Leprous – Bilateral & Coal Weekend (Apr. 10 – 11)
Leprous did it again! Oh well yes, literally! They repeated the concept of the “weekend evenings with the band: 2 albums in 2 days”. This successful feat was introduced back in February with the Malina + Pitfalls show and now they presented some oldies: Bilateral + Coal. I was not going to miss this for anything in the world, as even if I love almost all Leprous discography, the highly creative and slightly ‘off-road’ Bilateral (2011) remains my absolute favourite album, even though Coal (2013) remains somewhat low on my personal favourites rank.
Last time we had quite a difficult time trying to stream the show via Chromecast to our TV and sound system, a problem we hoped Munin.live would have fixed by now, but it seems the problems continued. I imagine that it might have something to do with Vimeo + Google Chromecast… Anyway, technology has its mysteries as well, so this time we acted quickly and got our HDMI cable, connected our laptop directly to the TV and voilà!. This is a show to be watched on a big screen (if not live there in the Notodden Theater in Norway – ah to think it is but a few hours straight-north-drive away from our comfortable home makes it hurt even more – bloody pandemic and travel restrictions!).
Saturday 10th – BILATERAL
Here we go, I’m excited as hell to hear all these songs played live and watch the current line-up smashing these songs I love so much! I was very very curious to see Robin Ognedal playing those solos from Øystein Landsverk, Robin is a fine soloist, though Leprous currently barely have guitar solos anymore and of course, Baard Kolstad nailing those tempo changes and weird bits from Tobias Ørnes Andersen, whom Baard has in great esteem naming him one of his biggest drum influences!
And of course, also the fact that the band (well, Einar Solberg and Tor Øddmund Suhrke) constantly reminds us that they hate don’t like to play old material, made this opportunity to listen to and watch those rarities from this gem of an album even more special!
Things kicked off with the album’s opener and title track ‘Bilateral’. And I immediately noticed they were fully into it with their Bilateral “clothing” as they dressed especially for the show as close as possible as their wardrobe those days: using red pants, vests or ties. To highlight was TorO with the exact same outfit from back in the day, even Einar did mention it.
Thankfully the 10-min magic of ‘Forced Entry’ has remained on the band’s very varied setlist through the years, and I’ve had the pleasure to sing-along and jump like crazy with this song on several occasions. That didn’t mean I was not going to do the same from my couch, as of course I did! Sorry neighbours! I just love every little bit of the many changes and craziness of this song and the band just plays it perfectly every. single. time!
‘Restless’ was as fun to watch as their video clip, though I would have loved to see a flying fish towards TorO! (watch the video clip for reference if you don’t know what I am talking about).
‘Thorn’, as expected, brought in Ihsahn for the growls – the advantage of having their mentor in the same town where they’re playing, grew up and lived for many years. As a very nice touch, they had the addition of Pål Gunnar Fiksdal for the trumpet parts. It all went beautiful! And those extended trumpet bits were indeed awesome!
‘MB. Indifferentia’ is another track the band has not removed from their current set-lists, so it was no surprise they played it with the slight changes introduced in recent years. While the smashing ‘Waste of Air’ (one of my favourites from the album) was the first time they played it live since 2013. Einar joked that this song was “the closest Leprous will sound to a metal band” – very funny ha! – as Einar usually delivers his “old” harsh-growling vocals as if nothing. He also prepared an extended keys intro. After this song Baard, known for removing his shirt early on his shows, couldn’t keep up playing with the bowtie explaining it was choking him (understandable), to which TorO answered that to play Bilateral is not supposed to be fun! That did make me laugh! TorO 1 – 0 Einar. I really hope they will play it again live in the future, as both the performance and the light show were stunning!.
More long-time-not-played songs were ‘Mediocrity Wins’ and ‘Cryptogenic Desires’, both first time played since 2011. The first being played only once before. Einar explained that was because of the rap-vocals and bass-slapping or “rap and slap” as he mentioned, so the way he said it made it obvious that he doesn’t like “rap-vocals” at all. Ah! Come on!
Also ‘Acquired Taste’ has not been banned from their set-lists, as I’ve enjoyed it on different live shows, and it was once again one of the highlights of this special evening, for me it always is! Ah, those soft groovy licks from Simen Børven’s bass are sheer bliss!
