Leprous - 'Malina'

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Leprous - 'Malina'

A dark and melancholy spirit freshly encased in a daringly accessible frame.

2015's gripping 'The Congregation' from this Norwegian Progressive Metal quintet might have proved a small-scale breakthrough on the Leprous journey. The explosive follow-up double live album recorded in their hometown attested to their live prowess and recent touring cycles with Devin Townsend have seen them spreading their music, the like of which Muse take to the masses in arenas and stadia. A major band-in-waiting – mark those words.

'Malina' comes described by creative catalyst Einar Solberg as an album that "started with a vision and ending with a result that has nothing to do with the original idea". Whether that's a good thing or not, it clearly demonstrates their model of progression and spontaneous creativity. It goes beyond a contrived mission to simply sound different and embraces a change in direction that can often be the stimulus in the creation of new music. Funnily enough, they also speak of 'Malina' as an album needing to be more alive, organic and more dynamic – strangely, qualities you'd automatically associate with Leprous.

With new recruit Robin Ognedal on guitar, first impressions are that 'Malina' seems somewhat more user-friendly, possibly restrained, yet further investment pays dividends. Lulled in by 'Bonneville', the Jazzy shuffle of the first few minutes is most unlike the Leprous that has gone before, yet the layers slowly peel away to reveal 'Malina' as Leprous to the core, although a version that's more refined and controlled. The minimalist moments of 'From The Flame' come tempered by a more immediate, catchy even, chorus. The expected rhythmic complexity might be toned down ever so slightly but remains a key theme.

Musically it may be less dense but retains a lyrical presence of despondency and despair; stick a pin into the song words and you'll find images of isolation – stuck on mountains, betrayal and disaster with no hopes of salvation. Having established the new model, 'Malina' really kicks in with 'Mirage' where the immediacy of the new direction combines with the more familiar and intensely passionate Leprous. The sense of teetering on the edge with the desolation and desperation of the title track destined to be a Leprous classic.

While the album closes with the quasi-religious, semi-Classical 'The Last Milestone' that has Solberg eulogizing over a somber soundtrack, 'Malina' confirms Leprous' status as a dark and melancholy spirit freshly encased in a daringly accessible frame.

Mike Ainscoe

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