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Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Aeolia' - Leprous (6/10)

Since breaking onto the scene, Leprous has gone through a not-unnoticeable development in their sound. While I am not a huge fan of this earlier work, they blew me away with their third opus 'Bilateral', which came in as one of my top albums of the year. With Leprous now having become one of the most adventurous progressive metal acts out there today, it's interesting to see them at a more primitive stage in their development. All the same, 'Aeolia' has its share of fans and lovers; a group I am sadly not a part of. Attempting to reintroduce myself to the earlier work of this band in the hopes that my love for 'Bilateral' might sway me to the other side, but it hasn't happened. That's not to say that 'Aeolia' is a bad album, it has plenty of strengths. But even outside of its retrospective context and comparison with the masterpiece 'Bilateral', there are still some flimsy issues that keep me from calling this a great album.

As the backing band for former Emperor frontman Ihsahn, it can be taken for granted that Leprous are excellent musicians. Despite their youth, they are able to execute complex arrangements. 'Aeolia' sees Leprous following somewhat in the footsteps of Dream Theater, only without the same devotion to instrumental indulgence. What Leprous aims for is highly vocal-driven progressive metal, something they still aspire to today, in some regards. As the vocals are arguably the most important aspect of Leprous at this point, it should be noted that Einar Solberg has an excellent voice, and is able to pull off some jaw- dropping vocal acrobatics, without losing any of the emotional intensity.

Halvor Strand's jazzy bass lines also stand out as one of 'Aeolia's better aspects. In short, it would be difficult for just about anyone to say bad things about the way Leprous plays. The band's performance is largely what holds 'Aeolia' together. Although this is a full-length, it is described on the band's website as a 'demo', and rightly so; it has a very muffled production, often to the point where the warmth and detail of the guitar performances are obscured. 'Aeolia' is certainly listenable in regards to the sound quality, but it totally lacks the studio dynamic I would hear even on their second album, 'Tall Poppy Syndrome'.

Of course, everything about an album boils down to the composition and songwriting. With 'Aeolia', it is something of a double-edged sword. Most of the musical concepts here have plenty of potential, and some of Einar's vocal melodies are almost painfully catchy to listen to (the chorus of 'Black Stains' will testify to this). Where 'Aeolia' goes wrong, however, is its predictability. Once the layout of Leprous' music is digested, it becomes easy to tell where melodies, ideas, or even entire songs are going to go, long before they're done. Perhaps it doesn't help that the production dulls the range of sound, but the dynamics in these songs feels bland. Paired with an inconsistent flow and unsteady use of ideas, 'Aeolia' comes across as being an album with plenty of potential, but misses its mark.

Report this review (#591774)
Posted Tuesday, December 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have been reading album reviews on Progarchives (my first choice source for music reviews) for many years, and I have finally decided to start writing my own reviews. I am from Norway, so it was easy for me to select a Norwegian band for my first review.

I listened almost only to metal before I slowly got interested in progressive rock in the late 90s (Opeth the main reason may be?). As I still listen to a lot of metal, Leprous is for me almost the perfect mix of metal and prog rock. The only negative I can find about their debut album Aeolia is that the production could have been better.

This album is different from everything else I have listened to (except later albums from same band). It's very hard to define, the basic is much like traditional heavy metal (Iron Maiden), but it's spiced with playful, slower and jazzy piano passages and mixed use of clean and growl vocals (it sometimes reminds me of Australian band Vicious Hairy Mary and their album Orchestra Phantasma). The vocals are very good on this album, but the lead vocalist Einar Solberg has improved a lot since 2006 ? I think he's got one the best voices in the metal genre.

What makes this album (and band) unique? The variation in the whole album, the melodies are very good, and the complexity makes it an album you will never get tired of. Apart from Iron Maiden's debut album (one of my favorite album of all time) you will not find many debut albums better than this one!

9/10 points ? rounded up to 5 stars.

Report this review (#859873)
Posted Friday, November 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Bungle Origins

I was both surprised and not surprised to find that Aeolia was actually a pretty decent album. Surprised because of its reputation as the band's disowned debut, choosing to always list Tall Poppy Syndrome as their first album, and obviously the big glaring 'DEMO' tag, as well as its length. But then again, this is Leprous, one of the most unique and interesting bands in modern progressive metal, they can't have come from nothing. The Leprous sound is very evident on Aeolia, although it's clear that there was a lot of work done after it. To be honest, if I had heard this at the time, I would never have predicted a masterpiece like Bilateral coming out of this band, but it's clear that that sound is evident.