Then it was time for the last song (and also seldom played) ‘Painful Detour’, before which TorO mentioned this song only had taken all their rehearsal time and they barely had a chance to practice the rest on the last day! I was really looking forward to hearing and seeing this live, as it can be really painful to play it live. So many changes that even Einar joked that they tried to use all the time-signatures they had not used in the album yet! Watching Baard nailing every single time-change and the impressive bits from the original song was indeed special. Even Pål Gunnar Fiksdal came back with his trumpet to crown the stellar performance of the Norwegians.
Sunday 11th – COAL
Coal was the album that introduced me to the band, bringing about the heavier side of the band. I remember playing this album for the first time and it didn’t capture me at once. It was after many spins and watching the band live, that I got infected with the magic they have in store: their close to perfect live performances! So even if I know many of these songs very well on their live versions, anyway I was ready to enjoy them once more with the added expectation of hearing what changes they might have added to some of the songs, a thing they usually do.
As different and darker as this album is from its predecessor, the band on stage also changed to their darker outfits to match their looks during those years, something easier for them to do nowadays, but also the more serious side of the band tried to stay up, but since they found their “funny” side on stage, it is getting more and more difficult for them to keep the serious stage persona all the time.
‘Foe’ started impressively, and it was indeed weird to see it played live and the silence bits at the start of the song being oddly highlighted by the almost-0 crowd present on the theater – due to stronger lockdown measures those days in Norway, there were even fewer people than at their previous live-stream. In a way, this made the soft vocal harmonies at the end of the song even more hauntingly beautiful!
‘Chronic’ made things heavier and Baard was a true highlight during this crusher of a song. The title track ‘Coal’ has not been played since 2014, so it was interesting to see the current line-up nailing the many changes on this close to 7 minutes ride of a song! Baard once again went on a roll with this one! What a drummer he is!
‘The Cloak’ is one of the “fixed” songs on their live sets, bringing no surprises here, except for the exceptional vocals from Einar. ‘The Valley’ with its infectious chorus and ‘Salt’ with its groovy parts have also remained as fan favourites and fixed on their ever-changing set-lists. ‘Echo’, another fan favourite, was beautifully played with its extended ending.
And again a no brainer, ‘Contaminate Me’, which every time I’ve seen it live it gets better and better, had Ihsahn on their guest growls. It was rather funny to see him, Einar and TorO interacting as the family they are. Actually, it can be a tad odd at times as I can imagine there might be countless inside jokes, so it is a bit weird to see the somewhat embarrassing moments on stage. But all that goofiness dissolves into thin air once the song starts, as it is brutally heavy and a massive punch-in-your-face performance! The extra bit of pre-recorded cello from Canadian cello master and almost full band member, Raphael Weinroth-Browne, made this performance the definitive highlight of the evening!
With a moment of rest, the band came back for a 2 song encore, with ‘Slave’ as an answer to the criticism brought to them because their previous live stream for “The Congregation” album was pre-recorded. Now with ‘Slave’, one of the ever-present songs on their live sets, they hoped to appease those critic voices.
Then Einar disappeared for a while, leaving TorO with the baton of the entertainer trying to keep the awkward moments funny while joking with the rest of the band, well mostly Baard, as Robin and Simen barely talk on stage. Then Einar came back in the iconic red leather trousers! OMG might it be something from “Aeolia” coming!? Sadly not, as after many jokes a clearly embarrassed Einar signaled Baard to start the classic bang that starts ‘Passing’ from their 2009 debut album “Tall Poppy Syndrome”. Anyway, it is a candy to see this song played live and I am thoroughly enjoying it and in high hopes to see more old gems, including from “Aeolia” being played on their already announced upcoming 20th Anniversary European Tour “From Demos to Pitfalls”. Let’s pray we can enjoy this tour kicking off on Dec. 1st at the Vulkan Arena in Oslo. And be sure not to miss these guys on a live show, whether streaming or face to face, as you will surely be smashed by their performance!
Leprous Bilateral & Coal Weekend – 10th – 11th April 2021 – Livestream from Notodden Theater, Norway.
All photos © by Anne-Marie Forker