Leprous

support Agent Fresco + Alithia + Astrosaur
author LL date 28/10/17 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Even though I have been a fan of progressive rock and metal for many years now, tonight is my first Leprous show. In preparation, I have been listening to the band's stellar fourth album "The Congregation" nonstop for the past few days even though their most recent one which they're touring for currently, "Malina", isn't at all bad either. I'm hoping for a good selection of songs from both, and with the always excellent Agent Fresco as main support, I'm excited about the turn-out in the upstairs big room at Pumpehuset. A line-up of four bands in one evening is always a lot and as I make my way to the venue on my bike in the heavy rain, I find myself preemptively cursing the two first, to me, unknown bands for "forcing" me to go outside in the cold weather. Nevertheless, as I arrive just in time for Astrosaur's first chords, it turns out that we're in for a full evening of high-quality performances and I don't for one second regret coming out early.

All pictures by Michael Hyldgaard Løgtholt

Astrosaur

The first band to appear on stage tonight is an instrumental trio from Norway. It doesn't take them long before they're heading full on into powerful riffs, changing between heavy progressive and dreamy post-rock sections with great transitions. They even touch on some jazzy feels here and there, and they sure seem to be waking up everyone in the semi-filled venue who have come out to the show early. The lighting is just as intense as the music with strobes appearing for long sections after a while. It's almost a little too much and with the drummer placed on a plateau in the back and the light hitting us in the face, a lot of the time he's not really discernible which is a bit of a shame at times when his dynamic playing makes me want to see what's going on. Not a word is spoken through their set and they play through it almost in one go with their different songs blending into each other. They make a great impact from the sheer force of their performance though, making their name on the banner behind them resonate perfectly with the grandiosity of their riffs and the loudness of the mix. Definitely a positive surprise for this scribe who is thoroughly shaken awake in the half-hour the trio is in control of the stage.

Alithia

Australia's Alithia is up next and they play a set that just screams 'excess prog' in almost every way. In total, they are seven members on stage, everyone but the drummer hugging the front of the stage in a long, headbanging line. To begin with, we get an intro by two synthesizer players that also both sing, a drummer in the back, a bassist on a 5-string, and two guitarists, one of them tapping like a madman. As if that wasn't enough, they also have a singer that comes and goes for her parts in the songs as she is not normally a full member of the band as I understand it. The right-most synth player functions also a sort of super-energetic hype man, from time to time storming around his side of the stage horns held high, sometimes adding extra congas or playing the snare and cymbal he also has set up next to his synth. Later on, I find myself laughing in disbelief as, at first, their bassist and, later on, the one guitarist also begin adding sections of growling to the mix. During their set, the audience in the room seems to have doubled compared to before, and there are cheers from select excited fans to be heard from the front for specific songs. The music is presented as 'astral space core' and extends from softer atmospheric sequences to almost blackened heavy sequences that are built together in long, winding tracks. It's certainly an experience and it's impossible to not be blown away by the intensity and the fervor with which each and every one of the seven performs it with even as the music becomes a little chaotic here and there.

Agent Fresco

Love for family and friends seems to always be at the center of Danish performances by the Icelanders of Agent Fresco and tonight it's in focus in a new way. They get help from the Danish progressive rock group VOLA's bassist Nicolai Mogensen as their own group member is at home becoming a father, and Mogensen handles the task perfectly. The bass and guitar are generally a little loud in the mix tonight while the piano backing that is often dominant in the recorded versions of the band's songs slips in the background. It gives the songs a more gritty sound but it does become decidedly annoying for me during "Dark Water" where I lack the contrast between the explosive guitars and the constantly busy piano. Additionally, their vocalist Arnór Dan Arnarson is maybe a microsecond behind on the beat for a part of the set but in spite of these technicalities, it's truly a magical set. From the moment they take the stage and begin playing to the very end of their final jam session, it's like the mood lifts for everyone in the venue. Between songs the audience cheer and clap and in a very rare show of collective enthusiasm that doesn't die out naturally at any point in the show before Arnarson chuckles happily in his microphone or thanks us for the experience.

My personal highlights consist of the intense growling of "He Is Listening", great renditions of the groovy "Howls", "Pyre", and "See Hell", the emotional "Eyes of a Cloud Catcher" and finally "The Autumn Red" to close the set where Arnarson takes a walk in the crowd to spread love and high five fans. However, the set truly culminates in the band's performance of a new song midway that seems to have Arnarson pushing his falsetto voice even higher than ever. The raw emotion of the lyrics is magically painful and filled with hope at the same time and I'm sure I'm not the only one in the room to wipe away a tear or two. Judging by that song, it definitely bodes well for the band's third album. For the latter part of the set, then, the already great mood in the room seems to explode in gratitude. I have yet to witness anything disappointing from the hands of Agent Fresco but this is probably my favorite show by them so far as the energy from the audience and the joy emanating from the band creates a very special feeling for everyone involved and they play excellently as always.

Setlist:

  • 1. Anemoi
  • 2. He Is Listening
  • 3. Howls
  • 4. Pyre
  • 5. Wait For Me
  • 6. New song ("More than this...")
  • 7. See Hell
  • 8. Angst
  • 9. Bemoan
  • 10. Dark Water
  • 11. Eyes of a Cloud Catcher
  • 12. The Autumn Red

Leprous

After the show of force by Agent Fresco, the Norwegian headliners of the evening have something to live up to and they certainly deliver. They have a cellist with them on this tour who plays an extended introductory piece through the soundcheck and bridging into the actual set. The structure of the set is built around nine songs from their newest release that appear in almost the same order as they do on the album with a few older songs mainly from "The Congregation" packed in between here and there. To my great satisfaction, then, those two albums fill the setlist exclusively with the exception of the atmospheric "Salt" from the third album "Coal". Throughout Leprous' show, there is also not a finger to point to any technical details as everything comes through in the mix perfectly balanced and everything from beats over riffs to the highest operatic falsetto notes remain on point in quite an impressive show of force. "The Flood" and "The Price" get singalongs and happy exclamations from around the filled venue as older favorites but the newer songs, such as "Stuck", "From The Flame" and not least the off-beat-dominated "Illuminate", sound excellent here as well.

The venue is heavy with smoke for the entirety of the band's show, effectively bathing the whole room in massive greens, purples, and blues as the light streams from the lamps on stage. The calmer "Malina" slows down the pace a bit towards the end while the dramatic "The Weight of Disaster" pulls the band together for a final grandiose outing before the band members leave for the cellist and vocalist to take over for a performance of "The Last Milestone" ending the regular set. For their encore, everything seems to be cranked up a level for three final loud bashes of thundering beats in the new song "Mirage" and the two older favorites "Slave" and "Rewind". As they turn up the lights on the audience at the end, I see happy fans everywhere that look almost physically exhausted from experiencing such brilliance. Technically and mix-wise then, there's no doubt that Leprous outdoes the three bands that have gone before them tonight although the musical skill level has been high throughout. For me though, the emotional high point is no doubt Agent Fresco's set while I'm swept off my feet in a different way by Leprous' impressively precise performance.

9

Setlist:

  • 1. Bonneville
  • 2. Stuck
  • 3. The Flood
  • 4. From the Flame
  • 5. The Price
  • 6. Salt
  • 7. Leashes
  • 8. Illuminate
  • 9. Malina
  • 10. The Weight of Disaster
  • 11. The Last Milestone

- Encore

  • 12. Mirage
  • 13. Slave
  • 14. Rewind

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