Leprous – Malina (InsideOut Music)Wednesday, 16th August 2017
Scandinavia possesses quite a quality musical landscape if digging deep into the progressive rock and metal genres, especially over the last decade. Norwegian act Leprous represent one of the breakthrough groups in their sector, infusing their style with alluring harmony/melody combinations rarely explored, all the while mesmerizing through challenging time signatures and dynamic/atmospheric buildups or interplay maneuvers. Steadily releasing records on a bi-annual clip, Malina as their fifth studio platter chooses to accent those rhythmic, symbiotic moments against the calmness and tranquility that occur when challenging perceptions and the creative nature within a set of musicians takes place as they grow and experience more out of life.
Confidence allows the band to spend the first half of opener “Bonneville” integrating lower register melodies, almost new age harmonization against softer drums, clean guitar picking and keyboard reverb before even kicking in any sort of electric distortion – and this type of yin and yang trade off continues throughout the record. There’s a rock side in much of guitarists Tor Oddmund Suhrke and latest recruit Robin Ognedal’s chord choices for “Stuck” or the trippy “Illuminate” that brings a strange cocktail of Pain of Salvation, Devin Townsend, or 90’s alternative acts all into the forefront – mesmerizing for head bobbing action. The layering of keyboards can be equally intoxicating, from a lower hum to start “From the Flame” to an almost 80’s soundtrack effect for “Mirage” (this scribe wonders if Stranger Things from Netflix came into Einar Solberg’s aural radar). Leprous excels at taking the listener on a journey, amidst all the intricate grooves and off-time rhythm action that occurs – elevating opposites for the quieter six-minute plus title track to magnificence as the measured guitar movements set up the vocals beautifully.
Many critics mention Einar’s stellar performance as a vocalist – and Malina provides more superior proof of his emotional connective qualities (check “Coma” and “Captive” here). It’s not always about hitting the highest falsetto note – or the longest scream. He is aware of picking his spots and reaching harmonic proportions that keep the listener returning, desiring, becoming as integral of a part of the Leprous experience as the band themselves. Fluctuating between shorter and longer arrangements (between 3:43-7:30) proves progressive rock/metal can exist on both focused and epic terrain – the primary objective serving the needs of each song at hand. Quirky, thoughtful, innovative – these are a few adjectives that come to mind with every Leprous album, and Malina is no different in that regard. Aligning equally with the converts and critics, a rare one-two combination for any act progressive or not – Leprous stride atop the landscape of the genre.