There have been sea changes equally enormous and beard-stroking in the black metal camp during the past decade. Revered master of darkness Ihsahn and bands such as Enslaved have shifted into prog’s distinctly capacious and evolutional dominion. Leprous are very much at the forefront of this movement. They are accompanied by the eerie duskiness of 90s black metal but also find room to incorporate the likes of King Crimson, plus prog’s 80s eccentricities. Ihsahn in particular has proven the driving, influential force behind the band.
“Of course we were very inspired by what he did, and we’re big fans of Emperor,” explains frontman Einar Solberg of his friend and fellow musician. “And now we know each other so well, we have quite a lot of the same ideas. For example, our album is titled Coal, and Ihsahn said, ‘That was what I was supposed to call my album’.”
Inspired by an array of bands and influences from the prog realm and further afield, Coal is a scintillating amalgamation of black metal’s harsh, aggressive and sometimes chilling atmospherics, with progressive rock’s experimentation. Yet there is also a catchy, Devin Townsend-pop feel to the album, which gives an unexpected twist to a sound you think you’ve heard before. Chronic – the first single from the album – is a perfect example of Leprous’ ability to mix prog’s lavishness with Solberg’s throat-bursting screams resulting in a murkier, sinister ambience. “We felt much freer, and it’s truer to our character,” says Solberg. “It feels more like us, and less rehearsed then our previous records.”
The success of their previous release, Bilateral, launched Leprous into both the metal and prog spotlights. Leprous could easily have played into the hands of expectation but, as Solberg explains, there’s only one audience they want to appeal to.
“We aren’t doing this to satisfy anyone, we’re doing this because it feels right,” he proclaims passionately. “If we tried to base it on expectations then it would be a fake record, and people would see through it immediately.”
Being signed to InsideOut was a big deal for the band. Solberg in particular saw it as a stamp of approval for the music he’d spent so long crafting. “We had quite high expectations of InsideOut, because it’s one of the only prog labels around,” he explains. There is obvious pride and a little awe in his voice at what Leprous have accomplished. “It was kind of a quality stamp for us to be there, so signing to them was a huge boost to our self-confidence.”
The road to becoming a full-time musician is peppered with twists, turns and the occasional pothole, but it’s clear that Solberg’s drive and passion will spur him on. “It’s what I’m working towards and I know I’ll reach it if I’m stubborn enough,” he says. “The best way is to build something, rather than jump on waves and fall
down as fast as you got up again.” SW