In 2011, my musical world was rocked by an album that I still play on a constant basis: Leprous’ Bilateral. A tour de force of progressive rock/metal, Bilateral resonated deep within me, satisfying nearly every want I might have from an album. Astonishing vocals, clever play between instruments, crushing guitars, sublime textures, and more. It is one of those albums that I put on and let play through the whole way.
Now the Norwegian band is back with their latest offering Coal. Could this album match my nearly astronomical expectations set by Bilateral? Head on below to find out.
Opening with “Foe”, the album’s tone is set in stone as something that is grand, epic, and theatrical. Singer Einar Solberg’s voice erupts and soars, vicious yet heavenly. The guitars syncopate while the drums play a marching rhythm. The end result is a song that songs like the opening to some grand opera, one that promises intrigue, mystery, suspense, mysticism, beauty, and, yes, dashes of violence.
Songs like “The Cloak” and “The Valley” solidify the fact that Solberg is one of the best singers in metal today. Shifting into falsetto from chest voice with absolutely no difficulty, his voice takes us on a journey of melodies.
Credit also needs to be given to the rest of the band as they play so elegantly off of each other. The cohesiveness of this band is something that other bands should truly envy. Leprous are clearly so in tune with one another that their music is nothing short of breathtaking.
The production of the Coal is wonderful but a tad more austere than Bilateral. It’s almost as if the band found their tones and patches that they loved and didn’t move stray from them. This list of sounds does not feel as vast nor as inventive as before.
I feel like I need to explain that Coal is a different beast from it’s predecessor. Perhaps the easiest and best way to describe the change in tone from Bilateral to Coal is in their cover artwork. Both were done by Jeff Jordan but the former is full of color while the latter is black and white. The former is almost childish in imagery, something out of a child’s painting. The latter is sinister, unsettling, and very much adult.
The Final Word: Coal is a fantastic album, one that boasts stellar songwriting and brilliant passages that cement Leprous as leaders in avant garde prog metal. However, it’s almost too much of a step forward in terms of maturation from their previous effort Bilateral. The latter was very playful, almost toying with the listener in very jovial, exciting ways. Coal, however, is serious and focused, as though it has shed its childish ways.