Leprous - Tall Poppy Syndrome
Sensory Records
Progressive Metal
8 songs (63'00")
Release year: 2009
Sensory Records
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

Norwegians Leprous claim to fame could have been real shallow. Sharing a hometown with Emperor, Zyklon, Ihsahn and Peccatum, Einar Solberg (vocals/synth) playing reunion live dates with Emperor, the whole of Leprous working as Ihsahn’s session band – all of that would have been meaningless if Leprous music wasn’t standing on its own two feet. Being a quality musician playing someone else’s notes has nothing to do with the creation of your own art. Fortunately for Leprous, all those judges at the prestigious Norwegian Rock Championship knew what they were doing when they selected the band as finalists twice. One can’t buy talent or acquire it rubbing shoulders with someone famous. And this is what Leprous felt like to me on Tall Poppy Syndrome, a young talented band gobbling together and then working through the variety of influences, to arrive at the coherent album begging for repeated listens.

Leprous are rather eclectic in their approach to progressive metal. Tall Poppy Syndrome is not an exercise in the most technical stop-and-go riffs or dizzying finger movement or rhythm changes. Sure enough, there are compositions here with all of the trappings and trimmings of modern heavy prog (Not Even a Name, Dare You). The jagged riffs supported by rumbling muttering bass collide with catchy melodies. This description, however, would been oversimplified and largely incomplete. Whatever direction Leprous are exploring at any given moment, it is absolutely charged with emotions, mostly of the darker shades. Borrowing from later era Vintersorg, Borknagar and Age of Silence, the band is on a mission to deliver a very personal record, which comes off at times feeling almost edgy.

To plow those personal depths the compositions on Tall Poppy Syndrome swing from one fence to another. He Will Kill Again has almost a quasi-tremolo blackened nature in its riffing periodically yielding to jazzy keyboards. Not Even a Name opens up with a blistering double bass passage, only to collapse into ebbing trembling percussion, also prominent on the opener Passing and reminiscent of Katatonia masterpiece Last Fair Deal Gone Down. The band can be absolutely mellow and tender (Fate), but don’t let those acoustic soft and dreamy moments (the beginning of Phantom Pain) fool you. Leprous can turn thunderous in a moment’s notice, or switch to a Mouth of the Architect/Neurosis post-rock anguish (Passing). The closer White throws the whole kitchen sink and more at the listener, from keyboard wizardry to algebraic math-rock riffs, to polyphonic vocals, only to close out with nothing but a smoky lounge approach to playing piano.

If this brew sounds too much to digest, don’t you worry. Leprous actually gave a boost to my receding interest in progressive metal by exposing those frayed nerves of theirs. As every Leprous member seems to be contributing to songwriting, many band members are also trying to get in on the singing act. The multitude of vocals seemed to be the only thing lacking focus, as soft clean singing could be rudely interrupted by distressed growl or an ill-placed shout. Band’s lyrics tend to touch onto Sentenced/Katatonia themes in their level of “cheerfulness”, but some of the longer lines seem to be jammed at times. However, I wish I could write (not to mention compose musically) something so mature in my early 20s. The future has to be bright for Leprous and their dark prog is an excellent fit on Sensory.

Killing Songs :
Passing, Fate, He Will Kill Again, White
Alex quoted 83 / 100
Other albums by Leprous that we have reviewed:
Leprous - Coal reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Leprous - Bilateral reviewed by Jaime and quoted 90 / 100
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