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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Leprous

Tall Poppy Syndrome

Review by Gary Hill

Make no mistake, prog purists will run from this in fear as if it were the monster from Cloverfield. The thing is, it’s a good disc and a very creative one. The band do a great job of combining progressive rock with some pretty extreme metal and creating something that’s unique and nearly seamless. The thing is, it almost feels kitschy and gimmicky at times. Still, it definitely entertains.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Passing
This powers in heavy and dark. It works forward through some alterations. When it drops down for the first vocals, I'm reminded of Giant Squid with some hints of Gentle Giant in terms of vocal style. The cut powers out from there to some seriously metallic stuff. There are extreme metal vocals, but also some vocals that call to mind modern King Crimson a bit. There is a drop back to a much purer progressive rock sound. That movement has some intriguing vocals. A moody, dark modern prog type section takes it from there. It has some great instrumental work and an intriguing vocal arrangement. It drops back to an even mellower movement. Then it powers out into the metallic King Crimson styled thing. The growled vocals return, too. There is another drop back after that movement. The mellow section includes some pretty piano. It screams out into some extreme metal fury from there with definite death metal vocals. It moves out to more melodic, but still quite metallic, sounds to take it to the end.
Phantom Pain
A pretty acoustic guitar motif leads this off and as they bring the vocals in it reminds me a bit of Porcupine Tree and bands like that. They build on this and peak it at around the one to one and a half minute mark. Then a fast paced, but still melodic, prog rock jam takes it. As they continue, though, we get death vocals. From there the cut continues by merging these varied elements into something quite creative and powerful. There is jazz on this, but also some pretty extreme sounding near metal. The contrast of varying styles continues with one portion reflecting a nearly pure progressive rock sound while the next one will be close to extreme metal and then the following one will combine the two. The ending section is pretty much pure prog.
Dare You
Crunchy fast paced modern prog leads this one off. Clocking in at six minutes and forty five seconds, this is one of the mid-length tracks on show. It’s one that I’d say never crosses fully into the realm of metal – even for a little while. Instead it stays in a dark, metallic prog motif that’s not overly far from the sounds of bands like Dream Theater without really sounding like them. This is a strong and dynamic cut that keeps changing and altering along its path. 
Fate
Mellow and balladic, this is very prog oriented and never moves into the realm of metal at all. Mind you, it’s modern prog, not anything retro. 
He Will Kill Again
There’s a rather Goth sounding segment opening this and then it launches into one of the most purely metal songs of the disc. I’d have to say that this one would be at home on a disc of European epic metal. It’s a great and quite dynamic and dramatic, though. Mind you, it does have some seriously progressive rock oriented moments, too. 
Not Even A Name
Here’s a more pure merging of the two genres. This is a great song and quite dynamic within itself, but in many ways not that different from the rest of the disc. The whole contrasting between the two styles is beginning to feel a bit formulaic and gimmicky by this point. That said, there’s some cool Radiohead type music at points on this and some great King’s X like vocals. They do include a killer metallic jam later, too. 
Tall Poppy Syndrome
The title track, this is a dynamic instrumental (there are some non-lyrical vocals late and a monologue – addressed next) that at different times seems to channel bands as diverse as Godsmack, Joe Satriani, Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Stratovarius. This does have a spoken word bit – that’s more of a sound bite. 
White
More of the genre contrasting, this has some of the best and the worst of the whole disc. For me some of the more extreme vocals here are a bit over the top and yet some of the neo-classically arranged music is especially powerful. This is really like the rest of the disc on steroids. At about eleven and a half minutes in length this is the longest cut on show and we also get a piano solo as the extended outro.
 
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