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4 stars Truely gem. One of the most elegant prog metal of this far. I have acquired this album for a few week but I must admit that I was lost in words to describe my feelin toward their music. After let it distilled in my mind for a while, here I am...trying my best to describe my experience with such unique and diverse piece.

Leprous is a young Norwegian prog band. From this album I'm not so sure whether to classify them as Tech/Extreme prog metal. But as I have not listen to their previous album, it might be a little too premature to judge. Anyway, this album "Tall Poppy Syndrome", I humbly believe they lean more toward to Experimental/Post metal or even Progressive metal side. From start to finish, you'll experience fairly diverse genre of music. From a deep dark and atmospheric Scandinavian black metal, Dream Theater-ish prog metal, sad acoustic Opeth-like passage, strange Psychotic Waltz sound, sweet mainstream pop-rock to Jazz/Fusion interaction, all blended into one piece. It is safe to say that they play mainly prog metal, due to its lots of guitar distortion with lots of grunting and almost screaming high vocal, but with uniquely blend of various elements, it makes me think twice when it comes to it classification. However, their musical talent is, beyond any reasonably doubt, splendid.

Apart from above the objective description about what they are ( as much as I am trying to be), my short and subjective opinion about the album is "a journey". From one second, you'll fall for moody and beautiful music, and the next minute they suddenly want to slay your ear with its extreme brutality. Complex yet darkly beautiful and elegant. At first it might be hard to get into but slowly their music will grow on you. Next thing I know was that I constantly listen to this album, the whole CD, and still find some part of music that I like more and more.

This is a grandiose piece of prog metal album and they deserve a round of applaud. Beautiful, complex and effortless. Could not recommend enough!

Report this review (#236180)
Posted Monday, August 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Debut Album of the Year

What a surprising but fantastic effort these youngsters present. This album has been playing on my stereo on a weekly basis the last 6 months. And I'm not tired of it. There is a veil of originality covering every song. Most tracks vary from melancholy to the more extreme. Somewhat in the manner of Opeth when it comes to the composing and structure of the songs, but that is where the similarity ends. The metal tends to lean a bit more towards progressive metal with a touch of extreme metal on top. The clean vocals are sung with either ballad like stillness or frantic high pitch screams of fear. That is before the growling sets in of course. The singer deserves praise, but he did take some getting used to. Nevertheless, I would say that he is a major part of the atmosphere that is Leprous.

The instrumental parts are also performed with confidence. Though I would have to say that the strongest feature of the album is the atmosphere. Originality is what makes this album a killer hit for me, as I never before have heard something completely like this. If any random song were put on it could quickly be identified as no one else but Leprous.

The production could have been a little better, but that is just nitpicking. This album is a sure thing for fans of Opeth, In Mourning and Asgaut.

The whole band used to play as session musicians for Ihsahn, and it has clearly been good for them. The originality of their former employer shines through on every song. Check out Phantom Pain and be convinced. I am already waiting in excitement for what comes next from this incredible band.

Report this review (#262886)
Posted Wednesday, January 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is certainly the best progressive metal album of 2009 (maybe only equaled by RIVERSIDE's Anno Domini HD) and the best discovery of the past year. That such an amazing band be so unknown as LEPROUS is can only be a sad thing, but understandable considering that they don't really fit in any of Scandinavia's most favored forms of metal: black metal and death metal (and their sometimes bizarre melodic ? "symphonic"-variations).

LEPROUS is a Norwegian band whose "Tall Poppy Syndrome" is not really their debut album. Their style bears influences from a lot of artists in the metal and rock genre, mainly OPETH, PAIN OF SALVATION, DREAM THEATER, FATES WARNING, with some concessions here and there for specific elements out of more obscure groups like SHADOW GALLERY. They also clearly have a more pure "prog" side, and PINK FLOYD comes to mind. Finally, it's evident they have heard a lot of theatrical music (maybe even opera). One of the good things about LEPROUS music is that it doesn't sound like nobody else, it sounds like LEPROUS. We can detect the influences, they're obvious. But in their amalgamation the Norwegians have succeeded where others have failed: they have acquired a sound that is their own from the start.

The first track "Passing" opens with a broad statement that sounds highly theatrical, actually conveying the idea of a big hall, maybe with an organ sounding. The sound collapses immediately into a brilliant odd-time signature riff that doesn't scream "we're special, we play odd time signatures" but that makes absolute sense from the music point of view. The music gets heavier, the singer growls (honoring the extreme-metal Scandinavian tradition) and the energy is built up. A chorus-like bridge with a short melodic line very reminiscent of PAIN OF SALVATION brings closure to the fantastic first section. We have a re-exposition of ideas until we reach a quieter, more developmental passage ( the song is really good structurally, breaking from the metal norms), and the melody of the chorus returns but very quietly, immediately reaffirmed strongly, continuing to build up tension via the contrast soft-harsh in the vocals. We can sense that some kind of explosion is coming, some resolution to the anguish that the character seems to be experiencing, and that comes after a little piano siege. The singer screams in all his harsh voice (though not with the best growling ever, if I may say), only to lead to really low death-growling that finally makes the song fall into the caverns of oblivion. The final coda is extremely theatrical, again, closing the circle.

"Phantom Pain" starts very quietly and with a long melodic line. Almost sensuous, after the violence of the last track, this beginning makes for a good balance point. The bass is the understated start of this song after the theatricals return again and in full metal spirit. The middle section of this track is quite splendid, with the keyboards relentlessly emphasizing the progression of the song over the main riff. The death theatrics come back and finally they collide with the keyboards only to resolve in an unlikely quiet piano bar-like moment.

