A fine example of a millennial progressive metal band rapidly developing a robust fanbase with a creative sound dividing them from the gamut of oxymoronic progressive youthful acts is Leprous, live in London yet again. Used to headlining stints at the sweaty Underworld, tonight sees the Norwegians take over the roomier Garage, the place of their appearance last year supporting fellow fresh-faced proggers Haken.
Support is from another Norwegian prog metal group, namely Sphere, their debut appearance in the capital. Formed in Oslo in 2012, the band stirs up Meshuggah-influenced heavy atonal riffs, punctuated by rasps abundant in melodic death metal acts and peppered by a brief atmospheric passage featuring clean vocals. The initial song sees bassist Øystein Sundsbø marred by technical complications significant to detach him from the line up but by the second track, he returns to place.
The crowd is motionless and curious at first before eventually warming to Sphere and banging their heads to the quaking and groove-centred guitar riffs. The band's stage presence is far more enthused than prog metal is associated with.Nonetheless, the music miscarries any unorthodox ideas and the injected atmospheric moments become too predictable. Additionally, the clean vocals are far too anaemic in the mix and their alternative rock influence paints them as whiny. Yet in spite of these criticisms, a fair portion of the punters are engaged by their live show and the band presumably attained new converts.
Earlier in the year, Norwegian prog metallers Leprous released album number four – 'The Congregation' and they lift off tonight's proceedings with new song 'The Flood' from this release, flanked by widescreen TVs exhibiting artistic shorts. Having lost two key members, the new studio effort remains highly faithful to the musicians' pioneering sound - technical yet moody, flickers of sci-fi electronics, voluminous, heavy and angular guitar work, enthralling vocal work and classical influence. Most of 'The Congregation' makes the cut into the setlist with highlights including the Opeth-tinged 'The Third Law', the tender 'Rewind' and the pulsing 'Red'.
Debut album 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' is entirely absent and sophomore album 'Bilateral' only has 'Acquired Taste' selected from it but 'Coal' gets fair representation with 'Chronic', 'Foe' and 'The Cloak' making the cut and securing strong ovations from the fans more familiar with these numbers than the new album. The venue is crowded with heads banging to mirror the actions of the members on stage. Vocalist and keyboard-wielding frontman Einar Solberg looks incredibly commanding, bedecked in his smart attire and extremely confident in his performance, ensuring all eyes are focused on him.
Closer 'Slave' arrives too rapidly but Leprous reclaim the stage for a lengthy encore of 'The Price', 'Moon', 'Down' and 'The Valley', the attendees displaying no sign of fatigue as the headliners tip-toe over the venue's curfew and conclude the show, capturing a voluminous applause from the crowd. Another display of under-appreciated talent in the musical world, the band leaves London with smiles on their faces. Given their annual treks to the UK, it feels unreasonable to expect them to return next year to what is clearly a stronghold for them.
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