There are artists who are so identifiable with their bands that it’s hard to separate their solo work from their band work. Singers fall into this category most frequently. Singers with voices as instantly recognizable as Einar Solberg of Leprous stand out that much more. “16” is Solberg’s debut solo album and if people didn’t know it was solo, they would definitely assume it was a Leprous album. BUT they’d also wonder why the band was taking so many chances.
On “16,” there are songs that would sit quite comfortably on a Leprous album and others that definitely show Solberg doing his own thing. With solo albums, I always wonder how many risks will be taken. There are a few to be sure. Perhaps the biggest one is the inclusion of rapping on the track “Home.” It’s a brave move. Does it work? It sounds a tad out of place but I do commend the effort. The title track is more acoustic and raw which is not something Leprous normally does either. But having Ihsahn guesting on the song “Splitting the Soul” adds to the Leprous atmosphere of that track, one of the ones I really like.
The lyrics through out “16” are very personal sounding which ties into the title. “It’s called 16 because that’s when the first really, really bad things started happening to me in life. From 16 to 19, there were a lot of very life-defining moments that happened to me, and that changed me,” Solberg says. “That’s when I kind of lost my innocence and I started realizing that life is serious and bad shit can happen. A lot of pretty drastic things happened within those three years. But this album is not only about the bad things. It’s also about some of the career-defining moments, like the moment I started playing with the band and began to find a community to belong to. Emotionally, I’m a bit of everything, so it covers the entire emotional spectrum!” And beyond the title track, songs like “Remember Me” and “Over the Top” really hit me on a lyrical level. You might not have lived his life, but often we all go through similar trials and tribulations.
There are quite a few guest appearance which is usually the case on a solo album. Calling in friends to give a hand is not unusual. Besides the aforementioned Ihsahn and the rapping by (apparently) Ben Levin, cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne adds a nice touch to the tracks he is on and Vola’s Asger Mygind makes an appearance as well. The only thing I will say is that since Solberg has a VERY distinctive voice, it’s actually jarring to hear another more traditional voice singing with him. Does it work? I think I just need to get used to it. And that can actually be said for the album as a whole. “16” has a lot of textures, even on the more tender songs. It took me a few YEARS to love the album “Coal” and I feel like this album may be similar in that regard.
Fans of Leprous will find plenty to enjoy here. But for people not familiar with the band or Solberg, I don’t necessary think this is a jumping off point. This is NOT Leprous watered down. This is an artist taking any and every direction he wants including the paths he has been on previously. “16” is more symbolically like Steven Wilson’s “Insurgentes” in that you hear enough of the main band and enough of what makes the artist within the band.
1. 16 (feat. Raphael Weinroth-Browne)
3.A Beautiful Life
4.Where All The Twigs Broke (feat. Star Of Ash)
5.Metacognitive (feat. Raphael Weinroth-Browne)
6.Home (feat. Ben Levin)
7.Blue Light (feat. Asger Mygind)
8.Grotto (feat. Magnus Børmark)
9.Splitting The Soul (feat. Ihsahn)
10.Over The Top
11.The Glass Is Empty (feat. Tóti Guðnason)
Label: Inside Out Music
Release Date: June 2, 2023
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