For one, the avant-garde aspect of Leprous' music is far more evident here, even taking the forefront over the progressive on a lot of the songs. They choose to open 'Disclosure' with a weird and eclectic Mr. Bungle-style piano/wah break, which is honestly one of the weirdest things they have done, and in my opinion sets a terribly tone for the album. Apart from this part, 'Disclosure' is undeniably the best song here, and with a bit of tweaking, could even rank amongst their more recent material. The song is built around a very strong melodic chorus, carrying an excellent melody and Einar's trademark voice. Although his vocals are a shade of what they would become, you can certainly hear some of the unique approach to screams that came onto Bilateral.

Unfortunately, as decent as 'Disclosure' is, this album is insanely top-heavy, with the next best tracks all following straight after it. The album really starts to lose it by the time 'The Great Beast' comes in, a great monstrosity of a wankfest, even going as far as to having the opening with time signatures of 7/8 and 16/12 alternating (and to everyone who says 16/12 isn't a time signature, please learn more theory and shut the [%*!#] up). The song plays with some LOUDASHELL/softashell dynamics in its verse, and I do understand what they're aiming at, but boy is it corny. The following track 'Indecisive' isn't necessarily a bad song, but it features a really, really irritating chorus featuring Einar and another vocalist flinging lines at each other, and it gets stuck in your head in the most infuriating of times.

But even of the good songs here, there are still some downsides. 'Black Stains' is a pretty good song with a nice groove and a bridge that sounds straight of Tall Poppy Syndrome, but for some odd reason Leprous decide to throw in the weirdest piano break ever which splits the song completely and nearly kills the good vibes from the melodies. 'Aeolus Shadow' opens with an absolutely blistering riff, playing one of the best chord progression I have heard, and although this progression is amazing and the way Einar flies over the top wailing like a synth is the perfect way to develop it, the entire song feels weak, and I honestly think it's a waste of such a great progression.

For every nice moment on Aeolia, there is an equally frustrating moment of juvenile weakness. I am glad that Leprous decided to drop the cheesy avant-garde and focus on the prog, because this music is hard to take seriously sometimes. This album is not without promise, and I really am waiting for them to bring back some of the piano from this album ' the massive solo in 'Disclosure' reminds me of the massively self-indulgent one Matt Bellamy pulled in the middle of 'Butterflies & Hurricanes', and it is truly awesome. Aeolia's sound is decent at best with moments of greatness and moments of embarrassment. The production here, being a demo, is also a bit of a barrier ' in spite of all the great melodies, the average production means that Einar's voice often sounds quite weak, especially when he's singing in harmony with himself. I wouldn't recommend it to a casual fan, since their studio albums do it so much better, but it's certainly not a bad album by any means, and hardcore fans will definitely find something to enjoy.


Originally written for my facebook page/blog:

Report this review (#1178249)
Posted Thursday, May 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Aeolia is disrespected by several fellow reviewers on PA. Since Leprous was apparently quite reluctant to release this to the general public, the band members seem to feel the same way about it. I frankly don't understand it. I don't see Aeolia as a flawed precursor to Leprous' official releases. I'm giving it 4 1/2 stars though half stars aren't an option.

I think the sound quality on this "demo" is perfectly acceptable. I can hear all the instruments, and that's all I care about. I'm not an audiophile, and practically every kind of music player available today allows you to adjust the sound quality of what you're listening to. Therefore, you can change the sound of the music you're listening to as you see fit. I've heard all of Leprous' albums, and I recently listened to Coal before I started composing this review. Some folks say that Aeolia is too scattered, too "weird". That's what I like about Aeolia; I found Coal, which is regarded as more focused, a little dull by comparison.

Leprous' musical abilities have been well covered by others, so I won't. "Disclosure" and "Eye of the Storm" are a couple of my favorite tracks, but there aren't any bad ones on "Aeolia". I thank God that someone talked the band into releasing Aeolia so we could all enjoy it. This is definitely an 4 1/2 star "excellent addition to any collection".

Report this review (#1225519)
Posted Monday, July 28, 2014 | Review Permalink

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