Leprous - The Congregation 01In case you’re actually a dog and I don’t know about it, I’m going to begin this endeavor with an explanation of why Leprous is so important. Leprous are a progressive metal band; they are extremely good and their last two albums (Bilateral and Coal) are among this decade’s best prog/avant garde releases. While Bilateral lead us into strange, trumpet-infested Mars Volta territory, Coal took a completely different approach, pairing exceptionally strong melodies with endless drones and subtle drumming that provided counterpoint for Einar Solberg’s unparalleled voice. Coal also bequeathed to the world the best song ever written, “The Cloak.” So The Congregation has some pretty grand expectations around these parts. Thus, contrary to his finite but arbitrarily large wisdom, and as a direct result of his finite but arbitrarily small amounts of spare time, Angry Metal Guy has deigned that I inform you of what you don’t already know, unless you have lived within a few blocks of me in the past few months, which is that The Congregation is pretty damn good.

“The Price” introduces a post-Coal Leprous with an even stronger sense of melody but retaining a minimalist core. While Einar’s choruses are impossible not to fruitlessly pantomime, the song retains the measured drama and reductionist sensibilities that made “The Valley” the nine-minute epic that it is. “The Third Law” and “Rewind” retain these traits but are the album’s weakest tracks by far. They’re not boring, but come off as a bit superfluous, especially in an album that’s over an hour long. Luckily, “The Flood” turns things around, preluding a phenomenal mid- and late-album stretch. The song’s extreme repetition of a two-note anti-swing rhythm builds a prog metal lullaby over which measured crooning and burst of exuberant motion play out a complex game of tic-tac-toe.

Of course, just like Coal, the centerpiece of The Congregation is its shortest and strongest song. “Within My Fence” gets better and better as it goes along riffing on its syncopated opening bars. Einar’s vocal performance is wincredible here as well, and even more enjoyable because of how perfectly it slides into the synth-heavy, mechanical march of the song. Also of note is Baard Kolstad’s contribution to the album; his drumming, though not quite as distinctive as Tobias Ørnes Andersen’s on Coal, continues in the less-is-more vein that the last album established and is incredibly tight.

Leprous - The Congregation 02

After “Within My Fence,” the album cools off, but doesn’t perceptibly decrease in quality. It’s still infectious and emotional and cements Einar Solberg’s place as prog’s best vocalist – a well-deserved but easy win, given that Darroh Sudderth doesn’t seem to be active at the moment. My main issue with The Congregation is, unsurprisingly, its length. “Third Law,” “Rewind,” and “Triumphant” could have easily been cut from the album and it would be much better. The songs aren’t bad, but Leprous has a lot more to show off than these lukewarm affairs.

While part of me is disappointed with Leprous‘s lack of editing here, the part of me that has listened to the album dozens of times has more sway over my decisions. The Congregation will give you just the scratch behind the ears you need after disappointing half-year of metal, and while it’s certainly not the equal of its predecessors, it wont tarnish the band’s growing legacy. Go fetch it.


Rating: 3.5 /5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Inside Out Music
Websites: LeprousOfficial Facebook.com/Leprous
Release Dates: EU: 2015.05.25 | NA: 06.05.2015

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  • Jean-Luc Ricard

    I <3 "The Price."

  • Jukka Alanen

    Great review. This is one of the few bands whose albums I dare to pre-order. Can’t wait for the wax to arrive!

  • Luke_22

    I’m fucking loving this album. Excellent follow up to the masterpiece that is Coal. Seems to get better with each spin. Fully agree on the brilliance of Wihin My Fence, amazing vocals and song.

  • El_Cuervo

    Very solid album which I do like but unlikely to make my year end list. I do love “Slave” though.

  • AndySynn

    I don’t think they’ll ever top “Bilateral”. That was just lightning in a bottle. It’s the sort of album even my friends who are usually totally not into the type of Prog that Leprous play have fallen in love with (whereas this, and “Coal”, seem a bit more “playing to the choir/preaching to the converted” as it were).

