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Leprous - Malina CD (album) cover



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4 stars Leprous has released another excellent album. From the stellar bass line in Bonneville to the excellent guitar work in From the Flame, and the heavy electronics in Illuminate, Malina delivers a fantastic offering of tracks. It may actually be the most progressive and least heavy of their entire catalog of albums, but it does contain the formula Leprous sound of fantastic vocals and well written compositions. As always, the lyrics shine and are delivered with Einar Solberg's most unique singing style. This brand of Progressive Metal is like nothing else as it crosses many genres. Malina is an album with more of the same, so fans of the band should feel right at home. I am not sure if it is their best album to date, but more Leprous is always a good thing. They have such a strong collection of albums, and I enjoy all of them.
Report this review (#1775316)
Posted Friday, August 25, 2017 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars The name LEPROUS isn't just made up gibberish in an Elvish language or anything of the sort. It is in fact an English word that in the biological world means having or consisting of loose, scurfy scales (as well as the meaning of 'having leprosy.') "Scurfy" is a term that denotes a loose scaly crust coating a surface and you know what? That kind of describes the music of LEPROUS. No denying that their mere five album career has been an interesting one since the band jumped to the top of the list of the progressive metal world with "Tall Poppy Syndrome" and has been changing things up slightly ever since. Eight years after their highly esteemed debut they release their fifth album MALINA which at this point seems almost like a totally different band. Except for that scurfy thing. Yes, the surface with a loose scaly crust. What the f.u.c.k is he talking about? - you ask.

The music of LEPROUS may differ stylistically from album to album but one thing has remained a constant, that being the melodic powerful vocals of Einar Solberg whose tender and affectionate operatic antics have always been the focus and in the limelight and therefore the "surface" of the band's style and sound. The jittery glitch guitars, the bouncy fretless bass slides, symphonic, electronic touches and the myriad styles of drumming that accompany Solberg are ever changing in dynamics, tempo, time signatures and delivery and count as the "loose scaly crust" which sounds like its flaking away from the lyrical delivery. I swear i'm not tripping as i write this. In short, the music is the wild card as it gravitates around the vocal performances.

On MALINA, Norway's masters of jittery staccato hyperactivity have toned things down a bit as they continue to pull an Opeth and down the path of de-metalling their sound. While the first couple of albums were chock full of a smorgasbord of sounds, riffs and styles from the metal universe including ferocious death growls and spastic thrash fury, MALINA is surprisingly placid and sombre and only has two tracks that have even a fraction of the intensity and drive as their earlier albums. But this hasn't come as a shock as "Coal" and "Congregation" both began the de-metallization process and instead LEPROUS have continued to ratchet up their progressive rock leanings. Likewise MALINA takes the next logical step on this trajectory by creating more elaborate compositions, more clever melodic developments, cleaner and sharper production values and a slicker overall sophistication that once all the metal defenses are withdrawn reveal some of the band's original influences. Personally i have always viewed LEPROUS as more of a sophisticated art pop rock band that just happened to add healthy doses of metal to the mix, so i for one am not shocked that they would tackle a fairly metal free expression of their inner world.

The number one culprit in the inspiration pool is clearly Radiohead and that has never sounded so true as it does on MALINA. Solberg is a dead ringer for a Thom Yorke only Einar just happens to have a larger vocal range and sounds classically trained. Add the sombre electronic atmospheres that surround every note that slinks and slides around like a slithery snake as well as the electronic beats that bring their trip hop influences Massive Attack and The Prodigy to the forefront as well that they seamlessly blend in with the rock instrumentation and you have quite the eclectic mix of sounds although these accoutrements are usually banished to the background of the sonic stage except for intros and moments of contrast. MALINA also sees a shift to a more symphonic sound as Raphael Weinroth-Browne joins the cast and crafts some mean cello and string sections that add a classical touch to certain tracks (such as the rock-free zone on "The Last Milestone.") Likewise there has been a change of the guard on guitar as Robin Ognedal replaces Øystein Landsverk however the gravitational style of the LEPROUS sound has indoctrinated Ognedal as a dead ringer for a replacement.

