Norwegian Rock outfit Leprous return with their sixth and most ambitious studio album to date entitled “Pitfalls”, set for release on October 25th, 2019 worldwide via InsideOutMusic.
Leprous vocalist and keyboardist Einar Solberg comments on the upcoming album: “We’re incredibly proud to announce “Pitfalls”! It’s the album no-one is expecting from Leprous. When you think you know where it’s headed, you’ll realise that you’re wrong. It’s not only by far the biggest production and musical departure we’ve done, but the also most personal and honest. The album has been written through one of my toughest years, where I struggled with depression and anxiety. No filters, no metaphors, just the truth. They say that writing music is therapeutic. but I would say that it’s an understatement. For me “Pitfalls” is the result of 1,5 years of learning how to get through the dark tunnel. The music has been my torch.”
I’ve been listening to music for as long as I can remember. In fact its probably one of my earliest memories, with my dad cranking 50s and 60 rock n roll and thumping pop acts. Not quite metal, but stuff you could play loud. I have probably heard thousands of albums from thousands of bands over the years, and Im still scratching the surface. I’ve been reviewing since 2007 and the reason I keep doing it is for occasions like this, where a band I’ve never heard of before, ends up in my inbox and I’m asked to give it a listen. It’s happened twice this week, the other being French outfit Klone.
There are nine songs in all, and for the frontman they are roughly divided into two halves. The first half of the album can be described as representing the poppier side of the band’s artistry. The second half is a lot more experimental and progressive.
I’ve no previous history so its a case of reviewing it from a single standpoint without referencing any of their past work. What I will tell you immediately, is that I want to get hold of everything they have done before this, after just one single listen of this album. Its good. Bloody good. I immediately like the phrasing, tone, and falsetto of Einar Solberg’s vocals, akin to something I expect to hear on a Scandi thriller playing in the background. Both haunting and compelling ‘Below’ is a joy from its first to its last note. I can’t call it prog, or rock or anything in-between. It is what it is. ‘I Lose Hope’ is close to Royal Republic’s recent disco album, and the short choppy vocals combined with sparse use of guitar, and electronica show that these guys are not to be trifled with, or pigeon-holed. ‘Observe The Train’ has a lovely lilting chorus that’s instantly likeable. ‘By My Throne’ picks up the pace more than anything previous, and for me the tone is similar to Agnes Obel. Not your usual comparison I’d agree! ‘Alleviate’ involves strings, bongoes, and is as close to pop as a band like this Leprous will get.
‘At The Bottom’ is a song you can’t fathom which direction it is going to go. Almost operatic, and balladic, its not conforming to any given structure. Again there are strings lifting the emotion of the song beyond the norm, before falling into something that Steven Wilson may curve ball you into. Its from this song to the album end where the experimentation takes place. ‘Distant Bells’ starts with a piano intro, with Solberg’s vocals drifting gently over the piano. I feel like I’m watching a very dramatic film, with the soundtrack to an emotional and downbeat section. Its achingly haunting, as it builds to its powerful crescendo. Theres one ‘rocker’ on ‘Pitfalls, and that’s ‘Foreigner’ , which has a synth section that is similar to The Prodigy’s ‘Funky Shit’ crossed with the melody of Rammstein. Finally we are onto the epic in length closer, ‘The Sky Is Red’ starts off with some fab drumming from Baard Kolstad, and a choir has been employed to sing over the vocals adding extra sound and depth. It has choppy riffing from guitarists Suhrke, Ognedal, and bassist Børven. They even throw in a guitar solo, to keep the purists happy, at least for one song. Its prog at its finest and a fitting way to finish off the album.
I sense that Leprous are doing ‘an Opeth’, in having a career defining change, and I’ll leave the last word to Solberg. Solberg believes ‘Pitfalls’ firmly represents the Leprous philosophy and artistry. It is an album without any compromise whatsoever. The band have followed their vision throughout, whatever the cost and wherever it took them. “I can honestly say that ‘Pitfalls’ is the album we set out to make, and I am proud of what we have achieved. I hope everyone enjoys it. But what matters most to me is that I love it. That’s all any artist can ask, to be happy with what you’ve created.” I agree with him wholeheartedly. A wonderful album, and I can’t wait too catch them in November.
Thank you Leprous, you have a new convert.
