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Leprous - Aphelion review



Reviewer:
7.8

142 users:
7.94
Band: Leprous
Album: Aphelion
Release date: August 2021


01. Running Low
02. Out of Here
03. Silhouette
04. All The Moments
05. Have You Ever?
06. The Silent Revelation
07. The Shadow Side
08. On Hold
09. Castaway Angels
10. Nighttime Disguise


Plenty of bands have taken stylistic directions that have lost them fans; fewer of them manage to win part of that lost fanbase back whilst continuing in the same direction. With Aphelion, Leprous may not convince everyone that was put off by Pitfalls, but they've at least got me back on board.

Leprous had been simplifying and softening as they moved from their early manic extreme-tinged prog to the more accessible material on Malina, but Pitfalls was still a dramatic shift, abandoning rock and metal for large periods whilst opting for an electronic-based art pop approach. I didn't particularly like Pitfalls when it was released, and a recent revisit did nothing to make me reassess that opinion. As such, I didn't have high expectations for the next Leprous album; however, I also didn't feel like there was no chance of me getting on board with a future record from the band, even if they stayed in art rock/pop territory. If there was a metal band with the potential to successfully pull off that kind of shift, I had more confidence in Leprous than most, and with Aphelion, I feel like that confidence has been justified.

One issue that I had with Pitfalls was that it felt that most of the band had been sidelined to help create a passion project for Einar Solberg. In contrast, Aphelion feels like the likes of Tor Suhrke and Baard Kolstad had more input (I've no idea whether that's in any way true or not). This album is heavier than Pitfalls, not by much, but it does feel like a rock album that will occasionally lean in metallic and poppier directions, whilst half of Pitfalls had even left rock behind. There's plenty of tracks where Baard gets to unleash some impressive kitwork, such as the slick grooves of "Silhouette" and "The Silent Revelation", whilst both Baard and Tor make powerful inputs on closer "Nighttime Disguise", which even features screams from Einar, I believe for the first time since "Slave" on The Congregation.

The greater presence of the rest of the band does help Aphelion in winning me over, but that's not the only factor. More than anything, I just feel that the emotional connection that Pitfalls tried to hard to make but (for me, at least) failed in doing so has actually been established this time around. The easiest comparison I can see is between "Alleviate" on Pitfalls and "Out Of Here" on Aphelion, not least because both feature some very similar vocal melodies and structures: soft opening with just electronics/keyboards, chorus sung quietly first time around before a big band chorus later on. However, whilst "Alleviate" felt melodramatic when Einar went all out in the climax, "Out Of Here" pulls me right in (the signature Leprous polyrhythms in the background might play a small part in that). Similarly, the grandeur of "All The Moments", the reserved melancholy of "The Shadow Side" and the overwhelming emotion of "On Hold" (probably my pick of the songs on Aphelion) all bring pleasure where similar attempts on Pitfalls often irritated me.

I feel like Leprous are better pretty much across the board on Aphelion. The really soft tracks ("Have You Ever?" and "Castaway Angels"), whilst some of the lesser songs on this album, are at least serviceable, whilst the rockier "Silhouette" and "The Silent Revelation" are both very good fun, particularly the former. On the flip side, whilst "Nighttime Disguise" doesn't approach the proggy excess of "The Sky Is Red" from Pitfalls, it feels a bit more logically connected to the rest of the record, and it covers a whole lot of ground to act as a nice summary of the last decade or so of Leprous's musical development.

Several of the songs I've mentioned above feature some of Aphelion's guests, who include now long-time collaborator Raphael Weinroth-Browne (Musk Ox) on cello, alongside Chris Baum on violin and a whole brass group in Blåsemafiaen. Most of these feature on opening song "Running Low", and now it's time to acknowledge that Aphelion is not a perfect record. When it was first released as the album's first single, I did think "Running Low" was an improvement on much of Pitfalls, but it did have some awkward moments that undermined it, specifically the somewhat obnoxious chorus, which really killed the momentum built in a nice instrumental bridge towards the end of the song. This song isn't alone in featuring moments or sections that I find offputting; in particular, "All The Moments" does drag out for a bit too long the 'quiet piano and Einar warbling' that made "Distant Bells" from Pitfalls so irritating. Nevertheless, I consider the fact that these less positive moments stand out as strongly on Aphelion as the best moments did on Pitfalls to be a real sign of improvement.