    • Kronos

      Interestingly, I’ve used Coal to introduce a lot of my friends to the band. Can’t go wrong when you open up with “The Cloak”

  • Excentric_1307

    Yep, totally buying this… I wish they had an availability on Bandcamp, but you can’t have everything, I suppose…

  • 517H

    Nice one, Kronos. Agree with a lot of your points. Song length is important to nail. But I really like Leprous. A lot. Their music rarely goes where you expect it or where you would hope. And you’re the better listener for it.

  • Johan

    Hah, funny how it goes. Third law and Rewind are some of my favorite tracks on the album, and by no means fillers.

    • Dan Sourile

      Same here – Rewind belongs in the top Leprous songs in my opinion, as does The Flood and Moon. I also loved The Slave and Down and thought Within my Fence was one of the weakest on the album, so I guess this just goes to show how subjective music is!

      • The Lascivious Snape

        Agreed that “Within My Fence” is among the weakest. Utterly forgettable. I think the album starts with a really strong 4-track stretch. “The Price” and “Rewind” are my standouts. Unfortunately the rest is blah for me so far. I’ll keep trying, though. Love this band too much not to give them my best effort.

        • PsiPhiDan

          I suspect you’ll love Moon, The Slave, and Down eventually. They’re really infectious tunes I think. I like Lower a lot too, but it’s a short ones so it doesn’t stand out when I think of the album as a whole.

          Red is a song I just don’t “get” yet.

    • Kronos

      Yeah the front half of the album seems quite divisive. The last two songs are fantastic, though.

    • Antoine Roth

      I’m with you here, I find the second half of the record actually weaker than the first. Still fantastic overall.

  • Stefano Kevin Prince Vitali

    These weird guys love to throw curveballs… When they hit, it’s amazing in the most glorious sense (see The Cloak, The Valley, Forced Entry and quite a few other tunes), when they miss they bore me to tears. Guess I’m kind of bilateral (ha ha) about them. That said, I’ll take the chanche any day: I’m sure I’ll find 2 or 3 songs that really blow my mind, more than enough to overcome the occasional stinker

  • The Lascivious Snape

    I still need to continue learning the album, but right now I’d put this about the same level with Coal, which for me means a huge step DOWN from both Bilateral and Tall Poppy Syndrome. Like Coal, it has some amazing tracks and then a bunch that just kind of bore me. And it’s painfully reliant on that syncopated, staccato guitar riff thing they introduced in Coal in songs like “Foe” and “The Valley.”

    “The Price”, “Third Law”, “Rewind” and “The Flood” start the album strong, but my interest has been waning after that, with the songs sort of blending together and lacking character. I do appreciate that it feels like a tighter record. There are none of those long, aimless interludes like that interminable middle section of “The Valley” or the outro on “Foe.”

    And since I don’t get a lot of opportunity to talk about Leprous, here are a couple random thoughts:
    1) The best song on Coal is “Chronic.” It would be “The Valley” if not for the overlong middle section, and “The Cloak” is just good. I don’t listen to any of the other songs any more.

    2) While I don’t deny that Bilateral is their reigning masterpiece, they don’t get nearly enough love for Tall Poppy Syndrome, which is very nearly as good as Bilateral and handily trumps the two latest records. I’ll listen to Tall Poppy Syndrome front to back every time.

    • nunka

      …I for one welcome our new syncopated staccato guitar overlords.

      • Hideous destructor

        My wife always thinks the CD is skipping in the middle of the valley.

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    This is good, sometimes very good, but for whatever reason it isn’t hitting the sweet spots that Bilateral and Coal hit yet. Seems like one that grows after each attentive and uninterrupted listen though. Thanks for getting “The Valley” stuck in my head for the rest of the day, btw. Great song.

