Progressive music is a vast category filled with all sorts of various constellations of bands from Dream Theater to Symphony X to Rush to Opeth to Death to Pink Floyd to Pain of Salvation to Coheed & Cambria (arguably) and so forth. It can be very difficult to keep all that shit in order and, frankly, to find good progressive bands because it’s such a huge category. Despite the fact that progressive music should be the biggest, best and most original music in the world it suffers from some serious problems. The first is a tendency towards living in the past (fÃ¶r svenskar: bakÃ¥tstrÃ¤vande) and the second is unoriginality, oddly enough. So finding a progressive band that is excellent, modern and original is still a hard thing to do. But you’ll never guess who has some angry (but good) news!
Leprous hails from Norway (and seconds as Ihsahn‘s live backup band, apparently), and they have made a fantastic impression upon fans of progressive music everywhere. Their first record Tall Poppy Syndrome hit in 2009 and they have made their mark both with that record and their live show around the world. Now they’re back in 2011, signed to InsideOut and putting out the record Bilateral which is one of the coolest and most original records I’ve heard this year. Coming in at 58 minutes long, Bilateral is a journey through sometimes groove-tinged basslines, nerdy polyrhythm, diverse songwriting, poppy choruses and melodies and a smooth but varied vocal approach from singer/keyboardist Einar Solberg.
Leprous really sounds like a mix of the best progressive metal bands around today. The vocals are reminiscent of Riverside‘s fantastic singer, though Einar isn’t nearly as modern rock. But while he pulls off the melancholy in tracks like “Forced Entry,” he also has a very cool flare for the almost oriental sounding melodies that come through in the aforementioned track as well as most memorably in the track “Thorn”. There are moments where the songwriting and style reminds me a lot of more recent Pain of Salvation, as well, blending in what feels like classic rock elements techy time signatures (like on “Painful Detours”), but never wandering into the kind of djent territory of never developing a melody while playing a polyrhythm. One can even hear an Opeth kind of vibe on some tracks where the lead guitar floats above the other parts with simple melodies that stick in your head. Finally, there’s a bit of a funk vibe that actually reminds me of Faith No More with a bass heavy kind of approach that works spectacularly well.
But of course if you blend all of this together it doesn’t sound like any one of those bands really, instead it is a blending of excellently written, addictive tracks that ooze charisma and technical prowess. Leprous jumps through the Burning Hoop o’ Progressive Doom in that they are able to blend both the technical and interesting with smart melodic writing. Even though the record is an hour long, the listener doesn’t really want to hop off until the end. Though, personally, I find that an hour long record tends to be sort of inconvenient from a lifestyle point of view and I found that I really didn’t listen to the last two tracks as many times as the ealier tracks. This is not because they’re bad tracks (they’re really great tracks), but the whole thing is a bit much to chomp down in a single go. I’d like to know how this record would sound if they’d had to edit it down to 45 minutes.
Still, there’s very little negative that I can say about this album. The choices are great, the melodies are fantastic and the writing is as intelligent as the best among the progressive scene since the 1990s. Leprous is a band with a bright future if they can keep up this kind of output. So buy this album (despite the bad art) and see them live (and buy a shirt). This is definitely August’s Record o’ the Month.