Leprous at the Gruenspan in Hamburg
Leprous needs almost no introduction at this point; the Norwegian Progressive Metal band has made a name for itself that is unmatched by many of its contemporaries.
In fact, this particular show is a story coming full circle in a very poetic way. I was first introduced to these guys as the first of two opener acts for Devin Townsend many years ago in this exact same venue, Gruenspan, in Hamburg. It’s been incredibly wholesome to see how this band has evolved over the years, standing atop the very same stage where they used to get the crowd moving for the main act, now being the headliner themselves.
But of course, this is an achievement that doesn’t fall naturally into anyone’s hands: you have to earn your spot. And oh boy, did they earn it.
For their 2021-released album Aphelion (a result of going back into the studio during the pandemic, an idea shared by many other bands), they’ve now even released a Tour Edition on the very same day of this concert containing bonus tracks previously only available on the physical Limited Edition of the album, as well as an entire bonus CD of live renditions of many of their efforts recorded during Motorcultor and in Berlin during 2022.
Let’s talk about the actual concert, though. The supporting acts were Norwegian Ethereal Rock band Kalandra and the UK/US-based Prog/Djent band Monuments. Let me borrow a nice metaphor from Monuments’ frontman, who described the whole evening beautifully by calling it a “Metal Sandwich”. Kalandra set the mood with slow, introspective vocals and sounds. Monuments picked up right where they left and made sure everyone in the audience was awake.
When Leprous finally hit the stage, it was unlike anything I have ever seen. Instead of having a generic ambient intro and starting off with a fast song like you’d see from so many other bands, they instead opted to start with the quiet and somber ‘Have You Ever?’ People cheered and clapped as the musicians entered the stage one by one, sure, but it was much more intimate from the get-go, and said cheering was pretty mellow in comparison to what one might be used to from other concerts.
In a way though, their first song acted as the traditional canned intro as they immediately followed it up with one of their most well-known songs – ‘The Price’. The audience was now almost deafening as everyone sang along to the catchy “ah-aaa-haa-ha” main motif of the song.
Things progressed pretty smoothly to ‘Silhouette’ and ‘Mirage’, the latter of which was accompanied by one of the many great light shows during the set.
Up next was ‘On Hold’, an almost 8-minute-long song, a piece that encapsulates everything that makes Leprous amazing: introspective lyrics and tension-constructing bridges, starting slowly and quietly, eventually building up to a massive climax that is sure to make everyone in the crowd uncontrollably bob their heads and sing along.
As the song ended, there was a clear break needed by everyone, which made the next song a perfect fit on the setlist, the melancholic ‘Castaway Angels’. Frontman Einar Solberg dedicated this song to the current war going on in Ukraine, a very personal and even more respectable moment when you realize that his fiancé is of Ukrainian descent. Fittingly, the light show was portrayed with blue and yellow colors.
Things went onto a more forward approach with the rockish ‘From The Flame’ as well as the short but bombastic ‘Alleviate’, the latter of which demanded the audience to sing along and lose it completely around the 2:30 minute mark.
After the next song, ‘Out of Here’, two surprise oldies were presented: ‘Slave’ from The Congregation and ‘The Cloak’ from Coal, which is about to hit its 10th anniversary in May this year. Time might fly, but the fact that these songs are still as amazing live as they were back in the day shows the strength in Leprous’ back catalogue.
The lead single of Pitfalls, ‘Below’, was the last song to embrace the audience’s lyrics memorization ability to the fullest. Einar announced the last song, resulting in cheeky boos from the crowd, to which the charming frontman retorted by saying “Ah, come on, do you really wanna hear another 90 minutes of this?!” Needless to say, the reaction was a deafening yes. Thankfully, the last song was announced to be the fan-supported ‘Nighttime Disguise’, a song whose writing project heavily involved the input of Leprous fans all over the world.
Except, that was a lie, because of course it wasn’t the last song. After a few minutes of ambient silence, the light engulfed the entire venue with a crimson red, foreshadowing the true finale of the set and a worthy encore: the almost 12-minute beast of a song “The Sky Is Red”. It’s the perfect end to a show, acting as a way for the band to show off their technical prowess to the fullest, building up tension for the first seven minutes and ending with one of the most insane instrumental jams imaginable for the remaining five.
The final cheers as the band bowed down to the fans were so loud that even through my earplugs I felt slight pain, but every single decibel was deserved. Leprous is a band that continuously managed to evolve over the years, perfecting their craft to the point where you can their live shows countless times, and still find something new.
A tradition of their touring is that 80% of the setlist is preplanned, while the remaining 20% are rotated on a random basis each night. For this tour, some of the songs you might see in other concerts are ‘Illuminate’ and ‘Distant Bells’. Interestingly enough, neither of the lead singles for Aphelion (‘Running Low’ and ‘The Silent Revelation’) made it to any setlist, but with such a massive catalog of top-notch songs, it’s hard to narrow down the best.
As closing thoughts, I can’t really add much apart from saying how big of a smile I had on my face throughout the rest of the evening. I’m already looking forward to the next time the Norwegians say hello here in Hamburg!