Extol, "The Blueprint Dives"
The brilliant and tragic Extol. I've been very passionate about this band since their Undeceived record, which succesfully blended prog and black metal without it getting to an overly meticulous Scholomance level, and doing so with Christian lyrics truly gave this band their own identity. Nonetheless the masses critically despised the act for their lyrical base, and jeered them even more when they took their approach to an even more progressive level with Synergy. Now, with The Blueprint Dives, Extol finally gives us a real reason to hate them.
I was sceptical when I heard that they lost both guitarists after Synergy was released, and even moreso when they recorded this album during the same year they found the two new members. But surprisingly, the guitarwork isn't the shortcoming of the record, and if I wasn't already informed that it was two different guys playing on the record I'd be hard pressed to say otherwise. It's definitely the same style and the patented melodic touch on each previous release is still here in key changes that only Extol are prone to, even if the style is much simpler. Arrangements are somewhat limited to verses and choruses on this record which were never a part of the formula before, but it's to be expected with the new lineup.
What wasn't expected is the apparent mindloss of the vocalist. Musically this is very acceptable, but the vocal performance on this record is intolerable. For the most part the dude doesn't sound like he has a clue and floats aimlessly through the songs, crooning cliche after cliche in a style completely devoid of pattern, melody, or substance. The brief spurts of screaming are lifesavers here, because the clean portions (a majority of the record) are just that bad. The singing on Synergy was so good that I simply cannot fathom what happened here. The lack of pattern and forced enunciation of syllables makes the awful lyrics impossible to ignore. Only once, in the chorus of "Gloriana," do the vocals form what resembles a melody, and it's a pretty one at that. But that's the first track on the record. There's 11 more.
The guitars, bass and drums are all very well performed, and the fusion of chaotic yet melodic metal with a pop sensibility is an intriguing listen as I'm a sucker for a good chorus, but the vocals will ruin this record for any living being within earshot. If you can see past this shortcoming you may be treated to a good listen, but you'd be far more patient than the band was in getting this disc out to the masses. Proceed with caution.