"Dare you" is probably my favorite track of the record. Its structure is unique and it tells a musical tale even without going to the lyrics, in what constitutes true "progressive" metal. The start has a jumping, erratic riff being emphasized with more energy by the whole band. The amazing vocal section is made of tremendous energy, a simple melodic chorus that comes just when it has to, achieving full effect. The song now delves into more ambiguous territory, almost jam-like. We are descending via scales on the main instruments while the bass is soloing only for the pleasure of those who try to listen. The main idea returns in full form but now devoid of its doubt. It's not so positive now, it actually appears to be going nowhere. We return to the last section for a glorious reappearance of the vocal part. The chorus has only two appearances in the song. Yet that particular fact makes it all the more effective. The song resumes is course towards the main idea, and dies. Brilliant. Perfect progressive metal. And totally original.

"Fate" opens with the singer and a piano joining for a very nice melodic passage . The singer goes in falsetto territory with ease, and adds some special magic to the atmospheric music. The song then gets darker and heavier, and it kind of becomes generic. We come back to the peace of yore. Not the best track in the album, almost a trivial one. But the good melody and the invention in the vocals save it.

"He Will Kill Again" opens with atmospheric effects in the synths that make us dread of what is coming. But, in reality, what follows is a rather traditional prog-metal riff accentuated by keyboard chords. The vocals, though, again save what otherwise would be just a good song and make it be something better. In the middle section the keyboard plays chords like crazy in a very theatrical way, and the vocal harmonies again create a fantastic sense of otherworldliness while the guitar and bass are doing their own thing. I don't like the appearance of the flawed-growling on this track, but it kind of makes sense.

A soft tremolo riff starts off "Not even a name" with a hint of Norwegian black metal. The riff recedes and makes room for a section of a contrasting character. The main chorus attacks in almost pure heavy-metal fashion, with the vocal harmonies again adding to the theatrical effect that LEPROUS certainly loves to generate. The song is rather conventional but with simple ideas the band is capable of doing great things and never fail to sound only like themselves.

The title-track is an instrumental, 8-minute piece of which I was actually expecting much more. It's clear that, as brilliant as the musicians are, they work better in the frame of an actual song, with vocals. It's in the interaction of the vocals and choruses with the great purely musical ideas where LEPROUS shines above pretty much everybody else in 2009's metal. Halfway down the track we have some spoken vocals that don't add much. A rather forgettable track in an unforgettable disc.

The disc closer is the epic "White", which is another of the high points on this record. It opens with a long melodic statement by the guitars, a very rounded melody that sounds almost like ready to be sung (and it will be, very soon). A harsh vocal moment with LEPROUS' in-between growling is accentuated by chords in the keyboard in a very old- fashioned style reminiscent of the 70's, adding a touch of "retro" to the music. The opening melodic line returns, this time sung by the vocalist, while the rest of the band harmonizes, creating a fantastic emotional effect much like SHADOW GALLERY's best moments in "Tyranny". The bass announces the arrival of a new idea, and it gets its treatment by the whole band. The former melody returns but almost completely changed in character, now much more ambiguous, barely recognizable, in an excellent display of true musical skills (not just pyrotechnics) by the band. After a few transitorial passages, the music tends to return to the opening notes, showing how well the Norwegians have mastered tension- release building with purely musical tools. The great melodic statement of the beginning returns again bringing peace . In a rather unexpected coda, the singer and the piano have their own little dialogue. The disc ends quietly.

An almost-perfect record, I can't do anything but applaud these musicians for creating true progressive metal that doesn't play by the rules but at the same time stays within the boundaries of accessibility and harmonic "normality" that I tend to prefer. New things can still be said using regular metal language. It's only a matter of trying and understanding what to do with the riffs and melodies that come to the head. LEPROUS does that and with absolute ease.

The best album of 2009, ignored by most but revered by the few that come in contact with it. I can't do anything else but give it my highest recommendation.

Report this review (#269577)
Posted Thursday, March 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Now this is quite a surprise. When I saw that this band was classified under "Tech/Extreme Prog Metal", I was a little bit hesitant to check this album out. In retrospect, now I find myself wondering why it's garnered that kind of categorization on here in the first place. It seems more suited to "plain old" Progressive Metal, if you ask me. Not to say that this is any ordinary old progressive metal album by any means.

Silly and pointless genre categorizations aside, this is one hell of an exciting album. I'm definitely going to be keeping my eye on this band in the future. Tall Poppy Syndrome showcases an exceptional amount of potential for this up and coming band. Each track has a personality of its own that grabs hold of the listener and demands full attention in ways most metal albums these days fail to do. I'm going to have to agree with reviewer "The_T" in that Riverside's "Anno Domini" is the only other progressive metal album of 2009 to come close to the caliber of Tall Poppy Syndrome. I just wish I'd found out about this band sooner.

Report this review (#270296)
Posted Sunday, March 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Prog-metal fans, what are you writing the 606th Images And Words review for? Here shine the bright lights!

Leprous' Tall Poppy Syndrome album is the most startling metal album I've heard since Opeth's Ghost Reveries. Given that GR is in my top 5 metal albums ever, that declaration shouldn't be underestimated. The album remained completely unnoticed and unrecognized by the metal masses, but the fact that it only motivated 4 reviews on PA so far is downright absurd. But every review helps. If it wasn't for bumping into The T's preceding review I never would have known about it. Long live PA. Again.

