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Leprous - The Congregation CD (album) cover

THE CONGREGATION

Leprous

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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5 stars Review Except from Black Wind Metal Full review posted at blackwindmetal.com/leprous-the-congregation/

Coal's introspective, dark aesthetic was controversial, and I recall a lot of disappointment from critics two years ago. I do not expect there to be nearly as much dissent this time around, however. The usual Leprous quirks are present: heavily syncopated riffs, repetitive passages with slight melodic and harmonic alterations, and Einar Solberg's vocal dynamics. On top of that, there is the album's particular sound, which incorporates attempts at a more emotional impact, post-metal tonality and tremolo picking, and a rising and falling of intensity throughout. New drummer Baard Kolstad puts on an absolutely phenomenal performance, similar to and rivaling John Douglas' performances on Anathema's Weather Systems and Distant Satellites.

Opening track and first single "The Price" hints at the band taking a more a djent-inspired direction, and the first minute of "Third Law" doesn't do much to dispel that notion. The band is playing more and more with 7 and 8 string guitars and extremely heavy syncopation at times. It continues in what I can best describe as "Josh Homme singing over Tesseract riffs being played at double speed". This somehow leads into the chorus, which is among the album's most memorable (but of course, like every great album, it is but one of many outstanding choruses). The chorus dominates much of the rest of the song. It also dominates my dreams, my nightmares, and battles for my very soul.

There's going to be a lot of talk about "The Flood", and rightly so. I believe both reviews I've seen thus far have mentioned it as a standout. There are portions that strike a similar vein as Coal's "The Valley" but this song is shorter and more direct. There is a combination of synth effects and an incredibly deep guitar, possibly a down-tuned 7 or 8 string, playing a heartbeat throughout most of the song. The chorus is every bit as massive as anything the band has written yet, and the heartbeat has a tremendously dramatic impact. The bridge is reminiscent of the second half of "Foe", again from Coal, before giving way to the, and I repeat for emphasis: Absolutely. Massive. Chorus. I don't want to give away all the secrets in store, but this song is incredible. All the superlatives you're seeing heaped on it are true. That being said, if anyone has said anything bad about this song, I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can do about the haters. We've all got to suffer them together.

Report this review (#1403336)
Posted Friday, April 24, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars My expectations were very high with this one. I loved all the Leprous' albums, but I know that every band has to decline, one day. That day has not come yet for Leprous.

When I first listened to the single, "The Price", I totally fell in love with it: the perfect combination of complexity and simplicity, a catchy song with challenging rhythms and powerful arrangement. Then it was the time of "Rewind", which is the third track on the album: from the moving intro to the mindblowing outro, passing through the memorable bass performance... another great song!

So, I first listened to the entire album knowing that it could possibly have more surprises for my ears. But I couldn't imagine how much this supposition was going to be confirmed. "Third Law" features absurd drum patterns and a very rigid performance by everyone. I think it's one of the less beautiful songs on the album, but it's still very positive. "The Flood" and "Triumphant" are simply two masterpieces in a row, the first being a kind of sick power ballad with sounds which appear to be quite new for the band, the second being a sort of epic and energetic march, featuring some of the most amazing grooves of the whole Leprous' discography, and a great chorus. "Within My Fence" closes the first half of the album in a positive, yet not perfect way, since it's probably the less convincing song on the album, though featuring a great drum performance, but no great ideas here.

The second half of the album features more complex and extended songs: four of them in a row are not shorter than six and a half minutes, while the last returns to the four minutes standard. "Red" is an unique journey made of impossible-to-follow grooves and unconventional solutions for the band sound. The instrumental section is just out of my words' reach. "Slave" is an absurdly tragic and obscure song, with a great chorus and a great synergy between guitars and keyboards: together they form an atmosphere worth of the sickest horror movie (but still not fit for it: this song would totally stole the attention from the film). "Moon" features a very interesting electric piano line, together with a great drum performance. It probably goes on too long with the same structures, but they are so good that the overall impression can be nothing but positive. "Down" marks one of the band's highlights, with an incredibly catchy chorus and other powerful grooves used in the intro and in other sections. Some drum fills are totally mindblowing here! The album ends with the graceful "Lower": a tender keyboard intro is blown away by a powerful chorus, just to return a while later in a totally moving arrangement. The special edition also features the bonus track "Pixel", which is ok but frankly nothing special at all.

Wholly considered, "The Congregation" can surely be mentioned as one of this year's best releases, and in my opinion it will be hard for whoever will try to surpass Leprous to manage doing it... once again!

