Leprous – Bilateral

by Mat
Categories: Reviews
Comments: No Comments
Published on: August 18, 2011

The thing about having a bit of potential is, well, at some point you either have to demonstrate that you can fulfil that potential or you might just find that fans move on to the next new thing pretty quickly. It was with no little sense of anticipation therefore that I approached Bilateral- the third album from Norwegian avant-prog outfit, Leprous.

Having seen them supporting Ihsahn back in cold depths of winter 2010, there was a sense that whilst they did have a lot of potential, there was a need to really stamp their own mark and not be so, at times, forced and contrived( if not so damn cheesy too).

Let’s get this out of the way then shall we: Bilateral is one of the prog albums of the year. From the hook strewn melodiousness of the title track, through the contemplative depth of “Mb Indifferentia” and out into the closing strains of “Painful Detour” this an album jam packed with creativity, bursting with musical dexterity and delivered with a lightness of touch that’s playful, joyful but never supercilious.

What’s great about the Leprous album is that it’s fearless: they go for the new idea and the radical idea when you expect the staid and comfortable: it works brilliantly.

“Forced Entry”, for example, the album’s stand out track is something of a prog epic; its harmonies at times remind me of fellow countrymen, A-Ha. You should not see this as a criticism. It’s a ten minute epic, packed tighter than a can of sardines with idea after splendid idea that cajoles, provokes and excites the listener. It’s one of those tracks that you’re able to find something new in each time, some new nugget to be enthralled by.

“Thorn”, featuring Ishahn (yes, him) has begins with discordant saxophone before dropping into a slower tempo that Radiohead would raise a cultured eyebrow at before jetting off on a third direction, based around a call and response chorus. And then in he comes- our black metal overlord- to take things to yet another level: fabulous. Elsewhere, the esoteric and melancholia of “Mediocrity Wins” has echoes of Massive Attack, Porcupine Tree and Opeth. This is, obviously, a very good thing indeed.

“Cryptogenic Desires”, however charming, seems a little out of place here: it’s gossamer light, reminiscent of Kamelot or Blind Guardian at their most playful: it’s a kind of bridging tune for the dark, brooding structures of “Acquired Taste” which is both plaintive and exhilarating, often simultaneously. It’s an ideal companion piece for the exemplary “Painful Detour” which is prog in extremis: tight harmonies, massive choruses, changing time structures- it’s going to be a great live number for the band, of that we can be sure.

Bilateral is the sound of a band coming of age: it’s colourful, creative and full of energy. It’s an album that may not get you on first listen but, over time, it starts to release its treasures- and there’s as much treasure here as a pirate’s bounty. Look: just go and have a listen; you’ll thank me. A lot.

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