Leprous Review: Join The Congregation

1825
123
Share:

In this, the year of our Lord 2015, what does the term “progressive metal” mean to you? Do you think of mellowed-out bands creating faithful facsimiles of 70s rock? Do you think of Meshuggah rip-offs with whiny castratos on vocal duty? Do you think of kitschy synth-work over bloated instrumental masturbatory sessions?

Leprous play progressive metal, and they are none of those things.

Progressive metal has become a somewhat pointless catch-all term. The argument could be made, however, that none of the bands currently categorized as such are really doing anything all that progressive. Playing your instruments well is admirable, but this trait can be found in many subgenres of metal. Similarly, expertly crafting songs is not exclusive to prog, and it itself should be a standard, not some forward-thinking concept. On The Congregation, Leprous do both, and so much more.

In order to understand The Congregation, one could deconstruct the album to its constituent parts. One would find guitars that play staccato, nearly percussive strings of notes that form alien battering ram riffs that in theory sound strangely out of place on a prog album. In another light, in another tone, the dissonant guitar chords themselves could even be labelled skronky. Similarly, one would also find a lush, earth-shaking bass tone that deftly maneuvers from lead instrument to second percussive unit, jarring and clashing with guitar lines and synths. The keys themselves are thankfully used not solely as an accompaniment to the guitar (as is often the case with prog), but rather to give tone and feeling to each song, to create an emotional backdrop for each experience.

If one were to take the album apart to investigate it piece by piece, one might find drums that show a shocking amount of restraint for a prog album. Fills are expertly timed, kicks are used sparingly, and rhythms are as simple or as complex as the song itself demands. When aggression is needed, drummer Baard Kolstad  attacks mercilessly, but when tact is key, he knows how to dial it back. One would even find the impressive vocal efforts expected on a prog album, though Einar Solberg transcends those boundaries and confines with his shockingly heartfelt and vulnerable performance. Despite his soaring range and powerful vibrato, Solberg sings with more humanity than most metal vocalists. Repeat listens will reveal sharp breath intakes, slightly dropped syllables, and a near-tangible feel to the syallabic notes that he uses to add depth to each song. His voice at times seems almost mismatched when the band is cracking the earth with diamond-tipped focus, but it all inevitably comes full circle. When extreme vocals rear their heads (on “Rewind” and “Slave”), they only lend greater diversity and strength to the songs, propelling the tone into dire territory.

One could spend days analyzing each facet, each note choice, each eccentricity of every player’s part, but this is not the proper way to absorb this album. Though each instrument’s part feels discordant, even at odds with what the others are doing, it all meshes in a way that feels seamless, timeless, perfect. Songs whose descriptions sound like Frankenstein monsters on paper flow in an enthralling stream of liquid silver that bubbles, sizzles, pops, pools, and waterfalls. Even taking the songs individually, as unique and diverse as each is, would be tantamount to removing a chapter from a gripping novel. Yes, each page itself compels you to keep listening, but examining the art in whole is the only means by which you can gain insight into the peerless scope and grandeur that is the entire work. The Congregation is cohesive and consistent in a way that Coal only hinted at, each song offering a new twist or a new hook that builds upon what has come before it.

Interestingly, just as each song unifies the disparate elements into a cohesive and potent tale of starts and stops, restraint and improvisation, force and gentleness, so also is this album a unifying force for different genres. Those who bathe in the fetid waters of dissonant metal will find jarring chords and furious counterpoint. Those who seek the melodic will be soothed by Solberg’s sonorous cooing and elevating high notes. Those who seek expert songcraft will find it in spades. There is something here for nearly every fan of nearly every metal subgenre, no matter what each listener seeks. This album caters to individual listeners while conforming to no single stereotype. Now isn’t that progressive?

My only complaint with this album is that the last two songs, “Down” and “Lower”, while still good, suffer under the weight of the album’s own grandeur and fail to provide as convincing a climax as found on “Moon”. Still, this is only a minor complaint for an otherwise stellar album. Join The Congregation.

The Congregation comes out May 25th via Inside Out Music. Get it here and like the band on Facebook.

