LEPROUS — Bilateral

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LEPROUS - Bilateral cover
3.80 | 36 ratings | 10 reviews
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Album · 2011

Filed under Progressive Metal


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)

Total time 58:10


- Einar Solberg / synth, vocals
- Tor Oddmund Suhrke / guitars
- Øystein Landsverk / guitars
- Rein Blomquist / bass
- Tobias Ørnes Andersen / drums

About this release

Released August 23, 2011, on InsideOut.

Thanks to Time Signature for the addition and bartosso for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

"Bilateral" is the second studio album by the Norwegian metal act Leprous.

I have to say, I'm not a huge fan of the progressive metal genre. There is just something about it that I can't really explain, it just prevents me from really getting into it.

However, I love everything about this band.

Unlike other bands (which I can express some sort of distaste for), this band has done nothing that I really dislike. In fact, most of their releases are perfect, especially this and their most recent album, "Coal". I know a ton of people really like "Tall Poppy Syndrome", but honestly the album didn't really affect me as much as "Bilateral". It could be from the fact that the track 'Acquired Taste' was the first piece of music I heard from the band. I instantly fell in love with it and it's parent album.

One of the things I love about Leprous is the way they can shift and change their music in such a creative way, that their more unique than most bands I can name. This album really expresses that.

While most Leprous tracks are seven to eight minutes, the tracks on "Bilateral" range from three minutes to six minutes. I feel that instead of having an entire album dedicated to long epics, short(er) songs give way for more creative input. Each track has more time put into it and less filler to take up space on it. Even when they do have a longer track on this album, it is done well. The longest track, 'Forced Entry', is pretty great in the way of vocals and instrumental value. Two great songs that are favorites of mine are the previously mentioned 'Acquired Taste', and the titled track 'Bilateral'. Both are great songs and I highly recommend them for anyone wanting to get into Leprous.

One thing I'm totally thankful for is the removal of the constant screaming that was highly present in "Tall Poppy Syndrome", along with now absent organ. Now it's in the right place and actually sounds good.

Anyways, I totally recommend either this (or Coal) for anyone who wants to listen to a great progressive metal band like Leprous.

Go give it a listen.

Bilateral by Leprous finds the band diversifying their sound, presenting an album which runs the full range of progressive metal from almost-commercial to downright esoteric. With its eclectic stylings revealing the band's truly encyclopedic command of metal styles from Dream Theater to Mr Bungle, it's an excellent showcase for the technical abilities of the group, but equally the compositions seem to have a depth to them that suggests they are more than mere pedestals to showcase some guitar riffing or keyboard solos the band are particularly proud of. Incorporating all of these influences into one album is a challenge in itself; making them all feel like they naturally belong there is a masterstroke which Leprous are able to manage, but unfortunately not quite consistently enough to put Bilateral in the top tier of their releases.
My first experience with LEPROUS is through this album and I was quite shocked at how innovative this Norwegian band can be. There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of varied elements and influences incorporated here, from the classic 70s style of KING CRIMSON, to the harsh death metal hooks of OPETH, from the alternative/prog touch of MUSE, and to the atmospheric part of PORCUPINE TREE, they're all there, mixed with their original style.

'Bilateral' is melodic and they smartly burst the chorus with fast-paced tempo. 'Forced Entry' is the longest tune, colorful and rich in textures, somehow melodic and with complex tempo, however it's not really difficult to digest. 'Thorn' is a challenge track for me. It has jazzy feel with doom element in the middle, the semi-growl vocal can be mixed with trumpets, and they blow it with aggressive rhythm, what a crazy acrobatic tune!

'Mb.Indifferentia' is a peaceful tune, I can sense the 70s psychedelic influence in it, I like it, but not really with 'Waste of Air'. This is extreme song but felt extremely flat to me. 'Medicority Wins' is a mediocre track and 'Cryptogenic Desires' is okay but not great. 'Painful Detour', the second longest track, pretty good but I still think 'Forced Entry' being the better one.

