Written by: LL on 02/11/2017 16:23:01

The Norwegian progressive masters of Leprous released their fifth album "Malina" earlier this year. It is the band's first full-length without their longtime guitarist Øystein Landsverk while Baard Kolstad and Simen Børven remain in control of drums and bass respectively, just as they were when they joined the band for their last masterpiece, 2015's "The Congregation". The new guitarist is Robin Ognedal but founding members Einar Solberg on vocals/keys and Tor Oddmund Suhrke on guitar are still here so there's an unmistakable Leprous-sound to the new album even though it also heads in a somewhat different direction that is way more rock than metal.

The record is filled with Solberg's recognizable and at times almost operatic vocals as well as progressive beats and groovy changeovers but it's also more softspoken than the group's preceding albums. There are absolutely no growls to be found anywhere and several of the tracks feature cello and have sections that serve as calm palate cleansers that space out the most brilliant moments of the record even while they have a serene kind of beauty to them. There are great ideas and intriguing sounds to be found all over the record but only some of the songs succeed in bringing their parts together to a truly impactful whole. "Illuminate" stands to me as one of the most enduring songs of the album with its driving off-beat rhythm that sounds playful in combination with the well-written and catchy melodies of both verse and chorus. Another great contribution is to be found in "From The Flame" that succesfully blends different styles and intensities into one beckoning song that has me intrigued all the way through.

The early song "Stuck" catches us with its recognizable chorus of "I am stuck on mountains / Mountains of doubt / I am stuck on mountains /Mountains of apathy". It never evolves further than the tight structure it establishes early on for itself, though, and this is also the case for the otherwise noticeable "Mirage" that has us intrigued with heavy, booming sounds and a chorus that reaches upwards in hope. Towards the end of the album, however, "The Weight of Disaster" breaks through to us again with a slow and firm beat as well as contrasts between mysterious, quiet verses and big, yearning choruses. Finally, "The Last Milestone" lets the album fade out with a melancholically beautiful, cello-dominated track.

There is an obvious high skill level to a prog band like Leprous that is impressive (not least live). Their attitude towards writing technically complex songs that still remain catchy is great, and some truly wonderful works come out of it. However, on the back of the brilliant "The Congregation" from 2015, "Malina" doesn't reach quite the same heights quite as consistently. The calmer direction to their music here reminds me of a kind of 70's vibe in progressive rock even as Leprous blend it with a few heavier metal elements and a very modern, electronic sound. But even if you, like me, prefer your prog on the heavier side, there are good songs to come for on "Malina" that are solid additions to the group's song catalog.

Download: From The Flame, Illuminate, The Weight of Disaster
For The Fans Of: Pain of Salvation, Haken, Riverside, Soen
Listen: facebook.com/leprousband

Release date 25.08.2017

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