Ok, I must have listened to this album a million times. Okay, maybe twenty, but it seems like a lot. When Extol first signed to Century Media, then announced that their next album would be thrash, I was about as excited as person could get. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Extol's progressive death style of their past album. But I also love thrash. However, when I first heard Synergy, I was very disappointed. I felt let down. I couldn't believe that an Extol album didn't blow me away on first listen. This wasn't supposed to happen dang it!! I forced myself to listen over and over and I just couldn't get into this album. Yeah, of course the disc was good...for any other band. But Extol seems to be put on some musical pedestal and I was downright ready to flick them off cause this wasn't the thrash masterpiece that I wanted.
THEN....last night...it clicked!!!! I was hoping this moment would come and it finally did! I sat down with this album, opened the lyrics, cranked the sound, and got rid of all distractions. I didn't listen to this while surfing the net. I didn't listen while driving in rush hour traffic. I didn't listen to it at work. It was just me in my comfy chair listening to Extol for 42 minutes. All I can say was that I was giddy when this disc finished!! Sometimes albums take a while to sink in. This one took a long time, but when it did, IT DID!
Synergy is an amazing album that while sounding like Extol, is much different from their past work. The album seems short. The songs ARE short. Most in the 3 to 4 minute range. Sometimes it seems like the band may be rushing things just a tad. However, the band just doesn't carry excess baggage. The songs contain just what they need to be effective and rock your world. "Grace for Succession" starts things off and if you've heard the mp3 on the net, you know this song rules. Vocally, Peter does kind've a cross between Believer and Selfmindead. However, occassionally he will still toss in some death vocals. Although, they are not quite as deep as on Undeceived. Then, of course, Ole Borud lends some clean vocals in the quality fashion that we've heard on past albums. Sometimes, like on "Confession of Inadequacy", I think Borud's clean vocals get a little too pretty, but hey, that's Extol's style. However, the clean vocals on "Grace for Succession" are the best Borud's done since "Reflections of a Broken Soul". They fit perfectly in the song. Speaking of pretty vocals, Extol utilizes the talents of Maria Solheim on the song "Paradigms". I'm getting more used to this tactic, but I'm not sure it was the best idea they could've come up with. I don't mind female vocals in extreme metal, but the way they are used here are not my cup of tea.
Regardless, Extol more than makes up for any mistakes with their killer brand of mega-technical thrash. This band is almost too talented for their own good. The Believer influence is definitely evident on many of the songs, even including some of their demented guitar playing. This also sounds similar to some of the guys' thrash stylings on the Absurd2 project. Overall, I wish the guitars were a bit beefier on this disc. I listen to this and Paralysis back to back and it's quite a difference. But if you take this album on it's own merits, it is still a whirlwind of sound that you can't help but love.
Extol also does another song here in the vein of "Meadows of Silence" titled "Aperture". Just a simple guitar with Peter's clean vocals. This is a very moving song with simple, but terrific lyrics. Musically, you'd think you were listening to Phil Keaggy. Great song!
"Emancipation" is also another favorite of mine due to the fact that the master of industrial music, Samuel Durling of Mental Destruction, makes a short appearance here with a couple lines of soft, yet distorted vocals. My other favorites you ask? Well, "Grace for Succession", "Psychopath", "Blood Red Cover", "Thrash Synergy", "Scrape the Surface", "Nihlism 2002"...heck, I started listing favorites and I just wanted to list them all. Truthfully, I love every song on this disc.
The production is very, very good on this disc and the packaging is excellent as well. The album cover is my favorite yet of all the Extol discs and the pictures inside are way cool. Lyrically, the band continues to uphold their extremely high standards. Check out "Psychopath", which seems to be directed at the many false prophets out there pretending to be what they are not: "Opposer of the one you claim to serve/Your self-righteousness/breeding arrogance and pride/Justifying legalism with a distorted/perception of submission/Salvation by grace/Christianity by performance...The intoxication of power feeding your ego/While your 150 are going to hell/Oblivious to the masquerade/The idyllic facade/Pulled over their eyes/To blind them from the Truth." I could share their awesome lyrics all day, but this review is already miles long. Just buy this disc yourself and check them out.
If you loved Extol for their death/black sound in the past, getting into this release will most likely take some patience. However, the final results will be worth it. Now do I like this better than their past work?...well, it's hard to say since the styles are different. I really enjoy Burial, Mesmerized, Undeceived, and Paralysis. But Synergy is special in it's own right. Another job well done for the mighty Extol! (Review by Matt)