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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 Like several other reviewers of this album, I'm quite surprised at the choice of sub-genre to which this album has been assigned; the "tech/extreme prog metal" label also kept me away from trying this album out earlier. The theatric nature of these songs and their performances reminds me of QUEEN, SAGA, KHATSATURJAN and a lot of RPI. While it does get quite heavy and uses some very common 'signature' sounds found in metal, I find it far less repellant or in-your-face as most metal music.

1. "Passing" (8:31) cool bass play and acrobatic vocalist on display. Both are worthy of roles as front men. (17.5/20)

2. "Phantom Pain" (6:50) opens with some very delicate, almost operatic, singing over piano and some very jazz-Broadway like sound textures. Then the 2:00 minute mark comes and with it a metamorphic shift into heavy prog with death metal growl vocals. Spastic synth soloing takes us out of this until, at 4:20, we return to the Broadway music, until some melodramatic DEVIN TOWNSEND-like drama metal takes over--death metal growls and all, before piano is allowed to take us out. Interesting, surprising, and entertaining. (12.75/15)

3. "Dare You" (6:45) opens with some "Welcome to the Jungle" riffing before a more proggy odd-tempoed structure settles in. At 0:50 we're back to the opening motif. Nice display of drumming. Apparently we're going to shift back and forth between these two motifs for a bit. Around the two-minute mark we shift into a more funked-up PORCUPINE TREE prog for an instrumental section. This is good! This music must be a bit of a challenge to play. Ramping up in the 4:20s to a bare-bones rhythmic display. Then, at 5:00 we move back into the vocal chorus. Impressive! (14/15)

4. "Fate" (4:38) odd acoustic guitar and piano arpeggi woven together over which singer Einar Solberg moves in those sensitive theatric IAN KENNY/THAT JOE PAYNE-like vocals. At the two-minute mark, Einar amps it up, dumping out his guts, as the band spreads out in a very smooth, straighforward hard rock chord progression for the two guitarists to solo over. At 3:30 we're back to the opening motif and the virtuosic plaintive vocal. Master display of control and emotion. (9/10)

5. "He Will Kill Again" (7:31) ominous setup in the first minute before heavy music enters and, over that, a two-sided Enar Solberg performance. This sounds like Queen! (Maybe a little heavier.) And then there's this weird weave in the middle with multiple voices harmonizing over near-Latin rhythms giving way to growl vocals. The guitar tone here is so clean and clear (almost too clean and clear) not unlike that of Brian May or Buck Dharma. Piano chord play becomes dominating in the sixth minute, then takes over in the seventh before the layers again build into something metallic over the rumba going on beneath. Interesting but not my cup of tea--too theatric. (13/15)

6. "Not Even a Name" (8:46) pure prog metal open as everybody is on high octane. This could be 1997 Into the Woods, Fates Warning, or Symphony X. Then, at 0:45, piano and another near-Latin rhythm pattern take over to become the fabric over which Einar sings (in his upper registers) and the band softens--but not for long as the band soon re-launch into a THE MARS VOLTA-like all-out, multi-voice power expression. An intricate composition requiring near-virtuosic performances from all. (18.5/20)

7. "Tall Poppy Syndrome" (8:28) opens with a stark, ear-popping PORCUPINE TREE "Let's Sleep Together" audaciousness with confident drums playing at the apex. Each instrument gradually joins in and begins to add to and develop their contribution to the weave. Awesome! (And no piano!) 3:00: (Oops! Spoke too soon!) shift in style and pacing. At 3:40 another shift into more spacious guitar arpeggi-based section. At 4:25 a recorded voice enters preaching about the importance of the 10 Commandments of 21st Century cultural conformity while the band's music play turns funk-jazzy. Interesting! Another impressive display of song construction, complex ideation, and near-virtuosic execution. (19.5/20)

8. "White" (11:31) piano-led classic hard rock opens this before the 1:15 segue into scream singing over URAH HEEP Hammond-based sound and style palette. The multi-voiced vocal passage sounds so much like neighborhood (Finland) band KHATSATURJIAN. Though a step above the Heep in terms of complexity and intricate musicianship, this is not really my cup of tea. Too theatric. Too much chest pounding. (16.75/20)

Total Time: 63:00

My question with regards to all those who keep acclaiming the band's technical and performance wizardry is: Where? I find the drumming and especially the keyboards (especially piano and organ parts) to be quite simply constructed--very much like a Broadway musical--and their performances to be quite competent, even refreshing (for the metal/heavy prog scene), but, nothing more. The music leaves me blank, not numb, but simply without emotion (though I do find myself laughing from time to time at the frequent use [over use?] of [melo-]dramatic musical clichés). As a matter of fact, the more times I listen to this album I find myself unable to shake the feeling that these guys are kind of soul-less; doing a great job of going through the motions of being prog metal artists but really not conveying much to the world. I enjoy the presence of melody and changing evolving structures, but, again, I am not a hearer of lyrics: vocals are yet another vehicle for musical presentation for me; a song (or album)'s 'message' is rarely of any particular value to me (other than how well the music supports the emotional message of those words). While I like the opera and Broadway, I am less inclined to choose this to listen to over either precisely because of the metal electric guitar rhythms. Should I wish to engage with a progressive rock theatrical production I will much rather turn to good ole Genesis or Yes, Queen or The Who, or the new Khatsaturjan or wonderful Musea Records/Colossus productions of the past decade. I love another reviewer's reference to the GARY NUMAN-like keyboard in the title song--(my favorite on the album).

B+/4.5 stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you're into impressively executed theatric prog metal. I, too, am impressed by this band and its very polished performers, but this is not really my favorite kind of music.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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