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Leprous - The Congregation CD (album) cover

THE CONGREGATION

Leprous

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.95 | 585 ratings

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A Crimson Mellotron
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'The Congregation' is Leprous' fourth studio album, released on Inside Out Music on 25 May 2015. The mighty Norwegians had been gaining increasing attention at the time of the record's release and it seems that after three well-received and successful albums dwelling in the territory of avant-garde prog metal, they decided to capitalize on their popularity and begin to present themselves in a more streamlined way. Some lineup changes come along with the recording and release of this album, as this happens to be the first Leprous outing with Baard Kolstad on drums, an extremely technical and dexterous drummer, and Simen BÝrven on bass, another great addition to the band's ranks. Given the success of their previous releases, one would have great expectations for this one as well, and looking at the ratings and rankings of 'The Congregation' on various musical forums and websites, one could conclude that this is just one of the greatest releases of the decade overall.

Well, it could have been. With 'The Congregation' Leprous delivered their longest album at the time, clocking in at sixty-five minutes (or seventy, if you include the bonus track), with a total of eleven album tracks, most of which run between the six or seven-minute mark. The music is mainly composed by the band's main man, Einar Solberg, who also co-wrote most of the lyrics together with guitar player Tor Oddmund Suhrke. Right off the bat, the listener is immersed in the dark and uninviting atmosphere of the album, through opening track 'The Price', a math rock-influenced instrumental intro that leads to the beautifully sang verse and the great and memorable chorus after that. This song has gone down as one of the most recognizable and typically Leprous tracks, and it is by all means, one of the great tracks on the album. The buzzing guitars interact tightly with the technical drumming of Kolstad, topped by the flawless vocal performance of Solberg. Not to mention that this is one of the musts in their live shows. 'Third Law' is the following track, depicting perfectly the band's flamboyant way of combining electronic sounds with dazzling metal riffing. Certainly this is one of the greatest cuts in the band's entire catalogue. Next up is 'Rewind', a powerful track that builds up and climaxes in an impressive manner once again, this is the first occasion on the album where we get some harsh vocals around the last part of the song. Menacing and haunting keyboard work so far on the album, dynamic and extravagant drumming, as Baard Kolstad is introducing himself in the most impressive way, a very promising beginning to the album, and an indication that the band is tightly progressing into firmly securing their place in the prog metal pantheon.

Then comes the nearly 8-minute piece 'The Flood'. This song is quite paradoxical as it features some of the most interesting instrumental moments, more specifically, the build-up around the chorus and its presentation, yet remains entirely uneventful and leaves you feeling tired, hopelessly trying to justify the length of the song, and finding almost nothing to take out of it. This is where the album goes entirely in the wrong direction, and with the exception of a few moments of clarity and brilliance later on, you are feeling boxed, encapsulated by the hefty and sometimes solemn sounds of 'The Congregation'. 'Triumphant' does unfortunately give off the impression of a reworked outtake from 'Bilateral', the band's fantastic second studio album from 2011. 'Within My Fence' is a mediocre song for the band's level, expendable also for the album in general, given the personality of the rest of the songs on here. Same goes for the hardly memorable piece titled 'Red', which is a bit chaotic, nothing incredible or new for what concerns the capabilities of the band. 'Slave' is another one of the highlights, similar to the opening track in a way, it combines Leprous' electronic inclinations with their usual dynamic and avant-garde songwriting. The rest of the album is in general more tedious, forgettable, unnecessary; 'Moon' could have been cut down in length, but it is what it is.

What is most interesting about this record is that despite the fact that it is a very good album with some impressive and iconic moments, it is a general low for the band, which has previously showcased much greater skills in songwriting, innovation, production. In general, the album is overlong, very often overdone, and makes you lose interest too quickly. Singled out, the band members' performances are quite excellent, but the album as it is does not really work so well like other Leprous efforts. It has somehow ended up being extremely overrated, and I could attribute this to the couple of highlights sprinkled across. Great potential but compromising realization, 'The Congregation' is not as excellent as many would consider it to be.

A Crimson Mellotron | 3/5 |

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