Be merry: It’s summer, and we will get a new Leprous record on August 25th! This record will be the fifth in the band’s discography, and is set to come out via InsideOut (also home of the Devin Townsend Project, with whom the Norwegians toured earlier this year). On this tour, they primarily promoted their latest record The Congregation (read our live review), but now it’s finally time for new progressive music by Leprous, who raised the bar high with their 2015 release!
New approach to vocals
So what’s different from Leprous‘s earlier material on this new record called Malina? There is definitely a higher presence of jazz influences to be felt, paired with a more progressive rock shape. Vocally Einar Solberg lifts himself to the next level vocally; he also discards using screams. Sure, there are some parts that would go heavy with some screams. Like, the raising distorted part within “Bonneville” could evoke an insane emotionality similar to what the band did on “Slave” off their latest offering, The Congregation. But listening to his angelic vocals, they fit even better with the overall lamenting sound of “Bonneville”. This shows the much-beloved dark and depressing side of Leprous again.
The vocal work on Malina draws some parallels to Arnór Dan’s performance in Agent Fresco. Needless to say that both bands are friends (they are going to tour together later this year [more on this here]). But especially concerning the vocal production and Solberg’s use of falsetto singing, they might have been heavily inspired by their Icelandic colleagues. This is proven in songs like “Stuck“; the vocal immense range becomes clear while Solberg shows the almost sirenic registers of his voice. To fans of tenor singing, it’s pure joy to listen to him in his warm, smooth timbre and vivid phrasing.
Radio edit & musical parallels
A lot of people claimed that the radio edit of “Stuck” might be another step into pop music, but in fact it’s only shortened. Too bad that it misses what is the best part of the song, though. The album version is almost three minutes longer, and delivers a very beautiful string-section ending, once again paired with high clean singing and a sung ‘scream’ that is overwhelmingly honest and intimate. Anyway, the chorus of “Stuck“ truly burns itself into your mind, just like “To The Flame“ is able to develop a bigger mass-appeal than before. Maybe that’s why those songs make such good singles! Another one of these grand choruses exists within “Illuminate” with its rhythmical work and clearly-shaped vocal line. This kinf of appealing refrain has always fit the band’s sound perfectly.
A song like “Captive” might instantly remind one of “Third Law” with its odd-time rhythm section at the beginning that transforms into an easy-listening rock part. So does the song’s chorus, come to think of it. The accented groove connects the band’s 2015 sound to what they did on Bilaterral. The parts that draw lines to older Leprous songs are quite apparent throughout Malina; if you want to find them, you will find them, simple as that. There is no need to search for the needle in the haystack. Despite the fact these references exist, the general sound of Malina is still different from the band’s previous work. Baard once again shows his talent when it comes to progressive metal drumming, not only on the emotive “Malina”, but on the whole record. Said song is also built up in a very Puscifer-ish habit.
Strings and orchestration
Within “The Weight Of Disaster” the band shows once more that heavy riffs don’t necessarily need a heavy sound. The almost clean guitar tone totally fits the musical style. When the riff comes in towards the end, about 4:40 of playtime in, the drumming effects a driving character that might just get you smiling. This intrinsic groove and fast pace really do it for this song before the grande finale. The overall use of strings is very present on Malina, more so than it was on any other of the band’s records. The Congregation had some string arrangements, but rather in the background. On this follow-up, they shine in full splendour, being more in focus and sometimes even taking the lead. This is most apparent in the last song off the record, “The Last Milestone”.
Not only does this song point to the ending in name, it does so musically as well. Starting with ambient strings and Solberg’s (once again) lamenting voice, it instantly creates an ambiance, devastated like barren lands after a nuclear war. There is nothing positive within this landscape of sound; somuch so that could work as a lamento arioso in an 18th century opera as well. Even though the strings deliver a warm sound in the following instrumental section, it all still sounds so cold and melancholic in the minor chord harmonics, while the use of vibrato heaps some drama on top. This seven-minute piece of pure melancholy perfectly sums up the bitter, sad side that Leprous oftentimes showcase in their music. What a way to end an album! Or in general: What a record!
As Einar Solberg stated in a interview earlier this year when he described the record as follows:
‘[…] the biggest difference might be in the sound. It’s more rock than metal, its more like grit in a way, it’s less nice, and it has more character to the sound. But at the same time it probably sounds bigger than The Congregation. It’s gonna be more atmospheric and larger – like a soundscape. […] I never felt that good about a new album, than with this one. I think it’s going to be very cool, and there is a new side of Leprous as well, but it’s still Leprous.’
This also definitely describes summed up what Malina really sounds like. You can read the full interview over here. If you haven’t pre-ordered the record yet, you should do so. Fans of Leprous will love what they hear, while newbys will enjoy it throughout as well!
Notable Tracks: “Bonneville“, “The Weight Of Disaster”, “The Last Milestone”
FFO: Agent Fresco, Soen