Leprous + The Ocean Collective & Port Noir. 2 – 3 Nov. 2019. Zwolle & Leiden, NL
Part I – Hedon – Grote Zaal. Zwolle, The Netherlands / 2. November 2019
Leprous have just released their 6th studio album “Pitfalls” some weeks ago, to great acclaim by the media and their loyal fans. It also met some raised eyebrows by fans of the metal side of the band though, as the album has been aptly described as less metal, more accessible and even with a more poppier sound. Undoubtedly the band is experimenting much more with their sound and songwriting since the release of “Malina”, but for me personally, they have reached a level of perfection in their studio sound that left me astonished since I heard the full album for the first time.
Knowing the 5 Norwegians are perfectionists with their work, and having seen them many times before, the live show on this tour is something I’ve been looking forward to. I was very curious to hear and see what they had in store, as they had announced already they were preparing a different show, and I was really keen to know how they would translate the amazing sound from “Pitfalls” in a live setting. This was something Matthias and I couldn’t miss.
This tour has the interesting addition of Swedish rock act Port Noir. The trio displays a more alternative electronic side of rock with some prog elements, but mostly influenced by hip-hop, alternative rock and electronic music. Following the Swedes, it was the turn for the well-known The Ocean Collective from Germany. Their atmospheric music is more metal-oriented, with post-rock elements and growls. They sound quite different to what Leprous might show to us on this tour, with a setlist based on their latest albums and their gradual change in sound direction. All in all a very interesting mix.
So we visited the 2nd show of the tour in the beautiful historic town of Zwolle and after doing some sightseeing at the town historical centre on an island surrounded by the old moat, we went straight to the venue, Hedon Zwolle. The Grote Zaal (Big Hall) gave me the impression that this show was going to have a superb sound and a great lights display. The stage was ready and after a short while, the lights went down and Port Noir started their show, backlit by the huge lightboxes they had at each side of the drumkit reading the band’s name. Interesting setting but the music is definitely not my thing.
A lot of smoke filled up the stage rather quickly and though I know the space they had was very limited, the lack of interaction between band members and the audience made them look very stiff, except for the guitar player, Victor Sandberg, who is filling in for Andreas Hollstrand. Sandberg was very deep into managing the electronic board and his guitar while literally jumping around in circles anytime he could. But that was about all of it. The sound was pretty balanced and quite filling despite being a trio. Singer and bass player Love Andersson was very good and clear, though he tried to engage with the public a bit during the songs, the lack of communication killed it for me.
Overall they seemed to be a bit cold, I blame it on being the start of the tour and the opening act. They’re ambitious for sure and very good musicians, this fact and being on this tour for sure will help them gain more fans and success. Their music which clearly appeals to broader audiences but doesn’t fill my cup entirely. I like more variation and their music is too standard for my taste.
The Ocean was much better than I had expected. I saw them before at ProgPower Europe some years ago and their show (without singer) left me waiting for more. This evening in Zwolle I was shown why they are regarded as one of the best live bands out there in the small world of progressive metal.
What a difference it was when Loïc Rossetti started singing, though almost nobody knew where he was, except for those of us in front of the stage. We could see he was in darkness beside the covered drumkit from Baard Kolstad, wrapped in the smoke covering the stage, creating an interesting visual approach to their show. The excess of smoke plays a role in their music, with a very dense and energetic set consisting mostly of material from their latest record “Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic” and 2013’s “Pelagial”.
But indeed, for those at the front sometimes it was too much, and many mentioned later that behind they could barely see a thing. Soon enough the heavier parts of their music were the perfect trampoline for Rosetti to jump to the front with incredibly contagious energy running all over the place, which made everyone move with the band as one. Special mention goes to bass player Mattias Hägerstrand standing in the centre of the stage preparing the energetic-meltdown that was going to happen in the next 50 minutes.
Towards the end of the show, an unexpected event happened when Rosetti lifted a little kid from the audience to the stage who had the moment of his life headbanging along with the band in the middle of the stage during the whole song. It was great to see how band and audience were united all in smiles cheering for him on stage. A moment surely he and his parents won’t ever forget. The overall sound was great and very balanced. I’m glad I had the chance to see, hear and experience why The Ocean is indeed one fine first-class live act.
Now it was finally time for the headliner: Leprous. With a nearly sold out Grote Zaal (850 people), the now bigger crew of the Norwegians prepared the stage in record time as in about 15 to 20 minutes the stage was ready, including an immense white backdrop where background visuals were going to be beamed on during the show.