Review by Paul Chesworth
I Lose Hope
Observe The Train
By My Throne
At The Bottom
The Sky Is red
Einar Solberg – Lead vocals / keyboards
Tor Oddmund Suhrke – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Baard Kolstad – Drums
Robin Ognedal – Guitars, Backing Vocals
I love reviewing bands that I don’t know much about especially established bands such as Vanden Plas who have been around for a long time.
This album may only have 6 tracks but it still runs the best part of 45 minutes and it’s a very interesting 45 minutes at that. This album actually had my head spinning because I simply didn’t know what was coming from minute to minute, the opening bars of this album is a thundering classic heavy rock intro and sets a good pace, just as you’re getting used to the anthemic opening there’s a slight twist and the next thing you know you’re listening to a cross between Fates Warning and Set The World On Fire era of Annihilator and that’s just the first 2 minutes of Cold December Night.
This constant mix of styles is present throughout the entire album and it is a real pleasure to hear the amalgamation of so many genres in one place and I spent the whole time writing this whilst immersing myself into the music.
Vanden Plas have managed to combine multiple musical styles flawlessly, even when there’s a change of direction the transition is beautifully smooth.
Old fans of Vanden Plas will absolutely love this album and music fans new to the band will want to check out their extensive back catalogue.
This album gets a solid 8.5
Review by Marc
Andy Kuntz – Vocals
Stephan Lill – Guitar
Günter Werno – Keyboards
Andreas Lill – Drums
Torsten Reichert – Bass
* Cold December Night
* The Phantoms Of Prends-Toi-Gardes
* Three Ghosts
* Devils´ Poetry
* Fall From The Skies
* The Ghost Xperiment
Like my review of Leprous yesterday, Klone are another band I’ve never encountered. And, just like Leprous, I want them in my life from here on in. I find this album wonderful on its first listen, and wanted to hear it a bit more before reviewing. OK its past the release date, but I make exceptions for albums that deserve a write up and more importantly, a listen or purchase.
“Our music allows the listener to travel and ask, ‘What is the spirit? What is the matter?’ and those kinds of questions,”/says guitarist Guillaume Bernard. “/The title refers to the wandering of the mind. It all came our singer [Yann Ligner] who came up with something in English like ‘The Great Journey’. We all liked the meaning but weren’t sure how it sounded. Eventually we realised it would be easy enough for people to translate and understand in our native tongue.”/
Much of the inspiration on forthcoming singles “Breach”, “Keystone” and “Hidden Passenger” came from pondering the great philosophies of life, those eternal unanswered questions like who we are, where we are going and, ultimately, what happens next. It was the uncertainty and confusion surrounding mortality, the notion that something or nothing awaits us, which felt like an unlimited creative playground for the French art-rockers.
“Me and Yann were watching documentaries about near death experiences,” continues the Klone guitarist. “We’re no specialists on the subject, but we found it exciting to think about. Our music is really connected to universe. We used a lot of reverb, almost as if we were to touch everything in space… we wanted our music to resonate in the cosmos!”
Their stance is a very similar one to my last review which was for Leprous, “We don’t have to respect any particular rules when making this music.” I really like that, because why try to keep making the same album when you can push yourself to make something different and make no apologies for doing so.
“Yonder” is a song epic in length and also in stature. I was anticipating some pronunciation issue, but was availed of this just by hearing the first line, as Yann Ligner’s pronunciation is much better than mine. Similar to Leprous, I just fell for the vocals immediately. ‘Yonder’ is a song that is as wide an expansive as the sky, the texture of which would be even better played live. I found this song mesmerising. I find Yann’s style similar to Layne Staley only with more range. ‘Breach’ is a high and airy song, and has the DNA of Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree running though its body. Its as close at a single as a band like this ever gets. ‘Sealed’ sees Ligner sounding like prime era Gordon Sumner, and some delicate vocals and snappy chorus. ‘Indelible’ moody and emotive opening develops to electronica and even jazz-sax in the latter, accompanied by some fine rhythmic drumming from Berthet leading the way. Jazz-art-rock. Its the future.