9/10 (five stars, considering his ranking in my personal Top 2015 album list)

Report this review (#1418000)
Posted Thursday, May 21, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars OK ok :D this is not gonna be easy

but hell yeah! the final rating is 10/10

oh they want it to be of some value or wait? is not just this the way it is like no words and you know..

nifty kniffles this is certainly tripable metal. hoioioiioi... just genious! ...and still several more lines to be filled with ideas of how awesome something is and well, I think its still outerwordly and overworldly inspeakable and do you like your darkness? make you move end it all there silent grown old lust justified shame it all cloud of dust

Disturbingly sacred delving into the abyss of desirespair

Leprous, oh dear what have you gifted us with!

Report this review (#1420211)
Posted Wednesday, May 27, 2015 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'The Congregation' - Leprous (90/100)

Let it be kept no secret: I firmly believe Leprous are the most evocative band operating within progressive metal today. While I had been impressed with their breakthrough release Tall Poppy Syndrome, their 2011 monument Bilateral took me by storm, and still stands as one of the most inventive, breathtaking observations in metal this side of the new millennium. Each new Leprous album is an instant classic in my eyes, and even if time will inevitably be kinder to some of their records over others, I rest assured in the near-certainty that I'll still be listening to them a decade-- even two decades from now. It should suffice to say there are few other contemporary artists I could say the same in truth about.

Much like their considerably more uplifting British counterparts in Haken, Leprous have paired their startling quality with a prolific work ethic. Every two years, the band have taken their sound a step further. Now, with The Congregation, 2015 brokers no exception to the pattern. Given how much love I've had for their past masterpieces, I need not specify how eagerly I awaited hearing Leprous' fifth offering. Whether or not it was going to be fantastic wasn't even a question in my mind; rather, I was more intrigued by how they might change their sound. If Bilateral was defined by its sporadic urgency, and its follow-up Coal responded in turn with greater focus and minimalism, then The Congregation may be seen both as an advance on this trajectory, as well as an acknowledgement concerning things Coal didn't do as well as its predecessor. Namely, the new album brings a revitalized emotional immediacy to Leprous' music, and in this respect I am more affected than I have been by an album in many a while.

This is a masterpiece of a sort, to be sure, and though it bears strong resemblance with Coal, the vocal few who rightly declaimed the band's last album as a weaker offering than Bilateral might find themselves pleasantly surprised here. No, The Congregation doesn't strike me with the same impetuous spontaneity as Bilateral, nor does it keep my left-brain quite as much on the edge. However, I also think that repeating that same formula would have proved fruitless, both on this and Coal; being sporadic and jumpy is a trait of youth, and Leprous have long since matured as a group.

This matured Leprous-- occasionally better likened to an avant-garde, theatrical Anathema than the metal of their heyday- was proudly introduced on Coal, but it's only on The Congregation that the emotional resonance has built up to match their obvious technical abilities. So many of the ways I would describe the last album could again apply to this one: heavy, but not for the blunt force of the parts so much as the way they are used. Vivid and occasionally dissonant instrumentation, like an unchained King Crimson. Secretly more groove-oriented than any prog rock band has any right of being, and, not least of all, indelibly fuelled by the voice of frontman Einar Solberg. All of these might go on to describe The Congregation even moreso than its predecessor, but the amplification of Coal's best elements has resulted in a much different tone and experience. The Congregation may be the most emotionally hard- hitting album of Leprous career thus far-- and I'm including my personal favourite in that count as well.

Where some of my favourite progressive albums take a few listens to 'get' them, The Congregation had me hooked from the first listen. Although Leprous are one of the best musical units around (you'd have to be to play alongside Ihsahn) I've always thought vocalist Einar Solberg to be the band's shining light. Even when the band are immersed in a polyrhythmic groove or focused build-up, he uses his considerable range and presence to convey depth currently unsurpassed in the genre. Though this thought is by no means exclusive to The Congregation, I do think Solberg's voice is a large part of what makes Leprous one of my favourite modern acts. His soaring delivery is comparable to Muse's Matt Bellamy, albeit without the adolescent whine attached to it. Although it may be a further stretch to describe them as a prog metal The Mars Volta, high-register vocal acrobatics are at least one thing he shares with Cedric Bixler-Zavala. Suffice to say, the band has become increasingly vocal-oriented with every album; the veer towards minimalism and gradually building grooves over the past two albums have offered Solberg much greater opportunity to test his voice, an his vocals have become proportionately sharper to compensate.

Valid arguments may be fostered to the contrary, but I do think this is the most musically complex work Leprous have produced. There aren't any abrupt shifts in pace, but the ingredients are often mind- bending, potentially even moreso given that they work so smoothly together. The addictive groove on "The Price" (easily the most compelling single I've heard in 2015, by the way!) would probably look like academic jabberwocky on paper, but the way Leprous pull it off, it feels accessible. The syncopated guitar noise of "The Third Law" sounds far-flung enough to befit math rock than anything of a stately, progressive angle. I could give many more examples; my point is that Leprous have mastered the use of technique and complexity to such an extent that they can effectively mask it.