Kudos to their risky approach with ‘Bilateral’. Like I said, this is complex but highly accessible, but you still need to concentrate to really enjoy this one. I understand why some love it, while other hates it. This isn't for everyone, but as a casual prog fan, I think it deserved at least a respectable 75%
Bilateral is the second album from Norwegian progressive metal act Leprous. The 2011 album also has avant-garde qualities and features a quest vocal slot from notable black and prog metal artist Ihsahn (ex-Emperor) during the track Thorn. The band’s entire line-up has performed with Ihsahn live for his solo material. Given Ihsahn’s strengths as an artist you know he’s not going to have just anyone backing him up in the live environment, and Leprous certainly showcase the skills to be a force to be reckoned with on Bilateral. But before you get your hopes up for a masterpiece read on.

The music here is not always the heaviest that I’ve heard for something branded as metal, even though the band can still whack out an aggressive riff every now and then and there are some harsh vocals within the album. There’s a lot of light and atmospheric stuff on the album, too much really to consider Bilateral to be completely metal. Bilateral strikes me more along the lines of atmospheric metal even at the times when the band heavy it up, adding that avant-garde twist to give a weird feel to some of the sections. To be honest so long as the music is good I couldn’t really care less if the band doesn’t blast out their stuff as intensely as humanly possible, and this is especially okay for the progressive metal genre which isn’t a style you should be looking to if all you want is bone crushing riffs. There’s just one problem with Leprous’ Bilateral though; for all the technical and progressive prowess that the band shows much of Bilateral is just plain boring. It’s all very well being flash, but when the songs lack any sort of substance, things just go straight down the drain.

While I won’t go quite as far as say that Bilateral is offensively bad, we’re are still dealing with some pretty soulless prog here that is lacking that distinct spark to make it awesome. If the band had gone down the atmospheric prog rock route for the whole album then we may have been talking a success story instead, but the fact that there is still enough metal here to warrant the prog metal tag despite the amount of light stuff means that the music sounds as if the metal was added for the sake of it. You can hear it, but it’s just there, adding nothing to the overall quality of the music. Rarely do the guitars knock out a riff of note, which is what really holds this back on the metal front. It took until the fourth track, Thorn, before Leprous delivered something on this front. Waste of Air also has a heavier sound than what the album had led me to believe was the norm up until that point, but with a 5:33 duration it’s only so far into the track I can get without noting how repetitive the guitars really are much of the time. It’s still one of the album’s stronger moments overall, but it just reinforces that feeling that the metal is there just for the sake of it.

The vocals don’t help either. Although there are some growls most of the vocals are clean and melodic, which is fitting enough for the atmospheric stuff in itself but it’s a bland performance that puts me in mind of all those so called rock acts that get chart success than anything remotely suited to metal. Even Ihsahn showing up in a single track can’t really save the vocal front. It dawns on me that maybe I just need to get a new perspective and review Bilateral from a different angle, but ultimately I write for metal sites, for readers who expect a metal perspective, and upon its conclusion Bilateral just didn’t work for me on a metal level. I’d really like it to be otherwise, since these guys really do show that they have the chops to be exceptional, but that’s all Bilateral really has going for it.

I guess that if this style of prog/avant-garde is your thing then Bilateral would sound a lot better to your ears then it did to mine. I’d say the track Acquired Taste is quite aptly named and that a fan’s only rating would be most appropriate overall, but the fact that it’s a metal album and it’s the metal that let this one down means that fan’s only rating is decidedly lower end.


(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org))
After being blown away by their debut 'Tall Poppy Syndrome', 'Bilateral' was a much anticipated album for 2011. And I must say that I'm not disappointed. Leprous built further on their songwriting and playing strengths; they also dropped most of their extreme vocals, which I find a wise choice in their case.

Leprous are probably the most exciting thing in prog metal since a long long time. I may prefer Riverside but Leprous dares to cover more ground, with keyboards that avoid traditional neo and prog metal cliches in favor of a more modern approach. The keyboards are maybe comparable to Porcupine Tree's Barbieri, who also favors texture and original sounds above the usual twiedeliwiedelie keyboard runs. So far with the Porcupine Tree references, as the guitars, drums and vocals are far more metal and more prog then Porcupine Tree. The sound is fuller, heavier and more metallic, and vocalist Solberg just has the perfect voice. Could I compare him to a cross of Daniel Gildenglow with that guy from Haken? Something along those lines maybe.

