Leprous – Malina

[InsideOut, 2017]

Intro: Tasos Poimenidis
Translation: A. Mantas, T. Patsos
02 / 09 / 2017

Leprous don’t need any introduction anymore. The last five or six years they are one of the most promising and innovative acts of the progressive metal scene with constant and ever-flowing inspiration, prone to experimentation and a totally personal style. Their popularity is on the up and up in the entire Europe and in Greece especially have a healthy fanbase. Two years plus a few months after the release of the exceptional The Congregation they come back with their sixth album and fourth under InsideOut in a row.


 

If the compositions had a colour, it would be Raspberry’s purple

When it was rumoured in the autumn of last year that Leprous would return with a new album in 2017, I wondered, along with many other fans of the band, if it was a hasty step, aiming solely at remaining at the fore and maintaining the increasing momentum of their three previous albums. There was every reason for such fears since we have witnessed repeatedly how bands that stick to the schedule “new album every two years and tour as much as possible in between” end like.

My personal doubts dissipated when they released the first single off the album, the now fan-favourite From the Flame and it was an educated guess to think that a very good, to say the least,  album was on its way. With the aforementioned tune, as well as Mirage, Stuck and Illuminate, Leprous prove that the radio friendly, if you will, aura can be meaningful without taking the edge off quality. The aforesaid songs encompass all the addictive elements of Leprous’ past plus the necessary vocal melodies that render them earworms. I have no doubt that many of them will be an indispensable part of their setlist for the years to come and they are already favourites among the fans.

The addition of cello to songs like Stuck and Last Milestone reveal a new dimension of Leprous, unseen so far. Especially the latter is flawlessly crafted and performed. With keyboards, sentimental vocals and wonderful, almost cinematic cello themes as signposts, it catches the listener off their guard and seduces them with its dynamics and loads of emotion. It is unquestionably one of the highlights of the album and an ideal epilogue.

Einar Solberg is in top form, living up to the theatricality and eloquence he has accustomed us to. A peculiar and gifted frontman and composer, the compositional reference point of Leprous with his tell-tale and remarkably unique voice as well as his playing that sometimes is the backbone of the compositions. His lyrics are totally personal, sung with passion and loaded with emotion. The young wonder-drummer Baard Kolstad rips along, an intelligent and resourceful musician who takes the songs to the next level with his dexterous and imaginative playing. The guitars of, the old-timer now, Tor Odmund Surhke and the newbie’s Robin Ognedal are pushed back in the mix, but they still play an important role to the development of the songs. There is an obvious lack in distortion and heaviness, but this is not the case when it comes to inspiration, even though their role is more discreet compared to the rest instruments and the vocals.

Leprous come up with one more interesting outing, keeping up the good string of very-good-to-excellent albums. This is the sixth one and counting since Tall Poppy Syndrome back in 2009, an impressive chain, if anything, that we hope will go on. Malina is a diverse, but also very cohesive album, as if every song is a chapter of a book. Granted, it is a release that composition-wise did not break new ground at all times, but sonically did go further while in some parts it portrayed a different, unexpected side of the band, preserving their features and personal style. A perfect record? I guess not, but calling it great and inspired is fine by me; probably a notch below the previous ones, but no matter.
Personal obsessions: Bonneville, From the Flame, Mirage, The Weight of Disaster, The Last Milestone.

8.5 / 10

Tasos Poimenidis

 

2nd opinion

 

Α great return album by the Norwegians, who, after “testing the waters” of change with Coal and The Congregation, seem to have solidified on their style and found the near-perfect balance. The Mars Volta-inspired relentless syncopation is exchanged with anthemic refrains in short compositions with many ideas. Songs develop perhaps predictably but don’t need to turn to mini-epics to convince of the depth of composition. Muse, Radiohead και Mastodon mix in the sound, which retains its heaviness, resulting in a work with plenty of character. If this is Leprous’ light side, we surely want more.

Highlights:  Illuminate, The Weight of Disaster

8 / 10

Thanos Patsos