This album will undoubtedly not win over everyone lost by Leprous' last couple of records; it's heavier than Pitfalls, but that's very much relative, as it's by no means a return to The Congregation territory. Additionally, anyone who's found Einar's vocals to be a bit 'too much' in recent years will quite likely feel similarly about his performance on Aphelion. However, I have to admit that I went into Aphelion prepared for the worst, but I was very pleasantly surprised by this album. I've genuinely enjoyed the regular replays of the promo copy that I've had (in contrast to another album I'm currently preparing to review), and if anything, this album's made me feel more confident that I disliked Pitfalls not just because it was a departure from metal, but because it was genuinely flawed. I've seen one or two reviews elsewhere with very similar sentiments, so I'm intrigued to see how this record goes down with the user base here.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 8





Written on 25.08.2021 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments

Comments: 11   Visited by: 250 users
25.08.2021 - 20:23
Uxküll

Glad to hear its a great album, I loved Below and Castaway angels, the recent singles from this album were quite good too. Can't wait to give this a full spin.
----
"Nullum unquam exstitit magnum igenium sine aliqua dementia [there was never great genius without some madness]."

Best of Metal A-Z: http://metalstorm.net/users/lists.php?user_id=158339
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25.08.2021 - 22:14
Cool review, although I was never as critical about Pitfalls. After hearing the new record live on stream just a few minutes ago, I think I will quite enjoy this one. But from hearing it live, I had the impression that there will be even more electronic elements in the sound this time it's just that the guitars and drums also have their time to shine. The whole thing sounded proggier, for the lack of a better word. Nighttime Disguise sure was a pleasant surprise.

Are you sure you mean Illuminate though? That was on Malina, not on Pitfalls. Maybe you meant Distant Bells? Although I find that more reminiscent of On Hold.
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26.08.2021 - 00:54
musclassia

Written by SchrödingersDog on 25.08.2021 at 22:14

Are you sure you mean Illuminate though? That was on Malina, not on Pitfalls. Maybe you meant Distant Bells? Although I find that more reminiscent of On Hold.


You're right, I meant Alleviate instead of Illuminate, have corrected accordingly
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26.08.2021 - 02:55
ERK

This review makes a lot of erroneous assumptions and shows the ignorance and intolerance, that is so characteristic to rock/metal fans
Pitfalls wasn't a "solo project" for Einar. A lot of people commented that, and they did a video answering. Einar himself said Congregation was the album he was more in charge (ironically). Distant Bells, with the "annoying" vocals, for instance, was composed by Simen, the bass player (ironically).
Baard also said he had basically no time to record the drums on Congregation, and Einar kinda dictated how the drum part should sound. Being a big Gavin Harrison fan, we is a lot more subtle and enjoy using more of a jazz-like kit. He said he had a lot more liberty on Pitfalls, to make his grooves to his liking (ironically). And judging by the 3 singles, he kept the same style on Aphelion.
Loud and intense drums is not automatic "better", nor does it imply that the drummer had more involvement.
Having vocals prominent, doesn't mean the vocalist is taking over the band.
They are doing what they want to do. They are competent as the prog metal they were on Bilateral, on the more accessible and versatile Congregation and on the more mature and sophisticated Pitfalls.
Genres and labels, and acting like bands are always on their best the heavier the songs are or the more you have guitars on the foreground, is a 80's/90's teenager logic.
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26.08.2021 - 11:51
musclassia

