Progressive metal. It’s a term which gets thrown around a lot, often in these very pages, but what does it really mean?
Like the word ‘prog’ itself, it has become a broad umbrella under which many different variants can be found hiding. Sometimes it’s simply metal played fast with some quiet bits; sometimes it can be symphonic prog with a few power chords and some distortion in the mix. Sometimes it’s just goth with added ravens. However, in the case of this, the fifth album from Norwegian band Leprous, it perfectly describes what’s in store.
Each track has its own particular aspect on which to build.
What you have here is clearly the work of a metal band. They’re metal in instrumentation, production and general attitude, with a sound reminiscent of Norwegian associates such as Emperor, and yet they approach music from a prog direction. Within that framework emerges a work of enormous variety and complexity, as the band take the form and twist it into as many different iterations as they can: the stabbing, surgical precision of Third Law (which sounds as if it could remove your kidney while you listen to it) and the ebb and flow, the sheer tidal waves of grandeur, which comprise appropriately-titled tune The Flood. Each track has its own particular aspect on which to build – here some staccato, rapid fire riffing, there some complex and rhythmically dense percussive backing, but never far away are some razor-sharp, turn-on-a-dime time changes. And yet just when you’re getting a little bit of ‘ear fatigue’ from what you’re having to process, along comes a great piledriver of a chorus. With its enormous scale and power, Moon smashes you in the face like a boxing glove filled with horseshoes. Just what the doctor ordered, if the doctor likes to beat you up by way of cures.
The impressive twin guitar work is the most obvious standout feature here, but particular mention must go to recent addition, drummer Baard Kolstad, whose work in anchoring the sound despite some extremely demanding time changes, is hugely impressive.
The Congregation isn’t a perfect record, though. Cutting one or two of the weaker pieces, such as Triumphant or Within My Fence, from the album’s 65-minute duration would have resulted in a more focused work overall – but such criticism is minor. This isn’t catchy or infectious stuff (but then, given the band’s name, perhaps that’s just as well). Leprous demands some work from the listener if the breadth and scope of what they’re doing are to be fully appreciated. But such effort is handsomely rewarded on this extremely accomplished work.