(Photos VIA)

  • EsusMoose

    Only 2 more weeks! Great review

    • MoshOff

      I JUST HEARD IT IT’S SO GOOD GUYS

      • EsusMoose

        Moshoff has been added to the list of people I glare at for good reason

      • ME TOO! i think some illegal pirates stole a copy and uploaded it to the intarwebs

  • Guacamole Jim

    I’ve talked (probably too much) before about the difference between “big P Prog” and “little P prog” – or the difference between Progressive Metal as a genre, and music that actually progresses. Leprous, as you’ve rightfully said, is progressing forward, even while they retain elements of Big P Prog. In their music you can hear the influence of modern Progressive music, and yet they’re taking it to a new level, and in that push are remaining interesting. Very cool review – I won’t blather on about my opinions of prog any longer. Just gonna bump Leprous for the next few hours.

    • Guaqui, what do you mean with “music that actually progresses”?

      • MoshOff

        Stuff that’s really innovative, Link. Progressive Metal used to be innovative, but it’s become just another genre that people try to imitate.

        • Between the Buried and Me is “Progressive” according that definition? What do you think?

          • MoshOff

            I really like BTBAM, but aside from maybe the fact that they’ve thrown accordion and things like that into their music I don’t think they’re that progressive. At this point they’re basically just Dream Theater with a hardcore background, which I am 200% fine with.

          • It’s weird, probably someone would think that throwing accordion is a new treat and he/she probably call it (P)rogressive. Don’t you think?

          • MoshOff

            Yeah, I guess it all depends on what your point of reference is. For example, to someone who actively avoids Folk Metal (me), accordions are a breath of fresh air haha.

          • i’d say BTBAM was progressive at the time (Alaska, Colors) but since they keep retreading the same ground every album, there isn’t much progression any more. but like @moshoff:disqus, I am 200% fine with that!

          • YOU TOO?!

            What’s happening in this world! I feel like a black sheep 😛

          • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

            me two eryday bro!

          • TAQUITO!

          • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

            i have a black sheep tattoo…me gusta ovejas negra!

          • The Beargod

            They’re definitely a prog band but hardly a progressive band.

      • Five Finger Death Punch

        • ¡HERMANO!

        • CyberneticOrganism

          BRO DID U SEE THAT NEW COVER ART HA HA SO SIQQ

          MONSTER ENERGY

          *high five*
          *high five again*

          • is BDubs really going to review it? cause if not, i’m good at reviewing lolbuttz rekkids

          • “lolbuttz rekkids” are those kids gaming and insulting in Call of Duty and Minecraft?

          • CyberneticOrganism

            He was shouting about it all day Tuesday while playing bags, so I think he means it.

          • high five! *pats on buttock on the way out

      • Guacamole Jim

        It’s exactly what MoshOff said. I’ll use Dream Theater as an example. When they came out with Images & Words in 1992, it was a brand new spin on metal music, combining a ton of influences to create a very new, very exciting sound that resonated with a lot of people. Fast forward to 2015, where Dream Theater has been playing the same music (basically), album after album. Their music initially progressed, but has since become its own genre (“Progressive Metal”) with imitators (Spock’s Beard, Frost, you name it). Even Dream Theater hasn’t evolved their sound, and has stopped being “progressive” and has stagnated in what’s been called “Progressive Metal”. Does that make sense?

        • Guacamole Jim

          The point I’m trying to make is a semantic one, and I’m not sure how easy it is to translate.

          • I valorate your effort :)))))

            But, I think I get it.

            I don’t know, I just see the genre tagging as a more personal way. But, in your point of view I can see too the eternal discussion of: “OMG, POST MODERNISM IS HERE AND NOTHING IS ORIGINAL NOW AND EVERYTHING IS JUST A RECYCLE OF THE PREVIOUS THINGS!”.

          • The W.

            The Romans had a phrase for that. Nihil novi sub sole. Even a Biblical author says the same thing in Ecclesiastes. “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

          • Guacamole Jim

            We’re straying into Myth of Progress territory (which I’m totally cool with).

