5th November 2019, Cologne, Kantine
As this European tour continues, many of the Leprous shows are sold out way in advance. Currently, the band is posting updates about playing at festivals, so one way or another, please go to at last one Leprous concert this season. Although I personally secretly hope they won’t become a huge festival band, because their music is better to be felt and enjoyed at a closed-venue-darker-club-red-wine kind of setting rather than an open air field with fireworks. If some bands’ live concerts are an experience or a spectacle, Leprous live is a feeling. The latest album especially can be taken very personally and asks for a smaller indoor space, where you can intake all that musical therapy 100%.
Well, where to begin… Leprous is my discovery of the year 2019. I might be late to this emotional-instability-dealing-with-depression-heavyness mental bus of Scandinavian musical genius, but oh man, am I glad to be a passenger at last! So when I saw they are touring, I had to attend.
In Cologne, a city not a stranger to hosting world class acts, the concert was at a venue that you’d use to hide bodies of people you murdered in. Even with fancy map apps it was not easy to locate and even then, find an entrance to. Small, dark and VERY hidden amid poorly lit industrial areas of postal warehouses, Ford assembly lines and old cable factories. But at the same time, it felt private, secluded and mysterious, just how I like to enjoy live concerts of bands with much of an emotional connotation. It is not a party or a festival where any loud soundtrack will do, this is personal. Leprous is personal.
On the bill, two more bands were announced – Port Noir and The Ocean. I’ve heard reviews about the latter, but both were something new to see live. Turns out, the order of bands is not necessarily a measuring scale of their quality. Port Noir – what an excellent choice! Giving them a big like and Stalker’s elky stamp of approval. Very solid trio from Sweden, and a very good fit to the main act. Here as well, I hope PN won’t become a huge festival act, their music and their mood is best carried in a smaller indoor location. Dark and heavy, with quality vocals and great instrumental management, the guys prove that three is enough when everyone is a master of their tool(s). Metal meets lounge meets heavy, good and easy to listen to even if you’re new to their sound, because it is melodic and you wish you knew every lyric. PN is a very good club band, which I wish they’d be doing more and if you’re near, do not miss out.
Then came The Ocean and as much as the name was already a very attractive salespoint, but what the fog guys??! The stage filled with so much smokey effects and stayed filled for just them that I honestly cannot tell you much… Was there a band or a full orchestra? – who knows, it was all fogged up the ENTIRE set! Mysterious and questionably photogenic perhaps, but for the rest – get the fog out! If a band wants to look mysterious, use hooded black robes or freaky makeup, even that gets you more attention than a stage full of white fluff lit by some green laser lights. Not cool and quite boring. The music I must say too, melodic doom with adequate vocals, but so generic with nothing too especially memorable. In this case, sad to say, the ocean has drowned itself… in its own fog.
And so, the headliner had their job cut out for them. We were warmed up and hungry and very ready. In the breaks in between sets the audience was getting impatient. Many have seen Leprous on their previous visit to Cologne a couple of years before, and I kept hearing positive impressions. I often heard that Leprous is writing the new history of the alternative music scene as we speak, and with all my headbanging enthusiasm, I wanted to be a part of it asap. Their records are all very distinct and different, united by highly technical musical arrangements and very diverse vocal range of the lead singer Einar. Leprous is known for their progressive sounds, versatile vocals, from deep to high, family connections to Norwegian black metal key players and personal lyrics dealing with emotional instability. What’s not to love?! The newest album, “Pitfalls” also won’t leave you indifferent, even though it is again a step into a different direction from the band’s previous releases. Leprous are changing their sounds, but you can still follow the thin red thread throughout their music history and find the notes that connect it all. It’s the kind of music that gives you goosebumps and on some inexplicable level, you feel the lyrics and can relate to something in every song.
In their visual presentation, the Norwegians are faithful to their neat haircuts, black outfits with shirt and tie, stylish, yet unremarkable and in that way, it could be anyone of us. Any except the ever topless drummer, so hard at his instrument, spreading the pinch of sexy spice all over this darkly emotional ensemble with melancholic verses. Video backdrops support each song and add to the modernity of all it. Beautiful, tasteful and stylish that borderlines on almost hipster-metal, but not quite, thanks to explicit emotional content and live cello. Singer shares his stage time between microphone and keyboard, showing excellent mastership on both. Raphael Weinroth-Browne, a very talented guest cellist from Canada, having joined the band on this live tour – magnificent.
As my expectations confirmed, my discovery of the year remains – Leprous is a true gem. The band that is innovative, expressive, rich in content and simply unforgettable. A band of talented musicianship, skillful arrangements, honest lyrics, met with excellent technical execution. Very professional. It’s new and different, memorable and yet strikes the note within you that is longtime buried and unspoken of: don’t we all have some darkness in our lives that is hard to deal with or even admit to.
With them, we’ve been through Tall Poppies, dark Coal and the Congregation, now having tripped into Pitfalls, and no matter how dark and deep and uncertain it goes, it’ll never get boring and we are happily falling along, left wanting more.
Text: Marina Minkler photos: STALKER