Leonov proves with this third full-length once more that they are one of the most creative and innovative bands on the Post-Metal, Post-Rock, Atmospheric Metal, Darkwave, Doomgaze or whatever-genre scene today.
Fusing Darkwave with Atmospheric Sludge Metal, Leonov has become a genre in and of itself over the years. Easily recognizable by the ethereal soaring vocals and synths paired with cascading heavy and dense guitar and low-end bass. In this soundscape, it feels like the drums try to mediate between both with a wide-ranging style. Unbelievable, but with this album the band has even managed to merge the two even tighter five years than on the already-impressive Wake.
When they started out, they named their band after the Russian astronaut Alexey Leonov who was the first human to be outside a spaceship. Thus, the band’s name reflects both, the claustrophobic, confined space inside the vessel and the vastness of the cosmos itself. For me, this is also the very core of the band. The vocals are immersed in layers of massive sound, sometimes embracing the sonics and sometimes detached from it. It creates tension in the music that makes you just want to be there and hear more. Sometimes the heavy dense parts drown out the voice, but it always climbs back crystal clear. The orchestration of this symbiosis is one of the things that show how unique this band is. Another element buried in this music is that it flows forward, dreamlike, regardless of its sometimes dense heaviness, even if it basically is quite dissonant adding to the tension amid all the dreamy heaviness.
The opening track ”Rem” is an instrumental with a strumming guitar, a cymbal far away, in the horizon synths slowly unfold, and a drifting guitar appears. The strumming becomes more intense and the track moves smoothly over into the next track, ”Amer” where the strumming guitar gets faster and is joined by a mandolin while the synths rise higher and higher. There is a substantial shift in the soundscape when it is filled with the ethereal yet clear, strong yet restrained vocals as the sound swells around them. The drums start partaking, a distorted guitar seeps in and a low-end bass lays out the grooves. Virtually unnoticed, the heavy sonics shift into a drifting soundscape with soaring vocals and synths. It rises further, becoming stronger and branching out while the bass follows the melody. At the edges, a fuzzy guitar is lurking and the song moves into a repetitive rhythm beneath the vocals and the fuzzy guitar follows. The lyrics are reverberating with ethereal harmonies soaring above the music, “We could catch fire, turn our sorrow into flames”. The drums work hard pushing everything forward with the bass while the impressive singer “floats” above the Post-Metal guitars and bass. Surprisingly, growling vocals emerge perfectly immersed in the sonics, “Sacred sound from distant space / we are not the same”. The vast music is ponderous and immense. The growling continues while the synth are laid over the thundering music and the floating harmonies return above the growls while the powerful guitars slowly give way to the ethereal vocals and the synth scape.
Often throughout the album, the lyrics are imaginative and thought-provoking, like this from the third song ”Procession”: “Two can conquer, safe from sinking / Two can shatter, destroy free thinking.”. It is worth to sit down and read the lines while listening to the entrancing delivery that graces every song. The vocal lines easily become the focal point because they are extremely well-executed and perfectly immersed. It is easy to forget that surrounding these vocals are guitars, bass, and drums that are right at the forefront of today´s Post-Metal scene.
In ”Procession” the bass drives the melody forward pushed by the drums. The dense, ever-changing music seems to be fighting the transcendental vocals. An undulating strong rhythm section is once left to lay the base for the reverberating vocals which get stronger and stronger, more intense until opening up to a fuzzy swirl from a guitar gliding in circles around the low-end bass. The denser the music, the more energetic the drums are working to drive the song forward as the repetitive clear voice glimmers like a diamond through all the powerful layers.
Heavy, dense doom with fuzzy distorted guitars deep end bass, and slow pace drums and cymbals open ”Sora”. This dense fog of Post-Doom Metal music eventually evaporates and gives way to a big, brightly-lit stage for the singer and synth player to fill in aloft the grooves from the bass and the careful take on the drums and a distant strumming on clear guitar. The ever-strong vocal delivery intensifies as the music gets heavier and stronger with sound effects circling around in it. Slowly it returns to a textured, doomy soundscape and echoes away with sound effects.
”Mesos” continues the amazing tour de force this album is as it opens somber with strumming guitars, slow drums, and bass. The voice with a hint of wistfulness spreads a soft blanket over the deep and textured base that slowly emerges below it. The distorted guitar unfolds itself in the background and rises through the blanket as the singer aims upward and onward, reaching the highest levels fighting one’s way out of the heavy denseness. The drums begin to rumble and widen to push the pace of the song faster while the fuzzy guitars are meeting up with the bass. There is this sense of the drums pushing forward, the multilayers of the guitars holding back a bit and the vocals carefree amid all the layers. The drumming gets faster and faster, hitting the cymbals until the very last hit and the song ends in a low pulsating synth sound.
The way the dissonant, fuzzy guitars fuse with the bass and drums on ”Oreza” gives a nod to Bongripper’s Stoner Doom. It is as if the raw Stoner soundscape wants to challenge the ethereal vocals which, in a part of the song, turn into mystical whispering with drums softly following and guarding the music. Heavy strokes on the fuzzy guitars with rumbling bass in repetitive patterns start before a downward turn with even heavier and faster riffs just to unfold with glissading fuzzy sounds to make a broad soundscape that tightens again before echoing away before it manages to begin.
The album closes with ”Son” - a slow-paced Doom-laden song in which one guitar holds a clear string and a distorted guitar lingers around the edges. The vocals are wistful, restrained, and sometimes a bit longing. The track turns into a part with guitars, low-end bass, and the pace provided by the bass drums. Deep within the sonics, a vocal harmony emerges reverberatingly. The music comes to a halt with only the strumming guitar left before it all fades away.
Leonov continue to forge the sound they set out to create in 2010. The subtle fine changes in their never-resting creativeness make their music enchanting and cascading with heaviness. Not to be missed in the darkness of autumn and winter.