          • The W.

            I actually had another thought regarding that. If you like at it from a systems approach, the question becomes somewhat irrelevant. Systems become more complex as they grow over time. Some people may look at this as a positive, and some as a negative, but it isn’t really either. So, it isn’t necessarily that things are getting worse, but they are changing.

          • hide and reported for making my brain go out :C

          • Guacamole Jim

            That’s very interesting. I hadn’t thought of approaching the idea from that way, but I don’t know if I’m following you re. the question becoming irrelevant. Doesn’t the idea of systems becoming more complex support the idea of the Myth of Progress, rather than invalidate it? As in: we as a species aren’t moving “forward” or “backward”; we’re not getting “better” or “worse”; we’re simply changing, and that doesn’t necessitate progress (at least as we envision it. Maybe the definition of progress needs to change).

          • The W.

            Maybe I forgot exactly what myth of progress means, haha. I think you could argue that some things do improve (and progress), but some things also become worse within a system.

          • Guacamole Jim

            I understand the Myth of Progress to mean that to believe that humanity is on an “upward” or “downward” trajectory is incorrect. We’re not progressing forward or back, things are not better or worse than they used to be, they’re simply different.

            One of the best ways to understand it, I think, is in No Country for Old Men, in the ending monologue. It’s the idea that every generation tends to think people are more evil now than they ever have been, but the truth is that evil is a universal constant, and to think that life is worse now than it ever has been is to ignore the lessons of history. If we apply that concept to modern society, we can see the good and the bad are different than they were before, but are still as prevalent as they ever were. For example: modern health care is better than ever, but suicide rates and depression is on the rise. We’ve seen people land on the moon, and witnessed some of the worst genocides in history. Et cetera ad infintum.

            I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I think we’re taking two approaches to the same ends.

          • The W.

            Ayyy, Guaccy. Maybe in some regards then I agree.

          • Guacamole Jim

            It’s a complex issue; it just happens to be one that has resonated with me for a while now. And if you start inputting the Divine into it, things get even more complicated, and I start realizing just how finite my mind is.

          • MoshOff

            PAPA JOE WHERE ART THOU I NEED TWO LOCKERS, STAT

        • CyberneticOrganism

          I get it. Also just wanted to jump in & say Dream Theater is the balls.

          • Guacamole Jim

            Is “the balls” a good thing?

          • MoshOff

            If they’re avocado pits it is…

          • CyberneticOrganism

            Depends on if you greet the sudden and unexpected appearance of balls as a good thing or bad thing.

          • CyberneticBalls>>>>>>>>>>>

          • Guacamole Jim

            Depends on the form of the balls, I suppose.

        • Guaqui, according to this. How do you valorate last Dream Theater efforts?

          • Guacamole Jim

            To be honest? I don’t. I haven’t enjoyed Dream Theater for some time now (Systematic Chaos was the last album they released that I honestly liked).

          • The W.

            Same.

          • So, is “progressive” bad, repetitive and boring?

          • Guacamole Jim

            I wouldn’t say that. I would just say that the genre that has become known as “Progressive Metal” holds no appeal to me.

          • MoshOff

            Only Charlie Dominici DT is real, obvi.

      • Stanley

        Link – I found the interview that I was referring to above. Skip to 39:35.

        https://soundcloud.com/son-of-aurelius/aurelicast-18/s-b9T7B

        • From the little I could understand was that he’s in #GuacTeam 😛 Loved the onomatopeias for their songs, jajaja.

          • Stanley

            That’s right.

    • ChuggaChuggaDeedleyDoo

      There needs to be a new term to describe music that actually progresses, because anytime I see a band describing itself “prog” these days, I immediately think, “probably a cringe worthy Dream Theater rip off and/or djent band, so no thanks, I’ll pass.” And my predictions in that regard tend to almost always be right

      • Guacamole Jim

        “Experimental” was my go-to after I discovered the same thing you have here, but nowadays “experimental” is doing the same thing that “prog” did. I’m not quite sure where to go.