Like many a progressive metal band that sheds a layer of their more hardened epidermis to make room for more of the soft underbelly of their layers, MALINA will surely divide fans into the usual two camps of those who dislike new directions especially down the unthinkable path of de-metallization and those who are quite eager to follow the band into any musical pastures in which they graze the yumminess of their musical harvests. LEPROUS remains true to their art pop rock instincts that have been present from day one and despite new ways of delivering their inner tributes to Radiohead, trip hop and bands like Porcupine Tree, they still adhere to the same idiosyncratic sound that got them noticed in the first place. MALINA is yet another powerful musical expression from LEPROUS that careful balances their progressive and math rock tendencies with clever and catchy melodies and possibly qualify this as some sort of indie pop rock.

Of the eleven tracks (twelve if you have the one with the bonus "Root"), only two "Captive" and "Coma" have the instrumental heft of a true metal song in energetic delivery but even these are built in a strange out-of-sync fashion with Solberg's vocals being rather calm in response to the musical hurricane around him. For those who have always felt LEPROUS was too proggy or artsy for their own good might find MALINA a more suitable listen while metalheads who deem anything else a sellout should steer clear. For those with a more eclectic palette, MALINA is an excellent power indie pop prog run for its entirety run with one strong, addictive track after another showing a more subdued and intricate way of weaving their distinct tapestry of sound. Yeah, i do agree that this is not the best they have to offer but it is by no means a throwaway album that shows the band looking for a retirement home. I could easily see a future release jumping back on the metal bandwagon but in the meantime i'm loving this one a lot.

Report this review (#1785667)
Posted Friday, September 22, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Leprous are an ever-changing band. I was first introduced to them through the crazy wonderful Bilateral and since them I've followed their work. Before Malina was released I was scared, the first two singles released made me realize they had suffer a mutation yet again, but this time in a direction I didn't like as much. When the album was released I started listening to it and Bonneville comes up, sweet, soft, delicate, sad, I was loving it and then the track gains power, the simple yet heavy syncopated rhythms take over, Baard's drumming goes maniacal and I don't have words to describe how much that track hit me. The album has a perfect opener and a perfect ending with the emotional The Last Milestone. The middle of the album isn't has good has the two extremes, but still pretty amazing, as usual.

Instrumentally the album mixes uplifting tracks with melancholic ones, always with very interesting rhythmic patterns. The drums are amazing, the guitar riffs as well (although sound-wise I didn't find it as pleasing as The Congregation), the bass is discreet yet very important throughout the album. But the thing that catches everyone's ears is Einar's majestic voice. I believe he is currently the best vocalist in prog, his technique is absurd, his range as well but the winning point for me is how easily he can go from soft, angel-like, to powerful, operatic, intense.

Overall, Malina is an amazing album, another work of art in Leprous discography. It has some flaws, some inconsistencies, but no one can point their finger and say they didn't do a great job. They did, they always do, sometimes the path they follow might just not be to your liking!

Report this review (#1869844)
Posted Saturday, January 27, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars Leprous was just another band. A band like many others. Year after year, their albums came out. "Tall Poppy Syndrome", "Bilateral", "Coal", and "The Congregation". All enjoyable albums. All solid albums. Leprous proved itself (over and over again) to be a talented and competent band. But then came "Malina" in the August of 2017. And it is in their album "Malina" that Leprous presents itself as a band that has mastered their craft. Though they certainly sound different, having exchanged their Prog-Metal roots for a more traditional Prog-Rock sound, they come off as one of Prog's greatest modern groups next to the likes of Porcupine Tree and Haken. Some have claimed Leprous lost the power and urgency of their previous records, yet I disagree. It is my humble opinion that it is this album that fully captures the power and emotional appeal of Einar Solberg's voice and the musicianship of the rest of the band.