Orchestrating complex music is difficult enough a task on its own; to draw those orchestrations full-circle to the point of becoming accessible is an entirely different game. As much as my life and listening have been altered by progressive music (for the better-- I hope!) it is a rare thing to hear an artist back away from their wizard hats and mellotron collection to make complex art with a grasp on the heart. I don't mean that flimsy Floydian 'feeling' every progger with a knack for pentatonic scales tries to shill out-- I mean an addictive, balls-hitting, cutting-edge passion. The Cardiacs had that game nailed. Anathema does it. Haken does it. At this point however, I don't think anyone has Leprous beat.

Given The Congregation's subtly mind-bending complexity, it's all the more of an accomplishment that the album manages to hit so close to home emotionally. Upon my first spin of the album, I remember "Slave" coming on and coming close to welling up. Although the lyrics aren't particularly poignant, Solberg's delivery tells a story of its own. Though Coal was forged from many of the same elements as this, the music there was tense; even angry-- at least as far as the term can apply to prog rock With The Congregation, that anger has subsided to an introspective melancholy.

I've seen it written more than once that Leprous reviews tend to fall short of describing the music with precision. This challenge should be testament to the band's originality as an act, especially considering they manage to get this impression across without using truly outlandish shortcuts. Be that as it may, I'll give my best attempt here. As far as The Congregation goes; think what Gojira (circa The Way of All Flesh) would sound like if they were using the amps and production of Queens of the Stone Age. Or maybeWeather Systems-era Anathema, fuelled with the energy of a progressive metal The Mars Volta. All of this, fronted with one of the strongest voices I've heard in years. The Congregation isn't quite as much of an evolution in style as the last two records were. Indeed, there are a couple of issues that have been apparent from the first listen onward; the lyrics are a little too laconic to say anything on their own, and the album has little in the way of complimentary flow between songs; I do wonder if the album may have been made better by changing the sequence of tracks up a bit. Nonetheless; this is a great step forward for Leprous, and a masterful one at that. The introduction of drummer Baard Kolstad to the fold has been of the most propitious lineup changes I've seen in a band in modern years. With The Congregation, Leprous have once again proven that my recognition of them once as the most promising band in progressive music has been well-founded. Time and again, they've delivered on that promise, and I cannot wait until their next presumably unfolds in 2017.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical

Report this review (#1421884)
Posted Sunday, May 31, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Leprous outdid themselves with this one!

Their new found sound - well kind of new, since an "aura" of sorts was already showcased in Coal - has proven very exciting. There are some excellent songs in this record ranging from a wide variety of sounds, including power ballads like The Flood, pumped up pieces like Rewind and Third Law. This album almost has it all. Almost, because as in everything in life, it's not perfect. The only track I found repetitive and lacking on inspiration was the sixth track Within My fence. Progressive metal, through and through, this album, along with Steven Wilson's Hand.Cannot.Erase have two very high points in 2015, compensating for a "not so good" 2014. Masterfully executed, The Congregation is a must have! All prog listeners should have a look at these contemporary talents.

Report this review (#1422744)
Posted Tuesday, June 2, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars With Bilateral I did the worst review, the worst mark for a prog metal album ...I did not find anything original there with similar works of similar bands...but now... Who...'''Sometimes happen that all combines for the best....best musicianship ,best composition inspiration, best songs ever before... Yes what an inspired album...what a mature work... I repeat the listening and ever ... better..... I listened to Rewind and felt...oh''' the best prog metal song ever...but then....Moon...oh is this one...then Slave...maybe this is the best.... All songs are so inspired that there is no other possibility to find all this album a masterpiece and not only in tech prog metal...in all prog rock...one of the best albums of last years.. I felt as Anekdoten,Anathema,Haken,Tool,Cynic.... and similar united and created the most inspired album of hard or metal prog rock . Masterpiece
Report this review (#1423607)
Posted Thursday, June 4, 2015 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars I'm going to agree with the many reviewers here who are extolling the virtues of this album. It is, in my opinion, a very powerful Prog Metal album which displays the continued refinement and maturation of these musician/songwriters. Vocalist Einar Solberg continues to show virtuosic mastery of his craft--yet with continued refinements in his restraint, control, and use of space and simplicity. All powerful developments for the overall impact of the songs here. Coal was a real step forward from Bilateral and Tall Poppy Syndrome which both had a lot of elements of quirk, humor and pop woven into the song and melody structures, but The Congregation seems to show of a band that is finally comfortable with its style--a band that knows and uses its strengths through and through. While I find this overall a very powerful album, there are weaker songs and then there are absolute masterpieces.

5 star songs: "Rewind" (7:07) (10/10); "Slave" (6:38) (10/10); "Moon" (7:13) (9/10); "The Flood" (9/10); "Down" (6:26) (9/10); "Lower" (4:34) (9/10), and; "Red" (6:36) (8/10).