The masterpiece of the album is the 10 minute 'Forced Entry', the remainder of the tracks are shorter but keep a lot of things going and always have an element of surprise, twisting known song formats inside out and spicing everything up with everything that can be expected from prog metal, such as haphazard time-signatures, scenic songwriting, over-the-top theatricality, and - unusual for the genre - great vocals. Ihsahn shrieks an appearance on 'Thorn', which also features some interesting sax.

Leprous is a unique band that succeeds in marrying the attractions of classic prog metal with a fresh approach that is aggressive and modern, avoiding both the cliches and the cheese, and remaining entirely fascinating throughout the entire album. I'm pretty sure this is one of the best Prog Metal albums of recent years. Haven't stopped playing this for weeks on end now.
Conor Fynes
'Bilateral' - Leprous (10/10)

2009 saw the Norwegian band Leprous enjoyed some underground success with 'Tall Poppy Syndrome', an album that impressed me somewhat, but rose to the tops of many prog metalheads' year-end lists. Suffice to say, I was not able to fully jump on the hype bandwagon for Leprous back then, seeing their music as maybe a little cheesy and being proggy for prog's sake. Nonetheless, I was made very aware of the band's immense potential from that album, and I figured that it would only be a matter of time before these Norwegians released something that would blow me away. Sure enough, come 2011 they finally have made an album that places them among the frontrunners of the new wave of progressive metal.

'Bilateral' may be something of a tough pill to swallow for those that most enjoyed 'Tall Poppy Syndrome', but for me, Leprous seems to have addressed all of the problems I had with them before, while retaining their good qualities. The most evident development for them has been largely in terms of ambition; what they are willing to do with their sound. There have been some steps taken toward a more sporadic style. The songwriting is more packed with ideas, some of them quite experimental and unexpected, although the memorable melodic component of Leprous is not toned down at all. 'Bilateral' is quite a bit to take in all at once, and I am finding that it is very much a 'grower' album; the constant flow of ideas can make it a little disorienting at first, and while the flow between these ideas can sometimes be a tad off-putting, the sheer excellence of the melodies and newfound weirdness makes Leprous all the more interesting of a listen.

As one might judge even by the surreal album cover (whose artist is also known for composing some of The Mars Volta's artwork), Leprous is not afraid to try new things. The title track contrasts remarkably layered vocal hooks with a mellow section of deep electronics. 'Painful Detour' is a slower, powerful song that gives the 'epic' impression of Muse as it hits its climax. 'Thorn' even shows the band's friend Ihsahn (from classic black metal act Emperor) doing a quick vocal cameo before letting a trumpet solo pop up for a moment. All of these things come as a huge surprise at first. While I would say at this point that Leprous has found their own sound with this album, they do remind me of a younger Pain of Salvation here, in the sense that they are a prog metal band that is focusing more on emotional impact and surprises rather than the sort of power-metal derivative that many newer prog metal bands go for. The Pain of Salvation comparison hits its peak with the vocal technique of Einar Solberg, whose diverse vocal register and complex ad-libbing accents his performance in a way that really reminds me of Dan Gildenlow.

'Bilateral' shows that even if the melodic side of prog metal has withered in recent years, there are still ways of making it sound progressive without falling into all of the prog pitfalls. Leprous still isn't completely fargone from the genre, but they have taken some adventurous steps here that really see my respect for them as a band skyrocket. 'Bilateral' is one of the few masterpieces of progressive metal that I have thus heard in 2011, and being very much of a 'grower' album, I can only see it holding its ground as the year grinds on.
Leprous' unique brand of extreme progressive metal took listeners by storm with 2009's Tall Poppy Syndrome, and Bilateral proves that these Norwegian lads are far from slowing down. On their third album, Leprous expands even further upon the foundation set by their first two releases, resulting in an album that is both entirely unique and still distinctly their own. Bilateral is a mature, innovative, and simply breathtaking tour de force of modern progressive metal; this is the sort of album that is bound to amaze any open minded fan of progressive metal. Bilateral took quite a few listens to 'click' with me, but its genius songwriting and ambitious attitude does eventually shine through in a brilliant way. Anyone who thinks that modern progressive metal only consists of copycats and clones better take a listen to Leprous - these guys have the goods!

