Review by Sonny for Leprous - Tall Poppy Syndrome (2009) Review by Sonny for Leprous - Tall Poppy Syndrome (2009)

Sonny Sonny / March 22, 2022 / 1

Leprous are a Norwegian progressive metal band led by Einar Solberg who is Ihsahn's brother-in-law and Tall Poppy Syndrome is their second album, originally released in 2009. Their music is very much like a heavier version of Porcupine Tree and, despite being fairly complex, is actually quite efficiently composed, with very little that is extraneous and redundant. The band are obviously extremely competent musicians but, luckily, don't feel compelled to prove it every two minutes and thus have eliminated any excessive wankery from their songs.

The album starts off quite strongly with the track Passing which undergoes several twists and turns, but does showcase one of the weaker aspects for me, which is the harsh vocals. They certainly aren't terrible, but they aren't the greatest either and I much prefer the cleans. As this is the only Leprous album I have heard to date, I don't know how this aspect develops on their later releases, but I would have liked to hear the harsh vocals done by someone more proficient, maybe a guest vocalist as, otherwise, Passing is a very good opener. Harsh vocals aren't a prominent feature of the album as a whole, so there isn't much damage done anyway.

The whole album is of a very high standard, but the final half an hour's three tracks elevate this to even loftier heights in my book. After opening with one of the album's heavier moments, Not Even A Name becomes a bit jazzy with tinkling piano and crooning vocals before the highly melodic (and somewhat catchy) chorus kicks in. It has quite a late-metal-era Opeth vibe, with Einar Solberg's clean vocals sounding very like Mikael Akerfeldt's although the harsh vocals are sludgy rather than death growls. The title track seems to be one of the lesser liked tracks, but I think it is my favourite. The heavy instrumentation and the spoken-word vocals combine to great effect as the band rail against the titular syndrome that society employs to keep talent suppressed and people in their place (a syndrome particularly prominent here in the UK sadly). No doubt the band drew complaints of being closet fascists or something for this, but any sane person knows that's utter bollocks. Me, I like a good bit of biting social commentary. Closing track White has a fair bit of the harsh vocals I dismissed earlier in my review, but the awesome guitar work and fantastic keyboards more than make up for that - I've always been a sucker for that Hammond organ kind of sound.

So in conclusion, I would say that initially this may not blow your socks off, but it has many hidden depths and requires several listens to get the full effect. The songwriting is stellar, with ebbs and flows, heavier and gentler sections gorgeously interposed with one another. Technically marvellous, both performance and production-wise this could proudly sit on my shelves between my Opeth and Porcupine Tree albums with no fear of being outclassed. Luckily the Tall Poppy Syndrome mustn't be in full force in Norway or this may never have seen light of day!

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