Dutch prog-metallers Extremities have returned to the circuit with their newest album, Gaia. This is the band’s second full-length album and it’s a mixed bag. Clearly, the band are proficient on their respective instruments and draw from influences spanning the metal universe. As a result, it feels like they are suffering from a bit of an identity crisis and don’t know exactly which route they want to take. Some songs are done very nicely, and some tracks miss the mark.
To start off the album, “Colossus” lives up to its name. It’s a wall of sound that pummels the listener throughout its near-eight minute runtime. It takes cues from their Dutch brethren Textures and their neighbors to the north, Meshuggah. However, there is also a significant Periphery influence, with a riff and guitar solo on the track that would be right at home on “Remain Indoors”. One of the main issues I have with this track, and really the whole album, is the limited screaming range of vocalist Thimo Franssen. His low screams, growls, and pitched screams really shine throughout the album, but when he tries to climb his range, his screams lose all impact. They almost devolve into a black metal howl, which can sound out of place.
“War” and “Through the Dreamscape” are the two ‘misses’ on Gaia, but for very different reasons. The former tries to do too much. The track is scatterbrained and fast for the sake of being fast. The overall feel of the song is bizarre and doesn’t settle into one idea long enough for it to establish itself as the main theme of the track. The latter of the two is very bland. It feels like the band took a page straight out of Opeth’s book and didn’t change a whole lot. It doesn’t feel very unique and struggles to hold the attention of the listener.
Enough negative talk. Let’s move on to the two stars of this album. First, we have “Reanimate”. This track doesn’t really sound like anything else. It’s a slow-moving, brutally heavy number where Franssen’s vocals take center stage, mostly avoiding any high screams. The riffs are djenty and mechanical, but they open up for the chorus and give the track some melody. This song does follow the typical pop-song structure, but the band pulls it off very well. It’s heavy and catchy and does its job very effectively.
If you’ve looked at the tracklist for Gaia, you probably know what’s coming next. “The Inward Eye” is Extremities’ magnum opus at this point in their short career. This marathon of a song clocks in at just about 18 minutes in length and it checks all the boxes of a well-done prog epic. Immediately, the song has shades of Periphery in the opening riffs and with the way the harsh and clean vocals trade off. As the track goes on, a very strong Haken influence begins to shine through along with that of Textures. Towards the end of the song, it felt as if Haken’s Ross Jennings and Textures’ Daniël de Jongh were guesting on the track. Franssen’s voice really lends itself to the styles of those two vocalists and it creates an incredible atmosphere.
Gaia is a mixed bag. It does a very nice job of showing off all of the bands that Extremities has learned from, but it feels unfocused. The good part about that is that it has a little something for everybody. The band has enough highlights throughout this album and that makes it a worthwhile listen, even if not every track hits quite right.
Notable Tracks: “Colossus”; “The Inward Eye”; “Reanimate”; “Emissary”
FFO: Textures, Haken, Periphery