Leprous - Pitfalls
InsideOut Music
Progressive Rock, Art Pop
9 songs (55:10)
Release year: 2019
InsideOut Music
Reviewed by Goat

Norwegian proggers Leprous have been turning heads for as long as they've been releasing music, finding some attention as Ihsahn's live band and keeping it with a string of intensely emotional and interesting progressive metal albums. Each has managed to be different from its predecessor and rarely, if ever, has the high level of quality dipped. And that hasn't changed with Pitfalls although it will definitely divide opinion, continuing the steps taken on 2017's (excellent) Malina away from progressive metal and towards a progressive, artsy kind of pop. The decision to allow frontman/keyboardist Einar Solberg greater control over songwriting has resulted in their least heavy album to date, sounding downright stripped-down at moments such as the minimalist ballad Alleviate, backing drums and synth effects solely there to support Solberg's undeniably beautiful voice, even when the (very limited) guitars join later in the song to provide the catchy crescendo.

And, sure, the album can sound like recent Muse at points, albeit far less gaudy and flashy, and with much more of an emotional impact thanks to the personal themes about depression and anxiety. In a lot of songs the music seems written entirely around Solberg's vocal lines, rather than the other way around, from majestic opener Below onwards with its infectious, slow-burning chorus, instrumental skills still shining through from the compositions (those string arrangements here and there are truly wonderful) alone. Yet it's also clear from the funkiness of some of the percussion, particularly on proggier moments like By My Throne with its influence from Massive Attack-esque trip-hop and recurrent catchy "hey hey"-ing, or I Lose Hope, which manages to subvert the disco-esque bassline and synths into a song as grippingly melancholic as the rest of the album, an overriding sadness drowning any impulse to dance in dark clouds. And that sense of gloom doesn't spoil the uplifting beauty of moments like Observe the Train, with those fluttering multi-tracked falsetto vocals that are such a joy to absorb. For music that is so moody, it's incredibly pretty and enjoyable to listen to.

The general lack of heaviness is easy to overlook and means that when it is applied, such as on late album highlights Distant Bells or the groovy Foreigner, it makes even more of an impact. And eleven-minute finale The Sky Is Red is truly impressive, possibly one of the band's best tracks yet; opening with electronic rock and building with the best usage of guitars on the album, including some gorgeous soloing for the first time in several albums. There's a spinechillingly atmospheric second half with a full Serbian backing choir atop layered electronics and almost djenty riffing, and although one last glorious Solberg-led peak would have ended the album perfectly it still results in what is yet another fantastic album from the Norwegians. For some the lack of metal elements will be a step too far, yet Leprous have incorporated pop and mainstream influences in their music far more naturally and successfully than, say, countrymen Shining did last year, and each new listen to Pitfalls is as pleasurable as the first.

Killing Songs :
Below, Observe the Train, By My Throne, Distant Bells, The Sky Is Red
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Leprous that we have reviewed:
Leprous - Aphelion reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Leprous - Coal reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Leprous - Bilateral reviewed by Jaime and quoted 90 / 100
Leprous - Tall Poppy Syndrome reviewed by Alex and quoted 83 / 100
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