Century Media
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Grace For Succession
02. Paradigms
03. Psychopath
04. Blood Red Cover
05. 26 Miles From Marathon
06. Confession of Inadequacy
07. Scrape The Surface
08. Thrash Synergy
09. Aperture
10. Emancipation
11. Nihilism 2002

Ask the guitarists within EXTOL to strum a powerchord, and the shocked response would probably be akin to someone being told they have six months to live. Such simplicities just aren't in the musical make-up of this Norwegian quintet. They twist you round and round the spectrum of discordance, then whip you back to again to be catapulted off into a new soundscape.

If that all sounds unattractive, cacophonous for the wrong reasons and pretentious, then that would be doing EXTOL a deep disservice. When drawing parallels to them, think MESHUGGAH and OPETH with a profound appreciation of the organic. In other words, how they make the likes of acutely jazzy opening track "Grace for Succession" ebb and flow without them sounding as if they're masturbating those fretboards just because they know how to. Or how they ensure the beautiful, acoustically driven "Aperture" is kept refined and memorable by not shredding it pieces with unnecessary layers of extra noodling.

Somewhere in the mix, and slightly unusually for this type of band, there are also nods toward contemporary hardcore, which the band is only too keen to profess to. "Confession Of Inadequacy" is one of the best examples at the harder end of this infusion, drilling squalls of discordant fury into your brain at a fair old pace. Elsewhere, in several places throughout the proceedings, there are passages that wouldn't seem out of place on a QUICKSAND album or suchlike.

Given their eclectic nature, it's hard to believe that EXTOL were once involved with something as occasionally narrow-sighted and insular as black metal. Outside all genre classifications, EXTOL are evidently just a talented bunch, period.

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