25th May 2015 - InsideOut Music
01. The Price
02. Third Law
04. The Flood
06. Within My Fence
Norwegian progressive metal purveyors Leprous are fairly well recognised at this point, and pretty widely loved too – serving as the legendary Ihsahn‘s backing band will do that. Couple that with the release of their own masterpieces – 2011′s Bilateral in particular, and perhaps to a lesser degree 2013’s Coal - and stepping boldly out from Ihsahn’s shadow, and you have the perfect conditions for the band’s fourth full length foray: The Congregation.
This is the band’s first album with new drummer Baard Kolstad, who joined last year. While the kit’s previous occupant Tobias Andersen was a talented man, Kolstad brings a far more interesting rhythmical flair to the already excellent compositions; his prowess is especially notable on the brief but lively “Within My Fence” and the syncopationally-stacked “Third Law”, which opens with impressive rhythmic bluster.
The song composition sees them moving away from the darker, more introspective Coal and back towards the twisting bombastic cadence of its predecessor. Opening salvo “The Price” and “Third Law” are incredibly catchy, driven by Einar Soleberg’s magnificent voice. Memorable choruses are not always a mainstay of progressive metal, but Leprous have always been able to hit that particular aspect of songwriting with remarkable precision; a welcome trend that continues on The Congregation.
Indeed, Coal‘s most praised element was Einar’s vocal performance, and it is fair to suggest that he has improved upon his performance there yet further. His growled/screamed vocals are absolutely fantastic – particularly on “Rewind” and “Slave” – but it also represents some of his most emotive work: during the verse of “Third Law” he sounds reminiscent of Muse‘s Matt Bellam; powerful and evocative in equal measure.
The Muse comparisons are furthered by some of the guitar lines. While it may seem a bit of a stretch to say Leprous sound like Muse based on the way they play a few chord progressions, coupled with the sound of Einar’s voice there are inevitable comparisons. “Moon” might be the best example, with nods – intentional or otherwise – thrown towards Absolution.
Of course, the composition only matters so much if the album doesn’t have its shit together on the mixing front. Luckily, Leprous enlisted the talents of the mighty Jens Bogren to mix their album (Opeth, Symphony X, Kreator). He’s imbued with with a jazz-oriented dynamism that is absolutely refreshing, and more than fitting for a band of this progressive nature.
Once again we see Leprous staking their claim as one of the finest prog bands in the world at the moment. Masterfully composed from beginning to end, The Congregation contains over an hour of incredible musicianship, performed with technical perfection and executed with a restrained, song-first approach. The vocals, always a highlight of the band’s work, are at their best, and the new drummer slides perfectly into the lineup. “The Price” and “Third Law” take their place among Leprous’ best work to date, and are followed by an entire album of equal substance. The Congregation is a true pleasure to listen to – even on repeat listens – and is certainly llbum of the year material.