Welcome back to the Blog Of Much Metal ‘Album Of The Year 2013’ countdown. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself this year, partly because I love writing about music and partly because there have been some truly brilliant releases this year. That always makes this task a lot more enjoyable…if only just a bit difficult, trying to decide who makes it and who misses out. I have done some head-scratching, I can tell you!
If you have missed the previous days, they can be read here:
And today? Here’s number 14…
Norwegian avant-garde progressive metal band Leprous are a rare breed. Not only are they very young, they have released three albums in their short career to date and every one has been absolutely brilliant. Normally, as a band finds their feet, they might produce something a little sub-par. Not Leprous. And 2013’s ‘Coal’ is no exception. In fact, having lived with it for the best part of a year, I happen to think that this is their very best album to date. Why? Let me explain:
Right from the off, you can be in no doubt that you are listening to Leprous. Ever quirky, ever adventurous, ever challenging, this is progressive metal with a capital ‘P’. The stop-start metronomic opener ‘Foe’ kicks things off in classic Leprous style, laying down the gauntlet brilliantly. Like much of Leprous’ back catalogue, it is not an instant hit. Instead it takes a few spins to seep into your subconscious and properly click. Personally, I love that.
‘Coal’ is almost certainly the Norwegian’s darkest and most ominous body of work. There’s a dark and serious vein running through this album, suggesting that their ‘other’ work as Ihsahn’s backing band has had a demonstrable effect on them. Again, I love the atmosphere on this record and it builds beautifully throughout, culminating satisfyingly with closer ‘Contaminate Me’, an outpouring of aggression and complexity with a very Ihsahn-esque post-black metal sheen.
Having said all that, ‘Coal’ is different from previous releases in that as challenging as it is, it also, somewhat strangely, offers some of the band’s most accessible material to date. It is all relative of course and I’m not for one minute suggesting that this is saccharine pop-metal or anything. However, tracks like ‘The Cloak’ or ‘The Valley’ contain some of the most ear-friendly, beautiful and long-lasting melodies that Leprous have penned. All-in-all, a fantastic album worthy of the attention of any self respecting progressive metal fan.
Remember, it’s not too late to check out last year’s Top 20 if you missed it first time around. Read it here.