"Malina" finds the band toning down on some of its indulgent and complex compositions in exchange for stronger, catchier, and occasionally, simpler songs. Yet in their control, they have reached their peak in songwriting. Soaring choruses and captivating polyrhythms are strewn throughout this album that easily flows from one song to the next, cohesive in its sound, songwriting, and design. In "Malina" Einar Solberg displays his voice as possibly the greatest in all of Progressive-Rock's history. In the extreme moments, he makes you want to scream along with him while it is effortless to become lost in his quiet crooning. One particular element that elevates this album above their previous released works is its magnificent harmonies. They are flawlessly tight and emotionally intense, displaying a sense of importance to this their newest record.

In conclusion, "Malina" is not only Leprous' best and most mature record, it is one of Prog's towering masterpieces that is developing and foraging into the future of Progressive-Rock.

Report this review (#1909839)
Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars The first [and hopefully not last] masterpiece from Leprous

Leprous with Malina have drastically changed their sound - they have introduced symphonic rock influences, added a violinist, and traded most of their heavy metal for either cinematic music and some mainstream rock & pop. The band fortunately retained and appeared to expand on their most distinct qualities, namely the complex syncopated rhythmic foundations, the soaring vocal melodies, and synthesizer usage. The colorful production paint vivid soundscapes and also bring accessibility to the compositions. In some ways, this album can be described as the non-metal twin of 'Bilateral', carrying variety, a sense of spontaneous fun with experimentation. What really elevates this album may be the emotion carried by the vocals and instrumentation during key moments.

The first song lays the foundation of the album and shows an increased emphasis on minimalistic ambient or jazzy passages with heaviness (not metal) placed at the right moments. 'Stuck' and 'From the Flame' are great compromises between the genres of pop and progressive rock - both have radio-worthy hooks of the highest caliber and in 4/4 but also include less traditional passages like the nintendo-like synthesizer + violin motif on 'Stuck' or the rhythmic complexity in 'From the Flame'.

Both 'Captive' and 'Illuminate' are based on complex staccato riffs with the former being hard-rock in nature and the latter more electronic and arguably compositionally superior and honestly quite addictive to put on repeat. Both carry strong vocal melodies, great usage of synthesizers, and moodier softer passages.

What is exciting is that despite these excellent songs, there is better to come. 'Leashes' unleashes exhilarating anthemic melodies. 'Mirage' is a multifaceted masterful progressive rock composition, replete with odd time signatures, synthesizer, contrasting half-time metal riffs in bass guitar, some amazing vocal performances, and a very heavy and fast-paced finale.

Even better is the title track 'Malina' - a hypnotic keyboard loop and restrained classical music instrumentation. This is very cinematic and stir heavy emotions from all its elements, matching the hopelessness of the lyrics. The explosion in emotion when the staccato guitars and drums enter the scene is soul crushing, yet the repetition of the main theme on the last minutes are equally moving. It is frankly put, one of the best depictions of depression put to music I have heard. 'The Last Milestone' comes close to this level, limiting the music to just a string ensemble and opera-like vocal acrobatics with a deeply melancholic tone, adding another excellent depiction of depression in music.

Other unmentioned tracks include the neurotic fast-paced syncopated rhythms of 'Coma' and the heavier, bass-driven epic 'Weight of Disaster' that has a sound closer to the previous album..

4.5 to 5 star songs: *Illuminations*,*Leashes*,*Mirage*,*Malina*,*The Last Milestone*, Bonneville, Stuck, From the Flame, Captive 4 star songs: Coma, The Weight of Disaster 3.5 and below star songs: None

Report this review (#2041578)
Posted Saturday, October 6, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars I knew they'd do it. Masterpiece. It took time, but this is finally the pinnacle. Leprous are the new prog-metal benchmark. After seeing them live I can say they match up performance-wise also. This album tests your ears and mind. Dramatic, soaring, soul- moving, guttural....and there's still the 80s sugar pop thing that I hear. There aren't many bands at this level doing things that are new, properly new. I love a syncopated polyrhythm like the rest, and the album is full of great percussion. But, without the 'song', this is all a waste, and Leprous have hit the mark with the SONGS on this album. I hope they can repeat it! I want more!
Report this review (#2048049)
Posted Friday, October 26, 2018 | Review Permalink

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