In Praise of “Aphelion” by Leprous (#3 in 2021’s Top Ten)

Good art is dangerous. At it’s best, it allows you to enter someone else’s world and empathize with experiences and stories that are not our own. At it’s worst, it comes to narrate our own experiences and stories and vocalize our realities, and our ability to relate confirms to us that our lives are broken in some way.

In the span of a single week, one track off “Aphelion”, the newest release from prog-rock masterminds Leprous, undertook that transformation. From one Friday to the next, the track that kicks off the album’s stellar closing suite goes from being a song that is enjoyable from a safe and sanitized distance to the song that supplies the only language I can think of describe how much my life has rapidly fallen apart. As Einar Solberg, Leprous’ world-class vocalist (c.f. “Castaway Angels”), writes in “On Hold”, “My life is on hold; in this moment, there is nothing here but darkness. My life is on hold; it’s on hold until I figure out this mess.” Mind you, that’s just the chorus; the song is nearly eight minutes long.

Lest you think this album is this high because of one song, let me be clear: the entire album is phenomenal. As one of my most anticipated releases of the year, it more than exceeded my expectations, and signals the triumphant return to form for one of the most underrated and talented bands in all of music. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more gifted vocalist on the planet right now than Einar Solberg, and Leprous’ brand of baroque-pop-meets-prog-rock has never sounded better. Every single track here is a home run. But this album is tainted; even listening to it as I write this, my body instinctively tenses up as I force off the memories that this album now permanently narrates.

As is often the case, the parity between my top 3 is usually that of a hair’s breadth. This is AotY material, and yet I cannot bring myself to crown it my AotY lest I cement the sounds of the darkest season of my life as the defining musical experience of the year. I refuse to do that; my life is not on hold, and in this moment, the light of Christ shines in the darkness.

“Aphelion” by Leprous is available wherever you get your albums. #2 tomorrow.

If you have thoughts, let me hear them!

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