European Progressive Assault Tour - the first show

It's not easy to explain the joy of 'discovering' a band, seeing them live at the beginning when they're still a bit shy and sober on stage and slowly see their evolution by attending show after show, both their own release concerts or as support band during a long tour. And now, I get to see them as headliners of their own tour. I am talking about the Norwegians in Leprous, who never cease to amaze me live and overcome themselves with each performance I witness. The joy is even bigger when the support acts chosen for this tour (or well, at least for the Oslo concert) are so brilliant that each moment of live music from a quarter to nine til one AM is just breath taking. So, before trying to put them in chronological order, I recommend you take all necessary actions for you to attend at least one of the shows headlined by Leprous, supported by Ørkenkjøtt, Loch Vostok and Persephone. This is the list of upcoming shows.

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Aiming for Enrike lvie@John Dee, Oslo
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

The starting band at John Dee show (the Oslo venue), was a Norwegian duo called Aiming for Enrike and formed by the Leprous drummer, Tobias Ørnes and Simen Følstad Nilsen on guitar. They launched their debut album, 'Mao Miro' (name inspired by two cats, as far as I found out this evening) and the album itself, as well as their live performance, is an epic musical journey in an experimental progressive world that might just embarrass a lot of famous instrumental duos. Both musicians are very talented and few minutes after their tandem started, I noticed how everyone in front was moving to the rhythm and the applauses just got more and more intense with each song. I even heard someone who mainly came to see this band and then the others. The guitar comes with such catchy sounds, backed up by a pile of wisely used pedals and the man behind the minimal drum kit pulls off a mad increasing explosive tempo. If you want to check them out for yourselves, their sounds are available here http://soundcloud.com/aiming-for-enrike. It's a pity they don't get to play as openers for the rest of the European shows and I'm sure Persephone has a lot of work to do to set the intro band standards as high as these two did tonight in Oslo.

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Loch Vostok live@John Dee, Oslo
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

The Swedish neighbors have toured together with Leprous before (but both as support acts for Therion) so they seemed quite comfortable to take over the stage and start performing their progressive songs, both old and new, as their latest album, 'V - The Doctrine Decoded', had the same release date as the Oslo gig. The thing that stood out the most for me, as it did the first time, is the unexpected changes in their rhythm, especially when it brings up very harsher and aggressive sounds and riffs, something in the lines of death metal. These riffs are quite abundant and Loch Vostok has found the right balance in blending them with the keyboards, so that they don't fall in the category of yet another one of those prog bands out there who follow the same patterns. Some might obviously not like the harsh parts, but I found them nicely fitted with Teddy Möller's pleasant vocals and most of all, perfect to put in evidence the crazy drummer they have on stage, Lawrence Dinamarca. The minus of the Swedes is that they were the least intense, stage show wise. But the next two appearances compensated enough for this.

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Ørkenkjøtt live@John Dee, Oslo
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

Back to local acts, Ørkenkjøtt (translated as Desert meat) and their 'Ørken' metal, a very refreshing and original mix of metal styles with oriental sounds. The sound needs a lot of exploration, especially since the album that they are singing from, 'Ønskediktet' is a concept album meant to take you to a special Ørken Universe.In this sound you discover groovy slow parts, brutally kicked away by rough, almost devilish, growlings; somehow old-fashioned guitar riffs, slow and soft, building up to pure insanity that messes with your ears. I almost wish they don't release a new album too soon so I get to chance to experience these songs live few more times. But what makes Ørkenkjøtt's show unforgettable is what the guys actually do on stage. First, the decently sized singer comes up wearing a white prophet robe (they sing about a prophet in one of their songs, afterall). The guitarists and bass player wear face paint and sparkling stuff which might raise a few eyebrows in the audience. Eyebrows that would quickly turn to a surprised expression when they witness the show: the guitarists are most of the time standing on the monitors and leaning towards the excited front row audience, then they run to switch places, then they stop in the middle of the stage for a duo solo, then one of them runs to the other guitarist's side to play a solo together there, then they shake someone's hand or cheer a beer with the crowd in between songs. Or during. Meanwhile, the 'prophet' does a mix of dramatic gestures and headbanging, switching between the two(?) microphones and the megaphone. For the comeback, he impersonates Randy Redneck, main subject of the song, displaying not the best part of his body, but going insane by the end of the show when he's rolling and kneeling on the floor. It's a performance that makes you sweat just by trying to follow everyone on stage.

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Leprous live@John Dee, Oslo
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

But it's a must that you save some energy for the main act of the evening, Leprous. They are coming up with a newer (yes, I saw it a couple of times before) own show. It starts with some monitor projections which, if you take too seriously, should better remember not to eat before the show. Then the whole light show seemed a bit darker than usual as they are using some small lamps placed on the floor, lamps that add up to the dramatism of the whole concept. The only thing I find unchanged is their stage uniforms. Else, they somehow found room for even more jumping and headbanging and making it seem like the presence of five of them could easily fill the space needed for a whole orchestra. They played a lovely mix of songs from their current two albums, 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' and 'Bilateral', but most important they treated us with two new songs. Ah, is the album out yet? They sounded too good to be true. Especially the first one that had so much groove and intensity in it. But, in case I didn't make it obvious, intensity is the main ingredient of a Leprous show. They arrange the songs and the passages between songs in such a manner that when Einar Solberg is done with his vocal parts, every standing man on stage seems suddenly plugged in and going crazy as if they just started their show. They even have small choreography parts in which the headbanging and stage moves are synchronised to the rhythm, making the whole experience quite epic. Besides, their singer left the stage several times to go and sing directly in the crowd's face, a well appreciated gesture. I think that tonight, for the first time, I experienced a Leprous comeback. And what an experience that was. Finally a band who cares about its tired audience and offers them the chance to sit down during a lovely ballad. That was quite a sight and it created a very special emotion throughout the ending song, 'Acquired Taste'. Another special detail about the Oslo concert was the presence of a trumpet player during several songs from 'Bilateral'. I have no idea if they will have the trumpet for the whole tour, and if not, I guess I can only be happy to have had it as a live presence.

I'm trying not to make this review much longer, as I could probably go on for few more pages about how intense and crazy and cool and awesome each performance was. But instead of extra words on paper/screen, I insist again that you go and catch one of the shows on this tour. It's an experience that should show exactly what live music should be about: unleashed passion and talent and the artists' dedication in giving their best as payback for your presence in front of their stage. Don't forget earplugs!