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Leprous - Tall Poppy Syndrome CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.14 | 441 ratings

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4 stars Impressive. This was the album I was expecting to hear when I first listened to Bilateral. Well, I didn't really know what to expect. Maybe a more melodic, less jazzy Cynic or something. What I didn't expect to find on Bilateral was a very accessible and streamlined Dream Theater style of prog metal. After listening to Tall Poppy Syndrome I get the impression that these guys were trying to reach a wider audience on their latest album. This is a much proggier, and more importantly, better album overall than Bilateral. I was honestly surprised to see how much some liked Bilateral and may have took offense to some of the things I said in my review. It may have appeared I just peed all over one of their favourite albums of the year (without the albums consent btw), but I honestly was dissapointed with it and thought it was too mainstream for my tastes (as far as 'prog' goes anyway).

Generally the DT and Fates Warning type of metal is not my thing. My favourite kind of metal was the kind of thrash played by bands like Anthrax and Megadeth in the late 1980s. The kind that had 15 different riffs in one song full of tempo and time changes. A lot of the modern Tech/Extreme stuff seems like a logical extension of that type of metal. In the 1990s when it came to metal bands who used keyboards I preferred the gothic Type O Negative style of bands over the DT variety. So it almost comes as a surprise to me that I enjoy this album as much as I do. There is an Opeth flavour on this album as well. That is another band like DT that I was never really into but enjoyed some songs. This album however I enjoy more than any DT or Opeth album I've heard, with the exception of one DT album (yeah, that one).

This is the second album from this Norwegian act. At over an hour long it only contains 8 tracks. The standout member is Einar Solberg who does lead vocals and plays keyboards. The other members are competent on their instruments but rarely does anyone stand out. Instead, the whole band works together for the music. After a symphonic metal intro album opener "Passing" goes into a slow-paced part with fast guitar picking and Einar sounding like Kerry Minear from Gentle Giant. A typical prog metal type of 'chorus' but a good one. This track generally doesn't follow a verse/chorus format.

I like the mellow and easy-going middle section. That section includes the 'chorus' being performed in an un-heavy, easy-going fashion then gets repeated in it's normal heavy way. Some nice piano and acoustic guitar before the intro is reprised with a bit of growling and operatic wordless harmony vocals. "Phantom Pain" starts very acoustic with expressive lead vocals. Later some classical piano mixed with DT style prog metal. I like the fast synth playing and martial drumming in the middle. Gets almost lounge jazz sounding before some brief Gentle Giant style harmony vocals. More DT style prog metal and fast synth playing, including growls. Acoustic part returns to end it but with some jazzy piano now.

"Dare You" is a song that I didn't think much of the first time I heard it but it grew on me. The organ here is a nice touch. I generally don't care for the upbeat harmony vocals used here. Features a great section with jazzy bass and experimental sounds. This part builds up and the bass almost solos. The musicianship in this song just gels. A highlight. "Fate" on the other hand is an instant 'skip' song for me. I don't like it when prog metal bands do these kind of warm and fuzzy piano ballads. I love a good ballad and some metal bands have made good ones, but apparently not a prog metal band yet.

After that low point the album only gets better. "He Will Kill Again" opens atmospheric with an altered voice talking. Very sci-fi sounding in fact. Some of this song is very classical sounding in parts. Both harmnony vocals and screaming/growling in this song. "Not Even A Name" starts out very fast and intense, almost thrash style. Then immediately goes into some kind of exotic rhythm before changing yet again to more DT style prog metal. I like the vocal hooks in this song. Nice symphonic metal in the middle. A section with piano and acoustic guitars follows. Great symphonic metal towards the end.

The title track is another highlight and is almost instrumental. It opens with a mid-paced drumbeat, grooves for awhile then gets louder and heavier. Love the spacey synth in this track. Just before 3 minutes goes into a great part that reminds me of Voivod (always a good thing in my books). Then clean chorused guitar leads to a section with cool electric piano. Jazzy bass and drums along with funky wah-wahed guitar play as subdued narration is spoken overtop. Love this part. You know what else I love? The "wa-oh" harmony vocals at the end.

The album closes with the 11 1/2 minute "White." Generally this track is in DT territory for the most part. Except the vocals are harsher and more extreme. More organ here. Goes through a few different sections, some better than others. In the middle is the most interesting section with some terrific drumming. Just vocals and piano and then just subdued, almost mournful piano for the last minute and a bit. I was honestly impressed with this album. It turns out I had a bad trip on the wrong gateway album. If you were disappointed in Bilateral like I was, you may enjoy this one a lot more.

While I thought Bilateral had a great album cover and mediocre music, Tall Poppy Syndrome has a completely lame-ass album cover but some great music. This isn't my favourite kind of music but for what it is, it's very good. This is very proggy metal which is also very good, whereas I thought Bilateral was neither very proggy nor very good. My final verdict is 3.5 but I will round it up to 4 stars because sometimes I'm a nice guy.

zravkapt | 4/5 |


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