And what a show it was! Right from the start the excellent lights and sound paved the way for the mood well prepared to increase through the set. A set focused mostly on their latest albums “Malina” and “Pitfalls” but also including songs from older albums like “Coal” and “The Congregation”.The band started with songs from their latest impressive album “Pitfalls”. I was really curious about how the band was going to translate the dynamic sound of these new songs in a live setting. I had nothing to worry about as not only the sound was pitch-perfect, the volume at the right levels, but the dynamics were even better if that can be possible! Interpreted to perfection by all of them, including of course, from Canada, Raphael Weinroth-Browne who is back on tour with the Norwegians delighting us with his impressive skills on cello.
All band members, except for Baard Kolstad on the drums, took part at specific moments on the keyboard duties. Interestingly, we’ve already seen Simen Børven and Tor Oddmund Suhrke for short moments on extra keys set up at the “Malina” tour. Now the band had 2 sets of keys, at the left side of the drum kit (apart from Einar’s own set), where in different turns TorO, Simen, Raphael and even Robin Ognedal played their share of keys, helping with ambient and melodies, adding depth to the new songs played live. Later after the show, I had the chance to chat with Baard for a while, and he confessed that he wanted to play the keyboards too but it would have been difficult to jump back to his drum kit! – A sight I’d love to see, adding something more to Baard’s acrobatics behind his drums!
And talking about acrobatics, Leprous is known to deliver a very energetic show. This time I can assure that these guys are not only in top physical form, as the explosion they were able to produce sonically, visually and with themselves with every movement on stage was something to behold. Einar Solberg can easily compete with Thor as the god of Thunder. The impressive display of energy he produced roared the venue and I think it was impossible not to be moved by his dramatic changes from soulful singing with his soft velvety voice in ‘Observe the Train’, to go through the different levels in crescendo until exploding like a rocket on stage. I still wonder how with all the erratic jumping and headbanging Einar, TorO, Simen and Robin didn’t crash with each other. This energy and coordination made the new songs kick right into the stomach.
Another new element on their shows is that Einar is more open and interacting with the audience and even dropping jokes about learning how to be more open and talk more with the audience, haha, a pun serving well! Yes, you guys are still learning, and you’re doing it great! I’m glad I was witness to the first step towards this direction, at the very special improvised show at Heart Sound Metal Fest, where the whole band was forced to interact with the audience in a totally improvised setting, allowing them to be more relaxed and themselves on stage, leaving aside the dark and detached stage persona the Norwegians have been portraying since “Coal” and “The Congregation” tours. I must add, I love this! As this closes that huge gap that existed before and creates a more enjoyable, relaxed ambience where fans can see a different facet of the band.
Some of the funny moments were made possible as they were still figuring out how Einar would move out of the keyboards so Simen, Robin, TorO or Raphael would enter and play their parts on the keys. Remembering it was only the 2nd show of the tour, clearly, they were still learning how to deal with this huge change. After the show in a quick chat with Einar, I learnt that despite 3 days rehearsing and testing all the new equipment, the first show of the tour didn’t go as good as they would have liked to, so basically, they considered this show in Zwolle as the first success because everything ran almost as planned. That is saying a lot coming from this group of perfectionists!
Back to the show, the integration of Raphael and his cello in all the songs, as expected was seamless, he shined in the new songs and it was very nice to see how he’s more active in the band helping with the synths duties both beside the drumkit and on Einar’s set. For me, it was a real highlight to see him come to the front of the stage several times to rock out on his cello.
The sound was the best I’ve heard from them, and I’ve seen them live in different countries and venues of different sizes. Chris Edrich is a master of the craft doing an awesome job and he should be regarded as the 7th Leprous band member (yes I’m counting Raphael too!), his work is an integral part of the band’s live sound. Arm to arm beside Chris, Tobias Grønhaug was the master in charge of the lights. He did an awesome work with the extended light equipment the band invested in for this tour and boy that investment paid of! The classical Leprous stroboscopic lights are less present now, instead, we got more coloured shower lights combined with lasers and led wash lights on different hues. Smoke and a huge video-beamed white backdrop completed the mood set for each song, which slowly built-up for the grand finale with ‘The Sky is Red’: the already impressive song played live was even more amazing! Helped with a great light show and an extremely energetic final performance from each one on stage.
- I Lose Hope
- The Flood
- From the Flame
- Observe the Train
- At the Bottom (Live debut)
- The Cloak
- The Price
- Distant Bells
- The Sky Is Red