1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 27

The Congregation, by Leprous
Suggested by Stuart Pullin

If your band is called Leprous, I’d expect your music to kill me.

The album’s cover does little to dissuade me of this notion. Grey on grey, with what appears to be an imploding emaciated zombie contorting into itself, the image is intensely troubling. Even on the third, fourth, fifth viewing, I haven’t quite grasped what it’s portraying.

It surprised me, then, when I fired it up, girded for musical annihilation, that the admittedly metal tracks were much more progressive and much less sledgehammer.

Prog Rock, and by extension Prog Metal, treads a very fine line. On one side you have innovation, intricacy, technical prowess. Music. On the other side, you have emotion, energy, rawness. Songs. So often, Prog leans left towards the music without attending to the songs, with predictable results. There’s nothing wrong with either extreme, other than they are extremes, and the best offerings will have a little Column A and a little Column B.

So where do Leprous sit on the Prog Swingometer?

Personally, I’m afraid I find them a little too clever to be truly enjoyable.

The time signatures are clever. The lyrics are clever. The playing is clever. The song structure is clever. There’s a lot to appreciate here, but not a lot of soul. The playing is mechanically brilliant, and I know a certain subset of my readers will be all over this, but I was left rather cold. The thin and reedy vocals didn’t help; again, the vocals hit the right notes, but without much strength or passion.

Another issue that occurs in Prog Town is what I’d call Sonic Sprawl, and The Congregation is firmly corralled in this particular paddock. The majority of songs approach or exceed a whopping seven minutes, which is understandable when you’re trying to cram as much cleverness into every bar and beat. My favourite track of the album is the one that refuses to overstay its welcome: Within My Fence, which runs a tad over three minutes. But do I only like this song because it’s mercifully brief? I’ll leave that question to the philosophers.

Arrive, (Prog) Rock the House, Leave.

I’ll give The Congregation 5/10, but that’s with a caveat. I’m marking it up a full point from my initial impression, purely because this is the most Marmite album I think I’ve reviewed to date.

A lot of listeners will seriously love The Congregation. It’s a perfect example of the form, a mark on the far extreme of a Bell Curve that I’d much prefer to crest.

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