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Leprous - Coal CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.00 | 408 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars While both Bilateral and Tall Poppy Syndrome displayed the core sound of Leprous, an eclectic core sound taking elements from various facets of prog rock and metal, exploring both more symphonic and extreme sounds, all with a strong focus on rhythmic interplay between the guitar and percussion, Coal is where I find that the band had finally developed a true identity, making a far more cohesive album in the process. The focus on the vocals of Einar Solberg is far more prominent here, the entire album having a darker, yet more melodic approach, while maintaining the disciplined, sparse tone that was strongly present on parts of Bilateral, evolving their sound in a way that makes them strongly stand out from mosst bands. To further exemplify the evolution of the band, the songs here are far more fleshed out and detailed than before, while simultaneously being far more noticeable in the experimentation that the album is full of, bringing everything together extremely nicely to create a highly memorable, relatively unique album.

The core identity of the album is immediately established on the opening track, Foe, with the first half based primarily around the soaring vocals of Einar and an extremely repetitive guitar section, the single, slow, repeated chord working excellently with the similarly minimalistic drumming. The gradually increasing complexity of the drums comprises a large part of why the song works as well as it does, but it's ultimately the second half that makes this such a great song, as everything for the last 2 minutes is heavily stripped back as more layers of vocals begin weaving between each other, creating a haunting, yet beautiful and almost gothic atmosphere. Chronic is a far more active, conventional song in many regards, with more standard application of each element of the band, but definitely doesn't suffer at all for this due to how great each role has in creating such an anxious tone through the instruments, the repetitive, urgent guitar and piano work especially contributing to the sense of unease that pervades the song. I love how the song gradually fills out more as it progresses through the changing guitar tone throughout, starting off sounding as if it's merely another element of the band before gradually becoming the main attraction of the song, all without having any sort of significant solo and maintaining the same riffs, another excellent song all around. While the title track initially feels somewhat less immediately striking as previous songs, the wall of sound production that phases in and out is excellent at creating establishing the song as being epic, making the buildup and subsequent climax at the back half of this song to be all the more powerful because of it, as the final couple of minutes are some of the most intense on the album without a doubt. The Cloak is definitely the track that one is most likely to remember first time through, being a very conventional track with a dramatic chorus, furthermore, it manages to maintain the darker tone of previous tracks, making it a simple, yet great song.

The turning point of this album is this second half however, as while the songs up to this point have definitely been highly competant and full of great ideas, it's the next few tracks that really shine, especially The Valley. I adore the guitar work here, nothing too out there or even melodic, but just like with Foe, extremely rhythm focused, playing perfectly off the off kilter vocal melody of the chorus. I find this to be building off the core concept of Foe in other ways as well, most notably the soaring vocalisations being the primary focus, endlessly repeating as the other band members create an expansive atmosphere with the main focus being on supporting this vocal performance, rather than attempting to overpower any particular element. The result of this is the creation of one of Leprous' greatest tracks by a wide margin. Bother Salt and Echo serve very similar purposes here, but both manage to perpetuate the trajectory from The Valley, both songs being focused on being extremely melancholic in tone, which it accomplishes absolutely perfectly, Salt being fairly inconsequential on its own, but bridging the gap perfectly in a way that heightens the overall quality of both itself and the pieces it's being used to enhance. Echo on the other hand is just straight up great, once again utilising the approach of the other 2 incredible songs so far, letting wordless vocals carry the atmosphere perfectly, although there isn't really much more to say about it that hasn't already been said, it's another extremely good song. I believe that the most surprising thing about this album is how effectively the closing track works despite the stark difference between it and the rest of the album, not to mention that despite this, it's also my favourite on the album. Rather than ending the album on a melancholic, soft note, Leprous belt out their heaviest song, Contaminate Me, with a fast paced riff bringing out an immediate feeling of intensity that is then further displayed with guest appearance of Ihsahn. This song is jjust so full sounding, the underling keyboard somehow adding a whole other layer of chaos to it all despite not even being all that fast paced, yet doing almost as much as the breakneck drumming annd guitar work. Altogether, this song, despite being extremely different in approach to the rest of the album, manages to conclude everything absolutely perfectly in my eyes, with the 4 minutes of screams over sparse, chaotic instrumentation being extremely impactful.

I definitely feel that while this album can feel a tad long in places, that it's by far Leprous' best album, taking the interesting song structures and soaring vocals of previous albums, and then creating an album that focuses primarily on atmosphere and tone instead, refining their core sound to create a dark, beautiful album that remains one of my favourite prog metal albums. I did find that this one took a few listens for me to properly warm up to, and I'm leaving a lot of that up to the fact that it's the second half of the album that really shines, but it's definitely a worthwhile time investment.

Best tracks: Foe, The Valley, Contaminate Me

Weakest tracks: Coal (if I had to pick)

Verdict: A stunning album that builds itself around a powerful atmosphere and equally powerful vocals, songs seeming difficult to grasp at first eventually revealing the true beauty that lies beneath. Definitely recommended for fans of prog metal in general, especially those who find particular satisfaction in a strong focus of the rhythmic elements of a song or album.

Kempokid | 5/5 |


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