While Leprous is best described as progressive metal (which is, admittedly, the best tag I can come up with too), you'll find much more than you may have bargained for on Bilateral. Throughout the album, I hear touches of symphonic progressive rock, technical metal, avant-garde metal in the vein of Mr. Bungle, quirky prog rock a la Gentle Giant, Faith No More-inspired funky metal, and even various styles of jazz. This is an eclectic and one-of-a-kind album for sure, and the first thing that springs to mind when discussing Bilateral is probably the early works of Swedish prog metal act Pain of Salvation - while Leprous is certainly more wacky and unpredictable than Daniel Gildenlöw's brainchild, their influence does shine in the vocal harmonies and sheer eclecticism of this release. Bilateral is also rather dependent on (somewhat) short and compact compositions, rather than long and drawn-out epics. Each of the songs moves extremely fast, so it can definitely take a few listens before Bilateral's genius begins to unravel. Once it does, though, it's hard for me to think of this as anything but an absolutely stunning observation. Factor in the top-notch musicianship and crystal-clear production, and it looks like we have a winner across the board!

Bilateral is a very different album from Tall Poppy Syndrome, but I'm sure it will have just as much (if not more) of an impact on prog metal fans worldwide. One look at various review sites across the web, and it appears that my prediction is pretty accurate. Leprous have crafted a great album on nearly every front with Bilateral, and even though it does feel a bit disjointed from time to time, this is one of 2011's highlights if you're interested in unique and modern progressive metal. 4 stars and a very high recommendation are deserved.
Phonebook Eater

Thanks to "Bilateral", Leprous is now one of the most original, creative, and artistic metal bands out there.

"Tall Poppy Syndrome" was considered one of the best albums of 2009, and fans were expecting something maybe not as emotional and overall able to surpass it. I wasn't exactly in love with the sophomore LP, but there were moments in it that completely amazed me. But it is with "Bilateral", their third album, that I fell in love with Leprous.

"Tall Poppy Syndrome" was a pretty mature album, that showed the talent of the band and gave them a pretty distinct style. With "Bilateral", they reach a new level: they are now one of the most innovating, creative, and artistic metal bands out there. More experimentation, more synths that accompany the music, an Einar Soldberg that has never sounded so powerful and emotional ( some times he actually sounds a bit like Jonathan Davis), more complex rhythms, which often include several time changes. Overall there's a much wilder and visceral feel, and the progressive elements are very highlighted, not only in the keyboards, but also in the structure of the songs, despite being generally shorter; they're much more dense with music than "Tall Poppy Syndrome" and they never seem like they are running out of ideas, while in the previous album it felt like so in a few points, just for the sake of making the song longer.

If there is one thing that Leprous stands out for, that is songwriting: there are so many unbelievably well done hooks in here, and always they are strengthened by Einar's voice, that I can't stop praising. The album is extremely solid, and contains a lot of variety as well: there are powerful songs with some quirky arrangements, softer, utterly emotional ones, more jazz influenced tracks, and so on. It is a great collection of prog metal gems, each one in its one way. The ten minutes of "Forced Entry" is the magnum opus of the band, amazingly structured and containing an unbelievable, breathtaking vocal performance. The opening title track is another great moment, a perfect introduction for the album, a sort of prologue to all the things that will soon be heard. The three songs in the middle of the album, the incredible climax of "Mb. Indifferentia", the aggressive yet very provocative "Waste Of Air", and the building tension of "Mediocrity Wins" make an amazingly solid trilogy together. "Cryptogenic Desires" a paranoid but fun short track, the final two songs are both overall calm and don't have much of a climax, but once again have a great emotive force, especially the finale, the eight minute "Painful Detour".

"Bilateral" takes prog metal and bends it with originality, creativity, and amazing musicianship. An album that basically redefines the genre as we know it, and would possibly become a classic for the years to come.
A dynamic complex album with stunning song structures and musicianship.

Leprous are new to me so I had no idea how this would sound. I liked it from the start to end. Some of the playing on this is stunning musicianship and the vocals in particular are dynamic. Each musician has a chance to really shine and it is innovative how the songs change time signatures without warning and keep the listener on the edge. The ever present metal riffing guitars pervade the album and there are moments of true ambient beauty. Here are the tracks as I heard them which should explain what to expect.

