This band has a fairly auspicious background if you go in the more extreme of Progressive Metal directions. One of the guitarists and the bassist have done live performance work with lHSAHN for his solo project, while keyboardist and principle vocalist Einar Solberg was part of the touring band for EMPEROR during their “Prometheus – The Discipline Of Fire And Demise” era. Naturally these respective bands have little to do with Black Metal, as EMPEROR is mostly recognized for through their earliest accomplishments, and more with a quasi Blackened form of extreme Progressive Metal.
Naturally what LEPROUS has been putting out has run somewhat parallel to IHSAHN’s latest ventures, essentially being completely removed from the 1st and 2nd wave Black Metal influences of said Norwegian pioneer in the genre, and going a good deal more towards an extreme version of pure Progressive Metal, with perhaps a small smattering of melodic Death Metal and Metalcore influences here and there, largely in the vocal performance. Einar’s vocal interpretation has a very sharp duality to it, coming off as a very similar version of a tenor voice to that of Tony Kakko of SONATA ARCTICA, while floating between a Mikael Stanne meets a semi-NYHC version of harsh vocals. There are occasionally some guttural Death grunts barked out in rhythmic unison with the harsher vocal sections, most likely provided by one of the other members of the band.
Musically this goes through a host of differing influences, running from Jazz ballad sections with walking basslines to some pretty dark sounding extreme sections. Neo-classical sections are also heavily prominent, giving a lot of these songs a theatrical sense to them that is heavily reminiscent of what IHSAHN was doing with EMPEROR during their semi-Black/post-Black Progressive Metal era. There’s a greater helping of piano and acoustic guitar work that makes this a little lighter sounding than their Norwegian elder’s latter concoctions, as well as some synthesizer lines running in and out that have more to do with Jordan Ruddess or Derek Sherinian than anyone else.
If there’s one really well known and highly visible outfit that could be compared to this outfit’s resulting sound, it would be the British Progressive outfit TO-MERA. Granted, the vocal character of this is way different than Julie Kiss’ strong resemblance to Christina Scabbia, and there are slightly less Gothic tinges to the lyric work, but the same general approach of marrying extreme Metal sounds with lighter Progressive Rock ideas applies here. LEPROUS’s approach to songwriting is also a bit more up tempo and livelier, particularly on “Not Even A Name” and a couple of sections of “Phantom Pain”, where the band speeds up significantly and temporarily resembles some of EMPEROR’s later output.
Altogether this is a relatively strong album, but often the extreme vocals get overdone and almost sound like extremeness for the sheer sake of it, sort of akin to Tony Kakko’s sloppy vocal work on “Unia”. Fans of earlier OPETH and CYNIC’s “Focus” will find a lot to work on here, as well as people who’ve followed IHSAHN’S solo work enthusiastically. Mainline Progressive Metal fans of the DREAM THEATER persuasion may also like it, depending on how open they were to some of the changes incorporated on “Train Of Thought”.
(Online April 16, 2009)