Having been a long time listener of Extol, the news of them releasing their first full-length album in eight years with Facedown Records was exciting to say the least. Their last record, The Blueprint Dives with Century Media, was nominated for a Norwegian Grammy in 2005. Evolving with each CD, this band has really shown how truly impressive they are with this self-titled album. Extol is filled with the sound that every former fan has come to love. With incredibly intricate syncopated (off rhythm) beats and ever changing time signatures, this album is far from generic and will keep you pleasantly surprised in each song. Being engineered by Jens Borgen (Opeth, Paradise Lost, Enslaved) and having cover art work from Travis Smith (Katatonia, Opeth, Death), the sound quality and visual art are something that add to the atmosphere which Extol has created.
Being from Norway where a large portion of metal music is black metal and satanic, Extol has stayed true to their Christian roots and has created another album which impacts the heart as well as the ears. Drummer David Husvik commented, "Extol was the album that was planned all the way, but never materialized. Partly due to changes in the line up, but also because of the band's urge to always reach for something new. The album is the recap of 20 years of Extol-history, both musically and lyrically."
This album blasts off solid with "Betrayal", starting with a very syncopated rhythm introduction which leads into a very heavy thrash metal feel. The lyrics are based off of the part of Scripture where Christ tells the men that they have done nothing for Him because they did nothing for the poor or the hungry or those who need clothing.
Continuing to "Open The Gates", this song is a simple lyrical track with a great driving beat. The singing reminded me of Weird Al mixed with The Faceless' vocals, but it does not take away from the overall atmosphere. The lyrics plead for Christ to take hold of one's hand and lead them through the gates of righteousness.
"Wastelands" starts out with music very similar to their older songs from Undeceived. This song is about how one has trudged through life surviving by God's grace, but ending with questions of whether one will follow Christ or stay in the desert and continue thirsting for the love that only God can give.
"A Gift Beyond Human Reach" is extremely awesome in the fact that they use industrial metal music in the intro. Industrial metal refers to using hammers clanging on iron and similar sounds. With this song, they state both in the beginning and the end, "Incomprehensible, captivating, flawless, beautiful." This is something that Christ showed from example to do in prayer. "Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name." What He showed was to start your prayer off in an honoring way and it also refreshes your mind of how great and vast God's power is. The song goes on to state how God created everyone with purpose and not just as a whim. This purpose and life is the gift that is beyond all human reach.
The fifth song of this album is "Faltering Moves". This song is more of a power ballad for Extol. Lyrically, it is a powerful, but humble prayer. Submissively laying one's sins at the base of the cross and simply asking for Jesus to surround them, knowing full well that He will stay by their side no matter what they have gone through. Asking Christ to surround oneself is possibly one of the most powerful and simple prayers anyone could pray. It takes a willing and humble heart to accept Christ, but it is worth every second of it.
"Behold The Sun" follows. In John chapter 8, Jesus says "I am the light of the world." This song is a metaphor for how Christ illuminates His light on us and how it revitalizes us. His love is warm and energizes the soul. This is definitely a song that I would recommend to those who listen to Becoming The Archetype. The singing in it and some of the guitar riffs are very similar to the style from their newest CD.
Although "Dawn Of Redemption" is an instrumental song, it fits well with the album and I feel that it gives time for the listener to reflect on the rest of the album they have just heard and pray. The track is very calm and I love that they have a violin softly in the background. It is like a little nod to their older work.
"Ministers" is definitely a track that I paid more attention to the lyrics and what they were saying than the music. Although the music is incredible and plays off of their very unique sound in which they incorporate a softer melody with a heavier beat and rhythm keeping the backbone solid. The song hit me hard personally because it is a conviction to those leading others to Christ as to not be overcome by the satisfaction that helping others can bring oneself, but to give all of the glory and honor to God while pursuing the passion and dream that one had to begin with. "Are we lost in addiction to people's addiction?" is just one line in this song that can hold a great weight.
"Extol", the title track and the name of their band is a song that holds much purpose behind it. This being Extol's fifth full length album after twenty years of being a band, to put the meaning of who they are into a song like this is powerful. The song praises God for being God and states how they will praise Him with everything they have. The word "extol" literally means "to praise highly" according to the dictionary and Extol does just that.
This album ends with the song "Unveiling The Obscure". "In a place of peace and confidence, bring us to complete unity. You have overcome the world, a new way for humanity" are Extol's closing words for this incredible album and I must say that it is a fitting end.
Overall: Taking splices of several genres and mixing it into your own unique sound is something rare that not many people can do well, however, Extol does it perfectly with this album. Having strong Christian values portrayed throughout the lyrics is an awesome sight to see for a band who has been such an influence for the Christian metal scene for twenty years. Although some people may not be Christian, this album is extremely powerful and worth listening to no matter what beliefs one has.
RIYL: Cryptopsy, Becoming The Archetype, The Famine, The Human Abstract, Dimmu Borgir, Mortal Treason, Antestor, Cradle Of Filfth