LEPROUS – Absolute Best
- by Robin Syversen
- Posted on 23-10-2011
LEPROUS entered the Norwegian progressive metal scene as a suprise a few years ago. "Tall Poppy Syndrome", the album they released at that time, was their second and this album has opened a lot of doors for them. Now, two years later, it can safely be said that Leprous not only is the most exciting Norwegian band for as long as man can remember, but also a band that has grown to great expectations. Before the release party at Blå in Oslo on September 14th this year, the two guitarists, Tor Oddmund Suhrke and Øystein Landsverk, shared their thoughts about the band’s development up to the last album, "Bilateral".
Well, since this is your first chat with Eternal Terror, why don’t you start at the top and tell us about the founding of Leprous?
Suhrke: Actually it is the band’s ten year anniversary this year, although I don’t feel like we have been doing this for very long. I was 15 years at the time, had played guitar for six months and started up the band together with lead singer and synth player Einar Solberg. After some various changes of members, we then released our first demo in 2004. Following that we made a sort of complete album (Demo-CD) called "Aeolia" in 2006, which we started sending out to record companies. "Aeolia" was picked up by Sensory Records, but since we didn’t feel like recording that album over again, we instead started working on "Tall Poppy Syndrome", later to be released through Sensory. Because of somewhat poor promotion we didn’t really feel that "TPS" reached its potential as far as sales goes though. The response was good, but the album was kind of forgotten still. It is not until the release of "Bilateral" that the band has gotten proper promotion. After releasing "TPS", the entire band started playing as Ihsahn’s backing band, gaining some promotion as well as stage experience in the process. At the same time we also started working on "Bilateral". Last year we also did a tour together with Therion, all the while becoming hungrier to release a new album. Since we also had gotten offer from Inside Out Music which is considerably larger than Sensory, we decided to go with them. We then started the recording of "Bilateral" which was released earlier this year.
If comparing "Tall Poppy Syndrome" to "Bilateral" they are two rather different albums. Still you can clearly identify the characteristics of Leprous. In this day and age there are very few bands that manage to distinguish themselves from the hordes of metal conformity and similarity, something that clearly isn’t the issue with Leprous. How did you arrive at your particular sound? Was there an early trial and error period, or did you just jam out an identity consisting of each members preferences? Chance… or calculated ingeniousness?
Suhrke: There has of course been a lot of trial and error. We kind of try out different things while recording or even in live settings, and then we decide what works and what does not. There is a lot of experimentation going on. We never decide before hand that we want this or that. I would rather say that we together decide that this or that works. So I guess you could say chance has been fortunate for us. The cool thing, I think, is that all of us in the band have different preferences and musical taste. None of us listen particularly much to metal these days. We take inspiration from what we find cool today, and if it works it might end up on an album. We try not to keep any boundaries on our creative output. Worst case scenario; we have to chuck some material that doesn’t work. Of the preproduction for "Bilateral" there were two demos. From those demos half the material was chucked. I would say that "Bilateral" is a more thought through product than "TPS" was, still we have kept the identity that is "Leprous".
With that kind of working process you can’t have any idea where Leprous is going in the future I suppose?
Suhrke: Yeah that’s true. To be honest we don’t know a thing. The only thing I can say for sure is that "Bilateral has become a more homogenous product. It is more varied, but the songs still fits better together as a whole album. The whole album is more professional. I would say the material is more complex while at the same time being more in your face. I believe the songs to be catchier this time around.
(Personally I found "TPS" a much easier album to get into, whereas I had to really work before "Bilateral" stuck. This can most probably be attributed to my metalized preferences. That being said, by experience, album you have to work for to be rewarding usually proves stronger both in and longevity and quality.)
If I were asked, I would differentiate "TPS" from "Bilateral" by describing the former as progressive extreme metal. The latter I would call a blend between progressive metal and 70’s progressive rock. What do you say to this impression of your music?
Suhrke: Well, I agree. We tried moving away from clinical metal, and head towards the raw expression often to be found in 70′ progressive rock bands.
So what would be the inspiration for this? You say you don’t listen to metal, so what is on your players these days?
Suhrke: I think we bring with us inspiration from a lot of bands we have been listening to over the years. Though we don’t like to admit it, most of us have listened a lot to Opeth. But we also like bands such as Porcupine Tree, Super Silent, Monolithic and The Mars Volta. It is almost unavoidable for us not to take some inspiration from Ihsahn also.
When putting these inspirations into songs, how does the composing process in Leprous unfold? Do each member make his parts individually, then ideas are glued together, or is jam sessions a bigger part of it?
Suhrke: Usually it is me, Øystein or Einar who comes up with a foundational idea during rehearsals. We kind of set the theme for the songs, and then the whole band does the arranging of the songs together. This is how it has been so far, but I don’t think it strange if the other members will be an even bigger part of the songwriting in the future. So far jazzy drums and bass ideas has mainly formed bridges and instrumental knick knacks, while us two guitars and synth/vocal has set the tone for the songs.
As for the cover artwork on "Bilateral" it was made by Jeff Jordan (Mars Volta cover artist). Where did the idea for the motif come from? On your webpage promo shots of the band shows a re-enactment of the band forcing your other guitarist to drink an undisclosed substance? Was the cover inspired by personal experiences or fetishes perhaps?
Suhrke: The promo shots were actually made first, but yes, there is a connection there. It started with the "TPS" cover. For that cover we used a digital designer which doesn’t really create from scratch. So I told him that I liked those Mars Volta covers, and without our knowing, this digital designer contacted the artist behind said Mars Volta artworks. When the pieces fell in place like that, we seized the opportunity and got a cool cover that also has some references to 70’s progressive rock. Now if we can only get the album released on vinyl, the cover will get the format it really deserves.
The idea for the motif in itself is a huge digression on the album title "Bilateral". We brought in some pretty far out ideas, but we also wanted the motif to reflect the many sides of the band. It is brutal, surreal and open for interpretation at the same time. This is also something we try to communicate in our live show. There are some hints in the cover artwork intended for those who have followed the band through the years, some small internal jokes. There should also be some juice-related-videos on youtube from our tour with Therion.
Your webpage promo shots also show your predilection for moldy burritos?
Landsverk: Actually those are "krumkaker" that had been forgotten in our rehearsal space for months. We use what we can find to make those shots. Nothing planed, just random playfulness with the objects we find lying around. A tore down sink from the wall, a contra bass and some moldy chrome cakes were lying about this time.
(For those unfamiliar "krumkaker" is a traditional Norwegian sort of cake/cookie which looks (and sometimes tastes) like a circular folded up piece of cardboard. Since this is a metal webpage I vote we call the chrome cakes from here on out.)
Suhrke: The only thing we try to keep in mind is that, whether it is cover art work, promo shots or live performance, we give it our absolute best. We don’t want any half ass products, but strive to maintain a consistency in the bands output. The key word is to be as professional as we can be. This will also hopefully be reflected in the upcoming promo video for the song "Restless". As you will see, we are fully prepared to suffer for our art.
Professionalism is definitely the case with your webpage as well.
Suhrke: That was just a pure strike of luck as our manager put the webpage together free of charge. He just wanted to make our webpage, and as chance would have it he was a very proficient web designer.
So what are the immediate future plans for Leprous?
Suhrke: Well, I’m not sure if we’re allowed to tell. There has been no official statement yet, but we will definitely be touring a lot, promoting "Bilateral".