  • MoshOff

    Great review Wes, though I don’t think the drums are that restrained. The tomwork on “Within My Fence” = probably the most mind-boggling thing I’ve heard all year.

    • The W.

      Some of the tracks are certainly pulled back into lulls though. I think what I was trying to convey is how perfect they are for every part of every song.

    • Guacamole Jim

      DOXXED

      • MoshOff

        AS WHAT, CHIP DIP?

        • Guacamole Jim

          WAIT, WHAT

          • MoshOff

            ET TU, GUAC?

          • The W.

            He’s saying you used my real name, homey.

          • WHOA, i thought you were Dustin this whole time

          • The W.

            Me too.

          • MoshOff

            FUCK (sry)

          • The W.

            I’LL NEVER FORGIVE YOU.

          • MoshOff

            WHY’S IT SO LOUD WE HAVE TO YELL?

          • CyberneticOrganism

            BURN HIM, HE’S A WITCH

    • Mother Shabubu III 12 BRICKS

      It’s not metal per se, but if you want mind-boggling, unfettered drum wankery, this will surely be up your alley (if it isn’t up there already).

      https://youtu.be/NVHAvZA8S7s?t=1m55s

      • YES, another great Jimmy! also, “United States” off the album nobody liked, Zeitgeist

      • MoshOff

        Jimmy Chamberlin >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

        • Mother Shabubu III 12 BRICKS

          I love the one live video where Billy cracks up for a second during that song because Jimmy was nailing it harder than carpenter on PCP.

          • MoshOff

            I remember hearing somewhere that the drumming on Gish was so crazy becasue Jimmy was a Jazz drummer and didn’t know how to play in a rock band. Bosssss.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3wAtWywrP4

          • Mother Shabubu III 12 BRICKS

            From the isolated drum tracks I’ve heard, I wouldn’t doubt that. I mean listen to this. THIS is how you end a song.
            https://youtu.be/2QHf00N7R4U?t=3m

          • MoshOff

            I really, really need to listen to their industrial stuff again.

          • Mother Shabubu III 12 BRICKS

            the Machina records are my favorite Pumpkins albums I think, or at least have a bulk of my favorite songs from them.

  • This excited me greatly. Great review Dubya!

  • CyberneticOrganism

    The Price doesn’t seem to be grabbing my attention at the moment, kinda sounds like a song-length interlude of a Leviathan track. Might just need to be in the right mood for this kind of sound. Rewind sounds cool though…

    • The W.

      Rewind is one of my favorites from the album.

  • Stanley

    I heard an interview with Riley McShane of Son of Aurelius where he was getting worked up about the progressive metal ‘genre’. His argument was that being progressive is doing what no one has done before and therefore it can’t be considered a genre. They wrote a song about it called “Attack on Prague” (a play on the word prog).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXw-K_ZQD5Y&spfreload=10

    • The W.

      I think we’ve talked about this a few times around these parts, and it does seem that perhaps there should be a distinction between the “prog” genre and progressive music. I think I’d agree that most “prog” music isn’t very progressive.

  • Dagon

    Great review, W. Very thorough.

    Leprous is one of those weird bands I’ve listened to an album a lot but never got into the others. I never played Coal in its entirety but I’ve lost count on how many times I jammed its predecessor.

    • MoshOff

      Bilateral is one of my favorite albums of all time, brolo. Honestly I thought Coal dragged on a bit too much, but the new one finds a nicer middle ground between the two.

      • coal had too much repetition. having said that, Echo was a stand-out track

        • xengineofdeathx

          The valley was outstanding too, that part where that bass line turns into a massive riff over those crooning vocals… pure class.

      • Dagon

        Bilateral used to sound great in my car. It’s been a while…

  • I knew Dubi would blow the roof with his Leprous review <3 Awesome! I can't wait to hear this full!

    The production in the preview songs is very very good.

  • Upon further listening I like this band.

    • MoshOff

      No blast beats or sweep arpeggios, though.

  • You are quite the salesman Dr. W. There’s a lot going on with the instuments individually yet when you hear them all together it sounds like a cohesive unit. The singer can actually sing and you can hear he’s not auto tuned to death.