1. Bilateral - The album begins with a very strong fast beat, great layered vocals from Einar Solberg and melodic metal with powerful riffs. Nice clean vocals sound a bit like Muse and the song really jumps along driven by classic guitar riffs. One growl at the end signifies that there will be some of that too.

2. Forced Entry - Sheer bliss, with a weird time sig and effect with the guitars, blazing away. The feeling of a 70s psych prog band at first, Solberg's clean vocals are wonderfully executed. There are strange fast electronic pulsations under the veerse that slow out of sync, and then a strong steady beat for the melodic chorus reminding me of fates warning or Symphony X a bit. A nice high falsetto in the next section, incredible harmonies are strikingly similar to perhaps Pain of Salvation and then a death metal growl just to punctuate the dark atmosphere. The odd time sig on distorted guitar to follow is amazing, it is totally off kilter but is consistently so and works against the other instruments. The work of bassist Blomquist and drummer Andersen is a key feature. The Meshuggah rhythms stop and a spacey ethereal sound follows on harmonic guitar. Like the next part, "you will need me tonight," so what is this song about? "Take your time, I will give, I will give you mine, give me signs that I need to grow, rest in peace, let me connect to my shawl to your heart," really love the track, it is a mini epic that grinds along, "I fought my way," screams the vocals, and a divine lead break sliding up and down the scales augments the virtuoso musicianship. Great riffs follow from guitarists Tor Oddmund Suhrke and Ã?ystein Landsverk that are very chopped and fractured. The next part is like Riverside's ambience with threatening metal breaking through, and the vocals are estranged and filtered, "take my crime, see the sense of time". It gets extreme towards the end with very heavy guitars and a wall of sound made up of layered guitars and screeching vocals sung with incredible force. Highlight of the album and one you should check out.

3. Restless - This begins with a strange polyphonic rhythm and lots of nice harmonies. The vocals are really great, "render a purpose to be at peace, find out who you want to be". After this the track gets heavy with death growls and clean vocals trading off. It is never overdone though and the death growls are kind of part of the experience. I normally hate death growls but here the band only use them to show aggression every now and then, and it is never too much for the ears. The vocals are very well accomplished with a lot of mixing, layering voices over and merging together to create quite a strong presence.

4. Thorn - A horn that sounds like an Indian temple call blares out. Then a steady beat and guitar swells take over as the verses begin, about a beast, "eating his way from inside". The slow doomy feel is punctuated by the horn effects. The chorus is an infectious melody, I try to get to sleep but nothing gets me by, the thorn inside pushing me to lie, regret the future, regret the future today." The time sig changes and there is a quirky lead break from Landsverk and Suhrke. There are some very interesting riffs that stop and start and at times a chaotic time sig takes over. The instrumental break is an excellent blend of guitar, and synth. After some chilling vocals, a trumpet plays, then an extreme metal section with a death metal feel. It breaks and then an odd time sig plays out the rest of the song.

5. Mb. Indifferentia - This begins with weird synth notes and then an organ sound, like the 70s chimes in. Solberg's serene vocals take over with true beauty and some inspired high falsetto work. The guitars of Landsverk and Suhrke are peaceful, and the ambient atmosphere is augmented by the sweet lead guitar tones. Blonmquist's bass work is exemplary, and I love the way he keeps a rhythm while the guitars play a different melody. The spacey psychedelic feel is noteworthy too. This one reminds me of Riverside, and it even builds to a heavier feel towards the end, especially when Solberg screams, "do nothing at all!"

6. Waste Of Air - The heaviest track at first absolutely hammers along with extreme speed metal blasts and manic double kick drumming. It settles into a strong beat and death metal vocals that are overlaid with high and low growls together. A strange passage of synth and guitar chugging along follows. The spacey synth swirls are awesome against the machine gun riffing, sounding more industrial than the rest of the album is way heavier. This continues with a hypnotic repeated motif over a fast beat. Psychedelic style vocals break over and some dark low choral voice beneath. It builds to a heavier feel and a quirky melody. More death growls lurk around the next bend and the song even speeds up in rhythm with Slayeresque speed picking. The growls get more aggressive and though I am not a fan this is so diverse than the rest of the album it is startling.

