'Bilateral' was flawless. Its predecessor, 'Tall Poppy Syndrome', was pretty damn close to being flawless. Both records, however, were exhilarating slabs of contemporary and genuinely innovative prog-metal. Prog metal in a genuine, not generic, sense that is. With their latest album, 'Coal', Leprous have continued to treat progressive as an attitude towards creating music rather than an idiomatic form of expression - ie. rather than succumb to the paradox that is the progressive 'genre', Leprous have built upon and propelled their creativity into further innovative territory. And it's refreshing that the Norwegians haven't rested on their laurels by making the same sort of album as 'Bilateral' (just as said album was a progression from 'Tall Poppy Syndrome'). It's a reminder for their fans of why they found Leprous exciting in the first place - that is, because they were exploring new musical territories through inherent, not forced, innovation. By continuing to do so they're set to maintain the interest of those who thrive on innovative music and discovered them in the first place for this very reason, as well as attracting new fans who, perhaps, didn't click too much with their previous works but find something of merit in 'Coal'.
It's not wild experimentation all the way through as elements from various metal subgenres, and other musical genres for that matter, are discernible during particular passages, but the way Leprous blend these and utilise them in their compositions in a very natural sounding way is not only innovative and original, but befitting and engendering of the compositions' emotive dynamics. The resultant music is an untainted outpouring of raw emotion (albeit within the context of a finely polished production by frontman Einar Solberg's brother-in-law and general metal luminary Ihsahn). Leprous aren't afraid to move forward into stylistically new areas of emotive expression in their compositions and music, and are seemingly fearless within the context of their innovatively collective mindset. And it's that kind of musical intrepidity that enables a band to explore and produce such original, exciting and natural sounding modes of expression which is what Leprous have achieved with 'Coal' par excellence.
What's also refreshing about 'Coal' is the general feeling that there's nothing in the songs just "for the sake of". For example, heavy bursts of aggression (such as in 'Contaminate Me', which showcases Leprous at their heaviest) are seemingly there for a purpose to affectively express and suggest thematic ideas and emotions. Songs unfold in the most natural of ways. And all band members excel themselves with their respective performances. Notably, Solberg's clean vocals (and growls), which were already in a league of their own on the previous two albums, are simply magnificent here. Pleasingly, he's maintained a melodramatic delivery over some passages (including album opener 'Foe') - and for the uninitiated, I don't mean melodramatic in any kind of ostentatiously histrionic way à la your average clichéd classic metal frontman; rather Solberg's delivery during these moments lends the songs a refined theatrical essence. Overall, 'Coal' is not only an invigorating and epiphanic kick up the arse of those who still regard prog as a genre but, also, a much needed injection of sonic ingenuity into the music scene as a whole. Thank fuck for bands like Leprous. Buy this masterpiece now!
Review by Mark Holmes
20th May 2013
4) The Cloak
5) The Valley
8) Contaminate Me
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...'Coal' is not only an invigorating and epiphanic kick up the arse of those who still regard prog as a genre but, also, a much needed injection of sonic ingenuity into the music scene as a whole."