Written by ERK on 26.08.2021 at 02:55

This review makes a lot of erroneous assumptions and shows the ignorance and intolerance, that is so characteristic to rock/metal fans
Pitfalls wasn't a "solo project" for Einar. A lot of people commented that, and they did a video answering. Einar himself said Congregation was the album he was more in charge (ironically). Distant Bells, with the "annoying" vocals, for instance, was composed by Simen, the bass player (ironically).
Baard also said he had basically no time to record the drums on Congregation, and Einar kinda dictated how the drum part should sound. Being a big Gavin Harrison fan, we is a lot more subtle and enjoy using more of a jazz-like kit. He said he had a lot more liberty on Pitfalls, to make his grooves to his liking (ironically). And judging by the 3 singles, he kept the same style on Aphelion.
Loud and intense drums is not automatic "better", nor does it imply that the drummer had more involvement.
Having vocals prominent, doesn't mean the vocalist is taking over the band.
They are doing what they want to do. They are competent as the prog metal they were on Bilateral, on the more accessible and versatile Congregation and on the more mature and sophisticated Pitfalls.
Genres and labels, and acting like bands are always on their best the heavier the songs are or the more you have guitars on the foreground, is a 80's/90's teenager logic.


Welcome to Metal Storm! As you appear to be very new to the site based on your account creation date, you may not be aware that we run a monthly non-metal music round-up article, one that I contribute ~10 write-ups for monthly, so I have covered around 100-200 write-ups of non-metal albums since Pitfalls was released, many of which are unsurprisingly not metal. That is to say, that I am capable of approaching and appreciating music lacking aggressive vocals and thick guitar distortion without ignorance and intolerance (there were albums similar in tone to Pitfalls that I've covered for that series that I preferred to Pitfalls, Katie Gately's Loom in particular is something you might want to try if you enjoy Pitfalls); in the case of Pitfalls, I simply didn't enjoy what they made. It's true that there are some assumptions on my part about the motivations of the band members that could well be wrong; you clearly have a much greater investment in the inner workings of the band, since you have spent enough time reading/watching their interviews to know the information you've written above (and since you've registered an account on this site for the sole purposes of writing said information). I even acknowledged (in the entire 2 sentences of the review dedicated to this lazy hypothesizing) that "I've no idea whether that's in any way true or not". However, even discounting those assumptions, I stand by my criticisms of the music featured on Pitfalls, and also my praise of the music featured on Aphelion.

Loud and intense drums is not 'automatic better', but I find Leprous, a band renowned for their rhythmic complexity, to be more interesting when they allow some of that to come through overtly. I also don't think that I said that bands are always on their best the heavier their songs are; I've highlighted in the review that this isn't a substantially heavier album than Pitfalls, and that many of the things that I like about Aphelion extend beyond the simple fact that the guitars/drums are more immediately noticeable than on Pitfalls. Dare I say, this comment makes a lot of erronous assumptions and shows the ignorance and intolerance that is so characteristic of people that register an account on a website for the sole purposes of bashing a review and the writer's character.
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26.08.2021 - 14:26
Daniell
_爱情_
Written by ERK on 26.08.2021 at 02:55

This review makes a lot of erroneous assumptions and shows the ignorance and intolerance, that is so characteristic to rock/metal fans

If someone disgarees with your opinion, you don't need to make an account and start accusing them of ignorance and intolerance whilst yourself displaying these exact character traits in your angsty post.
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26.08.2021 - 15:21
bleak

Back to topic. I wasn't on board with the last two releases, but this one is growing on me. This one needs time to breathe, i think. At least for me.
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26.08.2021 - 18:22
Samot

I like the Pitfalls! but anything that came after a combo like congregation and Malina .... would be doomed to criticism..... we need prog bands like Leprous !!! verygood to listen with family and sons!!! =) I listened to the album today and thought it's really good!!
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Um, Dois, Três, Quatro! Yeah! PORRA!!!
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27.08.2021 - 20:11
Gumbert

Unexpectedly interesting album. I didn't like all the albums after Bilateral
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27.08.2021 - 22:35
RiouxMax

I'm one of those "pre-Malina" Leprous fan, but I have a feeling that this album will manage to reconquer some hearts. For me, Malina was too pop, Pitfalls was too whiny, but this album...It's definitely got something that'll grow on me. Nighttime Disguise is one hell of a great song.
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30.08.2021 - 11:38
Callisto

I given it 2 tries by now and I like it, I like more pitfalls cause it had a more "desperate" feeling to it. But this one is interesting and I'll definitely listen to it more times (which I rarely do this days.
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