release of The Blueprint Dives contained a bonus track called "Riding for a Fall" and a video clip for "Pearl."]

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