Live Music + Gig Reviews

Extol @ Underworld, London

19 March 2005



Forget your stadium rock, your glitzy lights and your pompous theatrics. Tonight it’s the real world where the band sets up its own equipment and doesn’t even leave the stage before kicking off its set. Not that it seems to bother Norwegian thrashers Extol, but then they aren’t your run-of-the-mill metal band. Where many of their peers force-feed themselves negativity in order to spew out affectedly defiant lyrics, Extol speak of life and hope.

Where the likes of Ted Maul and God Forbid – the bread in tonight’s heavy metal sandwich – resort to simple bludgeoning in order to express themselves, Extol know the difference between light and shade, with expansive musical passages woven into their otherwise heavy-as-you-like sound.

Of course, being intelligent doesn’t win you grunts of approval from the cerebrally-challenged, but by the end of tonight’s 35-minute set Extol have garnered plenty of praise from those lucky enough to have witnessed them.

But then you’d have to be pretty stupid not to appreciate their brand of progressive heaviness, particularly as Extol is one of those bands whose music sounds even better live than on record. The relatively straightforward (for them) Gloriana absolutely rocks, helped in no small way by a made-for-concert chorus.

As on their recent masterpiece Blueprint, Gloriana gives way to the scything riff, scuttling drums and generally quick-witted death metal onslaught of Soul Deprived, with Peter Espevoll’s anguished screams mixing effectively with guitarist Ole Halvard Sveen’s spooky, and distant, minor key vocals.

And as if to prove that they are more ten-trick stallions than one-trick ponies, The Things I Found lays on the heaviness by slowing things down with dense, swamps of guitars and a minute-long quiet interlude before building back into a huge finale. Meanwhile, oldies like Blood Red Cover and Your Beauty Divine emphasise the band’s technical musical prowess while providing opportunity for band and fans alike to go mosh-crazy.

The set closes with The Death Sedative, a masterful exercise in building atmosphere from the quietest of beginnings through swathes of guitars, complex rhythms and emotional vocals. A suitably intense way to finish, in other words.

Highlight of the evening? Another Blueprint track, Pearl, and not just because of its pure beauty. Some aspiring meatheads in the crowd, who don’t seem to be able to get their tiny minds around the concept of someone not barking into a microphone, throw “you’re a pansy” shapes at Peter Espevoll. His response? To blow them a kiss. But then that says it all. Extol – a band worth embracing.

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More on Extol
Extol’s Peter Espevoll: “What you hear is what came out of our hearts” – Interview
Extol @ Underworld, London
Extol – Blueprint