7. Mediocrity Wins - While I am just getting over the hammer smashed onslaught of the last track, this one begins with electronica and sparkling synths generating ambience. Then a wall of sound of synths come in with some unusual overlaid spoken chants in rap style droning on one note. The rhythm is moderate with the electronic effects constant and some vocal intonations. The verses eventually begin with Muse like vocalisations hitting high notes and forced phrases. A distorted riff locks in with cryptic time sig meter, and then more aggressive growling chants begin. I am reminded of Tool for some of this or a darkwave style; "Sing the song with my own voice, take your place, mediocrity wins."

8. Cryptogenic Desires - The tight machine gun riffing begins and then short blasts of speed palm mute picking. The verses are quickly sung in rhythm with the guitars. It builds with aggressive screeches and then breaks into a quirky passage with chopping guitars and blastbeats of drum and bass at intervals.

9. Acquired Taste - A title that may explain the album, begins with piano and crystal clear breathy vocals from Solberg; "Enjoy the restrictions, be glad you can feel the sting, silent compassion won't lead to anything". The next part builds with consistent twanging guitars up the scale and Solberg very passionate on vocals that cry out from the soul. The next part is more like King Crimson's Fripp with fractured time sig; and stark melancholy vocals "stay in the cold you will see someone else will leave your mark, to be sold so you're free". One of the key features is the vocals that have an amazing range from low to the highest register. The lead break is terrific that follows, very emotive and soaring. It breaks to allow a piano to play a simple melody and end it.

10. Painful Detour - The last track features more odd time sig distorted riffing. The track clocks over 8 minutes and has a myriad of detours and twists and turns. The vocals are the same as last track, clean to high falsetto in choruses; "Time elapsing, storm running out, ready to doubt, hide from the open turning to stone." After the loud raucous chorus there is a break in the meter and the track shifts into beautiful passages of ambient passionate vocalisations. The guitars compete in battle with the ambience and a soundwave of off kilter drum patterns over a steady melody is a dissonant attack on the structure. It breaks into a rock steady beat and some delightful organ embellishments. The twin guitar playing over the synth is a highlight demonstrating the tension and release in Leprous' style.

To conclude this is an excellent album with some incredible musicianship. The inventiveness of the song structures and diverse approach to the music is refreshing. I can recommend this to those who like a heavier style of prog with loads of innovation and experimental nuances embedded within. It delivers on many levels, with complex, speed metal, dextrous guitar playing, and well executed vocals throughout.

Members reviews

The Scream

Bilateral is a shining example in the most literal of terms. As an avid music listener and someone who writes for and about many new artists, I will regularly get questions from bands who have released a debut about how they can improve their sound. And for those that released 'good-to-decent' debuts, I can normally give good advice, and avoiding the sophomore slump is not such an issue. It's the bands who release stellar debuts that I have a hard time giving advice to, and they have a hard time releasing something past their debut.

Of all the great debuts that there have been, I really can't think of a single band who has topped their first album. I find that bands will either slowly build up to their best work from a weaker first couple of albums (see Porcupine Tree, Anathema, Opeth), or they will release a phenomenal debut that already has a distinctive sound, and fail to repeat it over and over again (see The Mars Volta, The Reign of Kindo, Dead Letter Circus, even Dream Theater if we forget about When Dream and Day Unite). Leprous, with Bilateral, are the only band in the entire world that, to my knowledge, have avoided this.

Of course, I guess I should point out that perhaps the reason Leprous topped Tall Poppy Syndrome is because they are not part of the latter group, but the former, because I'm ignoring Aeolia in my equation. And yeah, I guess the fact that Aeolia was a full-length demo and actually housed some pretty decent tracks means that it was their debut as opposed to Tall Poppy Syndrome, but still think the feat remains, because Tall Poppy Syndrome was treated as a debut. When Leprous exploded onto the prog metal scene, everyone just called it their debut and gave the same sort of praise that a debut of that calibre would gain. So the feat remains. When you release a breakthrough album that gets praise about its uniqueness and character, it can be extremely difficult to try and capture those same fans, whilst at the same time moving forward and creating a different album, while at the same time keeping the musicality and composition the same level.

