25th August 2017 – InsideOut Music
03. From the Flame
10. The Weight of Disaster
11. The Last Milestone
Is there a modern, non-supergroup progressive metal band with more pedigree than Leprous? If so, then there are not many. Leprous began as the backing band to the legendary Ihsahn, but have since struck out on their own, creating music that feels completely unique and fresh. Their sophomore album Bilateral stands as one of the greatest works of progressive metal of all time, and subsequent albums Coal and The Congregation gained just as much praise. Once again it is time for a new Leprous album; this their fifth, titled Malina.
With it, Leprous feel more like they’re making fine adjustments on a slaved-over work of art rather than overhauling their canvas completely. Rather than radically changing their sound, as they did between Bilateral and Coal, they are fine-tuning their current sound. The result is an album that feels even more contemplative than their last few, but one that also antes up the technicality of its execution.
We’ll start with the drumming, which is nothing short of fantastic. Baard may just be one of the finest drummers in metal; songs like “Malina” and “Coma” demonstrate his precision, whilst his creativity on “Captive” and “Mirage” is nothing short of astounding. The beat he lays down on “From the Flame” gives the song a tangible movement, and puts it over the top as a truly great track.
Vocalist Einar Solberg is likewise near the top of his class, with a fantastic performance as usual: notable are his vocal acrobatics at the climax of “Stuck”, which send shivers down the listener’s spine. Solberg also commands the keyboards on the album, and it would seem that he has discovered the strings patch on his Nord, which he puts to great use. “Stuck” and closer “The Last Milestone” are the most blatant examples of the use of orchestral-sounding pads, but they also crop up in “From the Flame” and “The Weight of Disaster”.
The biggest issue with Malina is that Leprous haven’t written the same kind of memorable, catchy choruses they have previously; Coal had songs like “The Valley” and The Congregation had anthems such as “Third Law” and “Rewind”. Aside from “From the Flame”, nothing on Malina really jumps out as an anthemic, sing-along-worthy track. This isn’t necessarily or wholly a bad thing – Leprous are clearly focusing more on atmosphere more than anything else – but it does make the record more difficult to get into initially, and sacrifices memorability in favour of more ‘emotion’.
Of course, when it comes to the actual atmosphere, Leprous are unmatched. “The Last Milestone” is a seven-minute exercise in ambient swells, with Solberg crooning smoothly over top. It’s a gorgeous piece; one that very few bands could execute with this kind of grace.
Malina is a tough album to grapple with. From purely technical standpoint it more than lives up to the albums that preceded it, but in terms of pure bangers, it doesn’t match The Congregation. It’s a fantastic album that is more difficult to enjoy. “From the Flame” is a hell of an anthem, and tracks like “Coma” and “Stuck” really bring the power, but overall it feels as though the memorability is missing. Fans will certainly love it, but it feels like Leprous is now in the territory of relying on existing fans rather than trying to gain new ones.