Sunday, March 15, 2015

Artist: Leper

Artist: Leper

On the Leper song, "What Does it Mean to Die," we hear a snippet of conversation featuring a male adult asking, "Should we dig up some graves tonight?," to which a young child excitedly responds, "Oh boy, a field trip!"

This bit of hilarity is well-situated in a long line of hard rock humorists marked by Buckethead's "Onions Unleashed" and "I Come In Peace" and the entirety of Cornbugs' catalog (all of which pair Buckethead with the brilliant lyrical/spoken word talents of horror actor, Bill Moseley). Of course, since Leper's spoken word comes through samples, and not a live vocal, a more apt comparison would be Atari Teenage Riot. Regardless of reference point, "horror humor" works well only if the music has an undercurrent of menace. Luckily, with Leper, we get Tomahawk-like ferocity with songs like "Chop Chop Chop" (a song with a cadence rivaling that of Korn's bastardized nursery rhyme, "Shoots and Ladders").
Putting aside the samples on the album, you'll also notice that Beautiful Gray Day is paced by electronic-sounding beats reminiscent of Adore-era Smashing Pumpkins and, when coupled with prominent bass, Depeche Mode. Leper cops to NIN and Cure leanings, so it's appropriate to bring up nearly-90's artists and the bands they inspired. But it's not surprising hard rock's Leper would be influenced by Cure. After all, a stunningly broad cross-section of artists found success with Cure covers (Tricky/311/a recent American Idol finalist).

Topping it all are the gorgeous vocals of Skot Shaw. His rich baritone recalls that of Geoff Tate, who (despite his Queensryche affiliation) is consistently ranked among the best voices in metal. Leper's strong vocal lead transforms quality lyrics into memorable turns-of-phrase: "There's just one thing that I would want / Darling, haunt me" ("Haunt"); "It doesn't bother me / If you worship me / In the end, all I wanted was attention from you" ("The Artist in You").

Some bands settle for the equivalent of speaking softly and carrying a big stick (Teddy Roosevelt); Leper could have done so, and just went with its top notch vocal. But Leper walks softly and carries an armored tank division (Colonel Jessup), ratcheting up the vocal power with screams (on "I'm Not Afraid to Sleep Anymore"); effects-laden chants ("Words are weapons, chop chop chop"); and on standout track "The Artist in You," guttural growls, rhythmic breathing, and background whispers/screams, that wouldn't sound out of place on a Marilyn Manson track.

You expect a lot out of a band called Leper. But after listening to Beautiful Gray Day, you'll conclude that not only were your expectations wrong (there's nary a narrative about rotting human flesh), but also that Leper managed to exceed them anyway.

*** The author of this review, Raymond Nelson, plays the veekku chenda for the following band:

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