REVIEW: Leprous – Aphelion

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Norwegian progressive outfit LEPROUS continues its journey into all-clean-singing/rock territories with their upcoming album, “Aphelion.” The band’s seventh studio effort comes on the heels of 2019’s highly acclaimed “Pitfalls” and pretty much follows the same path of delivering unique and fascinating melodies that toe the line between heavy rock and synth-pop. “Aphelion” will be out on August 27, 2021, via Inside Out Music.

I have to start by saying that LEPROUS is a bit out of my comfort zone when it comes to vocals and arrangements, so it took some getting used to the sound and dynamic of “Aphelion.” But, even if high-pitched vocals are not really something I gravitate towards, I have to say that I am impressed with the way vocalist Einar Solberg uses his range to either make the songs more dynamic or add melody and energy to the compositions. He really uses his voice as an instrument within the music as his singing style is multi-dimensional and engrossing, thus giving depth and scope to the tracks. The dramatic backing orchestrations are cleverly used to enhance the moods of the songs and to add texture and nuances that complement the main melodic line.

Single “Running Low” opens the album on an eerie note as ominous backing orchestrations almost clash with Einar Solberg‘s high wails. The jazzy mid-section reflects the band’s ease of transitioning between different sounds and moods within a song so as to create a full musical picture. I have always liked the way classical instruments like cello or violin blend with the aggressiveness of rock or metal music, giving it a stylish feel and adding to the drama or theatricality of the story. But with “Running Low,” it is a case of heavy music with a classical approach – somewhat akin to LORD OF THE LOST’s “Swan Songs” ensemble music – as the orchestration is an integral part of the song and not just an added layer of harmony. This approach is even more evident in “The Shadow Side.” Dramatic ballad “Castaway Angels” is the gem on the album, as it is mostly acoustic guitar, piano, and gentle vocals and just oozes fragility and emotion. The fact that it slowly builds in intensity without losing its sensitive edge speaks volumes to the band’s strength as musicians. There’s a neat ebb and flow to “The Silent Revelation” that is capped off not only by a catchy chorus but also a solid bass part that makes the song groovy and alert. The way Einar Solberg uses his range in this song is spectacular, going from melodic singing to high belting with gusto, thus injecting melody and energy to the song.

Elsewhere on the album, “All the Moments” is as dramatic as it gets, with powerful moments that counterbalance the almost acoustic segments as piano and sweeping violin melodies swap places with drums and guitars, while an emotional Einar Solberg delivers an intense vocal performance. This is one of the instances where he uses his voice as another instrument to guide the listeners through different emotions and moods by going from lamenting vocals in the verses to full-blown wails in the choruses. With a pulsating beat to it and a solid bass rhythm courtesy of Simen Børven, “On Hold” is a mid-tempo electronic track that grows in intensity as it progresses. The vocals add melody to the fold as instrumentally there isn’t much going on until a cello takes over and delivers a grave tone that interacts surprisingly well with the electronic beats. “Silhouette” is another electronic track with minimum instrumental but it has a more upbeat tempo to it and a groovy synth bass rhythm that makes it feel more dynamic and lively.

It is, however, “Have You Ever?” that is the eeriest track on this album, as an ominous atmosphere permeates through the music. Here, darkwave vibes merge with backing vocalizations and some sharp violin lines and piano notes that make for an uneasy sonic experience. By contrast, “Out of Here” starts on almost whispered vocals and a dreamy atmosphere before it explodes into a flurry of guitars, drums, and powerful vocals. I really love how Einar Solberg uses his voice to give texture and nuance to this track, beautifully supported by a subdued bass grove and gentle guitar. The album closes in grand style with progressive epic “Nighttime Disguise,” whose mood-swings echo the album’s moodiness while providing an overall darker atmosphere that is suited for some harsh vocals to appear.     

In case you haven’t guessed it by now, let me make it clear: “Aphelion” is quite a dynamic (and at times dramatic) record with a rich sonic palette and varied moods that will appeal to many listeners. From luxurious strings, crushing guitars, and pounding bass to dazzling vocals and electronic beats, LEPROUS delivers quite an addictive combo. And, like many great albums that have the label “progressive” on them, “Aphelion” doesn’t reveal all its musical secrets at once, but instead keeps you coming back for more, peeling off the layers one by one, as its major strength is the individuality of the tracks.

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklist

  1. Running Low
  2. Out of Here
  3. Silhouette
  4. All The Moments
  5. Have You Ever?
  6. The Silent Revelation
  7. The Shadow Side
  8. On Hold
  9. Castaway Angels
  10. Nighttime Disguise

Lineup

Einar Solberg – vocals/keys
Tor Oddmund Suhrke – guitars
Robin Ognedal – guitars
Simen Børven – bass
Baard Kolstad – drums

Label

Inside Out Music

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