The band plays a very progressive kind of metal with exceptionally strong songwriting and the best of vocals. Leprous are as diverse in their genre-bending as Between The Buried and Me but their eclectic style never comes across as a whim or a gimmick. They always manage to make complete sense at what they're doing. That is their strength, melting their skills and melodious creativity into strong and imaginative songs that can rival with the best such as Opeth, Pain Of Salvation.

The vocals are one of the main attractions here and range from gentle melodious vocals that are as heart-warming and lyrical as those of Mariusz Duda and Mike Akerfelt. They are often reinforced into a more powerful singing style that reminds me of Mike Patton and Daniel Gildenlow. In moments of crisis the band rages like any other master of metal fury and handle extreme shrieks as well as growls and hard-core shouts. The fact that they use the extreme vocals so rarely makes them all the more agonizing.

The musicians never indulgence in any swagger but play solidly throughout. Repeated listen will reveal how concentrated and dazzling their playing really is. The guitars shoot one spectacular riff after the other, sometimes reminding me of Voivod, at other times of Opeth. The bass is clearly audible and worth following as it bounces through the songs. Also the keyboards are spectacular. They rarely come to the fore but when they do they strike with inventiveness and originality. Next to the typical Hammond and string orchestral sounds, keyboard player Solberg also throws in unusual eerie sounds that somehow evoke the clinical cold sounds that Gary Numan is known for.

Leprous must be the metal revelation of 2009 and topped Riverside's ADHD with this one. There is an extreme element present but it never gets in the way of things and it will certainly not be too prominent to endanger your enjoyment. So I will recommend this one very warmly to all lovers of progressive metal. Certainly fans of Opeth, Pain of Salvation, Riverside and Nevermore shouldn't hesitate a second.

Report this review (#286000)
Posted Friday, June 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Leprous: A young band with great promise in music in general. with high expectations and especially with large fresh ideas, and especially the compositions that can be heard on TPS despite not being 100% original, gripping influences from many sides including his own style as creating a truly authentic Jewel album.

What we hear in TPS? .. beginning with the amazing voice from the Lead Vocal, easy to digest and obviously at a time with grunts, I've never been a fan of the growling vocals, but this time I think fit well with the music, especially that they are a few ones . we have a melodic album in many respects, each song has a genuine stamp that will make you remember something in particular, is, in every song that are most strongly melodic relates to what the vocal aspect, there is a repetitive sound or melody, the band Leprous known to include in the moment generating surprise for the listener. we see that are very dominant at times the keyboards or pianos, and that's where the melody of the song takes a turn or projected differently.

Regarding the guitar, the sound is perfect, melodic, challenging and above all changing, most times a couple of change along with the drums and bass, and for the solos, which are not really long, and are not many throughout the album, we appreciate the quality of the young guitarist at times reminds me of Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck and some of Omar Rodriguez .. and this is rare, usually in bands of this caliber usually the guitar solos are very fast or very technical, in this case the guitar solos are more focused on melody, improvisation, and a bit of originality that give good sense at the time of the song ..

The youngest drummer in the band, I think it recorded the sound of the drums with only 17 or 18, and by age having the drum sound is awesome .. with rapid change over time,maybe this great young drummer will become a new legend in the years to come.

Overall, this album has no weaks point in my opinion, and not containing the album that made me listen all week about 15 times .. is addictive, keeps you alert, awake, while dynamic .. some similarities with previous bands that I find listening to this album could be very obvious to anyone who knows the genre. similar influences to me listening to bands like .. Into eternity, opeth, sonata arctica (especially in the vocals, the vocal sings very similar), pain of salvation, tool, the mars volta, Leprous with this album has been formed to be part of the great ones in progressive music, really a great album .. I am very happy to have found a band like this from Norway ..

The strongest songs on this album in my opinion are ..

Dare you Not Even a Name Tall poppy Syndrome White ..

5 stars!

Report this review (#406369)
Posted Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's been a while since my last review, this because lately I haven't heard nothing that was worth the time. Now this album really attracts my me. Only after just 4-5 listenings I can say with absolute certainty that this album is almost a masterpiece: I would give it 9/10 vote. Finally something new even if Leprous has some influences especially from other scandanavian bands as Opeth and sometimes Piano of Slavation but in the end it has its style and man WHAT KIND OF STYLE. I haven't heard their first album yet but this one has multiple sounds, from hard growling to a soft and intense atmospehers. Great piano and great guitars. Finally, to say that an album is a masterpiece it must have the following:fantastic voice,great guitarist, and various atmospheres. Tall Poppy Syndrome has quite has them all. I considered Riverside's album the best 2009 album but this one imediately follows it. Absolutely FANTASTIC.
Report this review (#409958)
Posted Wednesday, March 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
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.

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Posted Wednesday, March 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Tall poppy syndrome?

At first I wondered what the hell he meant that, in French language, believe it or not, is difficult to understand this type of compounds. What I mean is "pavot syndrome de hauteur", or something similar. I guess this strangely related to their music, where the delicate harmonies and soft starters are contrasted with rough and tough, and that these are but a reflection of a whole, which incidentally begins with the proposal cover. Musically Leprous is an improved version of the popular band HIM, I do not minoritised, or sound derogatory, but i cannot find another band that reflects at day what Leprous musically offers, and I think it's good, that means it is a proposal that even would seem too far-fetched, it is quite refreshing formula.

9 about 10.

