Every Leprous album ranked from worst to best

Leprous in 2024
(Image credit: Tomasz Gotfryd)

Leprous do prog differently. Rather than jam 10 million riffs into a single song or show the world some swanky new sweep arpeggios, this Norwegian collective use their talents to take one motif and make it compelling for minutes on end. Their tracks add layers of dextrous guitars, electronics and symphonies to the most affecting melody, and they’re often hallowed as trailblazers within experimental music for it.

Einar Solberg and the boys have released seven albums since starting, with number eight, Melodies Of Atonement, coming in August. So, what better time to look back and re-examine Leprous’ dynamic musical journey so far? From debut Tall Poppy Syndrome to latest Aphelion, this is their every (extremely good) full-length record ranked by brilliance.

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7. Tall Poppy Syndrome (2009)

Look, one album had to come last, OK? Tall Poppy Syndrome, though it still falls under the “progressive” banner, is nigh unrecognisable from the Leprous we know today. Whereas the band in their current form are increasingly committed to episodic songs, this debut was strewn with idea-stacked extreme/prog metal suites. 99 percent of musicians that deal in such things would kill to have made tracks as refined as Passing or as explosive as Not Even A Name, especially on their first go. However, this was still very much an outfit discovering their identity, and it seldom hits as hard as the immediacy of their later material.

6. Pitfalls (2019)

By 2019, Leprous had long since divorced themselves from the “progressive metal” categorisation that fit them at the start of their career, and Pitfalls saw them push even further away from the genre. I Lose Hope was a bouncing hip-hop banger and At The Bottom pulsed with trap-like beats, while the emotive Distant Bells swelled with symphonic textures. As a result, though, guitarists Tor Oddmund Suhrke and Robin Ognedal and drummer Baard Kolstad felt underutilised, only getting to steal the show during the scrambling Foreigner and the latter half of The Sky Is Red. Some weapons in the Leprous arsenal went untouched here, despite the compositional craft throughout.

5. Bilateral (2011)

Bilateral marked both an end and a beginning. On behemoths like Forced Entry and Waste Of Air – labyrinthine, heavy, laced with noise and jazz – Leprous fulfilled the promise of Tall Poppy Syndrome, doubling down on their maximalist ways. However, there were also songs that charted the more direct sound to come: Restless and Acquired Taste especially were nuanced yet infectious moments. Because of this contrast, early fans often name Bilateral as this band’s magnum opus, and we’re more than understanding of why. To our tastes, on the other hand, this represented more of a mid-transitional move than a masterpiece in its own right.

4. Aphelion (2021)

Aphelion was the more even-handed sibling of Pitfalls. Leprous’ seventh album continued the symphonic experiments of its predecessor, yet also found space in the mix for guitars and drums, making it feel like much more of a collaborative effort. This masterclass in texture undoubtedly benefited from the balance, especially when Castaway Angels ascended from acoustics and vocals to an orchestra of evocative rock music and strings. Yet, it was the galloping Silent Revelation and the more electro-symphonic Shadow Side in sequence that communicated the Norwegians had nailed the sound they were striving towards. Factor in the irresistible melodies of Out Of Here and Nighttime Disguise and you get an absolute victory.

3. Malina (2017)

Malina was exactly the album Leprous needed to make at that point of their career. The band had previously scored a surprise hit with The Congregation single The Price and, whether intentionally or not, this listenable successor capitalised. It boasted a host of sublime anthems, especially From The Flame with its (gasp) three choruses and 4/4 time signature. Simultaneously, there was no dumbing down in the songwriting department, as communicated by the looming aria that was The Last Milestone, as well as the polyrhythmic throbs of Coma. That symphonic post-rock finale to Stuck is just fucking perfect, too.

2. Coal (2013)

The first notes of Coal’s opening cut, Foe, were an instant announcement that Leprous’ priorities had shifted. In lieu of warped prog, listeners got bombarded with simple, staccato blasts of sound, swiftly joined by soulful vocals wailing out a hummable hook. This drive for melody defined the album, the band able to weave repeated choruses, even through the seven-minute extravaganza Chronic and the screaming, all-metal barrage that was Contaminate Me. The Cloak, arguably Leprous’ first truly standout single, painted the most accurate picture of the future, building its expanding layers and lush singing on top of three simple guitar notes.

1. The Congregation (2015)

Sure, this is the predictable number one pick, but sometimes a decision is predictable because everyone knows it’s the right thing to do. No matter what you love Leprous for – be it their progressive fearlessness, top-notch hooks or symphonic and electronic undercurrents – The Congregation flaunted it. From the second The Price presented an addictive vocal melody atop off-rhythmic guitar work, it was clear that intelligence and heart-stopping songwriting would live a perfect marriage across this record.

Every song, from the stampeding Third Law to the minimalist Lower, had a powerful melody at its forefront to beckon the listener back. Then, once they came back, they noticed the impressively technical touches, like the fierce drumming beneath Rewind, or the electronic beat of The Flood getting picked up and carried to the finish line on electric guitar. Whether you were listening for the first time or hundredth, something new would probably dazzle you.

Thus, The Congregation (and especially The Price) earned Leprous a broader appeal than ever before and, moreover, represents a balance the band are still attempting to recapture nine years onwards. If you ever want to get into an argument over the best prog album of the 2010s, this is one of the first discs we’d slam onto the table.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.