LEPROUS – “Pitfalls” / Biography:

If you think you know what to expect from Leprous, then you are about to have your world shaken up. Because ‘Pitfalls’, the Norwegian band’s sixth studio album, is like nothing else they have ever done.

“This is honestly the album nobody expects from us,” says a clearly proud Einar Solberg. The vocalist/keyboard player feels it will make everyone reassess exactly how they perceive the band, who started in 2001 and have taken firm steps in their development on each of their previous five records. “You might think you understand where it’s all going as each track plays. But once you reach the end of the album, you will really sit there and wonder what just happened!”
Solberg and the rest of the band – guitarists Tor Oddmund Suhrke and Robin Ognedal, bassist Simen Børven and drummer Baard Kolstad – believe this album, titled ‘Pitfalls’, is a leap of faith into fresh, exciting and challenging territory.

This is without doubt the biggest departure Leprous have ever musically made. In no sense can it be described as a metal album, but what these musicians have done is come up with their own sound, which sets them apart from anyone else. Now, Leprous have never been a band who cared about genres. It’s always been about making the music they wanted, and then leaving it to others to put a tag on it. But with this album, they have taken the process a lot further than ever before.
‘Pitfalls’ is the most personal album Solberg has ever written, as he’s opened up about his battle against depression. “Lyrically, this means so much to me. Because what I am doing is talking about the last year and a half when I have been coping with anxiety and depression. And I am not talking about what I faced in metaphorical terms. I have written in a very straightforward manner, so everyone will understand what I went through.”

The writing process actually began when the vocalist first started to feel the depression taking hold of him, and you can follow the entire sequence of events as they happened through the lyrics here. It was a bold thing to do, as he assiduously wrote at every stage, including when right in the middle of the struggle, and also at the end as he came to terms with the ramifications.

“It would have been very easy for me to have the songs flow chronologically, with the opening track talking about how I felt as things began, and then the last song all about being hopeful as I came to the light at the end of the tunnel. But that’s not how life works, and I never wanted this album to come across as some fluffy movie script. So, the final track is one of the least hopeful ones.” Titled ‘The Sky Is Red’, this farewell song is, says Solberg, “The longest and weirdest composition here.” This clocks in at more than 11 minutes in length, and allows the band to give full reign to their creativity. They even got in a complete classical choir, who were recorded in Belgrade. They did a vast number of takes with them, which was exactly what the song needed to bring out all the elements. “It’s has a very dark mood and one that’s also the most oddball here. Now, usually, I don’t like progressive songs which are very long, because so often they come across as being better if they were trimmed here and there. But ‘The Sky Is Red’ goes against that usual logic for me. There’s not a second wasted. It benefits from being an epic.”

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. The opening song on ‘Pitfalls’ is ‘Below’ (also the first single), and to some extent this fits into fairly familiar territory for Leprous. It’s melancholic, slow and has a massive string arrangement, giving it the feel of almost being a James Bond theme song. But the most accessible tune is ‘Alleviate’. In fact, this could be the most commercial and uplifting song the band have ever done, and is sure to surprise a few people.

While there’s definitely a conceptual theme running through the lyrics, on the musical side every one of the compositions has a distinct flavour and stands on its own.
There are guest appearances from cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne and violinist Chris Baum on ‘Pitfalls’. The former has played with Leprous quite a bit, while the latter is a member of American band Bent Knee. They also helped when it came to the string arrangements, which are a crucial part of the way things sound.

The album was produced by Solberg with David Castillo, who worked on the previous Leprous album, 2017’s ‘Malina’. “We recorded at Ghostward Studios in Stockholm, and were so determined to take a massive step up on the production side that we were prepared to put in whatever time, effort and expense was required. We were never going to cut corners with this album. I spent 75 days in the studio this year to make sure it all came out the way we wanted.”

Leprous also made a somewhat surprising choice when it came to the person who mixed the album. They went for Englishman Adam Noble, known for his work with bands like Placebo and Deaf Havana, eschewing the obvious choices and offering a very different take on the music.

There is no title track here. Rather Solberg believes the term ‘Pitfalls’ captures the theme running through the lyrics. “This describes so well what you are up against when dealing with anxiety, how it works in your head and can take you over completely. And I have to say that I am oddly grateful it happened to me, because of what came out of it through the songs on this album.”

The cover artwork is a painting from Indonesian artist Elicia Edijanto. “It’s of a boy playing a flute, and for me represents what the album is all about. When you see it, you’ll understand.” It wasn’t a piece of artwork that was commissioned for the album, but rather something the band came across and subsequently bought the rights. Corey Meyers, who did the artwork for ‘Malina’, was also involved in the design.

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 ‘Pitfall’s 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.”

Malcolm Dome
London, July 2019