The 2012 Arsies: January 19, 2012

January 19, 2012

Today's contest is an interesting one, featuring two bands that each flirt heavily with non-metal stylings, with very different end results. Let's start with In Flames.
Right off the bat, the title track of “Sounds Of A Playground Fading” establishes the ground rules for the rest of the album, with a very pleasing and familiar blend of digital shenanigans and anthemic guitars. Compared to the past few In Flames albums, the synthetic earcandy feels a wee bit dialed back on this album, contributing to a better balance overall. However, there's a sameness that overshadows a lot of the tracks throughout the album, and after the fourth track, the material's memorability thins out real quick. Still, this album does a really good job fusing In Flames's various voices together into a unified whole.
Leprous goes a different route (actually, they go 18 different routes) with “Bilateral”, an album that immediate puts every other prog metal band to shame for not aiming high (or weird) enough. It scratches that Opeth itch better than Omnium Gatherum does, plus gives shouts-out to every major vintage 1970s prog rock band I can think of, and still has room left over for hints of Tool, Isis, Porcupine Tree, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Wham!, Barry Manilow... I could keep going. This is not an easy listen. But it's also irresistably compelling, unpredictable, at times groovy, and almost always truly alien. Among the strange offerings on “Bilateral”, the two choicest tracks are the off-kilter “Forced Entry” and the toweringly epic “Mb. Indifferentia”. If you can make your way through this album in one sitting, you may find yourself a little closer to understanding why it all works together, because it does. (Even if you can't make it all the way through, you still owe it to yourself to try.) Really, aside from being obtuse, the only thing I can definitely say against “Bilateral” is that it isn't very persistently metal. But to be very honest, neither is “Sounds Of A Playground Fading”. Having to choose between the two, I pick “Bilateral”. Well done, Leprous!
Incoming coded message: BTBAM vs COB.

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