Saturday, September 2, 2017

Leprous - Malina (2017)

There is a new generation of progressive metal acts taking over the world, and doing so with damn impressive music. Acts like Between The Buried And Me, Haken, Ne Obliviscaris and Persefone is taking the genre to new grounds, expanding it to a whole new level. Norwegian Leprous is also in this group, delivering unique and imaginative music ever since their debut, the 2009 record "Tall Poppy Syndrome". While they do have a core sound that they base their music around, every new album sounds different, having a new personality that stands out among the rest.

Their fifth album "Malina" is nothing different, but its personality is not something truly unique unfortunately. With this album, Leprous has obviously looked backwards in time to the 80's and infused its influences with their music. Sounds familiar? It should if you are a prog fan, because Haken did almost the exact same thing with last year's release "Affinity". I do not think that Leprous meant to copy Haken in that sense, but it is easy to just scream "Copy Cat" just for them being one year later, which also makes it hard not to compare the two albums to each other. So to not do that all too much, I will just say this, "Affinity" is definitely a better album, no competition really.

This does of course not mean that "Malina" is a bad record, but it might be one that fans could find it hard to swallow. It is the band's lightest record to date, really balancing the edge on if it should be considered a metal album or not. Their last album, "The Congregation", was a divider, with some loving its dark and melancholic nature, while others (like me) just found it boring, and I am afraid that "Malina" might be one too, but for other reasons (the double review on Angry Metal Guy is a pretty good proof of that).

So where do I stand in all of this? I definitely enjoy the album and its more straight forward nature, but I see some flaws too. My biggest issue is that it feels like the band is building and building up to a climax that is gonna be epic as hell, but they never get around to it. When the sad violin music in "The Last Milestone" ends the album, I am sitting here, wondering why this boxing match went to the judges and not in a knock out victory. The title track is the closest one to reach that epic climax, but it just does not reach all the way, even if it is still a great and fragile tune.

But when you have an album filled with different emotions, styles, contrasts, and technical tricks, it is pretty hard to hate on it. "Malina" definitely feels more engaging than what "The Congregation" was, experimenting more to create a more diverse experience, and it works. There are several songs in here that are great, but for unique reasons, whether it be heavy ("Coma"), relying on the drum beat by Baard Kolstad ("Captive"), being hauntingly beautiful ("Bonneville"), or when singer Tor Oddmund Suhrke just dominates with his amazing vocals ("Mirage", "From The Flame", "Malina", just to name a few).

So in the end, I am sure that this album will be just like "The Congregation", that some will love it, and others will not. The more poppy nature of "Malina" is definitely gonna scare off some people, making them go back to previous work. To me though, I feel more connected to this album than "The Congregation", it feels more honest, and it is not just a one trick pony, producing several similar songs. There is a lot of quality in this record, and it is one I will get back to multiple times, because it is definitely a grower. With a finish as strong as the start and some more memorable songs, it could have been a killer record, but it works really well for what it is.

Songs worthy of recognition: From The Flame, Bonneville, Mirage, Malina

Rating: 8/10 Captives

More reviews of Leprous
The Congregation

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