That idea was one of the best parts about Tall Poppy Syndrome. The album had everything from an emotional ballad in “Fate” to the sorrowful piano outro on the epic closer “White.” While not standing on its own as a whole due to a few clunkers, it worked because the standout moments stood above any issues. Bilateral seems to be going for a more direct attack on many of the songs, and staying focused on binding the album together.
The title track, “Restless” and “Cryptogenic Desires” are still complex, but pack it into less than four minutes each. It’s a sample of what Bilateral is all about, with its unpredictable song structures and fluid musicianship. These are the type of single-friendly tracks used to rope listeners into giving Leprous a shot. The newcomers might have some trouble accepting the zany, Frank Zappa-inspired “Waste Of Air” or the extended jamming on “Painful Detour.”
At over ten minutes long, “Forced Entry” is the closest thing to something from Tall Poppy Syndrome. A superb guitar solo and glorious vocals from Einar Solberg have their place. Solberg’s vocals continue to impress, as he leans on his clean tones more than on the previous album. “Mb. Indifferentia” is like “Fate” on steroids, as Solberg injects the type of spirit that Klaus Meine put into “Still Loving You.”
Tall Poppy Syndrome was a brutal album at times, but Bilateral tones that down. There are influences ranging from The Mars Volta to Porcupine Tree on songs like “Acquired Taste.” The band does make sure to leave enough room for an out-of-control track featuring a guest spot by a black metal legend. Former Emperor vocalist Ihsahn gives a rousing performance on “Thorn,” which is supported by screeching trumpets. The song would have fitted in with Ihsahn’s latest solo album After.
With Bilateral, Leprous has sharpened their songwriting and used a wider platform with InsideOut Records to try to get the audience they may have not gotten previously. Bilateral stands alongside Tall Poppy Syndrome as a fine example of modern progressive metal, one that aims higher than just cheap self-satisfaction and aimless instrumentals.
(released August 23, 2011 on Inside Out Music)