Report this review (#449245)
Posted Tuesday, May 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' - Leprous (8/10)

Although music is not, and never should be confined to narrowly prescribed music genres, most genres have one or two bands that really pave the way for the rest. In the case of progressive metal, the torch was lit by acts like Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation and Opeth, and most of the bands now piled into that label are disciples of one or more of those leading acts. In the case of these bands then, the mark of excellence comes when the band is able to take the existing style and create something equally as powerful with it. Along with other young progressive metal acts like Circus Maximus and Haken, the band Leprous have distinguished themselves here not with an album that breaks any of the rules, but rather takes the existing conventions of progressive metal and bombasts them to the level of being a legitimately excellent listening experience of its own.

While not well-known at this point by many, Leprous play a familiar style of dark melodic progressive metal, with overtones of classical music clearly heard in the songwriting. As with many similar bands, Leprous' highly impressive technical abilities are among their greatest strengths. Through tight, often melodic writing, the band's skills are still able to show. Leprous are always sure to include an ample dose of beauty and melody to metal, especially through the vocal work, which is quite simply brilliant. Einar Solberg's higher register vocals may remind some listeners of Pain of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlow, and the comparisons to that band probably won't stop there.

Perhaps the best thing that Leprous does here isn't necessarily the songwriting- which is strong albeit derivative- but moreso the brilliant way in which things are arranged. The background vocals are enriched with lush harmonies, and intelligent riffs that play over each other. However, much like other bands like Circus Maximus, the music itself may be great and the band may be as talented as any other in melodic metal, but the lacking originality is what really holds back the band from reaching a level of mastery they can truly call their own.

As with any excellent album though, the promise and potential shine through clearly, and one is led to wait eagerly to hear what the talented Leprous will conjure up next. Put simply; 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' is one of the best recent melodic progressive metal albums in the style of the older legends.

Report this review (#454959)
Posted Monday, May 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Very Promising, Eclectic Debut

Leprous' TALL POPPY SYNDROME was one of the most hyped prog metal albums of 2009. From the very first passages of "Passing," it's obvious that this band has has some surprises up its sleeve. Sitting somewhere between Opeth and Shaolin Death Squad, the band manages to fold in a large number of sounds and styles without ever drifting in Bunglesque forced juxtapostion. While melodic death is definitely the most common genre heard, there are long sections that are barely metal at all. Singer Einer Solberg uses clean tones at least 75% of the time, keyboards serve a huge role in the sound. The compositions are complex but flow nicely, and there are certainly some risks taken.

I suspect had the hype been a little less, I would have jumped aboard on this very well done album. But I was expecting something spectacular, and that's just not here. The band is flexing their musical muscles, but I'm never really moved. There are plenty of great musical ideas (the clean, tripping rhythm of "Not Even a Name" is playing right now for me) but too few really emotionally evocative moments. In fact the only one that sticks with me is the breakdown in the opening song when "Tonight I'm passing away" is screamed. Everything else is simply musically interesting.

Solberg's vocal skills are good, but his tone lacks distinctive character. This probably harms my response more than anything else. Certainly, the guitar tone is also solid but nothing fresh, and the we've heard all these drum beats before. The compositions are what really stand out, the ability to blend styles seamlessly. Leprous obviously have skills and musicianship. They are carving their niche, but still seem to be working on honing their style.

3.5 / 5 album rounded down, as I'm expecting better from them in the future. Also for a poor band name that doesn't fit the music.

Report this review (#494147)
Posted Monday, August 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars 7/10

"Tall Poppy Syndrome" is a desperate cry for normality, an extreme attempt to be part of a society that rejects us.

Recently I've seen many debuts or follow-ups to obscure debuts that suddenly become popular among the prog and metal community, of bands like Haken, Animals As Leaders, Sky Architect, and many others. But one the most interesting and promising among this big wave of debutantes is Leprous, at first ignored, but then immensely praised for their unique sophomore album "Tall Poppy Syndrome", which many have considered one of the best albums of 2009.

For starters, what probably did it for Leprous for getting popular is their unique and distinct style, but the musicians are obviously influenced by that wave of Progressive Metal bands such as Pain Of Salvation, Opeth, Devin Townsend, and some Fates Warning. But overall Leprous like I said are a very unique band and have a distinct style that can be recognized only as theirs. Like Pain Of Salvation, Leprous plays Prog Metal that concentrates more on emotion than on technical virtuosity, especially in the vocal delivery by singer Einar Soldberg, in my opinion one of the most talented new metal vocalists out there today. But the sound is very heavy, and can often have a pretty extreme touch, and being at the same time very well produced. It is a much more guitar-driven album, with some occasional synths, that accompany some hooks, or flutes, which are usually dominant when present. The structure of these songs is quite unusual but very well done: pretty much all of these tracks clock in between the six minute mark and the eleven minute mark, so they tend to be rather extensive, using a few hooks per track, but very related one another whether they be more aggressive or softer.

"Tall Poppy Syndrome" is, more than a mind-blowing album, one that grabs your attention with its musical concept that flows through the entire album: The calmer moments extremely dense and paranoid, at times melancholic, the more aggressive ones more, in a way, relaxed, but very melodic and full of emotion. This sounds like the last, desperate cry for normality, an extreme attempt to be part of a society that rejects us, and because of this, we feel that death is soon to come, but when it does come, it is suddenly the most beautiful thing in the world. This is in part, for you who not know, tall poppy syndrome.

