Releasing albums every two years like clockwork since 2009, Leprous have spent just under a decade establishing themselves as masters of prog metal’s new guard, with a gamut of songs that could already fill a greatest hits album. And with Agent Fresco in tow, it’s little wonder that tonight’s stop-off on their 30-date European tour is sold out.
That said, the audience is a little thin on the ground when Astrosaur kick the night off. Not that it bothers them: their instrumental alt rock, which is reminiscent of Cult Of Luna, is a mesmerising opener. Equally, Aussies Alithia perform remarkably well with seven members crammed onto the stage and stand-in singer Marjana Semkina who brings a folky vibe to their astro-spacecore chaos. “No AC/DC!” says guitarist Nguyen Phambam to a well-meaning heckler. These guys are more like Anathema anyway, and it totally works.
Agent Fresco are rapidly on the rise, knowing how to perfectly balance sharp-edged erratic hooks and melodies that are made for singing. The Icelandic four-piece turn up with Nicolai Mogensen from Vola, replacing bassist Vignir Rafn Hilmarsson who is about to become a father, and collectively they play an extensive, passionate set that erupts with art rock awesomeness and a drive to entertain.
Leprous are known for switching up their repertoire according to the tour, show or venue, so it shouldn’t be a surprise per se when fan favourites like Rewind are left off the setlist. But while other stops on their tour get popular smashers like Restless and Echo, London is just a tad short-changed at times.
This aside, Leprous go beyond expectations, introing the show with a performance from cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne, who appears on new album Malina. The cellist stays for the entirety of the night, his long strokes adding a forlorn, other‑worldly dimension to the Leprous sound.
Opening track Bonneville sets a plaintive, semi-morose atmosphere, transitioning from delicate, twinkling harmonies to an explosion of sheer emotive power that leaves jaws on the floor. Einar Solberg, ever the star of the show, is incredible, especially on the pulsating, cathartic The Flood, a song built for stadium lasers and full audience participation. From The Flame is undeniably rousing, while The Valley glides from synth undercurrents to a charging spree of crescendos.
The days of Leprous being known as Ihsahn’s backing band are long behind them. Now this Norwegian five-piece prove that any persona they choose to adopt works, because the strength of their songs and musical prowess can stand up in any environment.