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Leprous - Aphelion CD (album) cover

APHELION

Leprous

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.85 | 86 ratings

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Gallifrey
4 stars Listening diary 19th September 2021: Leprous - Aphelion (art rock, 2021)

I don't think I'm going to make my feelings on this concrete just yet - Leprous are definitely a band that needs time and context, and given I've been saying "this is their weakest album yet" with every release since 2013's Coal, only to retract that statement twice, I'll hesitate to state it with full confidence here.

But regardless of whether this is as good as their past material, it's certainly another steady evolution, and Leprous should be commended with their consistent and tasteful evolutions, never moving too much at one time but just enough to keep you wondering where they'll head to next. Ever since Raphael Weinroth-Browne first appeared on cello, they've hinted at a more chamber pop oriented sound, and the strings have finally taken the forefront here - although not in the way I anticipated. Instead of being quaint and subdued, they're bombastic and symphonic, in a Hans Zimmer sort of way, and I whether or not you rate that kind of melodrama is probably going to be what makes or breaks this album for you.

Musically, every song here has something to offer in terms of a great riff or melodic idea. There are far fewer genuine standout moments - the far more uneven Pitfalls[ had much greater highs - but there isn't a single weak track or even really a weak section on the entire album, making it a pretty solid listen, without ever blowing you away. But this can cause some of the tracks to blend into each other, and this is probably the most formulaic Leprous record other than The Congregation (not a criticism, by the way, as long as your formula is good). There isn't a single track that goes by without at least one bombastic string line, at least one angular mathy riff, at least one Supertramp-esque pop hook, at least one skipped beat. The formula isn't bad, but it does make some of the songs hard to tell apart.

And despite singing their praises for their continued evolution, there does seem to be a feeling that Leprous are imitating their imitators a bit here - for a lot of this, you could be mistaken for thinking you're listening to an Agent Fresco or Maraton record, and only occasionally do Leprous flex the kinds of songwriting chops that made them influence those artists in the first place. This is still a fine record from a fine band, but it's probably their most nondescript album yet. But perhaps it's time for Leprous to be nondescript for a bit. After all, it doesn't stop them writing good hooks, of which this album has plenty. I'm not sure I ever expect them to reach the creative heights of some of their early work, but as long as they keep moving and developing, I'm not sure I care. We're blessed to have a band this creative in modern metal, I think they can be forgiven for just writing an album of serviceable pop tunes.

7.6 (4th listen)

Part of my listening diary from my facebook music blog - www.facebook.com/TheExoskeletalJunction

Gallifrey | 4/5 |

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