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It is the right time for Leprous to make sure they don't let up, and capitalise on their rising popularity, which is why, despite constantly touring both on their own and as Ihsahn's backing band, they've found time to record their third album in four years. For a time it seemed the Norwegians could do no wrong, putting in devastatingly good performances wherever they went, be that festival stages, supporting bands like Therion, or headlining their own club dates, and in 2011 released one of the most brilliant albums of the year. It is therefore immensely disappointing that they have lowered themselves to Coal, a messy, boring album with none of the magic of either Bilateral or its predecessor Tall Poppy Syndrome. The signs were there in the Summer when they previewed The Valley at festivals, a track which it turns out epitomises the album with its unnecessary length and repetitive, meandering bridge. The first half is great, but when that first half returns at around 7:30 after an aimless bridge that has drifted off into the background, the only feeling it conjures is "how is this still the same song?" It's Leprous for the sake of being Leprous and is typical of several songs which are twice as long as they need to be and only have half as much material as they think they've got, like someone's forcing Muse to play at gunpoint. And none of those over-long tracks represent the album's stand-out high, or stand-out low either. The one great song on the disc is Cloak, which properly combines Einar Solberg's acrobatic voice with creative but catchy playing, and would fit on either of the previous two albums. It's one of the few tracks in fact where the instrumentation doesn't take a firm back seat to the vocals. The absolutely worst, and probably indeed the worst Leprous song to date, is Contaminate Me, which although pleasingly different and ultra-heavy musically, sees Solberg try, and fail, to sing with an extreme voice through, straining his throat and sounding more like he's being choked than anything sinister or angry. The main problem though is that so many of the songs are just too repetitive and maybe after all this album has come too quickly. Perhaps they should take a little longer over the next one.
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