Increasingly one of the most original and creative bands in heavy music, Leprous hit a particularly gripping peak of efficacy on 2019’s Pitfalls (opens in new tab). Inspired by frontman Einar Solberg’s battles with depression and anxiety, it exerted such profound emotional weight that it was almost too delicate and raw to consume in one sitting. Having weathered the storm and made peace with his mental health struggles, Einar now brings us the next chapter in his band’s endless rollercoaster ride.
Where Pitfalls was necessarily myopic in its focus, Aphelion’s sense of liberation has led the Norwegians to make one of the most varied and emotionally potent records of their careers. From the spiralling fiddles that augment Running Low’s dark pop sprawl to the grand, noir-ish labyrinth of Nighttime Disguise, the band’s seventh studio effort is all square pegs and alien colours, not to mention thrillingly over-burdened with brilliant musical ideas.
Leprous’s pop sensibilities have never been more apparent nor refined than on the succinct likes of Out Of Here, Silhouette and The Shadow Side, but each of them summons its own textural world: a perpetually shape-shifting blend of analogue warmth and digital minutiae.
As ever, it’s Einar Solberg’s extraordinary vocal range and sky-shattering melodies that complete the picture. From Running Low’s righteous octave-clamber to The Silent Revelation’s wildly dynamic blend of stuttering prog-funk and Have You Ever?’s angular dream-pop, the frontman inhabits these songs with rare conviction and just a hint of knowing theatricality.
And yes, it’s frequently beautiful, too. The finest song here by a yard or two, All The Moments, sounds quite unlike any previous Leprous music, as they slip down a sublime art rock rabbit-hole of their own curious design, before a majestic, strings-drenched chorus erupts from nowhere. Even the hardest of hearts will crumble. Again.
Aphelion is released on August 27 via InsideOut Music