Leprous - Malina
Norwegian progressive act sound cold and haunted but ultimately alluring on their fifth album
Words: Phil Weller
In their review of Lana Del Rey’s latest album, Lust For Life, Rolling Stone cited the American singer as a “hugely adored miserablist thanks to a perpetually wounded voice and plainspoken poetry.” And yet, while she may claim that crown in mainstream music, in the ever-evolving annals of progressive music it is something you could argue Leprous’ enigmatic frontman, Einar Solberg and the haunted operatic moans he eschews to ice the band’s fifth record, is the absolute master of it.
Laboured in the studio for four times as many days recording as any of their previous releases, and with the band adamant they wanted to capture the raw sound of their music and not rely on “digitalising” the tracks to bring out the magic, it is clear that, with Malina, the band wanted to make a strong artistic statement.
Opener Bonneville instantly sets the tone as a cold and mournful with an omnipresent reverb drenched post-rock sound that does indeed share a Lana Del Rey miserablist sombreness to it; it’s dressed in bleak colours while storm clouds gather overhead. The track acts as an introductory vehicle, leading you into the astounding and bright Stuck, with its glorious anthemic chorus which pings off the ricocheting opening single note staccato riff, makes it worth every drawn out, ever-rising second.
It’s a record true to its progressive stature; what’s important here is the bigger picture and the intricate, methodically mapped out details that colour it. Illuminate and the title track begin slowly but draw you inevitably towards soaring musical peaks of vivid grandiosity though theatrics and a musical unselfishness. No singular instrument ever dominates the mix, this is about what images and emotions the collective colours create when intertwined.
Leashes takes the dark, hopelessness of their miserablist aesthetic and turns what begins lyrically as a defeated mourning into something, through raised dynamic and ferocity, into something that sounds triumphant and bold. The shift in context throws your emotions off balance; it is just another example of this band’s clever, uncluttered and purposeful songwriting.
Mirage centres around gloomy, disfigured rhythms before exploding into infectious eight string grooves while lead single From The Flame cuts straight to the point with some stunning guitar work that takes in elements of indie, post-rock, prog and beyond while Solberg is nothing short of stupendous.
At a glance, you could deduce that Malina is a softer yet colder release than anything the band has previously put out, but that isn’t exactly true. Their heaviness and emotion stirring-abilities are drawn around context and atmosphere here; it is subtle but immensely effective.
What the band have succeeded in creating is a raw album caressed by a fragile and alluring touch, while their dexterity lurks beneath the surface waiting to be discovered.