Like many, I first heard of the Norwegian prog metal group LEPROUS when they were acting as Ihsahn‘s backing band; Ihsahn of course having risen to fame as the singer, song-writer, and guitarist of Norwegian melodic black metal legends, EMPEROR. Upon leaving for his solo act, he segued to more of an extreme progressive metal style. Since 2009, the current and past members of what is now LEPROUS have mostly played live with Ihsahn while also working on their own more-or-less like-minded project. I was introduced to them via their second full-length album, ”Bilateral” – a unique blend of depressing, psychedelic, and progressive, bordering on extreme metal.
This live DVD comes to me as a perfect appetizer before seeing them live, supporting the DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT along with BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME at The Circus in Helsinki next year. The DVD comes with the full concert recording of their show at Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo on June 4th, 2016, as well as four music videos. It also comes with an official bootleg video recording of an unnamed song they played at the same venue 13 years ago. The video and sound quality is quite amateur-esque and the same could be said of the performance. It seems like it could be a very good song as it is in the vein of LEPROUS, but is still rough around the edges. Including it was a bold choice to say the least but it does establish a stark contrast between itself and the actual concert recording.
Also included is a 5 ½ minute feature called ”Making of.” I hesitate to call it a documentary as it is just a collection of footage of random things, such as the doorway to the venue, stage gear, a fan, a lamp, and anything else they felt the need to show us. This all without musical accompaniment save for whatever noises come from tuning and setting up. I guess it’s fun if you’re a big tech fan or are really interested in what it feels like to get ready for a show. As a musician myself, I think they nailed it, as it is boring and tedious to the point that it makes tapestries seem interesting.
The bulk of the DVD is of course the concert, which begins with a dimly lit shot of the concert hall filled with chanting fans. They milk this for a few seconds before starting with the slow opening track, ”The Flood.” Einar Solberg‘s angelic voice breaks the near silence and keeps the audience enthralled with his pure charisma until the band joins in at just past 1 minute. They’ve clearly got this down to a science as it feels genuinely rewarding. Many bands try this with long-winded intro tracks but this proves once again that less is more.
As it is a hometown show, Einar feels comfortable enough to make his on-stage announcements in Norwegian but tries to remember that this will be seen worldwide. He eludes to this in his first speech (as far as I can gather) but isn’t entirely consistent on it over the course of the night. It seems doubtful that this would really be a problem for anyone as most of his speeches are something along the lines of ”thank you” or ”tusen takk” respectively. Einar is one of those singers who also plays synth but he isn’t bound to it constantly. For large portions of the show he’s free to move around the stage with his mic. For a band with such a bleak, misanthropic, and apathetic theme, they sure are energetic. I feel out of breath just watching these guys thrashing about.
The lighting is mostly dim or back-lit to achieve a darker feel without reducing quality. Every song seems to have a different color scheme, which ranges from blue and green to purple and red. On stage they have a few screens showing fitting imagery. For the songs with actual music videos, they show clips from them which are then interspersed with the regular editing. Mostly they show deliberate static or nonsense – whatever they felt works with the song.
This is supported by the rapid camera movement and editing, more akin to that of a music video. This is an effect that often grows stale quite quickly as the viewer gets used to it. In this case, however, LEPROUS just so happens to have just enough quiet moments in which the viewer can reflect and recharge. Then when the beat picks up again it all comes back with full force. Make no mistake: this is one of the most powerful live DVDs I’ve ever seen.
Another important element on stage is that there are two drumkits on stage. That is because on they have a guest drummer playing alongside the current drummer, Baard Kolstad. He is never formally introduced but he looks to be SHINING drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen, who used to play for LEPROUS between 2007 and 2014. He seems to reappear for the older songs and then sheepishly disappears for the new ones. He is not the only one as a great performer is later announced as “another fellow” whom bears the distinct likeness and vocal sound of the aforementioned Ihsahn. He joins the fray only at the very end of the encore for the final song, “Contaminate Me,” for which he did the guest vocals for the album version on “Coal.”
The set itself is very energetic and powerful. It consists mainly of the new album, “The Congregation,” with only a few songs from the older albums, which featured longer and less straightforward songs. In fact, it seems they saved most of them for the end, as the final three songs are all older. It makes sense to play the more easily digestible tracks live and to save something a bit stranger, like “Forced Entry” for the encore. “Contaminate Me” also works wonderfully as a closer for its raw, visceral feel, which is of course helped with the added star power of Ihsahn and Tobias.
The DVD really comes together as a cohesive whole with the Rockefeller Music Hall as its centerpiece. Though the concert itself focuses very heavily on the newer material, the rest of the package does an eloquent job at celebrating and acknowledging the group’s past with the collection of music videos and the rare glimpse from 13 years ago. For a band’s first live release, it’s a beautiful and well-put-together DVD; a great introduction to those who may only have heard very little from them as well as a glorious milestone for longtime fans. It has everything you could want from a live album. That being said, I can’t help but feel let down by there not being an actual behind the scenes feature, since they teased it. Even if it had just been one or two of them talking for 5 minutes, it would have left a better taste in my mouth.
Written by Vincent Parkkonen
- The Flood
- Third Law
- The Cloak
- Acquired Taste
- The Price
- The Valley
- Forced Entry
- Contaminate Me
Einar Solberg – vocals, keyboards
Tor Oddmund Suhrke – guitar
Robin Ognedal – guitar
Simen Børven – bass guitar
Baard Kolstad – drums
Interview Phantom Elite – “It’s always good to share that feeling that none of us is alone in hard times”