Review Summary: Pitfalls is a vocal-driven, synth-laden, exercise in everything prog can be when a band isn’t scared to break from convention.
Let’s address the main criticism facing Pitfalls
so we can move on. It’s not an exaggeration to say Pitfalls
could have been an Einar Solberg (Vocals, Synths) solo album. With one exception, he’s solely responsible for writing all of the music on Pitfalls
. Also, for the first time, he’s responsible for a vast majority of the lyrics, as well. Additionally, every song is dominated by synth, keyboards, and programmed beats – all of which he plays – and they’re entirely vocal driven. The reality of the situation, though, is Pitfalls
is not a solo album, it is the sixth album by Norwegian progressive metal masters, Leprous. It is also a huge step away from anything else they’ve done; even the electronics-laden Malina
If nothing else, Pitfalls
eases into Leprous’ new sound with opening track “Below”. “Below” is a slow-building, brooding, track that eventually explodes into a soaring chorus that showcases Einar’s full upper register. It’s also one of the most conventional songs on the album, despite its brief use of funk and dance influences. It’s really the next song, “I Lose Hope” where Leprous establish just how far away from their core sound they’re willing to go. When I hear “I Lose Hope” it reminds me of a sullen disco song played at half-speed. It has the grooving swagger, the foot-tapping bass line, synth-drenched accompaniment, and a rhythmic vocal delivery – yet it’s still a dark sounding track overall. If there is an overarching formula to Pitfalls
it’s melancholic dance music, soaring vocals, pop sensibilities, and occasional bouts of something close to progressive metal.
The thing is, despite something akin to a ‘formula’, each track utilizes the elements in different ways and ratios giving each song its own sound. ‘Observe the Train’ is another slow, melancholic track, but instead of building to a climax like “Below” it is content to revel in its atmosphere – which sounds like a depressing, spectral, Christmas song. “By My Throne” alternates between a groovy dance beat and playful progressive rhythms, “At the Bottom” uses programmed beats and layers of synth for the verses and a jarring metal chorus… and so it goes for every song in its own way. The one consistent element from song to song are the vocals of Einar Solberg. His voice is the main driving element for each song, and he has taken up the challenge with gusto. Over the course of the album, he delivers soft whispers, melancholic croons, and powerful upper register singing that makes his previous melodramatic outings seem tame in comparison.
is not a progressive metal album by any conventional definition of the genre, but it is absolutely progressive. There’s no other way to describe the way Leprous has been able to take their particular brand of melancholic prog, inject it with pop, dance and electronic music, and still come out the other side with something new and refreshing that is absolutely Leprous – and it’s not like they’ve completely abandoned conventional prog. There are plenty of places where the band shine through, and no amount of electronics, pop, or groove can drag this band from the dark atmospheres they’ve always reveled in. Pitfalls
is a vocal-driven, synth-laden, exercise in everything prog can be when a band isn’t scared to break from convention.