DVD REVIEW: LEPROUS – “Live at Rockefeller Music Hall”
The best metal show I’ve seen in the past few years was seeing Leprous in late October of this year. They proved themselves to be one of the most unique and absorbing live acts in the progressive metal community, and the combination of their stage presence, sound, and lights made for a highly immersive experience. So when I saw pamphlets on their merch table advertising their upcoming DVD release, ‘Leprous: Live at Rockefeller Music Hall,’ I was quite excited, so I of course jumped at the chance to review it. As I’m not privy to physical copies, and so know nothing about potential packaging, bonus features, alternate mixes, and the like, I shall relegate the review to the actual concert itself, and its high and low points.
From the start it was obvious that the set list was pretty much the same as the show I saw, which is to say taken pretty much entirely from their two most recent albums, ‘Coal’ and ‘The Congregation,’ which, given the quality and the seamlessness of those two albums, was no problem. And watching the performance I was transported back to the small club I saw them in. The precision, the intensity, everything was on display in their performance as they tore through the songs with a savage energy and enthusiasm that was a treat to the ears. The crowd, though fairly subdued, seemed engaged and appreciative. Leprous don’t make music to jump, or mosh like an idiot, to; they create layered and intricate (while still wild) music that requires the listener, and concert attendants, to pay attention to let it soak in. Which isn’t to say the crowd was static. Far from it. They were as engaged as the band on stage, but they kept themselves in the moment and with the music rather than beating each other senseless. And the band seemed to respond.
Which leads me to my rather major complaint and criticism of this release: The band seemed to respond. But the camera never held still long enough to let the viewer know it, or be effectively drawn into the action on stage. While it is true that with any music release, the music, and the sound is of paramount importance, and on those levels this DVD shines; we are however discussing a DVD and live performance and something that is meant to be watched and viewed repeatedly. So the visual elements are extremely important. I love live DVDs, I have around 50 of them. Many people don’t mind it in the slightest and have the misconception that it adds energy to the show, while in reality all the intimacy and energy the band creates is lost in a constant jump cut of images. I actually counted after the first few minutes of glowering at my TV, and the longest amount of time they held a shot was a total of 5 seconds. And that was a rear of the hall crowd shot looking over the crowd towards the stage. As for shots of the musicians, 2-3 seconds, tops. It’s obnoxious. All the more so because being a highly skilled prog metal band much of the interest in watching these types of products is to watch them actually play their instruments and to hold close ups of their hands as they move over the strings, keys, or drums. But alas, every time we get a close up it’s gone faster than you can blink.
As stated, this is a type of editing I clearly hate. It’s also growing in popularity so many of you may not mind it at all. Perhaps I’m showing my age. But for me, it seriously dampers my enjoyment of watching it. However, if the band is happy with it, that’s the end of it, and tastes will vary. Despite this it remains an excellent performance, and something I look forward to getting a release of. As stated the performance is fantastic, the playing on point and the vocals sharp throughout. What was especially exciting was in inclusion of a second drummer for many of the songs. Besides the clear visual appeal, the added drummer just brought the music, and the intensity to the next level. King Crimson have been using two drummers off and on for year for the same reason, it’s a shot of adrenaline and sound. They also used two for the absolute highlight of the show, the encore during which metal legend (and brother-in-law of vocalist/keyboardist Einar Solberg) Ihsahn joins the band onstage on guitar and vocals for a ferocious performance of “Contaminate Me” from their ‘Coal’ album. The band and Ihsahn (complete with guest violinist) are absolutely on fire, and Ihsahn trades his trademark screams with Einar and the result will simply give you chills. It’s a damn near perfect closing to the show.
So in short ‘Leprous: Live at Rockefeller Music Hall’ is a musically glorious and visually infuriating release. An intense and engrossing performance, and deeply marred by the hyper active, numbing editing of the show itself. Leprous remain one of the most exciting and talented bands in the prog metal scene, and their reputation as performers will certainly only grow. And because of this, despite the flaws, this will be a must buy for fans of the band. Recommended.