Album of the Year? I don't know. It's a great one! "Rewind" and "Slave" are must hears! Two of the best of the year, to be sure!

Report this review (#1424246)
Posted Saturday, June 6, 2015 | Review Permalink
1 stars Man, this is really bad.... This album has excellent reviews (#1 of 2015 for PA, #6 of 2015 for RYM) and it's a prog metal album. So I really HAD to check this out. Really, I didn't like this. The musicians are good (especially the drummer who is excellent) but the compositions are not great, I don't like the vocals, the electronic instruments like synths don't fit with the music, and sometimes, the rythm or the notes are really broken, and it's sounds like a scratched vinyl disc. I really don't understand the noise around this album, it's just plainly bad. I prefer "Tall Poppy Syndrome", which is more interesting and pleasant.
Report this review (#1424826)
Posted Sunday, June 7, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is one of the best Prog Metal albums I've heard so far. It's very well recorded (very clean audio) and well played (especially the drums), focusing in songwriting which is it's strengthness. I had lots of expectations for this album, since Leprous already delivered two others masterpieces (Bilateral and Coal), but this is as good as the two predecessors.

The sound remembers a bit of coal, but with even more focus on tight songwritting, experimentation with odd time signatures, ambience and strong chorus. The Keyboards also play a big role here, being as strong as the guitar, but without being too cheesy.

Rewind, The Flood, Red and Slave are the strongest songs here, with the most remarkable riffs and chorus.

Report this review (#1425224)
Posted Tuesday, June 9, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars With The Congregation, Leprous moves firmly into experimental/post-rock category, though to be sure, they are neither that experimental nor that post-. Continuing the evolution of their previous Coal album, they gradually replace their old stylings of mashing various metal sub-genres together with more post-rock and Brit pop. Now it is about build-ups and emotions, repeated, stop-start chords, atmospheric, minimalistic verses culminating in wall-of-sound choruses reminiscent of old Radiohead. But still played with deep-end guitar loudness and drum acrobatics of their metal roots (even a couple of death vocals of old). The pace is mostly slow-to-mid, which showcases well the band's tightness and impressive elongated vocal mannerisms. But, as with another forward-thinking band, TesseracT, the problem with the Congregation is that all songs are built basically using the same ingredients.
Report this review (#1505222)
Posted Wednesday, December 30, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars Norway's progressive metal quintet, Leprous, have been in the spotlight for a number of years now since their sophomore breakthrough, Tall Poppy Syndrome, and thanks to their ability to renew their sound with each album, without repeating the same formula over and over again, their popularity is still on the rise... a trend to continue with their new album also, The Congregation. And I will be pissing against the wind here by not calling it their best one to date, as so many fans do, nevertheless it is no question mark indeed that what they cooked up in their Norwegian proglab is again a decent addition to their discography already shining like a diamond. Even if this will be my least favourite album of theirs.

Tall poppy syndrome was one of my absolute favourite prog-metal records with its amazing, opera-like refrains and funky metal riffs. Then, when they followed up with Bilateral, taking their crunchy metal sound into a new direction by adding some quirky, trumpet-infested atmospheres, I was taken by surprise again. Finally, my fan-status was only strengthened when listening to their third album also, Coal, which is probably their heaviest one so far, pairing up some amazing vocals and even choruses with dirty-as-a-pig metal soundscapes, repeated through endless drones. Lucky for the fans of Coal, The congregation has these too: Einar Solberg's unparalleled voice stands out again, as all of the stronger songs (The price, Third law, The flood, Red) feature some amazing, vocal-driven but this time seriously funky metal refrains, backed up by growling riffage, all in all making it the grooviest music they have ever done. And whilst all these refrains do sweep me away, in between them the band is trying to introduce a new style not too much to my liking, which would probably be reminiscent to a heavily metalized version of the kind of disco-pop Bellamy is so much into lately. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, however at the same time many songs thorough the album (such as Triumphant, Slave or Within my fence) get superfluous, and I get bored. Something that has never happened to me during the listen of a Leprous album. Luckily, after a spiral of more mediocre songs (that follow the amazing opener of the first four songs) we get some pretty strong song structures again during the last part of the album (in particular with Moon), so I will not complain when looking at the big picture.

So although it is all true that The congregation features some of the finest songs the band has ever made, other tracks in my opinion fail to satisfy as they do not let these four musicians show their chops as much as the previous albums did (with Einar being the exception of course, with the whole album heavily relying on his soaring voice again, further backed up by the usual background vocals). Still, being blown away by the stronger songs of the album, as well as by the fact that they were able to renew their sound again whilst still building on their usual strengths, I will give this album a strong four-star-rating, and of course will highly recommend it not only to the fans of Leprous but to anyone, who is on the look-out for some fresh, mature and quirky metal with balls.