The impossible truth is that Bilateral somehow sounds like the same Leprous that produced Tall Poppy Syndrome, yet it is also a completely different record. On first listen, you'll hear it and go "yeah, this sounds like Leprous", but after a while, and a bit of comparison, you realise how different it is to Tall Poppy Syndrome. The most obvious difference here is the absence of Einar Solberg's delicious and incredibly intricate piano. Those who know me know that piano is my favourite instrument by a good length, and I will always praise a band for its use, especially in the context of rock or metal music. So weird then, to think that with the amazing piano on Tall Poppy Syndrome, and its near complete absence on Bilateral, that I believe this album to be the superior. But to be honest, I didn't even notice. I didn't finish this album and go "oh damn, where are the awesome piano parts", and in fact I didn't even notice for a good time, until Coal was released and the piano returned. There are brief appearances here during "Acquired Taste" and "Painful Detour", but nothing compared to the lengthy solos or dominating rhythm parts on its predecessor. And the reason I didn't notice the piano here is simple ? because the melodies and performances from the other instruments are just too good.

The second track here, "Forced Entry" is undeniably Leprous' best song yet, and is generally one of the best prog metal epics I have ever heard, especially in the second half. The song begins with a rather angular and weird riff, but soon breaks into a fantastically catchy groove, pushing 4/4 time to its extreme limits until it's basically not recognisable. The song's chorus drives the energy even further up, which is possibly the reason this is such a brilliant piece of composition, because of the way the energy is kept alive for ten minutes. Within just four minutes, the band have strung together multiple melodies that are all stellar on their own, from the epic "rest in peace" to Einar's falsetto "help me survive", and yet together, these pieces make for something truly exceptional.

But as much as the first half creates a ton of energy and runs through a good number of melodies and motifs, it's the second half that really kills me. After a short break and a light keyboard part, the band strike an absolutely awesome 7/4 groove, possibly the best I have ever heard in that signature, and Einar pulls out some of the best vocal melodies he has done over the top. It really impresses me how all of these lines are in some variant of 7, changing each bar and keeping in line with the odd rhythm. Sounding this natural in an odd signature is something that really impresses me in prog metal, something that bands like Dream Theater have never managed. This part of the song has Einar panting out some rather strange and disturbing lyrics ? my friends and I once joked that "Forced Entry" was a rape analogy, but after we proceeded to read the lyrics, it really didn't seem like a distant possibility. The lyrics scream of obsession and addiction, and although some of the lines may be calm, in context they are quite disturbing, "Bring me home, shut the door, send me a glimpse of the future once more. Settle down, go to rest, sit back, relax?."




What the hell was that?


Is he making that with his mouth?

The sound that Einar Solberg makes at 8:43 in "Forced Entry" is the greatest noise ever made by a human. This is a fact.

I have yet to find someone who has not been impressed by The Scream. Even people with basically no knowledge of music and no enjoyment of metal were impressed, and I use it as pure evidence toward my case proving Einar Solberg as the best vocalist in the planet. It's so raw, yet so stunningly pitched. It's in a range that is neither falsetto nor standard, it both has pitch and has none. I managed to get it once, or at least I believed I did, by drinking a massive amount of coffee and blocking the back of my throat with phlegm to create a second diaphragm. It's like a falsetto note with masses of vibrato, done in a black metal scream fashion. Actually, it's unlike anything I have ever heard, and trying to explain with words is pointless. My point is that it is phenomenal, and the cherry on top of one of the best songs ever written. Or is it just?

I love the way that after The Scream, it just goes straight back in. Back to that fantastic bridge verse, back to that fantastic groove. The energy I mentioned before has quadrupled; the song is now so full of it that it has its own gravitational field. I love the way that Einar amps up the intensity in the second part though, somehow topping the first. He sings the awesome "knowing how long you've made me wait" line with such brilliant finesse, perfectly stressing the slide at the end, building up until?

It happens again.

And it's bigger.

