Leprous – White
Supporting Devin Townsend last year with a hilarious gig Leprous returns to the A38 Ship on their European tour in a truly great company featuring the ingenious Icelandic Agent Fresco, Greek AlithiA and also Norwegian Astrosaur. A great night to experience not only the present but also the future of the style!
The stunning cover art for LEPROUS' third album and InsideOutMusic debut, Bilateral, was created by Jeff Jordan (of The Mars Volta fame) and screams “prog rock!”, as interpreted by the genre's hard core aficionados. The music found behind it re-defines what it means to be progressive rock and / or metal, both for the devotees of the genre and the metal fans looking on from a safe distance.
With 10 years of making music under their collective belt, the Norwegian quintet are a unique outfit in that, while they embrace the prog rock and metal "requirements" as laid out by the fans, the band's sound is equally rooted in straightforward hook-laden metal. For every part Pain Of Salvation and King Crimson one may hear, there is an equal amount of Shining (NO), Devin Townsend and Opeth to balance it out. Not an easy task by any means, yet LEPROUS makes it sound effortless.
"I'm not to fan of following genres in general," says vocalist / synth player Einar Solberg. "I feel many people are putting too many limitations on their work in order to follow the conventions set by the genre they belong in. In my opinion, that's the kind of things that kills creativity. The term progressive music has been gradually diluted through the years, and now it seems like the only requirement for being labeled as a prog band is that you include one or two odd time signatures plus a virtuous guitar solo in your song. The bands that truly deserves being titled as progressive bands are the bands who dare breaking with the conventions. That being said, I'm quite comfortable being labeled as a progressive band. The prog crowd seems to be slightly more open-minded than followers of other genres."
Bilateral is a product of five-part musical inspiration LEPROUS have had a decade to refine, despite the young age (between 20 and 26 years) of the current individual musicians that comprise the group. The experience of recording and touring behind their 2009 album release, Tall Poppy Syndrome, only proved to benefit the band. Chosen as backing band for former Emperor frontman and countryman Ihsahn – a progressive black metal metal musician / legend in his own right – not to mention countless shows supporting heavy hitters like Opeth, progressive metal stalwarts Pagan’s Mind and symphonic metal veterans Therion in 2009 and 2010 proved that musical boundaries could and should be broken.
According to Solberg, there was no blueprint to go by in making Bilaterial, and no other bands that LEPROUS aspired to follow: "When it comes to inspiration we have no band that stands out being the main one. We listen a lot to different music, everything from Michael Jackson to Miles Davis to Meshuggah. And, of course, a lot of bands in between (laughs)."
The new album is loaded with surprises. New heights are reached with Solberg's smooth and clean vocals, and he adds a new dynamic to the prog metal world with the casual performance of intense growls as well. On the musical front, Bilateral never stays in one place too long. The title track is a dark progressive metal classic in the making, while 'Forced Entry', 'Restless' and 'Cryptogenic Desires' hint at updated interpretations of classic symphonic hard rock, the latter two featuring a blatant metal vibe. 'Waste Of Air', on the other hand, is an uncompromising stab of intricate hook-heavy aggression reminiscent of upstarts Protest The Hero.
Joining the band on the album is not only something as out-of-left-field as a trumpet (trumpets in heavy metal? Well, yes … why not?), but also a guest appearance by none other than living legend Ihsahn, formerly of Norwegian black metal pioneers Emperor; "After recording the trumpet for ‘Thorn’, we realized there was something missing in the song. Wind instruments doesn't do well in metal without a certain black metal legend to back them up," Solberg comments.
On the other side of the coin, Bilateral, skillfully mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren / Fascination Street (Opeth, Katatonia, Symphony X, etc.), echoes Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree on tracks like 'Mb. Indifferentia', 'Acquired Taste' and 'Mediocrity Wins'. Yet, for all the name-dropping that's done in the interest of a Bilateral overview, LEPROUS most certainly have their own identity. They aren't afraid of marching to the beat of their own hammer and anvil, or daring you to come along for the ride and look at prog metal in a new light.
Agent Fresco (IS)
AGENT FRESCO is an Icelandic band of startling originality known for volcanic performances of music spanning the jazz, pop, rock & hardcore genres. At the heart of their sound is a lyric intensity that flows through finely crafted lyrics, soaring rhapsodic melodies, sideways-pulling polyrhythms and spasmodic eruptions of aggressive guitar, supported on drums by a rhythmic ribcage varying in style from spiffy jazz to muscular rock.
This is emotion-soaked music projected with a stylistic confidence that earned this band the highest rating (KKKKK) from Kerrang! magazine. These four musicians are the real deal, impressive at any scale: electric or unplugged, on the stage or in the studio. And it is their studio work that is most in the news today.
In November 2010 Agent Fresco released their first full-length CD, an ambitious 17-track concept album entitled A Long Time Listening. Recognized as “an amazing album by the best rock band in the country today” (Morgunblaðið), it was immediately shortlisted for best album of the year by Icelandic music critics of both national newspapers, as well as for a Kraumur Award, and for the Nordic Music Prize, not to mention climbing to #1 on the charts of the gogoyoko music download site. And the respect of their fellow musicians is reflected in the number of front-ranking Icelandic performers who volunteered to sing back-up chorus on the title track of the album.
Plans are now underway for an upcoming tour of Europe to capitalize on the publicity the album has generated, and to strengthen the recognition they acquired from previous concert & festival appearances in England, France (ClassEu’Rock 08’), Netherlands (Eurosonic 10’) Denmark & Czechoslovakia.
Recognition was not slow in coming to this group of music students when they formed Agent Fresco back in 2008 to compete in the annual Musíktilraunir (Battle of the Bands) competition, which they swept convincingly, winning not only the grand prize, but also individual prizes for best guitarist, best drummer and best bassist. Since then they have received a Kraumur Award for their 2008 EP Lightbulb Universe, and were declared Best New Band (Bjartasta Von) at the Icelandic Music Awards in 2009.
The strength of their performances at the Iceland Airwaves music festival has brought them to the attention of international media such as KEXP radio (Seattle) and Kerrang! magazine (London), who have posted online interviews and performances of Agent Fresco on their websites. More impressive still, they have attracted the attention of filmmakers Bowen Staines and Gunnar B. Guðbjörnsson, who included considerable footage of the band in their Iceland Airwaves documentary Where´s the Snow?! which premiered at the Reykjavík International Film Festival in 2010. The band received additional international publicity as the focus of two episodes in Bowen Staines´ Don´t Panic TV web series.
Critical attention is still sharply focused on this band in 2011 with their nomination for a prestigious DV Culture Award and three nominations for the Icelandic Music Awards: Performer of the Year (Agent Fresco), Vocalist of the Year (Arnór Dan Arnarson) and Rock Album of the Year (A Long Time Listening).
But what the critics now proclaim audiences have known ever since they heard Eyes of a Cloud Catcher on the radio 3 years ago. Before it was even released, the band played this song at their first Iceland Airwaves in 2008, staring out in disbelief at a sea of swaying hands as the entire audience sang the chorus back to them, a cappella. That tribute of affection, now a ritual at every performance, caused a blogger at Airwaves 2010 to write:
"Seriously, this band is so impressive and the way the entire room sings along to their stunning Eyes Of A Cloud Catcher is a moment that'll live long in the memory of all here." (Kerrang blog, Airwaves 2010)
Agent Fresco are:
Arnór Dan Arnarson: vocals
Hrafnkell Örn Guðjónsson: drums / percussion
Vignir Rafn Hilmarsson: bass / upright bass
Þórarinn Guðnason: guitar / piano / programming
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