‘Keystone’ is both ethereal and haunting, and the last quarter just opens up sonically and is a highlight of the album so far. This in particular is a passage they could expand on live and make for one hell of an experience. ‘Hidden Passenger’ makes me quote Nigel Tufnel. As the mood takes a downturn, ‘D Minor, the saddest of all keys, I find”. Klone don the flannel and plaid shirts for a very 90s grunge sounding ‘The Great Oblivion’ with more AIC inspired guitar work. ‘Sad And Slow’ is Klone Ronseal moment. Its not bad, its just that the bar has been sry high for everything pretending this track. Finally we are on to ‘Silver Gate’ . It take a short while to get going, and the first minute or so makes me think of The Doors, but when it does ‘go’, you are rewarded with a very enjoyable listen, an envelope of ‘Klone-sound’ (Pat.Pending) encircling and comforting you
Very impressed with the quality on ‘Le Grand Voyage’. Ligner voice is very good. He has a very unmistakeable tone, and that does make some of the vocals a bit ‘samey’. Its not a negative, Im just stating what I feel. That said, it hasn’t stopped me from buying the album
I have to say Ive been pleasantly surprised by the quality of this album, and I apologise for not taking any notice the past 20 years. All I can say to that it, I will rectify this omission. I really liked this album. A lot
A very solid 8/10
Review by Paul Chesworth
The Great Oblivion
Sad And Slow
Klone are –
Yann Ligner : Vocals
Guillaume Bernard : Guitar
Aldrick Guadagnino : Guitar
Morgan Berthet : Drums
Jean Etienne Maillard : Bass
Matthieu Metzger : Sax / Samples
Few bands formed in the 21st Century would be added to my all-time list of favourite bands. Alter Bridge are one band that sit proudly for me amongst the likes of Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Rush, and Van Halen. Ive been hooked right from the off, when I heard one of the songs on a rock radio station on holiday in Orlando promoting the debut album, ‘One Day Remains’. I have watched them break the chains of any connection to Creed, and in doing so becoming one of the best live bands I’ve seen in many a year.
For me, their true reckoning came with the release of ‘Blackbird’. Later albums, have more than had their moments, but this (Blackbird) was good, great even. For me, it is still the yard stick to be measured by. ‘Walk The Sky’ is their sixth studio release, but can it surpass ‘Blackbird’….?
Well what we have (for the first time in their 15 year career) is a bit of a game changer for Alter Bridge. Ok, the foundations of an Alter Bridge record are still there, industrial scale riffing from Tremonti, pulsating bone pounding bass and spleen splitting drumming, and the eloquent and uplifting, positive vocals from Kennedy; but when I say game changer, gone are the lengthy numbers, and most here are short and snappy, even with a bit of electronica to boot! (Godspeed, a song that feels and sounds as if it could be courtesy of ‘insert 80s band name here’. Its probably the ‘poppiest’ they have ever produced. It has the DNA of what I call ABs ‘funeral song’. How could it not be with a line like “Farewell, Godspeed, goodbye, you have changed all our lives.” Kennedy certainly knows how to pen an emotional and gut-wrenching lyric.
‘Wouldn’t You Rather’ opens in typical Alter Bridge manner – a bludgeoning Tremonti riff, encircled with Kennedy’s harmonic wail; its like adding a fourth tried and tested instrument, adding ‘Wouldn’t you rather live from the heart?’ A lyric to fuel many a tattoo parlour over the coming few months I suspect! ‘In The Deep’ is full of melody and almost certain to be a video release. ’Native Son’ starts with an eastern sounding tones, before the hammer blast falls like a blacksmiths anvil. ’Take The Crown’ is of a lighter fare, but lyrically it’s still thought provoking, as are the lyrics to ‘Indoctrination’.
‘Pay No Mind’ is another with a keyboard /sequencer undertone. AB, using keyboards as a prominent instrument? I’m in! As it adds depth and power to the overall sound. ‘Forever Falling’ lulls you into a false sense of security, like being waterboarded only with guitars! It sees Tremonti take a lead with the vocals. It further shows his development as a vocalist in his own right.