Ok, ok, scratch that, this is the best one. The second scream. So often, when I was first getting into this record, I completely forgot about this part, because The Scream just seems like the logical climax, and this took me completely by surprise. I remember when I was very small, we used to draw graphs of the 'intensity' of a novel or short story, so we would know what a climax was and what a denouement was and all that stuff. If this song was drawn on one of those (very scientific) graphs, The Scream would bring it to the other side of the room, and The Second Scream would punch a hole in the wall and continue the scale out to halfway across the damn ocean. It's the cherry on top of another cake that is sitting on top of the previous cherry from the previous cake. By the time the opening riff comes flying in to finish the song, I'm out of breath. Hell, I'm out of breath just writing this, and I'm currently in a biology lecture.

But The Scream is not the only reason Bilateral tops its predecessor. Sure, Einar has found his ground as the best vocalist on the planet, which is concrete evidence of this album's achievement, but there is the not-so-concrete evidence of the band's songwriting stepping up as well. As I have said, I should prefer Tall Poppy Syndrome, given my boner for piano (especially piano-heavy metal music), but this album trumps it in nearly every way with its composition.

Take a track like "MB Indifferentia", and its counterpoint on the previous album, "Fate". It's clear these track are linked in their lack of harsh vocals, in their rock-centric musicianship, and jazz- influenced verses, as well as Einar's use of falsetto. "Fate" was one of the weaker songs on the debut, but still contained a blistering midsection, great solos, and an obviously stellar performance from Einar. But on MB Indifferentia, everything is turned up to 11. While the song is far more linear than Fate, and is missing the epic midsection, it makes up to it fully with the biggest climax you can imagine (if you pretend that Forced Entry didn't exist). Einar belts the wonderful melody he sung so solemnly earlier in full look-how-much-better-I-am chest voice range, reaching far above what us normal folk could ever dream of hitting without falsetto. It is more or less the best melody they have come up with ? solemn when it needs to be, yet epic and grandiose in the finale. And to top it all off, The Scream returns, for one last bow. I'll admit though, there's a minute or so in the first half that could have been cut, and the entire song could do with a bit of trimming, structure-wise, but everything is forgiven by the final minute.

But it's not just the two outstanding songs here that show improvement. Nearly half of the songs here are better than the best song on Tall Poppy Syndrome, with my next favourites being the closing duo of "Acquired Taste" and "Painful Detour". The former is the only track to have the piano of the debut throughout, and gains its high position from the absolutely beautiful chorus melody (especially in its final rendition), whereas the latter gains its praise from being just plain awesome. Calling back the previous album's "White", it holds great energy throughout the track, utilizing one of the catchiest choruses the band have created, and even features some nice doubling of sax and falsetto vocals in the bridge, but the track really reaches its stride with the blistering ending to the bridge, with Einar reprising The Scream once again over a wall off intense double kicks.

Although I really do not wish to bore everyone by going through every track on this record, I should give a mention to "Waste of Air", or more specifically, how it nearly ruins the album for me. It's not a bad song, but every time it comes on, especially following such a fantastic track as Mb Indifferentia, I let out a massive sigh of "oh not this bitch again", before settling down to tolerate it for five and a half minutes. I guess there's something kinda cool about a random section of blast beats, and the bridge has a very weird 17/16 vocal part that Einar dominates, but on the whole, the album would be better without it. The only other track that I'm not a huge fan of is the opening title track, but it does its job in introducing the album and building into Forced Entry, so it is forgiven. "Mediocrity Wins" is also an interesting track, although not necessarily bad or great. Its main point of interest is the 7/8 beat poem/rap that Einar does in the verses, which is just another vocal style to his repertoire, and it's especially impressive when he layers it with some of his semi-harsh screams on top.

Bilateral is the peak of Leprous' career, and it one of the best records in progressive metal, full stop. It still has flaws, and is certainly not perfect, but the combination of the ambitious and unique style with stellar songwriting with Einar's newfound ability to create such a fantastic noise make this a modern classic in every sense of the word. Despite this, I honestly would not recommend starting here with Leprous ? Tall Poppy Syndrome is a more accessible record, and I also believe everyone should hear Leprous' marvelous feat in topping that record, something that is still nearly unheard of in music (to me, at least).


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

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