    • Kronos

      VA-A-A-A-A-A-AAALLEEEEYYY VALLEYIINSIN
      VA-A-A-A-A-A-AAALLEEEEYYY THIS VALLEYI-I’M IN

      • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

        Aaaaaaand back into my head it goes!

  • De2013

    Nominee for most scary album art of the year.

    Will check this out.

  • Steve

    Coal was a massive pile of wtf. It’s nice they’re trying new things but when you’re capable of absolute art like Bilateral then anything else is a waste. This album is a solid return to form after what was a massive let down.

  • JL

    I gave this a chance. I don’t like this album or this band. I just find it boring, pretentious and too artsy.

  • Jukka Alanen

    I just got to thinking about Leprous’ first quartet of albums which all are mentioned here in discussion. For me this is one of the strongest first four full length studio albums by any band ever.

    The only ones (that I could think right off the bat) who could compete with Leprous are Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden although I’m sure there’s some bands I just couldn’t think of. I’m really hoping to add Be’lakor to the list later this year.

    Any other suggestions?

    • Jukka Alanen

      And now that I got to thinking, Black Sabbath and Tool should be added to my list. D’uh.

      • Hideous destructor

        Maiden I agree, although killers is a step below the other 3. With tool aenima and lateralus are ahead of anything else they’ve done. I’d nominate emperor and psychotic waltz who were the best prog metal band of the 90’s. Sadly only released four albums but all very special.

    • Thomas Bawden

      *cough*

      Quintet. Their debut was Aeolia :P

  • Vance McCumber

    I am an Angry Metal Fan after reading this review. It’s rare that I can dislike so much about a band that is supposedly so great.

    I feel like I am really missing out on something. I feel like I know what good progressive metal and rock is.. but this is just bad. The riffs are weak and meandering, no hook, it’s really, really wimpy sounding and those vocals are just awful!! I am not even trying to troll you guys. Sounds like Pain of Salvation to me and that is another band I don’t care for. Good progressive rock is Anathema, Porcupine Tree, Anekdoten, recent Ihsahn.. etc…
    I really wanted to like this, I have both Bilateral and Coal, So I feel like I am missing out on what makes this band so great.. someone enlighten me!!

  • GrandmasterB

    “…cements Einar Solberg’s place as prog’s best vocalist – a well-deserved but easy win, given that Darroh Sudderth doesn’t seem to be active at the moment”. Ahem, ever hear of Andrew Mailloux of Rishloo?

  • Feeblejocks

    Honestly, I never ‘got’ Bilateral, but I absolutely loved Coal, so I have a strong feeling I’m really going to like this album, as soon as I find the spare time to listen to it. The embedded track helps that impression, too.

    • Hideous destructor

      I thought I was the only one who didn’t get the bilateral love. I still like that album, but it feels less cohesive than coal and tall poppy syndrome, but the majority seems to rate it as their masterpiece.

  • anonbr666

    I’m a huge Leprous fan, ever since I discovered Bilateral (through this very AMG site).

    While Tall Poppy and Bilateral are more energetic and “all over the place” albums, with great dynamic between songs, Coal and The Congregation are much more “subtle” albums, that require a greater focus from the listener, but are ultimately very rewarding to do so.

    I actually liked this album A LOT, but it took me a long time and many repeated listens to do so. To anyone that has enjoyed their previous albums, I BEG you to insist on this one. the way I see it, it is a very long album and requires many spins before you can really “get it”, but once you do, then it’s very hard to let it go. I am currently listening to some of it, or all of it, on a daily basis.

    It’s hard to point out which songs on this album stand out, as they have a lot in common (wihtout being repetitive), but I personnally love “Rewind” and “Slave” over the others.

    I would personally rank Leprous’ albums like this:

    1. Bilateral 5/5
    2. The Congregation 5/5
    3. Tall Poppy 4.5/5
    4. Coal 4/5
    5. Aeolia. 3/5

  • mtlman1990

    After listening to this album over and over for the last few months, I can truly say this review blows. To say Rewind is a weak track is absurd.