“If I die tonight, would the question still remain? Did I live for what was right, did I live this life in vain?” Is the opening and existential verse to ‘Clear Horizon’. It make me think about Kennedy’s persona. Putting yourself ‘out there’ lyrically is cathartic and cheaper than any shrink could assist with. It also shows why Myles is one of the true masters of his trade. The absolute highlights for me though are on two of the last three songs – ‘Walking On The Sky’, wailing “Do you feel alive, tempting your fate on the line….”, and is as monstrous as the sky is infinite. ’Save the best till last’ is a saying used far too frequently, but is not the case here. ‘Dying Light’ is a ‘Blackbird-esque’ song in its emotion-evoking spirit, rising and falling like the waves, its guitar building to the impending Tremonti solo. The result is a big, huge monolith of a song, with the closing lyric of “In the dying light, we can begin to live again” and sums up AB for me. A new dawn is approaching for Alter Bridge, and the outlook is very promising indeed
It’s their most mature album to date, and is their best album this side of Blackbird. Other opinions are available, obviously.
For me, one thing is certain, few bands can muster or match the consistency that AB have attained these past 15 years. Along with a band like Ghost the futures of Download festival et al, are in very safe hands indeed. Cracking stuff.
Review by Paul Chesworth
Wouldn’t You Rather
In The Deep
Take The Crown
The Bitter End
Pay No Mind
Walking On The Sky
Tear Us Apart
Wouldn’t You Rather
In The Deep
Walking On The Sky
Steel Panther – Heavy Metal Rules
I saw Steel Panther for the first time supporting the Leppard and Motley Crue Mirrorball Tour back in December 2011. Anyway, I had already got the album, partially dismissed it as a bit of fun, and went along mainly to see Motley Crue. How. Naive. Was. I? Very it seems, as Steel Panther were the best 80s hair metal band on that bill, for any other come to think of it that I had seen for quite some time. They were great, funny as anything, and proved there and then that they were onto something special. 80s originals have tried (and failed) to write songs like Steel Panther have these past ten years or so. They have almost single handedly kept hair metal alive when it was close to being read the last rites.
So October sees the release of ‘Heavy Metal Rules’ their fifth studio release. It opens up with a clip taken from ‘Heavy Metal Parking Lot’ called ‘Zebraman’. Go looking for it if you’ve never seen it, as it is priceless! What you get are the usual high standards of smut – ‘All I Wanna Do Is Fuck (Myself Tonight)’, ‘Always Gonna Br A Ho’, ‘Im Not Your Bitch’, ‘Fuck Everybody’ and ‘Gods Of Pussy’. The bar is set high with ‘All I Wanna Do is Fuck (Myself Tonight). It follows the now standard formula for a Steel Panther anthem, shallow as gnats piss puddle, but a belter of an opener. ‘Always Gonna Be A Ho’ is their maturer ‘Community Property’ with the classic line “Has your vagina never seen the shade” and “I kissed your mouth and tasted Satchels dick”. Mercury Prize, please take note!!!!
Its the likes of ‘Fuck Everybody’, ‘All I Wanna Do…’, ‘Heavy Metal Rules’ with its Sabbath-esque riff, but a bit of a repetitive chorus, and the wonderfully titled ‘Gods Of Pussy’ (I can already see the merchandising ), that resonate the most and will be remembered in the long haul. One thing is absolutely certain, Satchel and Steel Panther have a Metal detecting ear for a great hook, riff and a chorus. Like I said, single handedly keeping hair metal alive….I mean it! Other than getting into a DeLorean, SP are producing some of the best riffs this side of Warren DeMartini’s poodle perm!
Review by Paul Chesworth
All I Wanna Do Is Fuck (Myself Tonight)
Lets Get High Tonight
Always Gonna Be A Ho
I’m Not Your Bitch
Heavy Metal Rules
Sneaky Little Bitch
Gods Of Pussy
I Ain’t Buying What You’re Selling
Michael Sweet – Ten
If you’re a fan of Michael Sweet and Stryper, then ‘now’ is the best time there has been to be a fan. I say ‘now’, but I mean the last 10 yrs in particular have been great ones. Stryper albums have come thick and fast, his alliance with fellow 80s rock icon George Lynch, and his solo works. Its been three years since his excellent One Sided War’ was released, and this, the tenth album from Michael is what we have come to expect from him.
The list of luminaries taking part is a large one – Jeff Loomis of Arch Enemy, Todd La Torre of Queensrÿche, Andy James, Tracii Guns of LA Guns, Rich Ward of Fozzy, Joel Hoekstra of Whitesnake, Gus G, Howie Simon, Ethan Brosh, Marzi Montazeri, Will Hunt of Evanescence, John O’Boyle, Mike Kerr and Ian Raposa of Firstbourne, and more!!!
