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The art for the third album by Norwegian quintet Leprous, was created by Jeff Jordan (of The Mars Volta fame) and is, it has to be said, pretty stunning. This is their first album on Inside Out, a label that will be well known to prog and prog metal fans alike. It's fair to say that there aren't many duds released on the label, and I should know as I've spent a sizeable chunk of my disposable income over the years on their output.
The album explodes into life with the catchy "Bilateral" and throughout its 58 minute length there is much to interest fans of prog, prog metal and out and out (emo) metal, with hooks aplenty. Its definitely a foot tapper, or a hands on the steering wheel tapper, if as I me you spend an inordinate amount of time in your small metal box on wheels.
Sonic touchstones, according to the label, are Pain Of Salvation, King Crimson, fellow Norwegians Shining, Devin Townsend and Opeth. Which is fair enough. I'd add Swedish symphonic pop proggers A.C.T to the list.
They are a young band, in their early/mid twenties, which makes this album all the more impressive, as there's an incredible amount of musical maturity on offer and, as befits an Inside Out release, the production values are top notch.
The vocal work on second track "Restless" is incredibly powerful, and operatic, with the tuneful, catchy power of top-notch emo bands, whilst "Forced Entry" is a more jarring musical melange.
"Mb. Indifferentia" is a moody, well-crafted piece in the vein of fellow Norwegians Gazpacho, or The Pineapple Thief, with a fantastic vocal performance from Einar Solberg and alt/prog guitar and sparse instrumentation before a wonderfully operatic, symphonic climax. Fantastic song, this one.
"Cryptogenic Desires" is another great example of symphonic hard rock, whilst "Waste Of Air" is a frenetic Dream Theater influenced piece of technical/prog metal – count those drum beats! One for the grunting Korn etc fans amongst you, whilst later on it's a bit S.O.A.D influenced. Which is no bad thing.
"Mediocrity Wins" has some fantastic guitar work, and Queen layered vocals, and a driving metal, Tool-influenced vibe in places.
Ihsahn, formerly of Norwegian black metal pioneers Emperor, joins the band on "Thorn", which has the addition of trumpet (this is prog, after all!).
"Painful Detour", which closes out the album, is a complex, cinematic piece, that's bound to appeal to the prog fans amongst you, with more time changes than you can shake a stick at, great layered vocals, soaring choruses and lovely quiet/loud bits. In the vein perhaps of Ritual, it's my personal favourite.
All in all this is a very good record, that never falls into the trap of aping one particular influence, or genre, to the extent that it all ends up sounding 'samey'. There's some excellent variation on offer, and it's got much to commend it to a wide range of rock fans. In fact Leprous might just well be your new favourite band, combining as they do all the best bits from bands you know and love. I'm very impressed.
It's a very mature offering by a young European band who will, I'm sure, sound fantastic in a live environment. I for one look forward to seeing how they develop from this very high benchmark they have set for themselves.
Einar Solberg - synth/vocals
Tor Oddmund Suhrke - guitar
Øystein Landsverk - guitar
Rein Blomquist - bass
Tobias Ørnes Andersen - drums
1. Bilateral (4:00)
2. Forced Entry (10:20)
3. Restless (3:30)
4. Thorn (5:47)
5. Mb. Indifferentia (6:33)
6. Waste Of Air (5:32)
7. Mediocrity Wins (6:07)
8. Cryptogenic Desires (2:45)
9. Acquired Taste (5:13)
10. Painful Detour (8:18)
Added: November 28th 2011
Reviewer: Brian Watson
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
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Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-11-28 19:57:28
Leprous' unique brand of extreme progressive metal took listeners by storm with 2009's Tall Poppy Syndrome, and Bilateral proves that these Norwegian lads are far from slowing down. On their third album, Leprous expands even further upon the foundation set by their first two releases, resulting in an album that is both entirely unique and still distinctly their own. Bilateral is a mature, innovative, and simply breathtaking tour de force of modern progressive metal; this is the sort of album that is bound to amaze any open minded fan of progressive metal. Bilateral took quite a few listens to 'click' with me, but its genius songwriting and ambitious attitude does eventually shine through in a brilliant way. Anyone who thinks that modern progressive metal only consists of copycats and clones better take a listen to Leprous - these guys have the goods!
