Review Summary: An absolutely epic, twisting, and thrilling adventure from start to finish and some of the best music modern progressive rock has to offer.
is the direct antithesis to the line of thought that someone could actually reach a point where they have “heard everything”. For anyone who actively seeks to discover new music and push beyond their comfort zone, music-searching can become almost a cyclical phenomenon. Albums come along every so often that shatter any expectations you might have had, and kick-start newfound enthusiasm about a particular genre or band. Then, after that’s been exhausted, comes the quiet lull where a listener yearns for something different, growing tired of everything they hear before stumbling upon a new kind of masterpiece. Albums like these are the resulting prize of the restless searching we undergo in order to find that newfound enthusiasm. Bilateral
is a masterpiece of modern progressive rock.
This is the third album by the Norwegian outlet and their magnum opus. It’s an album that tests what you know about progressive rock and music in general. It ambitiously strives to do all it can within the confinements of its ten songs, with its instrumentation being some of the best the genre has ever offered up. And if the album art is any indication, it’s also one of the most random and unpredictable albums you’ll ever hear...in the best kind of way. “Forced Entry” does not start the way anyone would expect a 10-minute long progressive rock song to start. This genre is full of bands that thrive by building up songs from slow moody intros into emotional peaks and climaxes. Leprous show they have an entirely different agenda at work here. It flies at you like a punch to the face with hyperactive synths and an almost djent-influenced riff slicing in and out of the chaotic concoction. Vocalist Einar Solberg uses this track to showcase the many different sides of his vocals, from impossibly high notes to deep bellowing screams in order to keep pace with the changing tempos – he is truly a force to be reckoned with. And just for good measure, as if the song hadn’t already accomplished enough, Leprous fits in a guitar solo mid-way through and a jaw-dropping climax near the end as he triumphantly yells “Sit back, relax / Let me enter the core / I’ve opened the door!”
And it only gets weirder from there. “Thorn” starts with a quiet respite before some horns enter the fray to announce the mayhem that is to come. The harmonies on this track are stellar and Solberg’s vocals once again effortlessly match the constantly changing pace from delicate interludes to punishingly fast heavy guitar and pounding drums. Later on, “Waste of Air” kicks off with harsh vocals over a stomping beat before progressing into an absolutely epic interlude. The chugging guitar is eventually met with a squealing higher-pitched guitar leading into a drawn out segment that builds up over time. And when I say drawn out, I mean VERY drawn out. This piece of the song builds up without any vocals for over two minutes straight. And while bands like Neurosis obviously make a living off of building up songs for longer than that, the sheer intensity that gathers over the course of those two minutes is astounding. The listener becomes so restless in anticipation during that segment – it’s as if a bomb is going to go off. And with a band like Leprous, that seems entirely reasonable to expect. You’d think after that, the band would be all out of tricks. However, the following track “Mediocrity Wins” fools you once again by spending its first two minutes in a trippy psychedelic atmosphere, with ominous chanting amidst low moody bass.
Randomness, for what it’s worth, is typically refreshing. But a band cannot simply thrive off of randomness. At some point, they need to show they can embody the basic spirit of the genre, and not just throw stuff at the wall hoping it’ll stick. Enter the masterpiece that is “Mb. Indifferentia”, a powerful ballad that showcases exactly what progressive rock is all about. Leprous builds up the song with adept precision from its roots of soft piano and subtle percussions into a delicate vocal performance, a gentle swimming guitar and finally a spectacular climax to finish. When Solberg cries out that final “Do nothing at all!”
, there’s this feeling of victory, as if it could very well be one of the most emotional peaks ever reached in the progressive rock genre. There is no second’s hesitation in labelling it on that level either, it’s that powerful.
When I hear an album that tries this many different sounds and executes them so flawlessly, there’s always this thought that comes into my head on the first listen. It’s an unfair, pessimistic thought. How can the band keep this up? Surely, in these last few songs...SOMETHING has to falter. How can a band just keep going at this rate? It’s a very difficult task. Even the best bands sometimes don’t know how to finish an album where they’ve been on
the entire time, losing it in the very final moments. I feel comfortable in saying you have no need to worry when it comes to Bilateral
. It’s the real deal, an album that does practically everything phenomenally well and never falters once, as hard as that may be to believe. You’ll just have to take the plunge and listen to this riveting musical adventure in order to prove me wrong.