LEPROUS — Tall Poppy Syndrome

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LEPROUS - Tall Poppy Syndrome cover
4.10 | 28 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 2009

Filed under Progressive Metal


1. Passing (8:31)
2. Phantom Pain (6:50)
3. Dare You (6:45)
4. Fate (4:38)
5. He Will Kill Again (7:31)
6. Not Even A Name (8:46)
7. Tall Poppy Syndrome (8:28)
8. White (11:31)

Total Time: 63:00


- Einar Solberg / synthesizer, vocals
- Tor Oddmund Suhrke / guitar, vocals
- Halvor Strand / bass
- Øystein Landsverk / guitar, backing vocals
- Tobias Ørnes Andersen / drums

About this release

Label: Sensory Records
Release date: May 5th, 2009

Recorded, mixed and mastered at Black Lounge Studios and The Abyss.

Thanks to the t 666 for the addition and UMUR for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Leprous seem to be especially catholic in their prog metal influences, since every review of Tall Poppy Syndrome I see seems to liken their work to a different set of influences. Personally, I hear a lot of post-In Absentia Porcupine Tree in this one, which perhaps explains why others hear echoes of Opeth (considering the close ties between the two groups). Dream Theater I hear less of, aside from a few melodic passages here and there. Either way, these guys seem to have a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the history of their chosen subgenre, and an ability to draw on all corners for it in their compositions.
Phonebook Eater

"Tall Poppy Syndrome" is a desperate cry for normality, an extreme attempt to be part of a society that rejects us.

Recently I've seen many debuts or follow-ups to obscure debuts that suddenly become popular among the prog and metal community, of bands like Haken, Animals As Leaders, Sky Architect, and many others. But one the most interesting and promising among this big wave of debutantes is Leprous, at first ignored, but then immensely praised for their unique sophomore album "Tall Poppy Syndrome", which many have considered one of the best albums of 2009.

For starters, what probably did it for Leprous for getting popular is their unique and distinct style, but the musicians are obviously influenced by that wave of Progressive Metal bands such as Pain Of Salvation, Opeth, Devin Townsend, and some Fates Warning. But overall Leprous like I said are a very unique band and have a distinct style that can be recognized only as theirs. Like Pain Of Salvation, Leprous plays Prog Metal that concentrates more on emotion than on technical virtuosity, especially in the vocal delivery by singer Einar Soldberg, in my opinion one of the most talented new metal vocalists out there today. But the sound is very heavy, and can often have a pretty extreme touch, and being at the same time very well produced. It is a much more guitar-driven album, with some occasional synths, that accompany some hooks, or flutes, which are usually dominant when present. The structure of these songs is quite unusual but very well done: pretty much all of these tracks clock in between the six minute mark and the eleven minute mark, so they tend to be rather extensive, using a few hooks per track, but very related one another whether they be more aggressive or softer.

"Tall Poppy Syndrome" is, more than a mind-blowing album, one that grabs your attention with its musical concept that flows through the entire album: The calmer moments extremely dense and paranoid, at times melancholic, the more aggressive ones more, in a way, relaxed, but very melodic and full of emotion. This sounds like the last, desperate cry for normality, an extreme attempt to be part of a society that rejects us, and because of this, we feel that death is soon to come, but when it does come, it is suddenly the most beautiful thing in the world. This is in part, for you who not know, tall poppy syndrome.

The opening track "Passing" is probably one of the best and most memorable episodes, containing wonderful, calm moments and harsh ones that will make you quiver, and think. More delicate oriented songs here include "Phantom Pain" and "Fate", two absolute gems, especially the latter, probably the most touching track. "Dare You" and the eleven minute grand finale "White" are other really good highlights, especially the latter, which has a great climax and is epically structured, a perfect way to end an album.