While Leprous is best described as progressive metal (which is, admittedly, the best tag I can come up with too), you'll find much more than you may have bargained for on Bilateral. Throughout the album, I hear touches of symphonic progressive rock, technical metal, avant-garde metal in the vein of Mr. Bungle, quirky prog rock a la Gentle Giant, Faith No More-inspired funky metal, and even various styles of jazz. This is an eclectic and one-of-a-kind album for sure, and the first thing that springs to mind when discussing Bilateral is probably the early works of Swedish prog metal act Pain of Salvation - while Leprous is certainly more wacky and unpredictable than Daniel Gildenlöw's brainchild, their influence does shine in the vocal harmonies and sheer eclecticism of this release. Bilateral is also rather dependent on (somewhat) short and compact compositions, rather than long and drawn-out epics. Each of the songs moves extremely fast, so it can definitely take a few listens before Bilateral's genius begins to unravel. Once it does, though, it's hard for me to think of this as anything but an absolutely stunning observation. Factor in the top-notch musicianship and crystal-clear production, and it looks like we have a winner across the board!
Bilateral is a very different album from Tall Poppy Syndrome, but I'm sure it will have just as much (if not more) of an impact on prog metal fans worldwide. One look at various review sites across the web, and it appears that my prediction is pretty accurate. Leprous have crafted a great album on nearly every front with Bilateral, and even though it does feel a bit disjointed from time to time, this is one of 2011's highlights if you're interested in unique and modern progressive metal. 4 stars and a very high recommendation are deserved.
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-09-18 08:35:04
If you discovered Leprous with their previous album Tall Poppy Syndrome, you can safely pick up Bilateral because, being familiar with the band, you should know that you can expect something similar yet at the same time something different. That is to say the differences are there, but at the root of it the band is still the same band you discovered and came to love two years ago.
Bilateral is harder to review because I've had it for only a little while now while I had years to fully absorb Tall Poppy Syndrome. In general terms, the new album delves into more experimental territory, exploring the depths of progressive rock with myriad sound textures, varied instrumentation, and stunning musical performances. Compared to its predecessor, Bilateral is definitely less heavy but it still retains the band's heavy/light characteristics in its varied song selection. The use of growls has noticeably dropped as well. Actually calling them 'growls' may be a stretch, as the aggressive vocals presented on this album are more akin to those on later-day Agalloch or Novembre discs more so than Enslaved, who Leprous is likened to mostly (maybe because both bands are from Norway). The only song that utilizes significant amount of aggressive singing is "Waste of Air" with its complex intro, pummelling drums, and off-the-wall arrangement.
Other tracks feature the aggressive singing style sparingly: "Restless" sets jazzy drums against a powerful clean voice that is both very deep and affective. The production also highlights gorgeous distant vocals humming a sweet melody over a simple, two-note guitar chord. Sonically, the song recalls Devin Townsend's Accelerated Evolution until the harsh vocals kick in. "Thorn" suggests it was a leftover from Ihsahn's After album. Actually Ihsahn makes a brief guest appearance on this one. The song constantly shifts between catchy vocal parts to slowed-down jazz sections to aggressive singing, and the drum tone is excellent.
The album's more atmospheric statements also indicate where they may be headed on their next couple of discs. Given the nature of these tracks, I actually wouldn't be surprised if the band abandoned the aggressive vocals completely after a few more releases. I can sense a distinct Kevin Moore vibe (think Chroma Key and OSI) in places here: "Forced Entry" boasts a wicked, complex riff with a cool bass solo that belongs more on a freestyle jazz disc than prog metal, but the detailed mix also opens portals for spacey instrumental parts with Moore-like keys lingering over them. Also, the more ballady "Mb. Indifferentia" recalls Moore in that it features semi-sung vocals. I am talking about his apathetic singing style, like he'd rather not be there. Finally, on the heavily bass-centric "Mediocrity Wins," vocalist Einar Solberg emotes spoken lyrics over a subdued guitar guitar arrangement and haunting keyboard lines, which wouldn't be out of place on OSI's underrated masterpiece Free.
Those expecting heavy onslaughts of riffs with exploding shrapnels should look into the band's earlier discs as well as some Enslaved material. They won't find it here. That said, the band does know how to groove and lay down some pretty hard-hitting riffs. The synchopated riffs of the uber-eclectic "Cryptogenic Desires" sounds like something Mike Patton would sing. It's actually the groovy side of Faith No More (listen to the bass!) injected with the unexpected nature of Mr Bungle, and yet, it doesn't quite sound like either band. The final track is also the best on the album. It is the perfect amalgamation of the band's current musical vision realized in a little over eight minutes. The song packs the harmonic brilliance of the best songs on Tall Poppy Syndrome, psychedelic guitar sounds that are still paralyzingly heavy (think The Mars Volta), and stirring ambiance-laden passages filled with nifty improvised extensions, interesting lead solos, and unforgettable melodic signatures. This is the kind of song I expect Leprous to write more on their upcoming release, for this is the sound that sets them apart from all these other awesome musicians mentioned in this review. It gives them their own voice.
The stereo mixing is phenomenal. Anything inferior would make these songs suffer sonically.
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