Leprous – Malina (album review)

Leprous – Malina (album review)

Malina is the new album of the Norwegian band Leprous. The album will be released on August 25th via Inside Out Music, the famous German independent record label. This is the sixth album of the progressive/experimental rock/avantgarde metal band (that is, if we also consider the debut EP Aeolia to be an album, which I think it is).

Each Leprous album had something different than the one before. Tall Poppy Syndrome (2009) had a more prog metal feel than Aeolia (2006), which is a more jazz fusion and death-prog oriented album. Then there was Bilateral (2011), probably the most avantgarde Leprous sound so far, an unbelievable artistry. After this, Coal (2013) was released. This one is a little more experimental, with a very different approach, while The Congregation (2015) is a perfect combination between the avantgarde from Bilateral and the experimental found in Coal, and with an alternative touch, something like the first three Muse albums.

And now the question is: what will be the new direction on Malina? Well, after listening to it a few times, I think Malina has a more commercial sound, with some more pop-oriented tracks, more prog-rock than prog-metal, and some really surprising tracks. I wouldn’t say it’s more complex than the albums before, neither catchier, but definitely more experimental! It might seem this material is somewhat below the previous ones, with less complexity shorter tracks (most of the songs are not longer than 4 or 5 minutes).

It has 11 tracks and it is approximately 56 minutes long. I see it as divided into two sections: the first six songs are more pop and simple, but also catchier, which makes sense if we think about the fact that the three singles/videos are found among the first six tracks; the last five songs are more avantgarde, more experimental, with a more studied sound and with more substance (also longer, around 6-7 minutes each).

As I mentioned before, three of the tracks are singles: From the Flame (video released June 16th), Stuck (video released July 28th) and Illuminate (video released August 17th).

The album starts with Bonneville, a slow song that reminds me a little of Last Word from Aeolia or The Cloak from Coal. A good song, well structured, with the same amazing voice (I said it before and I will say it again: Einar has the best prog voice of this era, there’s no doubt about it), and with catchy instrumentals, it’s the perfect track to open the album.

Next is Stuck, a more dynamic, alert track, which gives you a sensation of fear and panic, you can almost feel like you are stuck somewhere in the far away Norwegian mountains in the middle of winter, without any escape. Or how it is to be stuck in your own soul and your own conscience.

Stuck does nothing else but to prepare you for the next song, From the Flame, which has one of the highest emotional peaks of the whole album. A wonderful piece, born from the flame of passion and burning love, from the desire of finding a soulmate.

Another really good song, more like Foe from Coal or The Price from The Congregation: Captive. This is exactly what it’s doing to you, it’s making you a captive of the album, which is slowly starting to take shape and to make you more and more curious about what is yet to come.

The next track is one of my favorites on this album: Illuminate. This is the first track that really surprised me. Similar to The Valley from Coal, of remarkable beauty, with extremely complex instrumentals, it enlightens you, brings you to the peak of modern prog. The instrumentals flow perfectly, creating an ideal link with Einar’s unique voice. A hallucinating rhythm that will give you shivers.

Leashes is the next track, a little slower, trying to keep you hooked to listening. The perfect interlude for the second part of the album.

The next one is also a favorite from Malina: Mirage. It’s the most avantgarde and complex piece, and also the most aggressive. With slight doom influences, it has a delicate, yet agonizing, heavy rhythm, that tends to suffocate you with its originality. The keyboards are amazing and the vocals are simply cosmic, it’s the voice of a god that came down from Olympus to preach the dreams and illusions of our ephemeral life. I listened to this song on repeat for quite some time.

Then comes the song that names the album: Malina. It’s a more chill song, with a sad rhythm, Malina is the track that characterizes the whole album, that summs up all the emotions that you’re going through while listening. It has a remarkable sensitivity that only Leprous are able to achieve.

After Malina, a more commercial, easier, song follows, to help you rest a little and ease your soul before the album ends. Coma is not putting you in a coma but more giving you a temporary relaxed vibe. It charges your batteries and energizes you before the last two songs.

The Weight of Disaster is a very special song, with extremely philosophical lyrics. It makes you reflect upon the dimension of your inner chaos, to filter through your rationality your actions and then to think about how those actions influenced your image in the eyes of humanity, in the eyes of divinity and most important: in your own eyes. It makes you wonder if that’s the real you, the way you want to be, or you’re just a puppet manipulated by the people around you, without having your own conscience. It also makes a slight connection to religion and in my opinion is uses a slight ironical tone. Definitely a captivating song.

The last track closes Malina in a wonderful way. The Last Milestone is practically a last stop, a last station. It has a double meaning: it can be seen as the last track of the album or it can be interpreted as the last part of our lives. You can feel the old age and the decrepitude in those amazing violin chords, you can feel the loneliness that comes along with the passing of time and the spleen of the north, where winter seems to be eternal. You experience the isolation in the violin and in the lyrics and the voice is slowly taking you on a trip on the river Styx, where Einar is the Charon which, instead of asking you for a coin to take you to the other side, he’s asking you to listen to this last song, this last struggle, these last chords that lead you to the world beyond. At the end of the track you are there. You are in the progressive Universe.

 

Bio Leprous

Leprous is a Norwegian progressive metal band formed in 2001 in NotoddenNorway, by five members:  Einar Solberg – lead vocals, keyboards (founding member and frontman since 2001, when the band was formed; he’s also a band member of Emperor and Ihsahn), Tor Oddmund Suhrke – guitar, backing vocals (founding member since 2001), Baard Kolstad – drums (he is replacing Tobias Ørnes Andersen since 2014; Baard is also a member in Borknagar and Rendezvous Point), Simen Daniel Børven – bass (replacing Martin Skrebergene since 2015) and Robin Ognedal – guitar (replacing Øystein Landsverk since beginning of this year).

Malina is the first album having Robin as a band member and the second with Baard and Simen (after The Congregation in 2015).

 

9/10

 

Author: Eduard Farcas

Translation: Julia Burnthemyear

Leprous Malina artwork

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