    • The W.

      The little imperfections in his vocals actually make them way more powerful!

  • Guppusmaximus

    Personally, I find music to be most Progressive when a band can blur the lines by mixing genres together while maintaining that audible barrier (of sorts) between them. No offense, this Leprous album sounds well structured & thought out but it really isn’t covering any “new” ground. I found O.S.I.’s last album to be far more progressive but we may not hear anything from them for a while because it’s easy to fall into the trap of comfort. It’d be easy for them to release another similar sounding record even though they really have progressed quite a bit since their first release.

    • The W.

      No offense taken. It sounds relatively novel to me, largely due to the tone and diverse elements. The guitar work especially is pretty incongruous with most prog.

      • Guppusmaximus

        True… However, the changing / replacing of tones in certain aspects of a common time signature does not a progressive tune make, imho. The minimalist approach would come across as novel to most people considering that this “progressive” metal genre is bloated with keyboard laden acts that are considered progressive just because of the keyboard & mid-song, slow-tempo “breakdowns”. Again, just my .02

        • You probably got less coins of .02! o.o)

        • The W.

          Fair enough. I struggled to think of band that sounds quite like them, which is +1 for progression in my book. Intronaut, in some sublte aspects, I suppose could be a comparison.

          • Guppusmaximus

            I agree. They seem to be etching out their own sound in a sense, i’m just not hearing any (of what I consider to be) progressive traits when their tracks start to unfold… But, this is all very subjective at best:)

          • JamesGrimm

            Not when its an already existing genre/concept.

          • Guppusmaximus

            Sorry for the late response… Can you clarify?

          • JamesGrimm

            Both the genre and concept of P/progressive existed before existed before anyone here put their own spin on it.

          • Guppusmaximus

            True… but the concept of Music existed way before anyone put their spin on it as well. Unlike other genres, I think P/progressive has that inherent issue because of what the label infers.

            I’ve always expected Prog to be under the Brand X, YES, King Crimson flavor in that they fuse multiple styles and (try to) extract melodies from odd time signatures which seems like the traditional definition but, again, it’s my expectation. I’ve always felt that a Prog band had more freedom to explore than other genres which is why I think it can be, sometimes, difficult to discern what label to place on a band that may cite those influences. Mr. Bungle initially blew that door wide open for me even though a lot of people say they riffed Zappa…. I don’t hear it.

          • The W.

            I enjoyed this convo, by the way.

          • Guppusmaximus

            Same here. If you can handle talking to an opinionated & cents-less (losing more & more .02 – @ Link) music lover like myself then feel free to continue at your convenience considering it is a holiday weekend and all:) Cheers!

  • The Beargod

    It’s been a while I’ve been on a prog binge but I reckon it’ll begin again once this is out. After I’ve spent two weeks playing nothing but this that is. In all honesty at first I really loved The Price but it’s been de-growing on me now and I.m not so sure. Rewind is a very good song though, doubt I’ll be playing them a lot before I get this album.

  • just one look at that band promo pic tells me that these guys are too nerdy for my taste

  • KJM

    THAT’S IT! YOU PEOPLE HAVE STOOD IN MY WAY LONG ENOUGH! I’M GOING TO CLOWN COLLEGE!!!

    • INDUBITABEARD

      I support you, kj

    • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

      it changed my life forever…go for it!

  • INDUBITABEARD

    This is pretty fucking dope, W. I just may buy this

    Side note: bought a new creatine complex this morning. See if it gets me any more stole than the old stuff

  • I saw this album in the most recent issue of Decibel and made a note to listen to it based upon the album cover (I will listen to literally anything but nu metal and metalcore if it has a good album cover). I’ve not yet listened to it but I shall do so promptly. I miss not having good progressive metal. So many of the bands I liked have just made monoliths of boring shit recently.

  • JamesGrimm

    Sounds like dad metal is growing…cage the elephant/pretty wreckless core.

    • JamesGrimm

      Temper trap, sail, radioactive.