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Leprous - "The Congregation" (CD)

Leprous - "The Congregation" CD cover image

"The Congregation" track listing:

1. The Price (5:14)
2. Third Law (6:18)
3. Rewind (7:07)
4. The Flood (7:51)
5. Triumphant (4:25)
6. Within My Fence (3:16)
7. Red (6:35)
8. Slave (6:37)
9. Moon (6:13)
10. Down (6:26)
11. Lower (4:39)

Reviewed by on April 27, 2015

"While its not that awful lump of “Coal” we got back in 2013, “The Congregation” also doesn't manage to be the world-shattering knockout prog metal album of the year either..."

Once the undisputed savior of prog metal, Norwegian outfit Leprous returns after the lackluster “Coal” (reviewed here) to try to regain the faith of “The Congregation” with this full-length album. Going a different direction from the last album, the band plays with more synth sounds and varying tempos and energy levels. Leprous may not be acting as Ihsahn's backing band anymore, but fans will be relieved to know the connection still remains there as the vocals were again recorded at Mnesoyne Studios owned by Ihsahn and StarofAsh, with the rest of the instruments again handled at Fascination Street in Sweden.

Let's get straight to the heart of the matter: the main problem with “Coal” was the completely unnecessary repetition. While there are some parts perhaps repeated more than they need to be (and the extraneous “ah-ah-ah-ahhhhhh” vocalizations that aren't actually lyrics do make an unfortunate return), on the whole “The Congregation” isn't nearly as obnoxiously repetitive as the last album. Yes, several of the songs could use a bit of trimming (more on this below), but overall Leprous seems to have gotten that style of songwriting out of its system.

Thankfully, Leprous tries quite a few new things this time around, offering a wider range of sounds. The synthesizer intro to “Slave” for instance is stellar in a very retro way, and rolls amazingly smoothly off the ending of previous track “Red.” Sixth track “Within My Fence” has an unexpected and intriguing electronic vibe, although oddly the song doesn't really seem to fit or flow with the preceding and following tracks. For those who have been long time fans of Leprous, the band's frequent long build ups remain firmly in place, just with a few tweaks here and there to go in new directions.

A couple of tracks on “The Congregation” play with minimalism, keeping everything low key and not adding in additional layers of sound. This is one of the experiments that unfortunately doesn't work quite as well. “Triumphant” for instance doesn't really work, as at only 4 ½ minutes its both overly repetitive and a curiously empty sounding track, like there's an instrument the band forgot to add in the mix somewhere. “Red” is another one that's perhaps too minimalistic for its own good. At 6:35 in length, the unending frumpy electric drum beat gets overbearing, although the track does wisely start adding in extra elements about halfway through for a build up.

Taking a look at the track listing you may notice most of these songs are in the six to seven minute range, rather than having a mix of shorter and longer offerings. If you dig long tracks that are more about the journey than the destination, this may be a boon, and songs like the near eight minute “The Flood” will be a highlight. Then again, there's the six+ minute “Third Law” and “Down” tracks that utilize a stuttering style and frequently repeated lyrics that become grating, and the songs could easily be culled by two minutes or so and end up better listens.

While its not that awful lump of “Coal” we got back in 2013, “The Congregation” also doesn't manage to be the world-shattering knockout prog metal album of the year either (which this fan was eagerly hoping for). A bit of a mixed bag, there's equal amounts of experimentation that falls flat and progressive metal glory.

Highs: This album isn't even half as repetitive as the last one, and there's lots of new experimentation.

Lows: While the repetition has been culled, it hasn't been entirely removed, and there's less energy than on the epic "Bilateral" album.

Bottom line: A mixed bag of awesome and lackluster, Leprous experiments in new directions to varying results.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)