LEPROUS — Malina (review)

LEPROUS — Malina album cover Album · 2017 · Metal Related Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
The name LEPROUS isn’t just made up gibberish in an Elvish language or anything of the sort. It is in fact an English word that in the biological world means having or consisting of loose, scurfy scales (as well as the meaning of ‘having leprosy.’) “Scurfy” is a term that denotes a loose scaly crust coating a surface and you know what? That kind of describes the music of LEPROUS. No denying that their mere five album career has been an interesting one since the band jumped to the top of the list of the progressive metal world with “Tall Poppy Syndrome” and has been changing things up slightly ever since. Eight years after their highly esteemed debut they release their fifth album MALINA which at this point seems almost like a totally different band. Except for that scurfy thing. Yes, the surface with a loose scaly crust. What the f.u.c.k is he talking about? - you ask.

The music of LEPROUS may differ stylistically from album to album but one thing has remained a constant, that being the melodic powerful vocals of Einar Solberg whose tender and affectionate operatic antics have always been the focus and in the limelight and therefore the “surface” of the band’s style and sound. The jittery glitch guitars, the bouncy fretless bass slides, symphonic, electronic touches and the myriad styles of drumming that accompany Solberg are ever changing in dynamics, tempo, time signatures and delivery and count as the “loose scaly crust” which sounds like its flaking away from the lyrical delivery. I swear i’m not tripping as i write this. In short, the music is the wild card as it gravitates around the vocal performances.

On MALINA, Norway’s masters of jittery staccato hyperactivity have toned things down a bit as they continue to pull an Opeth and down the path of de-metalling their sound. While the first couple of albums were chock full of a smorgasbord of sounds, riffs and styles from the metal universe including ferocious death growls and spastic thrash fury, MALINA is surprisingly placid and sombre and only has two tracks that have even a fraction of the intensity and drive as their earlier albums. But this hasn’t come as a shock as “Coal” and “Congregation” both began the de-metallization process and instead LEPROUS have continued to ratchet up their progressive rock leanings. Likewise MALINA takes the next logical step on this trajectory by creating more elaborate compositions, more clever melodic developments, cleaner and sharper production values and a slicker overall sophistication that once all the metal defenses are withdrawn reveal some of the band’s original influences. Personally i have always viewed LEPROUS as more of a sophisticated art pop rock band that just happened to add healthy doses of metal to the mix, so i for one am not shocked that they would tackle a fairly metal free expression of their inner world.

The number one culprit in the inspiration pool is clearly Radiohead and that has never sounded so true as it does on MALINA. Solberg is a dead ringer for a Thom Yorke only Einar just happens to have a larger vocal range and sounds classically trained. Add the sombre electronic atmospheres that surround every note that slinks and slides around like a slithery snake as well as the electronic beats that bring their trip hop influences Massive Attack and The Prodigy to the forefront as well that they seamlessly blend in with the rock instrumentation and you have quite the eclectic mix of sounds although these accoutrements are usually banished to the background of the sonic stage except for intros and moments of contrast. MALINA also sees a shift to a more symphonic sound as Raphael Weinroth-Browne joins the cast and crafts some mean cello and string sections that add a classical touch to certain tracks (such as the rock-free zone on “The Last Milestone.”) Likewise there has been a change of the guard on guitar as Robin Ognedal replaces Øystein Landsverk however the gravitational style of the LEPROUS sound has indoctrinated Ognedal as a dead ringer for a replacement.

Like many a progressive metal band that sheds a layer of their more hardened epidermis to make room for more of the soft underbelly of their layers, MALINA will surely divide fans into the usual two camps of those who dislike new directions especially down the unthinkable path of de-metallization and those who are quite eager to follow the band into any musical pastures in which they graze the yumminess of their musical harvests. LEPROUS remains true to their art pop rock instincts that have been present from day one and despite new ways of delivering their inner tributes to Radiohead, trip hop and bands like Porcupine Tree, they still adhere to the same idiosyncratic sound that got them noticed in the first place. MALINA is yet another powerful musical expression from LEPROUS that careful balances their progressive and math rock tendencies with clever and catchy melodies and possibly qualify this as some sort of indie pop rock.

Of the eleven tracks (twelve if you have the one with the bonus “Root”), only two “Captive” and “Coma” have the instrumental heft of a true metal song in energetic delivery but even these are built in a strange out-of-sync fashion with Solberg’s vocals being rather calm in response to the musical hurricane around him. For those who have always felt LEPROUS was too proggy or artsy for their own good might find MALINA a more suitable listen while metalheads who deem anything else a sellout should steer clear. For those with a more eclectic palette, MALINA is an excellent power indie pop prog run for its entirety run with one strong, addictive track after another showing a more subdued and intricate way of weaving their distinct tapestry of sound. Yeah, i do agree that this is not the best they have to offer but it is by no means a throwaway album that shows the band looking for a retirement home. I could easily see a future release jumping back on the metal bandwagon but in the meantime i’m loving this one a lot.
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Bilateral is their hardest to get into. It has a lot of weird jazzy elements. This one is probably the easiest to digest on first listen. The band has really grown on me
adg211288 wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I haven't tried anything from these guys in years. I had such an underwhelming experience with Bilateral that it's pretty much put me off them for good.

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