Extol – Synergy – Review


Synergy (Solid State/Century Media)
by Tim Den

If you’re into metal and you don’t own Extol‘s Undeceived, you have no idea what good metal is. Part Cynic’s fluidity, part Believer’s four-dimensional melodicism, all Norwegian shadowy hearts, Undeceived was an orchestration of the most intense and moving elements of metal. Brutal and unrelenting one moment, transcendentally tragic the next, funeral moodiness scattered in between. In essence, one of the best metal albums ever made. And just when I thought the band couldn’t possibly follow it up, they’ve struck back with Synergy, a much less dramatic but no less visionary album.

The technical precision is still intact (and sounding better than ever), but driven by vocalist Peter Espevoll’s new Kreator-style screams, the band sound cleaner and less earthbound. The crisp synchopations and the sharp-sounding vocals definitely give Synergy a more “machinery” feel, unlike Undeceived‘s theme of weeping humanity. Quick turns and blinding hammer-ons (“Psychopath,” “Thrash Energy”) conjure up memories of Pestilence’s Spheres, where the mortal mindset is deserted for a trip through the cosmic unknown. But with guitarist/melodic vocalist Ole Børud back in the band, tracks like opener “Grace for Succession,” “Emancipation,” and “Paradigms” still slip in contact with the human world in small doses via Børud’s serene harmonies, like looking out the window of a spaceship to find nothing but the vast universe, but occasionally catching a human voice through the intercom.

I guess the usual tag lines like “jazz metal,” “technical black metal,” and “prog” could be thrown around here, but Extol’s essence simply cannot be contained within descriptions. Never for a second do they overplay for the sake of wankery, or dumb down the melodies for an easy payoff. Instead, they play with cosmic sounds as if they were mercury, freezing and heating riffs and tempos into all sorts of beautifully sharp-edged creatures. Out of their melting pot of perfect timing and other-worldly songcrafting, behold: Synergy.
(2323 W. El Segundo Blvd. Hawthorne, CA 90250)