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)