Produced by Jens Bogren
Many more people will have witnessed Leprous's musicianship than realise it, as the Norwegians have been doubling as Ihsahn's backing band for much of the year so far, while playing their own shows in between, supporting their 2009 commercial debut Tall Poppy Syndrome.
Taking just two years to construct what could turn out to be their career masterpiece, Bilateral, their first without bassast Halvor Strand (replaced here by Rein Blomquist) starts more or less where Tall Poppy Syndrome left off with the short, catchy and uncluttered title track, and literally progresses from there, truly embracing the avant garde tag they've given themselves but didn't fully realise on either of their first two discs (their first was 2006 self-released demo album Aeolia).
Take the absolutely astonishing Thorn, for example. Coming in at track four, after two songs which become increasingly immersive as a listening experience, it includes, amongst monstrously complex riffs, a clean jazz guitar solo, splashes of brass, and death metal leanings. Echoes of Arena's darkest work on the Immortal? album dominate in places, but their ability to lighten the mood at necessary intervals with weird and wonderful additional instrumentation, none of it jarring, to make sure things never get to wearing, is particularly impressive.
Elsewhere they sound as though Muse have finally become the creative, progressive band everyone wants them to be, particularly on the haunting, emotive Mb. Indifferentia and later the quirky Acquired Taste. Waste of Air's blast-beats and out-and-out anger, which give way to strangely off-kilter, piercing guitar melodies and chaotic drums over a chugging riff backdrop, shows precisely why Ihsahn chose Leprous to give his solo material life on stage, and possibly the albums most interesting moment comes with the sinister hip-hop groove of the intro to Mediocrity Wins, which becomes a swing groove after the opening spoken rap (returning later).
The best is possibly saved until last with Painful Detour. It certainly contains the album's best guitar solo, and most emotional build-up throughout its eight minutes, before dropping suddenly away to a delicate but not over-long (a common mistake) outro.
It should come as no surprise if Bilateral is still there or there abouts when it's end-of-year list time again. Nothing as creative as this has come out this year so far, and even in the progressive spectrum it's hard to imagine anything coming out in the last five months of the year, including new efforts from Redemption and Arch/Matheos, that will be as varied and inventive as Leprous have proven to be here. This is something new and special.
“ increasingly immersive as a listening experience ”
Tracklist: Bilateral / Forced Entry / Restless / Thorn / Mb. Indifferentia / Waste of Air / Mediocrity Wins / Cryptogenic Desires / Acquired Taste / Painful Detour
Photo(s): Bjørn Tore Moen | www.bjorntoremoen.no
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