Review by shadowdoom9 (Andi) for Leprous - Tall Poppy Syndrome (2009)
I had no idea what the phrase "Tall Poppy Syndrome" means until some recent research. Apparently it's a social phenomenon where people are criticized because of their genuine talents elevating them above and from their peers. That's what Leprous was doing with this album but guess what? Very few progressive peers despise that and they succeeded in the elevation! Resembling a combo of influences such as Opeth, Winds, and Porcupine Tree, the appeal of Leprous is undeniable. You can never place the band in a specific genre other than progressive metal.
The band's progressive metal material is a well-crafted mix of odd structures, clean vocals, time changes, complex rhythms, and contrasting heaviness, all in dexterous writing. The band's most appealing moments are the heavier ones, but those are only employed sparingly while helped out by the cleaner sections. Sure it would be awesome if the music was more crushing, but that would make the material less memorable and likely to suffer the negative effects of Tall Poppy Syndrome.
The opening song "Passing" is a great introduction to the album and the official part of the band's discography, having quieter verses in gloomy atmosphere combined with crushing sections of melancholy. It might deceive some listeners who would end up thinking this album is doomy when the rest isn't. "Phantom Pain" starts with quieter acoustics before an abrupt piano switch into heavier riffs, hammering bass, and later some jazz instrumentation. I dare you to listen to "Dare You" and NOT find how hauntingly effective the piano is in that song. Well, it is! Dueling with the guitar in mesmerizing ambiance.
"Fate" also starts quiet, but it is more of a short progressive power ballad with robust atmosphere and a build up into a slow but heavy teary solo. "He Will Kill Again" is a killer song that would've fit pretty well in the Aeolia sessions. "Not Even a Name" really flows between early Dimmu Borgir-style melodic black metal (frantic screaming vocals and speedy tremolo) and melancholic jazzy progressive rock/metal. With that ebb and flow of those two styles, it sure gives Leprous the originality it has.
Leprous' Crusade (yes, I'll keep using that Trivium Crusade reference) is the title track. It has a locked and loaded atmosphere with avant-garde progression of good twisted riffs from guitars, floating bass, and a small section of spoken vocals. After all that happens for 6 minutes, the last two minutes shows the track getting a little repetitive, but it doesn't break the greatness of this album. Repetition is something not to overuse when writing a progressive metal instrumental like that. However, what really tops it all off is the epic closer and my favorite in the album, "White", the longest Leprous song at 11 and a half minutes. Almost 10 minutes of glorious progressive metal, ending with a couple key transposes and unleashing all of the band's power before collapsing into a couple minute piano outro. Incredible!
It's pretty clear that I'm one of the very few people who enjoy Tall Poppy Syndrome more than many other progressive metal albums. This is quite a polarizing album but it immediately shows me the best forms of art. If you want to be more open-minded and look for something unique and less mundane, this is the album for you!
Favorites: "Passing", "He Will Kill Again", "Not Even a Name", "White"