Report this review (#1540368)
Posted Wednesday, March 16, 2016 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars In the modern world of progressive metal it seems very few bands can find their footing, much less incrementally improve upon every subsequent release but Norwegian progressive metal band LEPROUS is proving to be the exception by releasing one outstanding album after the other and with their fourth studio release THE CONGREGATION they show no signs of breaking this trend anytime soon despite experiencing a somewhat unstable lineup since their formation. On CONGREGATION we see the departure of bassist Rein Blomquist who is replaced Simen Daniel Børven and the exit stage right of Tobias Ørnes Andersen who is replaced by Baard Kolstad. Both of the new musicians fit it quite well with the style, groove and approach laid out by frontman and guitarist Tor Oddmund Suhke and it could almost be stated that their addition brings a fuller more congruous sound to the LEPROUS legacy.

While not substantially different than "Coal," LEPROUS seems to up their game subtly in every department. First and foremost they excel at strong songwriting with melodic hooks and knowing how to let certain instruments lead and follow. This formula is impeccably utilized throughout the entire album always serving the strong melodic hooks while adding the proper ingredients to wring out every possible potential lurking in the spaces between notes. I have always found LEPROUS masters at this game whether it be there knack for the spastic staccato approach of the chords and riffing or simply the accompaniment of the keyboards creating a counterpoint to the guitars and bass that adds an eerie ambient layer to a strong metal delivery system as well as finding a perfect balance between tempo, decibel dynamics and production effects.

It cannot be stated enough how important a lead vocalist to a really stellar progressive metal band and it is Einar Solberg whose voice is just perfect for this particular brand of prog metal. He has the operatic qualities of the best in the biz yet doesn't sound like he swallowed a cat or has had his male parts pinched in a vise-grip. The interplay of the instruments creating a larger than life melodic delivery is this band's major attribute and despite the album being a staggering hour plus affair, i don't lost interest in it no matter how many times i hear it and actually crave hearing it again. While on paper one cannot state the reasons why LEPROUS is in a league above the competition, however it is utterly apparent when one listens to the meticulously designed unfolding of the tracks on board. Somehow everything is paced and placed in just the right ratios. All elements present themselves in just the right proportions and the band has mastered the art of knowing when enough is enough and changing it up. I resisted LEPROUS for the longest time because i usually find hype to be overblown but in this case i'm on board and am finding THE CONGREGATION to be one of their strongest offerings to date.

For me the real beauty is how the individual parts of the tracks sound like they are so close to clashing and derailing the fragile beauty of the melodic flow but always somehow resolve themselves like a hero saving a damsel in distress being tied to the railroad tracks scenario. While this music can sound stilted and jarring for those used to a more straightforward approach of prog metal, for this who love those little "off" types of features that add tension and distress to their musical experience, then look no further than LEPROUS who once again proves they are on the top of their game putting some true "progressiveness" into their unique brand of prog metal. Vocal harmonics, production, symphonic accompaniments and instrumental interplay all display themselves in perfect tandem for my tastes. THE CONGREGATION is utterly addictive. While most releases contain 11 tracks, there are some with a 12th track titled "Pixel" which is a bonus track on certain editions. IMHO this is not an essential track so don't worry if you skip it. I actually prefer my copy without despite being good.

Report this review (#1559063)
Posted Wednesday, May 4, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars My first impression of this album had me pretty excited. Leprous manage to create a unique enough sound to stand out amongst the plethora of metalcore-ish prog bands out there. It should be pointed out that the first times I did listen to this album is was more as a background listen (while doing some gaming) rather than giving it my full attention. Then I gave it my full attention and I immediately had problems with it. Namely, it's length. Nearly every song here is about 2-3minutes longer than it needs to be, repeating the chorus just once or twice much. Each song introduces a new enough, likeable sound but fails to go anywhere. Once you've heard the first 3 minutes of a song, you've practically heard all that it has to offer and then it just repeats and repeats.

The entire album itself is also a bit long clocking in at 1h and 11min.. there is a 4 star or potentially 5 star forty minute album in here, but as it is, for me, I can only see giving it 3.

Report this review (#1583907)
Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2016 | Review Permalink
FragileKings
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars "The Congregation" by Norwegian progressive metal band Leprous first caught my attention when I saw it had made the top ten of the Prog Archives Top 100 of 2015. The artwork in particular intrigued me. I had sampled a bit of the band's music earlier after hearing about their album "Bilateral", but at the time there was nothing that bowled me over. After watching the video for "The Price" however, I felt certain that there was something for me on this album and at last I brought it home a few weeks ago.

