The new definition of prog… Well, that suggestion is perhaps too strong. Still, I feel that Leprous’ sophomore album does right to the term ‘progressive’ metal as I keep seeing it. That is, in its literal use, meaning progression beyond the conservative styles of music, something which is phrased better in the ‘avant-garde’ genre, though that term would also be a bit too strong. Leprous’ basis is, in fact, still metal. What distinguishes them from other progressive metal bands is that they incorporate song structures, melodies, and whatnot that are normally not found in this genre. What distinguishes them from avant-garde (metal) bands is that, at times, their music is downright, dare I say, catchy!
Let me explain that. On one hand, Bilateral features lengthy, unconventional songs (Forced Entry and Painful Detour). On the other hand, we find catchy, short songs (Bilateral, Restless, and Cryptogenic Desires). Not to say that the latter are radio friendly, as they turn out to be quite challenging when listened more closely to. This brings me to my overall feeling that this album is not too hard on the ears, but there is much to be discovered when the ‘repeat all’ button is used. To overuse a cliché, it gets better after several listens, and even better after that. And after…ok, I won’t go there.
It’s actually hard to convey my enthusiasm for this album. All of its songs offer something that makes them stand out. To name but a few, Forced Entry’s guitar solo is ravaging, the way the bass line of Thorn shifts into the guitar melody, the incredible entrancing middle part of Waste of Air…rarely have I heard an album that sticks with me this way.
I think Bilateral is a step up from their previous effort, Tall Poppy Syndrome. Their skill at creating interesting songs has increased, for there is lots of diversity, e.g. the blasting opening of Waste of Air, the ballad feel of Acquired Taste, plus the instrumental qualities of all the band members have grown to new and more varied heights as well. The guitars are ultra heavy or extremely light, the drums only follow standard practice when necessary, the keyboards really add some atmosphere, and the bass is very well-pronounced. Lest I forget, Einar’s vocals are exceptional – the key word is “varied” here as well, I’m afraid. He is able to produce some snarls, yet literally reaches new heights and performs some staccato work while he’s at it as well. The lyrics are fairly abstract and open to interpretation, suiting the album. Highlights for me in the vocal department are the two closing songs, Acquired Taste and Painful Detour. That vocal/trumpet solo/duo hits the spot and marks this record as something fresh and exhilarating.
Leprous create interesting, varied, and somewhat technical, catchy, jazzy metal. I know I haven’t heard many albums that reach this level, so if you’re into that sort of thing, please be my guest and give this a spin.
95 / 100