Extol - The Blueprint Dives

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Century Media
Catalog Number: 8307-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 50:33:00

What I like about Extol's The Blueprint Dives is the measured intensity with which vocalist/guitarist Ole Halvard Sveen sings - that is, the "clean" parts, which dominate. And, interestingly, he sounds a bit like James LaBrie. I'm only guessing he's the "clean" vocalist here, as on their previous release Synergy, the now-departed guitarist/vocals Ole Børud shared vocals with Peter Espevoll, who sang the harsh vocals; thus I assume the balance is the same here, though to my ears the "clean" vocals dominate... I'll say this about the "harsh" vocals, they aren't so grumbly-rumbly that you can't tell that words are being sung. We're talking raspy yells not howling hell-winds.

Since the release of Synergy, the band's line up underwent changes; the vocalist change noted above being one of them. Another change is the departure of guitarist Christer Espevoll and the arrival - or rather, rearrival - of Tor Glidje. Rounding out the quintet are John Robert Mjaaland on bass and David Husvik on drums (I was not impressed with the bash-bash that opens the album with "Gloriana," but things get better and more dynamic as the album progresses).

Musically, the band is taut and highly strung... a timebomb waiting to explode (and there also comes the explosion). What at first appears as a mere cacophony of noise, reveals after a few listens some measure of texture. Not a lot, and less than one would desire. But a close listen to "In Reversal," for example (a "harsh vocals" heavy piece), and you detect hints of what sound like keys (three guitarists, no keyboardist in this line up, which suggests guests*). And "Another Adam's Escape" has a Pain Of Salvation-like urgency, even as the vocals are delivered in a very measured fashion. It's arty metal piece that will appeal to those who prefer melodic metal, even as the guitars aren't particularly melodic. But, these "dynamic touches" are, for the most part, buried in the mix (not buried in a "bad production" kind of way).

Because Extol are going for intensity, the arrangements are, for the most part, quite dense... The band are tight... too tight, leaving little room for guitars to venture out of mix and make short side-statements. Though sometimes that, too, can be minus if it detracts from the whole. The measured intensity with which the clean vocals are delivered also give things a plodding feel at times ... While it makes the ferocious guitar/bass/drums interplay all that more energetic... we come back to the feeling of "all sound and fury, signifying nothing." It becomes, in our memory, a cacophony of noise, interspersed with brief moments of respite. The gently strummed intro to "Lost In Dismay," for example, which has a light, jazzy, if somewhat awkwardly executed, swing to it. Breathy vocals are delivered sweetly, and with a suitable amount of sadness to get the idea across...

The piece that appeals to me most is the very short "Pearl" (it's just under 3 minutes where most of the rest of the tracks are in the 3:30 to 4:30 range). Maybe it's the guitar arpeggios, the contrasts between light (verses) and dark (choruses). Comparatively, it's the album's ballad - there's heavy guitar blasts, to be sure, but here alone the contrasts are most strongly defined (and all clean vocals, too). It's not a great piece, but... adequate. The acoustic guitar interlude on "From The Everyday Mountain Top" is quite nice. Though one might find the respite of the jangly interlude of "The Things I Found" to be nice initially ... it really is plodding, chewing up time in a piece that's a dull, wall-of-guitars, screamy piece that is the first hint of what's to come musically.

In contrast, "Essense" is almost a parody of thrash metal, as it is delivered in such an over the top manner, in stark contrast to most of the album. There are a few interesting moments here towards the middle, when things get a little looser and breezy, but...

Catharsis comes with "Void" where we get a lot more screaming than we get singing. It is catharsis and the moment of explosion that we've been building up to with the previous 9 tracks. At 5:38 it's the second longest piece here -- the longest being "The Things I Found" at 6:24 -- but seems longer ... longer than the minutes it runs. Equally, we might say that "The Death Sedative" is the post-explosion rage moment... an agonizing and torturous moment, and not just because the "harsh" vocals have taken over.

The Blueprint Dives has its moments, but they are few and far between. It's not an awful album, it's just not very inspiring. It sits there, plays its thing with intensity and fire, and then leaves without searing itself into ones conscious. Maybe I'm looking for something more diverse and dynamic than Extol are able to deliver... maybe I'm looking for too much prog metal in a technical thrash band... trying to put a square peg in a round hole... but, I'm left with an unsatisfied feeling, nevertheless... I found more to like in Synergy.

*There are guests, in fact: Anders Salomon Lidal, Magnus Westgaard and David Wallumrød

Gloriana (3:25) / Soul Deprived (3:26) / In Reversal (5:37) / Pearl (2:55) / From The Everyday Mountain Top (3:46) / Another Adam's Escape (4:36) / The Things I Found (6:24) / Lost In Dismay (5:14) / Essence (3:43) / Void (5:38) / The Death Sedative (4:55) / Bonus track: Riding For A Fall (3:44)

Peter Espevoll - vocals
Tor Glidje - guitars
Ole Halvard Sveen - guitars
David Husvik - drums
John Robert Mj?land - bass

Guests: Anders Saloman Lidal, Magnus Westgaard, David Wallumr?d

Burial (1998/2000*)
Mesmerized (ep) (1999)
Undeceived (2000)
Synergy (2003)
The Blueprint Dives (2005)

Genre: Other

Origin NO

Added: February 20th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.extolweb.com
Hits: 1300
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]