Album of the Year 2017 – Number 9

Welcome to day 22 of my ‘Album of the Year 2017 top 30 countdown’.

I sincerely hope that you are all still enjoying my annual countdown of what I personally think are the very best albums released during 2017? I’m certainly enjoying putting it together and it pleases me to read all the nice comments and see people discovering new bands as a result of what I am writing – it makes the whole process even more enjoyable and rewarding.

Today’s choice won’t be a surprise for those that know me. However, they may be a surprise for you, so check this one out carefully if you are unfamiliar with this band – and be prepared to discover a real gem of a band.

But before I go any further, there’s just time to remind you that links can be found below for all of my previous posts in this year’s series, along with a couple of ‘honourable mentions’ posts and the entire series from 2012-2016.

Number 9

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Leprous
Malina
InsideOut Music

“One of the very biggest compliments that I can bestow upon a band is to say that they sound unique. In a day-and-age where originality is harder to come by than a public sector pay rise, it is quite an accolade to be able to declare to the world ‘we sound like no-one else’. And that is exactly what Leprous can boast.

‘Malina’ is definitely a less heavy beast, but to these ears, that’s only if you consider heavy guitars and pounding rhythms to be sonically heavy. ‘Malina’ has these elements and they use them wisely. But they are used less. And, as with each and every Leprous release before this, the music remains intricate, full of atmosphere and crushingly intense. It is also a multi-layered and multi-faceted affair too, with plenty going on in each composition, even if that’s not how it immediately appears.

Each of the eleven tracks has been beautifully crafted and executed with a loving care. There is an ebb and flow to the material too, from atmospheric minimalism to the bang and crash that you’d expect from a band consistently labelled in some quarters as ‘progressive metal’, despite more of a rock sheen of late. Whether or not ‘Malina’ is a concept album, the music itself undeniably tells a story. Dip in and out of the record if you wish, for each track stands on its own. For maximum enjoyment however, ‘Malina’ should be listened to in its entirety.

… ‘Malina’ is ultimately a stunning record. In so many ways it remains faithful to the core Leprous sound but it is bound to raise the eyebrows of many existing fans at the same time. The more rhythmic, staccato guitar work remains, as does the flair for the deceptively complex compositional and instrumental work. That said, ‘Malina’ feels smoother, even more assured and, dare I say it, more mature. Put simply, it is the sound of progressive music par excellence. Just don’t dismiss it after the first listen because if you do, you’ll be making a big mistake.”

Read the full review here.

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Credit: Bjørn Tore Moen

I will echo the point made in the first quote of my review above and state that there really is no other band quite like Leprous. They are the very definition of unique; they don’t sit still and release the same album ad infinitum, they experiment, they push boundaries and they constantly seek to improve as musicians.

Their grounding as the backing band for the legendary Ihsahn will have helped, but it’s more than that. Leprous have a confidence that is enormous and a self-belief that means that they aren’t afraid of trying anything and everything in the pursuit of musical excellence.

I’ve been a fan of Leprous since their debut, ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’, an album that belied their collective young years and delivered some excellent music. It therefore comes as no surprise at all to fast forward eight years and find out that Leprous are now one of the most highly regarded and critically-acclaimed bands in the world of progressive music.

The more I have lived with ‘Malina’, the Norwegian’s fifth album, the more it has got under my skin. It might not be as heavy in the traditional sense as previous records but it is equally dark, melancholy and claustrophobic in tone. But ‘Malina’ is also exceptionally sophisticated and elegant, from start to finish, not to mention highly intelligent and cleverly nuanced.

The music on ‘Malina’ is undeniably complex both in terms of the song writing and the individual performances, meaning that the output does not have the kind of immediacy as other releases from 2017. But that actually becomes another important strength for Leprous because it means that you are forced to listen carefully, forced to pay attention. As a result, over time, the music becomes more impactful and it grows into something more potent, deeply rewarding and satisfying. There is no sense of boredom or over-familiarity with repeated spins, completely the opposite in fact. As I write this now, I am firmly of the opinion that tracks like ‘Stuck’ and ‘The Weight of Disaster’ are some of the best and strongest of Leprous’ career. The depth within these tracks and many others is incredible, as is the pin-sharp manner in which they have been played and recorded.

If you are searching for a band that is genuinely unlike no other and you’ve yet to investigate Leprous, you must remedy this situation immediately. There is literally no excuse. Once heard, I guarantee you’ll be intrigued enough to listen to more of their material. And once that happens, I am confident that you’ll be hooked for life. ‘Malina’ is probably the finest album within an already impressive career, so my mind boggles at the thought of what is still to come.

If you missed either of my 2017 ‘honourable mentions’ posts, here they are should you be interested:

Album of the Year 2017 – honourable mentions Part 1
Album of the Year 2017 – honourable mentions Part 2

Previous posts in my 2017 Top 30 countdown:

Album of the Year 2017 – Number 10
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 11
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 13
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 20
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 21
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 22
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 30

And from previous years:

Album of the Year 2016
Album of the Year 2015
Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

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