The opening track "Passing" is probably one of the best and most memorable episodes, containing wonderful, calm moments and harsh ones that will make you quiver, and think. More delicate oriented songs here include "Phantom Pain" and "Fate", two absolute gems, especially the latter, probably the most touching track. "Dare You" and the eleven minute grand finale "White" are other really good highlights, especially the latter, which has a great climax and is epically structured, a perfect way to end an album.

"Tall Poppy Syndrome" is a serious, but very enjoyable and memorable album, an excellent start from this young, extremely talented band that with "Bilateral" (2011) will reach it's highest artistic peak.

Report this review (#558241)
Posted Friday, October 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Close, but no opium pipe...

After the acclaimed debut comes the tricky second album from Noweigan band, Leprous.

I first came across Tall Poppy Syndrome some time ago on the list of "Little known but highly rated studio albums" featured on this website. Since then it's previously stratospheric rating has been reduced somewhat, but still remains one of the top albums of 2009 and deservedly so. Scandinavia has always been a gold mine for metal talent and this release is no exception, like a many tiered cake, each with multiple layers and all of the highest quality.

The vocals fall somewhere between Amorphis and Haken, although the overall sound is more akin to Katatonia, but infinitely more interesting.

I have been toying with the idea of awarding 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' a five star rating for a while now as there can be no denying its musical prowess. But there is also something missing. It's hard to describe, or even know what exactly this is, but I feel it lacks a certain level of enjoyment. Like a piece of fine art that you can respect and appreciate, but wouldn't hang up in your living room.

The Verdict: Even after countless listens I'm still undecided. Consistently excellent, and yet ever so slightly underwhelming.

Report this review (#576215)
Posted Sunday, November 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Impressive. This was the album I was expecting to hear when I first listened to Bilateral. Well, I didn't really know what to expect. Maybe a more melodic, less jazzy Cynic or something. What I didn't expect to find on Bilateral was a very accessible and streamlined Dream Theater style of prog metal. After listening to Tall Poppy Syndrome I get the impression that these guys were trying to reach a wider audience on their latest album. This is a much proggier, and more importantly, better album overall than Bilateral. I was honestly surprised to see how much some liked Bilateral and may have took offense to some of the things I said in my review. It may have appeared I just peed all over one of their favourite albums of the year (without the albums consent btw), but I honestly was dissapointed with it and thought it was too mainstream for my tastes (as far as 'prog' goes anyway).

Generally the DT and Fates Warning type of metal is not my thing. My favourite kind of metal was the kind of thrash played by bands like Anthrax and Megadeth in the late 1980s. The kind that had 15 different riffs in one song full of tempo and time changes. A lot of the modern Tech/Extreme stuff seems like a logical extension of that type of metal. In the 1990s when it came to metal bands who used keyboards I preferred the gothic Type O Negative style of bands over the DT variety. So it almost comes as a surprise to me that I enjoy this album as much as I do. There is an Opeth flavour on this album as well. That is another band like DT that I was never really into but enjoyed some songs. This album however I enjoy more than any DT or Opeth album I've heard, with the exception of one DT album (yeah, that one).

This is the second album from this Norwegian act. At over an hour long it only contains 8 tracks. The standout member is Einar Solberg who does lead vocals and plays keyboards. The other members are competent on their instruments but rarely does anyone stand out. Instead, the whole band works together for the music. After a symphonic metal intro album opener "Passing" goes into a slow-paced part with fast guitar picking and Einar sounding like Kerry Minear from Gentle Giant. A typical prog metal type of 'chorus' but a good one. This track generally doesn't follow a verse/chorus format.

I like the mellow and easy-going middle section. That section includes the 'chorus' being performed in an un-heavy, easy-going fashion then gets repeated in it's normal heavy way. Some nice piano and acoustic guitar before the intro is reprised with a bit of growling and operatic wordless harmony vocals. "Phantom Pain" starts very acoustic with expressive lead vocals. Later some classical piano mixed with DT style prog metal. I like the fast synth playing and martial drumming in the middle. Gets almost lounge jazz sounding before some brief Gentle Giant style harmony vocals. More DT style prog metal and fast synth playing, including growls. Acoustic part returns to end it but with some jazzy piano now.

"Dare You" is a song that I didn't think much of the first time I heard it but it grew on me. The organ here is a nice touch. I generally don't care for the upbeat harmony vocals used here. Features a great section with jazzy bass and experimental sounds. This part builds up and the bass almost solos. The musicianship in this song just gels. A highlight. "Fate" on the other hand is an instant 'skip' song for me. I don't like it when prog metal bands do these kind of warm and fuzzy piano ballads. I love a good ballad and some metal bands have made good ones, but apparently not a prog metal band yet.

After that low point the album only gets better. "He Will Kill Again" opens atmospheric with an altered voice talking. Very sci-fi sounding in fact. Some of this song is very classical sounding in parts. Both harmnony vocals and screaming/growling in this song. "Not Even A Name" starts out very fast and intense, almost thrash style. Then immediately goes into some kind of exotic rhythm before changing yet again to more DT style prog metal. I like the vocal hooks in this song. Nice symphonic metal in the middle. A section with piano and acoustic guitars follows. Great symphonic metal towards the end.

The title track is another highlight and is almost instrumental. It opens with a mid-paced drumbeat, grooves for awhile then gets louder and heavier. Love the spacey synth in this track. Just before 3 minutes goes into a great part that reminds me of Voivod (always a good thing in my books). Then clean chorused guitar leads to a section with cool electric piano. Jazzy bass and drums along with funky wah-wahed guitar play as subdued narration is spoken overtop. Love this part. You know what else I love? The "wa-oh" harmony vocals at the end.