"Tall Poppy Syndrome" is a serious, but very enjoyable and memorable album, an excellent start from this young, extremely talented band that with "Bilateral" (2011) will reach it's highest artistic peak.
Conor Fynes
'Tall Poppy Syndrome' - Leprous (8/10)

Although music is not, and never should be confined to narrowly prescribed music genres, most genres have one or two bands that really pave the way for the rest. In the case of progressive metal, the torch was lit by acts like Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation and Opeth, and most of the bands now piled into that label are disciples of one or more of those leading acts. In the case of these bands then, the mark of excellence comes when the band is able to take the existing style and create something equally as powerful with it. Along with other young progressive metal acts like Circus Maximus and Haken, the band Leprous have distinguished themselves here not with an album that breaks any of the rules, but rather takes the existing conventions of progressive metal and bombasts them to the level of being a legitimately excellent listening experience of its own.

While not well-known at this point by many, Leprous play a familiar style of dark melodic progressive metal, with overtones of classical music clearly heard in the songwriting. As with many similar bands, Leprous' highly impressive technical abilities are among their greatest strengths. Through tight, often melodic writing, the band's skills are still able to show. Leprous are always sure to include an ample dose of beauty and melody to metal, especially through the vocal work, which is quite simply brilliant. Einar Solberg's higher register vocals may remind some listeners of Pain of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlow, and the comparisons to that band probably won't stop there.

Perhaps the best thing that Leprous does here isn't necessarily the songwriting- which is strong albeit derivative- but moreso the brilliant way in which things are arranged. The background vocals are enriched with lush harmonies, and intelligent riffs that play over each other. However, much like other bands like Circus Maximus, the music itself may be great and the band may be as talented as any other in melodic metal, but the lacking originality is what really holds back the band from reaching a level of mastery they can truly call their own.

As with any excellent album though, the promise and potential shine through clearly, and one is led to wait eagerly to hear what the talented Leprous will conjure up next. Put simply; 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' is one of the best recent melodic progressive metal albums in the style of the older legends.

Members reviews

The Student Becomes the Master There are several albums in the history of prog metal that I could list as being something truly different. Something that makes you go "yes, this is prog metal", but at the same time "I have never heard anything like this before". But none of those records, in my opinion, compare to Tall Poppy Syndrome. It was such a stunning breakthrough ? a virtually unknown band, brought to the light simply by the the fact that the vocalist's sister married Ihsahn, producing such a stellar record, that not only blows everything the Emperor mainman himself has put out, but pretty much everything in progressive metal at the time. It's not my favourite in the genre, or even my favourite from Leprous, but at the time Tall Poppy Syndrome was released, it would have been the highest in terms of balancing ambition and forward-thinking sounds with sheer compositional quality.

When I reviewed Peccatum's final (and best) album Lost in Reverie a few weeks ago, I mentioned how that album may be the hidden cause for spawning Leprous. The Silent Waters demo (which basically no one has heard) had just been released at the time, but I'm sure Einar took a good hard look at his big sister and her world famous husband and said "I can do better". Sonically, Leprous and Peccatum are quite close, although without Ihriel, Leprous has none of the gothic undertones in their music, replacing it with some quirky, mathy, prog-with-a-capital-P sections. But at the core of both bands is the forward-thinking progressive metal spirit, of being heavy and intense, but never letting go of melody, because melody is the core of music. Peccatum's music had a rather forward avant-garde sense to it, whereas Leprous choose to throw it on the backburner. There's less avant here in the true sense of the word, and more prog-with-a-twist.

But there's one thing that Leprous have that Peccatum never had, and although Ihsahn does bring it into his solo albums occasionally, he will never have it completely ? Einar's voice. Einar has long been my favourite vocalist, and will remain there for a very, very long time, until someone truly remarkable comes along. I personally believe Einar's vocals finally hit their peak on Bilateral, and it was then that he was anointed the glorious "favourite vocalist" position, but there's no denying his performance here is spectacular, and I was certainly impressed on the listens to this. I have never been a fan of harsh vocals, of any sort, but Einar's were different. I couldn't really say whether I enjoyed them or not at the time, but they were so much more than usual. When my closest friend finally heard Tall Poppy Syndrome, a good few months after I did, he described them as "almost melodic", because they somehow have a pitch, unlike many harsh vocals. To this day, I can't really say whether I enjoy them or not, but I certainly know that I wouldn't remove them from the album, like I say about many albums with harsh vocals. Einar knows exactly when to place them, and when to sing cleans. He even utilises several types of harsh vocals, from the surreal pitch-screams I mentioned, to some (Ihsahn-inspired, obviously) black metal-lite vocals, to even some lower death growls, but always using them in good time.

