I must preface this review by confessing that I am a huge fan of Leprous, I’m not ashamed to make that statement before attempting to review their latest release, hell, as a fan of progressive metal then to not be (at least in my eyes) would be a sin in itself. The band have come a hell of a long way in the 15 odd years of their existence having been the backing band for Ihsahn (Emperor) before solidifying their own line up to release four acclaimed full length albums as well as the demo ‘Aeolia’ and early EP ‘Silent Waters’. Over that time they have trod many a path in their musical style and in the past couple of albums finely tuned a doom laden prog metal style which is both epic and haunting in its delivery.
The band have toured extensively this year on the back of their latest album ‘The Congregation’, an album which has split the opinion of many of their long standing fans being more brooding and slower in pace then earlier works such as ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ and ‘Bilateral’. I myself admit that when the album first came out I found it difficult to digest compared to earlier works, there were still many tunes that I found amazing such as opener ‘The Price’, the disjointed but sweeping ‘Rewind’ or the majestic ‘The Flood’ but as a full album I found it difficult to get through in a single sitting… and that’s where this tour and album come in.
Leprous have released a double live album of The Congregation tour which was recorded at the ‘Rockefeller Music Hall’ in Oslo. I saw them at the London show at The Garage, I had seen them previously at the UK Techfest and they had blown me away, playing mainly from ‘Bilateral’ and ‘Coal’ and there was no way I was going to miss them on this tour. The album, as was the gig, is made up primarily of songs from ‘The Congregation’ and it was during the performance of these songs that the album finally clicked for me and I fell in love with it!
‘The Flood’ opens the album with a feeling of impending doom which crashes in after the synth opening, despite the intricacy of the vocal melodies of the chosen set, vocalist Einar Solberg almost effortlessly hits every note accompanied by spot on harmonies from Tor and Simen. This is the perfect opener which shows the many traits of the bands talents, the haunting, the anthemic, the brooding and the crushing progressiveness of their songwriting coupled with an amazing delivery which shows they are not just a studio band.
Fans of older material will not be too disappointed though, from ‘Coal’ the band play amazing renditions of ‘Foe’, ‘The Cloak’, the immense sounding ‘The Valley’ and closer ‘Contaminate Me’ on which they bring Ihsahn up on stage to join them with his gutteral growls. From ‘Bilateral’ they perform ‘Acquired Taste’ and fan favourite ‘Forced Entry’ which are both delivered superbly! The musicanship and execution of each track are epic, you can easily hear each individual performance, nothing is drowned or muddy in the mix. A perfect example of this is ‘Slave’, this was never a track I had particularly taken to on my initial listens to ‘The Congregation’ but hearing its full live delivery hit me like a sledge hammer.
Live albums can be hit and miss and its certainly not often that one would be recommended to anyone who is not a fan of the act already yet Leprous have produced an almost flawless release which I would urge any fan of progressive music to listen to. Long time fans may be disappointed by the lack of anything pre ‘Bilateral’ and the limited choice from that album, but (like me) may see themselves understanding the latest releases more and looking forward to the next instalment of what I have no doubt will see Leprous climbing even higher into music legend.