Leprous - Pitfalls: Album Review
Leprous – Pitfalls (Review)
A success in exorcising demons and stunning the listener in the same breath
Words: Phil Weller
Norwegian prog act Leprous have returned with a stirring, stunning new album that is unlike any of their previous releases, and their most personal and vulnerable too, making it all the better for it. Yet, its singles have been received with a backlash from many fans who have bemoaned its poppier, more guitar-less guise.
“The album has been written through one of my toughest years, where I struggled with depression and anxiety,” vocalist Einar Solberg explained in the build up to its release, adding that there would be “no filters, no metaphors, just the truth.”
And the album is exactly that; the musician is pouring his entire soul into these dark, porcelain tracks that speak of harrow and heartbreak. Here is a musician exorcising his demons and emotions through the wonderfully therapeutic powers of music, the very reason people began making music in the first place, and so the criticism is unjust, especially considering the record’s quality. Instead, it should be praised for those exact reasons.
Lead singles Below, Alleviate and Distant Bells are dominated by Solberg’s almost tangible pain, eschewed through keyboard textures in the minor keys and wounded, transparent lyrics. Sure, the riffs are few and far between, but that simply isn’t the point of this album.
Below reaches its thrilling crescendos with Bond theme-esque strings whilst it’s the lyrics leave bruises upon your psyche. “Every single fear I'm hiding / Every little childhood memory, I bury / And I will lie / Keep it all together” – it takes a brave soul to sing that, especially in today’s ultra cynical age but this is art in its truest, most potent form and it ignites the track with a beautifully sad majesty. Alleviate meanwhile is a sparsely decorated affair with a simple but brutally honest chorus that sounds bigger with every listen, whilst Distant Bells, the longest, least forthright of the three creates a dark, slowing of pace and decrease in dynamics that helps the album’s bigger picture.
But for many fans, the focus come release day will be on the tracks not released before hand. Of those, there is a treasure trove of invention, even if they will be received with a polarising opinion. I Lose Hope conveys the poppy side of Muse with a slick bassline and an array of addictive hooks, I Observe The Train marries choral vocals with flavours of Porcupine Tree and Be My Thorne is a dark, brooding but more immediate track bolstered by Baard Kolstad’s grooving drum beat. Yet the best is yet to come.
At The Bottom is Pitfalls’ true masterpiece. The way it builds, shedding emotions as it goes, its explosive, show stopping chorus and the cinematic twists and turns that mutate its latter stages, taking you somewhere completely unexpected; it’s all mesmeric. There’s an energy and a passionate urgency here that is beyond special, it’s emotional transparency, channelled in its purest form and it’s remarkable.
Then there’s Foreigner, the closest thing old school Leprous fans will get to the gruff, riff centric approach of 2011’s Bilateral. After its simple yet dramatic build up, marked by guitar chords sharpened with a pinballing delay and an ever-rising snare roll. It storms out the gates in rollicking fashion. There's no overt exuberance or over the top progressive freak outs here, instead, this is the anger and violent expressing of torment the entire record had been building up to.
Then there's one scream where it all comes to pass and you can feel the release of pressure, the weight lifted from their troubled singer's shoulders. It leaves The Sky Is Red, probably the record's most off kilter and feral song. Clocking in at just under 12 minutes and it's funny that, after all the hate the record will get for its deviation from the typical Leprous sound that the diehards crave, they close their most divisive record to date in this fashion. In its tones and timbre you can hear the doubters being silenced one by one and the crown being polished for one of modern prog's most daring and emotively open progressive bands. Pitfalls is a success in exorcising demons and stunning the listener with each and every breath.
Check out the videos from the new album: