Review Summary: Leprous soften their distinctive progressive sound somewhat, but still show they can deliver the goods.
Leprous are probably one of the most intriguing acts in modern progressive music. They started out as a backing group for Ihsahn's live shows, but decided to record music as a separate project. Thanks to frequent lineup changes it took them 8 years before releasing their first album, "Tall Poppy Syndrome", but it was very well-received as a solid slab of avant-garde prog metal. Since then, the band has released 3 more studio albums, all of which have been different in their own right but still very much retaining a familiar sound. However, in the follow-up to this album, "Malina", many fans were confused by how the band seemed to be softening their sound, something that they'd never done before.
Make no mistake, there are still some heavy moments on this album, such as in the last 2 minutes of the opening track, "Bonneville", the penultimate song "The Weight of Disaster" and in the song "Mirage", which is one of the highlights of the album as a whole. On top of this, all of the usual traits of the Leprous sound are still there, like the vocal harmonies ("Bonneville"), as well as the moody atmospheres they began to introduce more on their previous album "The Congregation". The third song, "From the Flame" is a good example of this. The vocals are, once again, one of the main focal points of the music here, a trend which has continued since frontman Einar Solberg has taken on more of the songwriting duty. It's hardly a bad thing, as his vocals are distinctive and excellent. However, with more focus on the vocals, the instrumentation seems to have taken a bit of a backseat. This may be in part due to the band recently gaining a new guitarist, Robin Ognedal, but the instrumentation just doesn't seem to be as interesting as it was on previous albums. Guitar riffs are definitely still here, though, and when they show up, they're just as good as anything off of the band's previous work. "Mirage" is probably the best example of this. Overall, the best instrumentation is presented on the second portion of this album, and whilst the first half is still very solid, it is overshadowed by the latter half.
However, despite the slight inconsistency in the quality of the material, overall the album still flows very nicely and it shows that Leprous can still deliver the goods. "Coma" is a short but sweet piece of glitchy heavy prog, and "The Weight of Disaster" is a fantastic penultimate song and one of the best songs Leprous has ever written, with well-contrasting heavy and soft sections and Einar's vocals once again shining through the moody instrumentation. Album closer "The Last Milestone" is probably the most interesting song on the album, featuring only vocals and a string section, with no guitars or drums. It's a beautiful and haunting song, although it does seem to run on for a little too long, but it shows the band's continued willingness to experiment with their sound, for better or for worse.
Overall, this album is another fine addition to the band's discography. It represents the band growing and exploring some different sounds, which don't always produce the best material they've written, but nevertheless is a very enjoyable experience for long-time fans and newcomers alike.