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Leprous - Aphelion CD (album) cover

APHELION

Leprous

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.85 | 89 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars LEPROUS still seems to be going strong after 20 years of existence and although the band led by lead singer Einar Solberg has been hailed as one of Norway's greatest modern progressive metal bands, the last few albums starting with "Molina" have seen a massive shedding of much of the metal and taken on more standard progressive rock as its modus operandi. With the band's eighth album to emerge in 2021, LEPROUS seems to de-emphasize the metal even further and adds all kinds of new sounds including but not limited to pop, funk, trip hop, electronica along with the progressive rock shining with a crispy clean production and the spotlight on Solberg's passionate vocal delivery.

There are still metal sounds on board however the moments of djent and guitar heft are primarily limited to power chords and the scant guitar workouts that offer a bit of contrast to the otherwise new LEPROUS sound of crafting highly sophisticated art rock with strong pop hooks. Long gone are the days of unabashed metal freneticism as heard on "Tall Poppy Syndrome" and "Bilateral." APHELION rather delivers an interesting and original hybrid between progressive rock, synthpop and what sounds like chamber rock. In addition the five official members who handle guitars, bass, drums and synthesizer includes a team of five guest musicians who offer the sounds of violin, cello and even a trumpet.

The result is an emotive display of ten tracks that in many ways follows both in "Malina" and "Pitfalls" in the mellowed LEPROUS years and for many a metal band gone this direction would've resulted in a total train wreck and scaring away of the fanbase, but LEPROUS proved long ago that this was no ordinary act and had the uncanny ability to tackle myriad sounds, timbres, textures and tones and fortify substantial composiitons delivered in a unique and oft unorthodox manner all without abandoning the pop sensibilities that have kept their music so addictive upon first experiences. Excluding the three year timespan between the band's true debut "Aeolia" and "Tall Poppy Syndrome," LEPROUS has also delivered like clockwork with a new album ever two years.

The band has released two singles off APHELION which means the point on the orbit of a celestial body that is farthest from the sun. The first was "Running Low" which shows LEPROUS in fine form in its new style with progressive rock hooks married with power chords, emotive synthesized atmospheres accompanied by the string section that delivers an excellent cello solo. With so much energy dedicated to the electronica wizardry and dedication to the perfect atmospheric ambience does tend to ignore the rock aspects much less the metal but with the second single "The Silent Revelation" the band does deliver a bit of rock guitar heft even if it seems like the odd track out on the otherwise sombre and earnest tracks tenderly crafted with the crooning moxie of Mr Solberg.

In many ways LEPROUS has followed some of the nu jazz artists from Norway such as Jaga Jazzist only it has left out the jazz but rather paints synthesized motifs around the borders of where certain jazz parts should fit. By now most older fans of LEPROUS have either adapted to the new style or thrown them out with yesterday's trash. I do personally prefer the older more aggressive LEPROUS sound but i have to admit that these guys have done an excellent job reinventing themselves as a serious art pop rock band this late in the game. While on the mellow and even maudlin side, APHELION does a stellar job of mixing synthesized driven pop hooks with chamber rock mojo. Perhaps what turns me off most about the "new" LEPROUS is that Solberg's vocals are almost set to permanent falsetto sounding something like a Norwegian version of Prince. I can live without the metal aspects but the vocal diversity? Needs more.

3.5 rounded down

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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