To be sure, there are many great things to be said about the record. The music is largely if not entirely comprised of drums, bass, two electric guitars, some keyboards, and singer Einar Solberg's voice. There seems to me to very little in the way of overdubs and it occurred to me that there are next to no guitar solos, perhaps none at all. The musical arrangement sounds as if these boys were given an eight track recorder and told to try not to use the extra two tracks whenever possible. Thus the sound is rather sparse with only the five instruments and the vocals, though in at least two songs a rougher, angrier voice comes in which seems to be a guest appearance by Ihsahn.

It's not just the lack of instruments or overdubs that make the music here sound sparse. It's also how the instruments are employed throughout the songs. There are many songs that include simple riffs where the chords are played out in short bursts at odd intervals. The drums are often the busiest instrument, keeping a lively pattern going while the guitars strike with these simple chords: da-daah-dum, da-daa, da-da, da-daah-dum. The keyboards mostly provide atmosphere and sometimes play instead of the guitars so that with a simple bass and a roving drum pattern, the vocals float overtop a barely populated space. This works very well when listening to specific tracks, and for my money, the music reaches is best potential on "Rewind".

There is unfortunately a negative aspect to the album's musical approach and that is that there isn't much else going on. I recognize that this may be exactly what the band were shooting for. I read that they felt "Bilateral" was a little too all over the place in moods and they wanted "Coal" to be more focused and darker. Maybe they were trying to carry that on with "The Congregation". The album cover very well describes the feeling of the music inside. It's grey, there might be animal skulls, or possible some mutation or grafting. There might be a struggle and possibly a strong melancholy feel that needs overcoming. It's possible to pick almost any two or three songs and get a good feel for the album because there is little variety in the music here. It sounds good and creative and interesting. But the formula gets stretched across the entire 11 tracks and the 12 track serving as a bonus track doesn't exactly throw anything new our way.

If this were a new band with a tight budget, I's say they really worked their way around their restrictions. As for what I actually have here before me, it's a great effort with some quality song-writing. I'd just prefer some other components present to help make a few more tracks really stand out for me.

Report this review (#1596480)
Posted Wednesday, August 10, 2016 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars On The Congregation, Leprous shift their musical style a little closer to the border between progressive metal and progressive rock; aggression, volume, and heavy riffs are played down in importance next to the melodic aspects of the music, as well as the keyboard work of synth-wiz and vocalist Einar Solberg. Here and there the approach has been compared to Muse, which sort of makes sense - in particular, to me it brings to mind Muse's Origin of Symmetry, since both albums have a very similar sense of unfettered exuberance, with both bands shifting away from the musical style of previous releases to follow a new sound with unwavering dedication, heedless of how overblown things may become.

The end result is a substantially more accessible Leprous release than any other I've heard, but whilst it's a good entry point to their music, it's also a solid development of what's come before which will have something new to offer seasoned fans too.

Report this review (#1841785)
Posted Friday, December 15, 2017 | Review Permalink
Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 4 1/3 star album

Immaculate, Strict, Calculated Songwriting with Consistently Monochromatic Sound

With 'Congregation' it appears clear Leprous distanced itself from several characteristics of progressive rock. The album is less spontaneous, no songs exceed 8 minutes, and there is a lost sense of musical exploration - focusing instead on maintaining a grey-scale mood throughout and blending metal influences with alternative rock. The emphasis is on vocal hooks and a relatively frequent usage of rhythmically complex riffs. This approach makes this album more accessible than earlier albums as a listener does not have to process dramatically different styles of music. On the other hand, this approach is not preferred when an album is 11-songs long - the songs start blending in and become harder to tell apart. This is the one album where I feel the sum of the parts works better than the whole and no particular song order is necessary. If you enjoy a song or two in youtube/spotify from this album, it is very likely you will enjoy nearly all others.

Also note - there are 2 songs that have an entire section sang with harsh vocals. The ratio of harsh to clean vocals continue decreasing.

Describing songs by track would be redundant given the many similarities among them. Expect unorthodox rhythmic guitars in many of these songs. Expect computerized keyboards to make an occasional presence during both upbeat and haunting sections alike - these synthesizers continue fitting in unusually well and I welcome their presence. Expect the drumming to be rawer and more tribal in nature. Definitively expect even catchier earworms compared to previous albums as they are not any more an element to their music - they songs are written around them. If there is one song that sounds noticeably different than the rest, it is the very effective minimalistic closing track 'Lower'.

