LEPROUS – Coal
What is progressive music these days? Experimental, complex, often using themes from the jazz, fusion, or classical realms to enhance compositional outlooks- it certainly incorporates far reaching diversity that moves beyond conventional verse/chorus, three chord writing. Add in the aggressive distortion attack of electric guitars and an act like Norway’s Leprous mutates into a progressive rock/ metal band- one that offers an intriguing, hypnotic landscape for the listener on this third album "Coal".
Where the quintet set themselves apart from their contemporaries can be the intuitive sensibilities on when to lock onto the hook and when to propel from it with a chemical fusion that is alternative, groovy, and left of center harmonic at its core. As a bassist Rein T. Blomquist doesn’t necessarily mirror the guitar action of Tor Oddmund Suhrke and Oystein Landsverk- he often sinks deeper into lower tuned frequency normally employed by Devin Townsend or Primus rather than the technically savvy players in the business. Leprous also possess a soaring melodic presence on main vocals in keyboardist Einar Solberg- unafraid to take chances during the verses with some odd off-tempo echo elements during opener "Foe" and lightly taking in a psychedelic , softer nature to "The Cloak"- but still confidently hitting those upper echelon notes like the best progressive metal vocalists need to when called upon.
The mathematical musical elements subtly wrap themselves around grand hooks from the best guitar chord choices or layering that builds and builds momentum into these waves of louder and softer sonic dream states. All 8 tracks win my attention equally- I haven’t felt the need in any playback from first to current to skip around or not finish the album, but my current favorite would have to be "The Valley"- an 8:59 song with its discordant Fair To Midland guitar panning against a feverish bass/ keyboard contrast, along with this odd guitar/ drum sequence with its Rush meets Meshuggah time signature madness.
Leprous is one of the most consistent progressive rock/ metal acts in all of the world, and I love the fact that they continue to push their melodies and experimentation into areas rarely thought about in the genre. "Coal" could be the album of the year in progressive metal- and provides further proof that a wide music palate can develop into brilliant, innovative arrangements, musical interaction, and outstanding, long lasting value.