Leprous - Pitfalls

Leprous Pitfalls cover
InsideOut Music
Leprous have become for a lot of fans a focal point in the prog genre, in some cases eliciting fanatical responses, both positive and as of late even negative. Not being a fanatical fan of a lot of popular bands and able to appreciate or sour up at will, about different releases has been quite liberating, as a musical work can either fit one’s criteria or even help expand their tastes, but becoming a fanatic usually takes away perspective and I feel that’s happened a lot to the Leprous fandom.
“Pitfalls” has been criticized by many for not being sufficiently metal. Now to me, Leprous were never particularly heavy at least in a traditional sense, and I always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the vocals. I also thought the band was becoming more and more trapped in a certain style that was becoming more and more minimalist and repetitive. So… welcome to Leprous’ most vocal-centric album.
Let’s get on thing out of the way. Einar Solberg is a talented guy… quite musical. I do however have some issues with his nasal tone that tends to be reminiscent of many britpop/alt acts. While he surpasses a lot of them in ability, the tone itself often has been a deal breaker for me to enjoy the band.
Now Einar (composer, keyboardist, vocalist) has written this album as a bit of a diary, concerning his struggles with depression and anxiety, probably both a cathartic, but also predictable move. He also seems to engage in responding with people on the internet about it, both a sign it’s something deeply personal, but also a futile exercise, because the net is dark and full of trollors.
Expect an even more minimal style with Einar stage center and literally all over. Something that feels like Einar feat Leprous.
If previously the band has used repetition to “drive home” their ideas, now it tends to be the canvas for hooks to be carefully placed, at certain intervals. At least I think the brevity and minimalism of the album aids that design.
“Below”, that the band publicized wildly, is a simple initially ambient tune, which does get heavier and headier and ES writhes melodically over a slowly modulating melody with sweeping string arrangements doing as much lifting as the lamenting chorus. Quite the depressive opener. It also goes a little trip hop-py next, which is not exactly an expected turn.
“I Lose Hope” keeps the dark urbanism alive, sounding like a weird mix of Moby, Massive Attack and The Darkness, believe it or believe it not. It’s weirdly, catchy and feels like it hooks on, in more than one way, ie a nice base line that you’re unlikely to forget, a big guitar riff later on a neat chorus and an interlude that all make sense together and apart.
“Observe the Train” is a very minimal tune, percussion, voice and ghostly soundscapes with vocals and harmonies around it getting things through.
“By My Throne” is almost electro-disco-pop, but of the depressive, neo-romantic type and it’s done masterfully. While the band’s sound is almost uniform and formulaic and they pull the same trick, multiple times, they manage to flavor things ever so differently, having perfected their management of dynamics over their previous albums.
“Alleviate” feels like a weird mix of videogame like sounds with Kate Perry meets Bjork vocal acrobatics. Weird, wired, pop.
“At the Bottom” initially feels as one of the more docile, shoegazing almost tracks, when all by the sudden it has this almost symphonic bombastic explosion that is only sustained for a short time. Its interesting melodic backtrop afterwards works for it before another crescendo is reached. While it’s not as immediate as the others, it offers a nice change of pace, with its histrionics and increased heaviness.
“Distant Bells” initially feels ethereal, spiritual and it very slowly builds into an explosive sympho-pop conclusion towards its end.
“Foreigner” is a somewhat cryptic, song about self-doubt. It’s also one of the weirdest, most energetic ones, while keeping in tune with the rest of the album.
“The Sky is Red” has a jumpy riff, which prepares you for a beat-down that never comes, giving way to a Cult like vocal tirade, before Leprous does what they do and weird things up, just for the sake of doing so.
Special versions include an additional song and a cover of Massive Attack’s “Angel” (no surprise).

While it has been divisive to many fans, this is the first Leprous album that I don’t have to push myself to like… although, I do find the emonic persistence that’s almost compulsive obsessive of sounding sad, a little sadistic and potentially pretentious.