What kind of highlights should you expect? 'The Price' has highly intricate soft musicianship preceding the insanely catchy alternative rock choruses. 'Third Law' showcases high-pitch metal singing. 'Rewind' expertly blends in desperately fast bass, drums, and vocals with a hauntingly slow synthesizer theme, then builds and builds until it explores a death metal section that is suitable heavy for the agony displayed by the harsh vocals. 'The Flood' uses a 2-note riff (synth or distorted guitar) to build up anticipation towards much more interesting musical passages. It is not a surprise this is a fan favorite song given the strength of the vocal melodies and especially that mesmerizing and triumphant climax. Speaking of 'Triumphant', the tribal rhythm, memorable guitar and vocal themes work together to the closest they might ever come to a sing along tune. 'Red' makes the best usage of computerized synths, mind-bogglingly complex rhythmic foundations, and a hypnotic feel. It is easily my favorite track in this album and among my favorite songs of the genre. 'Slave' is a bleak song and recalls the nightmareish qualities of their previous album 'Coal', but retaining the stronger melody writing of this album. Harsh vocals make a presence, but are brief. Moon's varied percussion works really well at setting the mood, particularly the masterful second half utilizing the buildup compositional elements of their previous album with expertise. The soundscapes continue being larger in scope with 'Down' though may not be as climatic to the album as a song like 'Rewind' or 'The Flood' is. The last song is a minimalistic ending.

It is difficult for me to determine whether the fairly monotonous structure and mood of the album is a strength or a weakness, or both. What the band has accomplished is a consistent set of high quality tracks that get burned into my memory.

4.5 to 5 star songs: *Red*, Triumphant, Moon, The Flood, Rewind 3.5 to 4 star songs: The Price, Third Law, Slave, Down, Lower 2.5 to 3 star songs: Within the Fence

Report this review (#2041572)
Posted Saturday, October 6, 2018 | Review Permalink
SoundsofSeasons
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars In this album we see Leprous fully embrace their new digitized soundscapes, complete with an even greater emphasis on vocals driving each song - including literally being featured as the forefront sound through the audio mixing. Influences of Radiohead, and Porcupine Tree are seen more here than any album to date of this review. For my tastes in music, in this time, it doesn't get much better than Leprous and the mix of styles they've incorporated into this album. The subtleties this band is able to produce just impresses me to no end. The classical, jazz, and chamber influences found here are more ever-present than any past releases. We have keys, drums, guitars all playing off one another with not minimalist but minimal trickles of sound layered on incredibly intricate patterns and structures, layered underneath the ever present vocals driving it all. The sound may be more accessible than ever because of this layered approach. Its' designed in such a way that a casual listener would pick up the insanely catchy vocals, maybe a guitar riff here or there, and be perfectly satisfied with that - but then dig deeper with a musical ear and you'll catch the hi-hat para-diddle 16th note patterns of the drums matching the bass guitar down to the syncopation and accented notes, all the while the vocals freely flowing around this, for example. It is in this layering of sounds Leprous has grabbed me as a fan. They didn't even bother with this in 'Tall Poppy', didn't try hard enough in 'Bi-Lateral', and only began to truly believe in themselves as a band to make the transition to such compositions in 'Coal'.
Report this review (#2240411)
Posted Saturday, July 27, 2019 | Review Permalink
Kempokid
COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Leprous is what I consider to be more or less the peak of modern prog metal based on their first 3 albums, all of which showed some very impressive evolution between each of them. Coal showed the band going in a more streamlined, atmospheric direction, with a far more expansive sound that especially prominently utilised vocal harmonies to give the entire album a somewhat mysterious feel, ultimately leading to creating one of the most interesting prog metal albums I've listened to. The Congregation sees the band further streamlining their sound, keeping to a very consistent sound and atmosphere throughout, for better or for worse. On one hand, this is a very cohesive album that never feels as if it's going against the identity of itself, but on the other, why is this 65 minutes long? And that question right there boils down to the reason why making an album with such a consistent sound is a double edged sword, as this album gets really repetitive and dull by the end to me.

With this said, the more accessible yet grandiose sound of the album is established from the get go by The Price, with immediately powerful guitar work that quickly settles into rhythmic staccato, already displaying the extremely satisfying interplay between each element of the band, including the vocals. As is the case with Leprous as a whole, the vocals are extremely dramatic and beautiful and act as an instrument along with the standard delivery, being able to both utilise vocalisations to provide additional depth to the more instrumentally focused passages, but then erupt and put some amazing power into other sections, especially in this opening track. These first few tracks on the whole show some of the more inspired aspects of the album, such as Third Law's absolutely incredible riffs that manage to carry such intensity, before shifting into the much steadier, more dramatic chorus, providing some great contrast while also working perfectly. Rewind is the first track to truly demonstrate one of the album's other strongest qualities however, the drumming, which while not necessarily the most complex or anything, has some of the most interesting drum patterns I've listened to, providing such a unique sound to the songs without ever feeling like a needlessly dominant force. Rewind also manages to work as well as it does due to how nicely it progresses, the consistent drum rolls gradually becoming more structured throughout until it all clicks and falls into a really great groovethat complements the song perfectly.