The finale of opening track "Passing" heralds the best testament to Einar's ability on this record, and also the band's general ability as songwriters. The song more or less finishes at the point of the 'bridge', or it could, if the band didn't have something bigger in store. Ending with a solemn piano part, Einar pierces the silence with a brilliantly shrill scream of


followed by the most brilliant reprise of the song's opening theme, complete with Einar jumping between singing the high notes in full falsetto and dropping all the way down to the deepest growls he can form. It's an absolutely thrilling ending to the first song, and really does set a high bar for the rest of the tracks, one that is not truly met until the nearly 12-minute closer, "White". The song has an infectiously catchy main theme that flies at you instrumentally in the first few minutes, but it's the chorus that really sticks, as anyone who has been in the presence of me and my friends will know. Next to the latter half of "Forced Entry" from Bilateral, the chorus of White was our sing-as-loudly-as-you-can song of choice for much of our final year in high school. It's menacingly catchy, thunderously epic, and yet it has a rather dark edge, brought about by both the sinister lyrics and dark piano underneath, which gets a rather solemn and beautiful solo to close the album.

But the strangest thing about this album, and actually most of Leprous' discography, is that it's probably the highest rated album that I could also make a large list of things I don't like from it. I guess it goes to show that when this is good, it's really good, but also that it could be so much better ? it could be perfect. My biggest problems all lie within Leprous' strange obsession with being "prog" all the time. In the opener, the wonderful "Passing", the verses hold a really nice little melody, which Einar sings in his characteristic falsetto. But this section is delivered over a series of rather awkward and unnecessary time signature changes, to the point where Einar's vocals don't sound natural in the slightest, they're trying to find the beat the whole time, a beat that the band have mathematically plotted out, instead of allowed to come naturally. The other issue I have with this, also evident in this section, are the lyrics. It's not that they're bad, or that I generally care about lyrics at all, but most of them don't fit the music at all, and on more that one occasion Einar is forcing too many syllables into a melody or stretching one out over several. I realise I'm nitpicking, but this does make it rather hard to sing along to, and you can't help but think that it wouldn't have been too hard to write some that fit rhythmically with the music.

And the other big thing I'm not a fan of here, and this will certainly surprise some, are the guitar tones. I just don't like them at all. They're angular and dissonant, and I guess they fit with Leprous' angular and dissonant style of progressive metal, but I have never been a fan. It's good for them that they have a distinctive tone, because it really has become "the Leprous tone", but in my ears, many of these riffs could have been improved without the unnecessary high-end that this tone brings in. The solos here are certainly inventive, and actually hold my attention more than many bands, because guitar showmanship has never been my favourite part of metal music. I enjoy the way the solos are built around the rhythm, as opposed to number of notes per second. The two solos ? one clean and one distorted ? during "Fate" are probably the best on the record, and I love the way the second one makes some slight nods to the first in a couple of moments. But on the other side, there are still some unnecessary ones that I don't feel add to the music, most notably the final minute of "Dare You", which drags out what appears to be a simple instrumental track (with a vocal chorus) into one of the longest songs on the album. It never ceases to amaze me that "Phantom Pain" and "Dare You" are almost the same length, when the former seems to have so much more happening in its length. This is not necessarily a criticism, however; and I do love the way "Dare You" carries its length with just a few simple riffs.

But despite these flaws, I would still call Tall Poppy Syndrome a masterpiece. It may not be Leprous' true masterpiece, but it is one in its own right, because even though there are flaws, the positive aspects of the music outweigh them so much. Complex yet beautiful, subtle yet heavy, inspired yet innovative, this is complete proof that progressive metal is long from dead. I can see, in ten years or so, when this new style of prog metal becomes the prominent style (and Dream Theater clones finally die out), this album will be heralded as a classic within the genre, and even after only five years, its influence is undeniable on the metal world. This can only be a good thing.


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

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