It’s great that Michael is getting some of his illustrious friends on board. Either that, or they charge next to nothing! For me, he doesn’t need the likes of Hoekstra/Loomis etc on board as he is a shit hot guitarist in his own right. That said, all the guests bring their own bit of spit, polish and panache to proceedings, and all add their own individuality and personality to the songs on board! But by doing it this way, I can see Sweets reasoning as it will open up the sales to fans of all the aforementioned guests. He’s a canny lad is Mr Sweet.
So, onto the review. First up we have ‘Better Part Of Me’. I’ll add all the luminaries at the end on the track listing so you know who is doing what. Anyway, Michael opens up with what is probably a contractual obligation to let rip with a scream his 80s self would be bloody proud of. Even more so, the 50s version! It’s 80s music by numbers, and the numbers are good. A cracking riff, great tempo, and goosebump raising harmonies. Its a good thing he isn’t paying the guitar solo by the note!
‘Lay It Down’ is traditional 80s metal, driven by a thumping drum beat and long lost 80s outdo guitar solo. ‘Forget, Forgive’ has a Hendrix-y ‘Foxy Lady’ style riff and a dirtier, bluesier number. ‘Now Or Never’ has a grandiose feel to the song, and slower than anything so far, and has an anthemic style with some very orchestral and biblical hymn like ‘Whoa-ohhs!’. You have to hear it to understand!
Title track ‘Ten’ sees Sweet go back to his idols and sup from the chalice of Tony Iommi. It reminds me of H&H era Sabbath, particularly ‘Lonely Is The Word’. ‘Shine’ is complete with a chugging, charging riff, and is one of my fave tracks of the album so far as it has some cracking harmonies. I know there’s a lot of messaging in the lyrics, but I chose to go for melody over meaning, especially as I am a non-believer! Okay, I know!
‘Let It Be Love’ is the first song not to feature anyone ‘matey’. With it having ‘love’ in the title, it’s the second contractual obligation of a MS ballad. Its fine as it goes, but its predecessors have been blistering up until now, and I feel it would be much better as a closer. It’s still a fine song, especially the bridge and chorus. It will mean a lot to a number of his followers. And HIS followers!
‘Never Alone’ sees the first of back to back Hoekstra. It has a more menacing riff, and puts the album back on track. ‘When Love Is Hated’ is the better of the two, a great chorus, and solo command. It is simply structured and very, very effective. ‘Ricochet’ rounds of the album well. A punchy chorus that is instantly repeatable, that just bounces along. All album formats have two bonus tracks, one you have probably heard already, ‘Son Of Man’ feat. The Rÿches Todd La Torre. A man so Geoff Tate like even Geoffs wife can’t tell the difference (sound, not looks!). It jumps out of the blocks like a stabbed rat. A duet/sing-off that brings together two of metals finest for a thoroughly enjoyable romp and a hell of a note at the end. I can see what they left ‘SOM” until the end!!! Fab.
The other is ‘With You Till The End’ and features Firstbourne’s Ian Raposa on vocals, who can stand toe-to-toe with Michael, and is a powerful performance. I for one will be checking out Firstbourne after this.
I like what Sweet has been up to the past few years. He still sounds fucking fantastic, he still poops out riffs and lyrics like there’s no tomorrow, and is as heavy as he has ever been. That in itself is a great place to find him. I just wish someone would put up the money to get him and or Stryper over to the UK , as a visit is long overdue.
7.77 out of 10! We’ll round it up to 8!
Review by Paul Chesworth
Better Part of Me (Feat. Jeff Loomis of Arch Enemy)
Lay It Down (Feat. Marzi Montazeri)
Forget, Forgive (Feat. Howie Simon)
Now Or Never (Feat. Gus G)
Ten (Feat. Rich Ward of Fozzy)
Shine (Feat. Ethan Brosh)
Let It Be Love
Never Alone (Feat. Joel Hoekstra of Whitesnake)
When Love Is Hated (Feat Joel Hoekstra)
Ricochet (Feat. Tracii Guns of LA Guns)
With You Till The End (Feat. Mike Kerr and Ian Raposa of Firstbourne)
Son Of Man (Feat. Todd La Torre of Queensrÿche and Andy James)