This is where the album begins to falter, as The Flood, while very passionate and beautiful, also feels like a step down from the previous 3 tracks, with its worst offense being how it is too long and begins to drag, the more intense moments doing very little until their climax being especially problematic as a result. That said, there's still quite a bit of power present here and it ultimately still manages to be a good song, just one that has some serious flaws. Triumphant is a far simpler song that goes for the more epic approach once again through the extremely dramatic vocals, and ends up working quite well, even if it feels a bit barebones. Similarly, Within My Fence also has a more simple approach to it, the difference being that it works exceptionally well here, with some really fun guitar work that manages to be one of the catchiest parts of the album, not to mention that the drumming here is really tightly played, with a lot of flair being packed into it and overall making the song far greater as a result.

This is where the album really begins to lose me however, but not because of the individual track quality, as this remains quite high throughout the album, it's just that it sounds like more of the same in a lot of places, and I feel like if the album were rearranged, I'd be finding similar complaints with the first 3 songs as I'm doing with Red. While this song does differentiate itself to a degree with the greater focus on the kayboard, it still has a very similar dramatic feel to it and structure, making it feel somewhat insignificant despite being another well put together and powerful song. Slave has a similar problem, but somehwat redeems this by having a genuinely amazing chorus that gives this song a distinct point of interest, even though at this point there's definitely some fatigue setting in. Moon marks the point where the album could have ended and I wouldn't have minded to such a degree, especially given that Moon is probably the best song here. For one, this is easily the best drumming on the album, keeping a very consistent pace, but throwing in a lot of stylish moments to really make it stand out. This is also one of the few songs on the album that are genuinely compelling from an atmospheric standpoint, with the hints of piano and strings providing a different enough listening experience for me to really love this, especially once it hits the halfway point and becomes considerably more intense, despite having the same sort of problem of sounding overly clean and polished. I feel that the final two songs have very similar problems to the rest of the album and end up being quite forgettable as a result of just wanting the album to end at this point, how while not bad at all, just don't do much as a result of being too much of the same sort of things we've been hearing for the last hour.

Overall, there's a lot to love in this album, but a lot wrong with it as well. The length combined with how similar a lot of these songs are in terms of sound and structure make this an album that drags on for way too long, making the latter half of the album feel very mediocre despite being full of songs that sound great when listened to in isolation. Another issue that further exacerbates this issue however is the fact that it all sounds too clean and polished, which does take a lot of the intensity away from the times where this album tries being heavy to the point where I cannot remember a single time in which harsh vocals were used effectively here. Nonetheless, Leprous' direction here was an interesting turn, and while I don't really like this as much as their previous 3 albums, it still does show potential for something more interesting regardless, even if the final product here was underwhelming.

Best tracks: The Price, Third Law, Rewind, Moon

Weakest tracks: The Flood, Triumphant, Down, Lower

Verdict: This is an album I find quite strange, as while I can say that I find the vast majority of these songs to be very well written and interesting to the point where I'd happily listen to a number of these songs individually, as a full package this misses the mark for sure. It feels overblown with how long it is, and boring for how similar everything sounds, yet I'd still recommend giving this a listen in parts just to get a taste for the album, as I wouldn't recommen it in full, but it's definitely one that I get a fair amount of enjoyment despite rarely listening to it in full.

Report this review (#2343993)
Posted Saturday, March 21, 2020 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Reviewer
3 stars I was a big fan of 'Coal', the fourth album from the Norwegian band, which was released in 2013, but for some reason didn't pick up the next one, 2015's 'The Congregation' until recently. It is a clever album, no doubt, but to my ears it is moving them far more into Muse territory than I am comfortable with. There is a wall of sound, lots of staccato riffing, and the feeling of this being a black and white assault as opposed to something rounded and with feeling. It is bleak and singular in its approach, and I soon found the whole album starting to wash over me. There is no doubt that Einar Solberg is an incredible singer, happily and easily moving into falsetto when it is appropriate, but with the blanket sound all around I was feeling suffocated without enough room to move. There just is not enough space, not enough contrast, and it feels like I am being smothered in sound. When the band does provide some gaps, it is a welcome relief but when the assault returns it makes it feel that much worse.

I felt incredibly disappointed after listening to this, as for me it does not stand up to the promise and quality of their earlier works. Even when a song such as 'Rewind' starts differently with long held-down keyboard chords the oncoming bass and drums warns the listener what is to burst forth in a minute. There is little in the way of solos, and one can easily imagine the band performing this as a unit as opposed to recording different instruments at different times. But, there is an oppressive weight to the proceedings for me, and listening to this was far more of a chore than I ever expected it to me, although it has been widely appreciated by many others, and according to PA it is #14 in the charts for best album for 2015 so what do I know?

Report this review (#2374230)
Posted Friday, April 24, 2020 | Review Permalink
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 Børven 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.

Report this review (#2955568)
Posted Friday, September 29, 2023 | Review Permalink

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