The album closes with the 11 1/2 minute "White." Generally this track is in DT territory for the most part. Except the vocals are harsher and more extreme. More organ here. Goes through a few different sections, some better than others. In the middle is the most interesting section with some terrific drumming. Just vocals and piano and then just subdued, almost mournful piano for the last minute and a bit. I was honestly impressed with this album. It turns out I had a bad trip on the wrong gateway album. If you were disappointed in Bilateral like I was, you may enjoy this one a lot more.

While I thought Bilateral had a great album cover and mediocre music, Tall Poppy Syndrome has a completely lame-ass album cover but some great music. This isn't my favourite kind of music but for what it is, it's very good. This is very proggy metal which is also very good, whereas I thought Bilateral was neither very proggy nor very good. My final verdict is 3.5 but I will round it up to 4 stars because sometimes I'm a nice guy.

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Posted Sunday, January 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Student Becomes the Master

There are several albums in the history of prog metal that I could list as being something truly different. Something that makes you go "yes, this is prog metal", but at the same time "I have never heard anything like this before". But none of those records, in my opinion, compare to Tall Poppy Syndrome. It was such a stunning breakthrough ? a virtually unknown band, brought to the light simply by the the fact that the vocalist's sister married Ihsahn, producing such a stellar record, that not only blows everything the Emperor mainman himself has put out, but pretty much everything in progressive metal at the time. It's not my favourite in the genre, or even my favourite from Leprous, but at the time Tall Poppy Syndrome was released, it would have been the highest in terms of balancing ambition and forward-thinking sounds with sheer compositional quality.

When I reviewed Peccatum's final (and best) album Lost in Reverie a few weeks ago, I mentioned how that album may be the hidden cause for spawning Leprous. The Silent Waters demo (which basically no one has heard) had just been released at the time, but I'm sure Einar took a good hard look at his big sister and her world famous husband and said "I can do better". Sonically, Leprous and Peccatum are quite close, although without Ihriel, Leprous has none of the gothic undertones in their music, replacing it with some quirky, mathy, prog-with-a-capital-P sections. But at the core of both bands is the forward-thinking progressive metal spirit, of being heavy and intense, but never letting go of melody, because melody is the core of music. Peccatum's music had a rather forward avant-garde sense to it, whereas Leprous choose to throw it on the backburner. There's less avant here in the true sense of the word, and more prog-with-a-twist.

But there's one thing that Leprous have that Peccatum never had, and although Ihsahn does bring it into his solo albums occasionally, he will never have it completely ? Einar's voice. Einar has long been my favourite vocalist, and will remain there for a very, very long time, until someone truly remarkable comes along. I personally believe Einar's vocals finally hit their peak on Bilateral, and it was then that he was anointed the glorious "favourite vocalist" position, but there's no denying his performance here is spectacular, and I was certainly impressed on the listens to this. I have never been a fan of harsh vocals, of any sort, but Einar's were different. I couldn't really say whether I enjoyed them or not at the time, but they were so much more than usual. When my closest friend finally heard Tall Poppy Syndrome, a good few months after I did, he described them as "almost melodic", because they somehow have a pitch, unlike many harsh vocals. To this day, I can't really say whether I enjoy them or not, but I certainly know that I wouldn't remove them from the album, like I say about many albums with harsh vocals. Einar knows exactly when to place them, and when to sing cleans. He even utilises several types of harsh vocals, from the surreal pitch-screams I mentioned, to some (Ihsahn-inspired, obviously) black metal-lite vocals, to even some lower death growls, but always using them in good time.

The finale of opening track "Passing" heralds the best testament to Einar's ability on this record, and also the band's general ability as songwriters. The song more or less finishes at the point of the 'bridge', or it could, if the band didn't have something bigger in store. Ending with a solemn piano part, Einar pierces the silence with a brilliantly shrill scream of


followed by the most brilliant reprise of the song's opening theme, complete with Einar jumping between singing the high notes in full falsetto and dropping all the way down to the deepest growls he can form. It's an absolutely thrilling ending to the first song, and really does set a high bar for the rest of the tracks, one that is not truly met until the nearly 12-minute closer, "White". The song has an infectiously catchy main theme that flies at you instrumentally in the first few minutes, but it's the chorus that really sticks, as anyone who has been in the presence of me and my friends will know. Next to the latter half of "Forced Entry" from Bilateral, the chorus of White was our sing-as-loudly-as-you-can song of choice for much of our final year in high school. It's menacingly catchy, thunderously epic, and yet it has a rather dark edge, brought about by both the sinister lyrics and dark piano underneath, which gets a rather solemn and beautiful solo to close the album.

But the strangest thing about this album, and actually most of Leprous' discography, is that it's probably the highest rated album that I could also make a large list of things I don't like from it. I guess it goes to show that when this is good, it's really good, but also that it could be so much better ? it could be perfect. My biggest problems all lie within Leprous' strange obsession with being "prog" all the time. In the opener, the wonderful "Passing", the verses hold a really nice little melody, which Einar sings in his characteristic falsetto. But this section is delivered over a series of rather awkward and unnecessary time signature changes, to the point where Einar's vocals don't sound natural in the slightest, they're trying to find the beat the whole time, a beat that the band have mathematically plotted out, instead of allowed to come naturally. The other issue I have with this, also evident in this section, are the lyrics. It's not that they're bad, or that I generally care about lyrics at all, but most of them don't fit the music at all, and on more that one occasion Einar is forcing too many syllables into a melody or stretching one out over several. I realise I'm nitpicking, but this does make it rather hard to sing along to, and you can't help but think that it wouldn't have been too hard to write some that fit rhythmically with the music.

