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Leprous - Coal CD (album) cover

COAL

Leprous

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.96 | 390 ratings

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Zitro
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Syncopated riffs and soaring clean vocals make a bigger presence in excellent metal album

Coal continues the incredible musicianship and complex rhythms from previous albums, but the songwriting is less unpredictable. The album concentrates on developing single ideas over extended periods of time once a mood has been established. The sound overall is darker and more atmospheric, like a vivid nightmare at times. The album also better showcases the strength of the vocalist. The death metal harsh vocals are still there, but limited to fewer songs as opposed to scattered across an album. They still don't work for me, especially when they come from a guest vocalist, but the ratio of harsh to clean vocals continue decreasing album after album.

'Foe' is an interesting introduction to the album and indicates a change in sound. It revolves around a simple off-kilter riff in 7/8 during its second half and highlights the range of the vocalist given the more retrained instrumentation that backs him up. The second half is an extended acapella section with minimalistic instrumentation - very atmospheric and haunting.

'Chronic' is a more traditional track and therefore among the least interesting in the album. The usage of frequent explosive short bursts of very heavy metal with harsh vocals at times distract the flow of the song as I negatively anticipate them when they are not there. This is unfortunate, as the more extended metal passages are remarkable.

'Coal' is also a more traditional song (with its intro heavily reminiscent of 'Forced Entry' from the previous album) but benefits from greater coherence and having some of the heavier moments attempted with more pleasing 'melodic screaming' instead of growls. Not the most melodic song, but very entertaining.

After the title track ends with a haunting reprise of its main theme, the next several songs is where I feel Leprous found their sound, polished further in future albums. These songs also have no harsh vocals whatsoever for a 25+ minute stretch which is a welcome break from the heaviness of 'Chronic' and 'Coal'. These songs generally find a particular sound and flesh it out as much as possible over several minutes.

'The Cloak' is a ballad with restrained but interesting instrumentation that makes best use of the vocalist. He is consistently melodic throughout and does impressive falsetto performances. His performance invokes crushing depression. The song gradually introduces metal elements and the unmistakable syncopated riffs associated with the band. It is one of the most memorable songs in their catalog and a perfect choice for a single.

'The Valley' is a clear highlight of not only this album, but the entire career of the band. The song starts mid-tempo with computerized bassy synthesizers that will become more prominent in later albums. The first hook has a tremendous vocal melody and insane fun syncopated rhythms playing against traditional time signatures. The middle section is an unforgettable 3 1/2 minute build-up. It begins with a chilling synthesizer, static 17/16 fast paced drumming, extremely complex syncopated rhythms in bass and guitar, adds a haunting wordless vocal melody, then gives you an anticipation of doom as it slowly builds the tension solely via its syncopated riff over the next 3 minutes. Given the strength of the riff, I do not mind the repetitive nature of this passage. The buildup transitions seamlessly into a very epic brief passage and then a reprise of the intro with a heavier emphasis on the computerized synths. The song ends with the tremendous vocal melody of earlier.

'Salt' is a calmer piece and less complex, focusing on ethereal vocalizations. The song is brief, but very enjoyable throughout. 'Echo' has a dramatic slow tone to it and takes its time introducing and developing its themes. The usage of strange, but haunting synthesizers continue being a unique feature of the band and the song's wordless vocal harmonies dominate the song.

Unfortunately 'Contaminate Me' harkens back to the death metal era of the band and to make matters worse, a guest vocalist performs the harsh vocals. This guest vocalist at times sounds like a teenager attempting to sound 'evil' but the raspy style sounds corny and in no way matches the instrumental heavy sound. When the instrumentation dials down into an slow ambient atmospheric section, the guest vocalist unfortunately growls throughout it, which is a shame as the instrumentation is so good here. While the growls are better performed in the second half, I wish this section was purely instrumental.

4.5 to 5 star songs: *The Valley*, *The Cloak*, Echo 3.5 to 4 star songs: Foe, Salt, Coal 2.5 to 3 star songs: Chronic, Contaminate Me

Zitro | 4/5 |

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