ALBUM REVIEW: Leprous – Aphelion
Photo Credit: Elena Sihida
When their touring plans in support of their previous studio album came to a sudden halt, thanks to the worldwide event that need not be named anymore (because, frankly, we all know what it is by this point, and repeating it would only be redundant), Leprous were quick to not waste any time and keep doing what they do best. Eight different live streams (two of which we have previously covered) later, and almost two years after Pitfalls, the Norwegian prog outfit seek to tread new sonic ground with their upcoming eighth studio release, Aphelion.
When released, Pitfalls came across as having a more “mellow” sound, especially when compared to its predecessor, Malina, which offered some of the band’s most dynamic songs and soundscapes at that time – From the Flame, Stuck, or The Weight of Disaster, to name a few. That seventh record also served as band leader Einar Solberg’s first foray into writing lyrics from a more personal perspective, rather than the general point of view his words would employ in the past. Summed up: while still retaining that signature Leprous touch, it was a significantly different release than fans were used to, whilst also being well received by critics and fans alike.
Aphelion, on the other hand, is a very interesting animal, so to speak. From a lyrical standpoint, Solberg continues the theme on personal and introspective lyrics, dealing with (his) depression and anxiety, albeit in a much more hopeful manner this time around, as someone that has learned to cope with it: “Time to connect to the secure again, Holding me up so that I won’t, won’t disappear again” (as sung in The Shadow Side). Even the title itself supports this theme, as an aphelion is the point in an astral body’s orbit when it is the most distant from the Sun.
Sonically, this eighth release can best be described as the perfect blend between Malina’s dynamicity and the ethereal sounds and subdued moments found in Pitfalls, with some new ideas added on top of everything. What might those be, exactly? Most prominently, a full brass band that can be heard in opener Running Low, closer Nighttime Disguise, as well as Out of Here. Blåsemafiaen, as they’re called, are a very welcome addition to the band’s wide sonic palette, and they could very well feature again in the Norwegian proggers’ future – only time will tell.
These 10 songs constantly build themselves up, with most of them featuring soaring crescendos, all the while maintaining their own identities and, thus, contrasting with the others. Running Low’s opening low piano notes and its disco sounding chorus are total opposites to the likes of The Shadow Side’s epic guitar solo, backed by the dramatic strings of returning guest Raphael Weinroth-Browne. On the flipside, the ‘prog epic’ aspects of Nighttime Disguise (shifting time signatures, complex instrumentals, a showcase of Solberg’s full vocal range) couldn’t be more different from the heavy synth-laden verses of Have You Ever, backed by the rhythmic clacking of Baard Kolstadt’s drums.
Some special mentions must be given here, though: where the other nine songs could be considered as a crown, Castaway Angels is the crown jewel. First released as a single months before the album’s announcement, it’s by far and away one of, if not the most beautiful song that Leprous has ever released so far. Solberg’s vocals start off as hushed and quiet, before slowly but surely building into the singer’s signature head voice for the crescendo, guided and backed by Tor Oddmund Suhrke and Robin Ognedal’s guitars (who ultimately prove that there is a place for a Fender Stratocaster in modern progressive music). It’s a masterpiece that everyone should listen to, enjoy, and be proud of (the band members most of all).
In the end, Aphelion is yet another brilliant release by Norwegian prog masters Leprous. Its songs constantly build themselves up and evolve, while retaining their individual sound and identity, and manage to never sound exactly the same as one another. This is a testament of a band that, in spite of a pandemic, is still on top of its game, and doesn’t plan to stop any time soon. Tusen takk, Einar and co. We’ll see you at the album preview live stream on the 25th August 2021 – everyone, do yourselves a favour and tune in. You won’t regret it.
Standout Tracks: Castaway Angels, Running Low, Out of Here, The Silent Revelation, The Shadow Side
For Fans Of: Haken, Caligula’s Horse, Ihsahn, Agent Fresco
Written by: Florin Petrut