And the other big thing I'm not a fan of here, and this will certainly surprise some, are the guitar tones. I just don't like them at all. They're angular and dissonant, and I guess they fit with Leprous' angular and dissonant style of progressive metal, but I have never been a fan. It's good for them that they have a distinctive tone, because it really has become "the Leprous tone", but in my ears, many of these riffs could have been improved without the unnecessary high-end that this tone brings in. The solos here are certainly inventive, and actually hold my attention more than many bands, because guitar showmanship has never been my favourite part of metal music. I enjoy the way the solos are built around the rhythm, as opposed to number of notes per second. The two solos ? one clean and one distorted ? during "Fate" are probably the best on the record, and I love the way the second one makes some slight nods to the first in a couple of moments. But on the other side, there are still some unnecessary ones that I don't feel add to the music, most notably the final minute of "Dare You", which drags out what appears to be a simple instrumental track (with a vocal chorus) into one of the longest songs on the album. It never ceases to amaze me that "Phantom Pain" and "Dare You" are almost the same length, when the former seems to have so much more happening in its length. This is not necessarily a criticism, however; and I do love the way "Dare You" carries its length with just a few simple riffs.

But despite these flaws, I would still call Tall Poppy Syndrome a masterpiece. It may not be Leprous' true masterpiece, but it is one in its own right, because even though there are flaws, the positive aspects of the music outweigh them so much. Complex yet beautiful, subtle yet heavy, inspired yet innovative, this is complete proof that progressive metal is long from dead. I can see, in ten years or so, when this new style of prog metal becomes the prominent style (and Dream Theater clones finally die out), this album will be heralded as a classic within the genre, and even after only five years, its influence is undeniable on the metal world. This can only be a good thing.


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog:

Report this review (#891689)
Posted Saturday, January 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Leprous seem to be especially catholic in their prog metal influences, since every review of Tall Poppy Syndrome I see seems to liken their work to a different set of influences. Personally, I hear a lot of post-In Absentia Porcupine Tree in this one, which perhaps explains why others hear echoes of Opeth (considering the close ties between the two groups). Dream Theater I hear less of, aside from a few melodic passages here and there. Either way, these guys seem to have a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the history of their chosen subgenre, and an ability to draw on all corners for it in their compositions.
Report this review (#998656)
Posted Monday, July 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Leprous mix extreme metal with various clean metal subgenres - from power to melancholic. That by itself is not original - lots of bands were doing this in the zeros. But Leprous are more diverse that average, and also feature one of the more impressive vocal gymnasts out there. Song structures on their second, or first properly produced, album, are quite progressive and inventive, with lots of twists and turns. Too bad they concentrate too much on the extreme/normal metal dynamic and not enough on unexpected detours such as falsetto outro in Passing or lounge piano popping up here and there. A capella even makes a brief appearance.

Overall, this is probably Leprous most diverse and in-your-face-see-what we can do album. Also has more guitar solos. Later ones are more streamlined and delve further into post rock and Brit pop, but are still recognizably Leprous.

Report this review (#1142928)
Posted Thursday, March 6, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I consider this to be the best Leprous album as of now (10/2018). This album expands on what the band did on their first album, sounds fresh, innovative and although it does showcase a few influences such as Dream Theater, Opeth, classical music, acoustic music, this is all blended and stirred to create an original music piece of music. If Opeth revolutionized Extreme Metal by introducing death and acoustic elements, Agalloch black elements, Leprous contributed to their evolution of Extreme Metal 2.0 by extreme versatile operratic, hardcore, black and normal vocals, various metal elements and daring compositioms.

The album is digestable for many metal music circles but also consummable by most progressive rock fans. Perfect vocal harmonies, energetic song parts and more traditionally sounding keyboards will certainly appeal to many of us. Tempo changes and unusual song structures keep attention throughout the entire album but are not too frequent so one keeps trace of which track is actually played.

I don't have any standout tracks to recommend since all are very much recommended. Fans of black metal might like "Not even a name" while "Fate" might be enjoyed by listeners who want accessible, melodic and light music ;-) "Tall Poppy Syndrome" bears little similarity to Opeth around the "Watershed" album with its dark riffs.

This album was a breathrough for the album and well deserved so since Norway has a foot firmly rooted in experimental metal since the 90's.

Report this review (#2042941)
Posted Thursday, October 11, 2018 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars This is quite an interesting album, clearly taking influence from a range of sources, sounding like a somewhat more symphonic Opeth with more focus on interesting song structures, overlaid vocals, and more eclecticism, with an overall greater amount of bombast. Furthermore, I feel like there is slightly more of a black metal tinge compared to death metal, mostly for its very particular atmosphere it creates, along with the more raw, instrumentation that can take place during the heavier moments. That said, it is certainly on the much lighter side of this subgenre, since there are heavy overtones of symphonic elements along with more classic metal.

