02. Forced Entry
05. Mb. Indifferentia
06. Waste of Air
07. Mediocrity Wins
08. Cryptogenic Desires
09. Acquired Taste
10. Painful Detour
Leprous are a very interesting band. While they’ve had stylistic changes over the years, the style they’ve reached at `Bilateral` is definitely where they sound most comfortable. If you wonder what they sound like, it’s a bit difficult to explain, but I’ll try. Try taking Dream Theater, adding haunting characteristics of Opeth, sprinkling in some of Frank Zappa‘s craziness, adding a very Levi/Werstler style of guitar, and adding some of Devin Townsend Project‘s Deconstruction stylings, you’ll have the right mix. Now, if those names made your stomach turn with disgust, this album is obviously not for you. But if you’re a regular reader of ours, most of these names probably made you jump with excitement. Well then, hop in and experience this crazy journey with me.
The opening/title track “Bilateral“, starts very Dream Theater-esque, and sets a mellow and ominous tone, and you can immediately see the skills at display here. Very clear production, offbeat drumming, haunting vocals that would make Mikael Akerfeldt proud, and composition that would make every music major giddy. This tune is simultaneously very catchy and very progressive, and that can be said of the entire album. Of course, Leprous don’t spill all their beans at the start, and there’s a lot more to appreciate.
“Forced Entry”, which is my favorite track, starts of a bit weirder. There’s some usage of seven string guitars, and the song is a bit more frantic than before. This song’s guitars have a lot of Levi/Werstler influence, and the vocals are great in a haunting way. The slow, ballady midsection of the song shows off some of Leprous’s progressive and ambient stylings. The climactic final section of the song has falsetto vocals, screaming, and a heavy Tool influence. I think we’ve covered pretty much everything a prog fan can expect, and it’s all done in a very expert fashion too. These guys are clearly a master of their craft.
“Restless,” “Thorn,” and “Mb. Indifferentia” are slower tracks, but that definitely does not make them inferior. The vocals and songwriting really take the reins on these songs. There’s jazz, epic Dream Theater-style choruses, clean sections with the groovy/haunting style of Opeth, and a general Devin Townsend influence. “Thorn” even has guest vocals by Ihsahn, whom they have frequently performed with. There’s some saxophone on that track too, perhaps by Ihsahn’s influence. Even though a light Meshuggah influence rears its head from time to time, the clear analogy on the guitars is to Levi/Werstler and John Petrucci.
“Waste of Air”, my second favorite track, starts of way heavier than the previous track with tremolo picking, blast beats and a frantic keyboard. Don’t get me wrong, this is the heaviest moment on an otherwise very mellow album. The general heaviness of the album is on the level of Dream Theater’s Train of Thought. This track also has some very ambient sections with staccato guitars backed by keyboards. All the elements I’ve mentioned so far in this review might sound like a random mixing bag, but Leprous are so good at progressive metal that they pull it of masterfully.
“Mediocrity Wins” is also a unique masterpiece with funk style slapped bass and an interesting spoken word section, and there’s also some old-Pain of Salvation influence too, and there’s some in “Cryptogenic Desires” too. Don’t you love how I’m name-dropping all these awesome bands? Leprous have brought together all these great elements, and while most of them have been done before, they mix them together with great skill as if they’ve been doing it all along, and the end result is absolutely fantastic.
“Acquired Taste” is another great song, starting with pianos and a huge buildup that pays off perfectly. There’s so much progression in this album that it will satisfy even the most grizzled of listeners. “Painful Detour” takes the journey that the album laid out, and brings it to a satisfying close that feels perfect and doesn’t leave you wanting for more. This is rarely done nowadays, which is a shame.
Overall, this is a very solid album that not many bands can pull off. It’s an insane mixture of very hard to integrate elements that only masters of the genre do right. With Bilateral, Leprous can also claim their spot among those masters. If you like progressive metal, there’s absolutely no reason for you to not listen to this. It has influences from all the masters, and it also has its own spin that makes it unique. It’s really hard to imagine how good this is without listening to it, so definitely check this one out, because it’s the best progressive album you’ll have heard in quite a while.
Leprous – Bilateral gets…