(Andy Synn takes a walk on the weird side with the debut album from Belarus’s Leprethere)
Right from the start, Tarnished Passion is not an easy album to pin down.
The duo who make up the band themselves refer to their sound as a mix of Dissonant Death Metal and Mathcore, and both those elements are certainly present.
But I’ve also seen them referred to as Progressive Metalcore, Technical Death Metal, and even Djent (though that one is really making a mountain out of the proverbial molehill in my opinion) by various different sources, so there seems to be some confusion about how to classify exactly what it is that Leprethere actually do.
And I can’t help but think that’s how they like it.
As you might expect, there’s a lot going on across the length and breadth (and depth) of Tarnished Passion.
Hell, in the first three songs alone we’re taken on a wild ride of down-tuned, discordant riffs, lurid technical twists (including some impressively agile, spidery bass work) and abrasive, dissonant atmospherics, all interspersed with moments of unexpectedly moody melody, jagged-edged rhythmic shifts, and erratic explosions of blasting fury, topped off with a viciously expressive, Hardcore-tinged howl courtesy of vocalist Anton Bandarenka.
Like I said, it’s a lot, and on first pass it sometimes seems like the band are bouncing from one idea to the next in an almost stream-of-consciousness fashion.
But while the duo have clearly made a conscious decision not to follow common songwriting conventions, there’s still a clear method to their madness, and while on your first listen you may simply find yourself marvelling at the sheer in-your-face intensity of it all, chances are you’re going to start to notice all the subtle connecting threads which bind the various elements and influences together a little more each time.
In particular, the group’s use of odd melody really does act like a vital connective tissue tying everything together – especially during the churning grooves and chattering blastbeats of “Aftermath” or the eerily atmospheric, esoterically progressive push-and-pull of mid-album highlight “Collapse” – without diluting or lessening the often overwhelming physical force of the music as a whole.
Perhaps the most accurate comparison I can make here, then, is with the similarly ambitious, genre-defying amalgam of sound and fury of Car Bomb, as while the two bands don’t necessarily sound exactly alike (though their shared love of gigantic, cybernetically-enhanced guitar work is obvious right from the start) they clearly possess a similar sense of when, and where (and how), to push the boundaries… and aren’t afraid to do so while also laying down some of the fattest, filthiest grooves and heaviest riffs possible.
There’s no question that 2023 looks set to be an album rich in provocative, unorthodox examples of what Metal can be. After all, we’ve already written about The World Is Quiet Here and Asystole, for example, and there are new records from the likes of Dødheimsgard (which is certainly going to divide opinion, let me tell you) and Nightmarer waiting just over the horizon, ready to thrill and challenge you in equal measure, as well.
And, hopefully, when the final accounting of the year is made, Tarnished Passion will receive at least a few mentions right up there alongside them. As although it’s not a perfect album (a couple of the shorter tracks don’t fully rise to the occasion, if you know what I mean), it’s a prime example of just what can be achieved when a band has no limits beyond their own imagination and ambition.