Passing starts off more or less hitting every box in which the album attempts to tick, with heavy guitar tones and powerful riffs juxtaposed by the soft vocals sounding somewhat similar to Ross Jennings of Haken. The song mostly centres itself around the classic loud soft dynamic, but makes this the focus of the track, with the soft vocal verses building up to the heavier riffs and screaming, before dying back down once again, with beautiful soft passages filled with classically inspired piano melodies, before Einar Solberg belts out his voice screaming "Tonight I'm passing away", which is then followed by someone who sound quite similar to Emperor's Ihsahn, bringing the song to an excellent close. Phantom Pain is a most fun, casually entertaining song, starting off softly before a sudden flurry of hit piano keys and blast beats kicks in and the song becomes far more bombastic, as the screams and catchy chorus are both backed by blast beats, making the song incredibly fun to listen to, due to how much wilder it is while still maintaining a degree of accessibility, despite the all around very heavy instrumental work, and rougher vocals. Dare You is a less immediately enjoyable song and doesn't quite stand out compared to some others, but is structurally interesting, merely having a chorus that appears twice, and is sandwiched between long stretches of instrumental work. The bookends of this track are quite djent oriented in approach, being extremely rhythmic, with a constant stop-start motion to it. It's the middle section that I find to be the most interesting aspect of the song however, breaking into some really pleasant, smooth, jazzy basslines. Fate is definitely the weakest song on the album by quite a wide margin, being a very bland ballad that has a major lack of any sort of impact at all, just boredom spanning the 5 minutes it goes for.

The second half of the album is where I feel things really pick up and become much more interesting, with He Will Kill Again being an excellent example of this. All in all, this is one of my absolute favourite songs by the band as a whole, being much more in vein with standard prog metal, while also going off on some interesting tangents, for one, the extremely theatrical nature of the chorus is nothing short of majestic, and the way it breaks down into a groovy, piano led melody. The latter is particularly great once the bass is introduced to it, going absolutely all over the place and really driving the song forward. The guitar solo near the end is also nothing short of amazing, and is definitely a large part of the reason why this song is a blast to listen all the way through. Not Even A Name sounds more like what I'd expect a softer song by this band to sound like, simply being more restrained in nature, rather than completely devoid of anything of interest, as this has a nice balance between some of the most melodious and most instense aspectsof the band's sound, with the slower moments being of note, all in all being very competent. While most people state that Tall Poppy Syndrome is the weakest track on this album, I personally find it to be a great instrumental with use of spoken word that I really like, and a really cool three chord motif that runs throughout. The best track of this album is easily its final one, White, being the most climactic, epic song the band has made, with minimal use of lyrics, almost solely repeating the same phrases and melody throughout, but becoming more desperate and intense each time through, unti lit ends up being sung in a higher key and considerably faster, which I find to be really well implemented here and definitely a big reason why I think this song is so great.

While this album is not perfect by any means, I do love the variation and experimentation present here, taking clear inspiration from other bands, yet twisting it into a different sound, complete with some interesting song structures and unforgettable melodies. This is definitely a great debut record from a band that would go on to further develop and refine their sound many times over, showcasing the ambition they clearly had while still definitely caring about the enjoyability factor while doing so, leading to an album equal parts challenging and fun.

Best songs: Passing, He Will Kill Again, White

Weakest songs: Fate

Verdict: Definitely one of the more accessible albums featured in this subgenre of prog metal, but definitely still filled with tasteful intensity throughout, combined with prominent symphonic elements, providing a highly entertaining album all around.

Report this review (#2169176)
Posted Thursday, March 28, 2019 | Review Permalink
3 stars - Review #21 -

Oh, Leprous, you were so close to having a four star debut. Unfortunately, I've always felt like there's a worryingly large amount of songs that really aren't memorable or surprising in any way. Luckily, the next album would fix that.

First off let's start with the facts. For a debut, this is amazing. Usually bands aren't too confident in their first releases since it's their first exposure to the music market, but Leprous is a band that has been confident, professional and excellent from the beginning. This band has a strong Opeth/Porcupine Tree influence, with music focusing mostly on giving the listener a mellow impression. Technicality is there, but it's not a main focus of the album. Can't really call this extreme prog metal though, I would say it's more like Progressive Metal. Sure, there's growls, but they're not too common and most of the time their music isn't too heavy.

There's songs like Passing and Fate that work as ballads for the album, they have great melodies. There's tracks focused more on the dynamic aspect, featuring multiple time signatures changes, like Phantom Pain, Dare You And He Will Kill Again, with the latter being the standout of the album. Of course you also have the epic White which closes the album very well, even if it's a little too repetitive. Not Even A Name and the title track are really boring and uninteresting, I usually skip both of them.

So I can say it's a good debut. I wouldn't say it's excellent and calling it a masterpiece is way too much of a stretch. I still recommend it, however. Three Stars.

Report this review (#2546113)
Posted Thursday, May 27, 2021 | Review Permalink
4 stars Wouldn't call it a masterpiece but for sure kicks ass! Tall Poppy Syndrome is an awesome work considering it's a debut. It features eight tracks and a runtime of 64 minutes. Passing and Fate are ballad-ish tracks with cool melodies. Phantom Pain has an awesome chorus. Dare You has an even better chorus! He Will Kill again is a brutally good song, one of the best songs Leprous has made, it's very unexpected and fun to listen to. The title track is probably my favorite: It's a very unique instrumental that focuses on a trance- ish vibe rather than show-off. White is a very cool epic with a groovy chorus and a very heavy riff section around minute 6:00, although the end drags very long. Very Opeth inspired, you should go check it out, it's awesome. Four Stars!
Report this review (#2547823)
Posted Wednesday, June 2, 2021 | Review Permalink

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