Leprous - Malina - (9/10)
Published on September 9, 2017
Following the release of last year’s Live at Rockefeller Music Hall, Norway’s preeminent progressive rock/metal band Leprous proved to their fans—those who hadn’t seen them in concert—that their music and, more significantly, Einar Solberg’s voice, translates capably, beautifully within a live setting. For their latest and fifth full-length release, Malina, the band are once more attempting to bottle and brand intimacy with Solberg affirming that the ‘album needs to sound more alive, more organic and more dynamic.’ The resulting music, recorded with David Castillo at Ghost Ward and mixed by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street, does indeed bear a distinct carbon-based resonance. Malina sounds big, buoyant, and, as was hoped and expected, it offers plenty of emotion, melody, and atmosphere, culminating in what is likely Leprous’s most ambitious work yet.
2015’s The Congregation was a massive achievement for the band—dark, brooding, complex—and in many similar ways, so is Malina. The album bears many of the trademarks of the recent Leprous sound—intricate rhythms, soaring vocals, and an overt air of vulnerability and melancholy. The record begins with the wonderful “Bonneville,” a slow-rising beauty of layered vocals and pulsing bass that erupts with a stirring crescendo. In contrast, the way “Stuck” opens is a bit jarring, sounding much more befitting of an alternative rock tune, which, ultimately, is ultimately how Malina conducts itself—Leprous blend the progressive with the alternative and deliver a batch of songs that straddle the line between pop-metal and, well, weirdo prog metal. And good god fuck do we love them for it.
The record has singles by the boatload. “From the Flame” is an immediate pleaser, as is “The Weight of Disaster,” but the more patient of the tracks, like “Malina” or “The Last Milestone,” these are where the emotion lie, these are the tracks that breathe a bit deeper, live a bit longer. The music, yes, gorgeous, remains the product of five men, each bringing to the van a discrete and palpable affect to the total composition—their balance and cohesion, perhaps too polished for some, enables Malina to extend and flap her large leathery wings for all to feel, and Christ, what a beautiful breeze it is.