Aspera - Ripples
InsideOut Music
Melodic Progressive Metal
10 songs (54:50)
Release year: 2010
Aspera, InsideOut Music
Reviewed by Thomas
Surprise of the month

To claim that I have been listening a lot to progressive metal lately is a filthy lie. The occasional visit has of course been made with the new release from Dream Theater, but other than that, the dedication from my part has been pale. In steps Aspera, formerly known as Illusion, a young and exciting band that I've been resting my mind's eye upon ever since their Square Edged Circle EP that took me completely by surprise a couple of years ago. This, their debut, have actually been ready for quite some time now, finished well over a year ago in their home-studio. However, label debating has obviously taken a while, as I get the impression that these guys have been privileged with the option of actually choosing from whom they want their support. InsideOut can count themselves fortunate, and with a roster that sparkles with fame and success, the guys in Aspera should be pretty pleased as well. Long-time progressive metal producer Jens Bogren (Opeth, Symphony X, Hammerfall)is responsible for the mastering, and claims boldly that this is the best progressive metal album he has heard since 1992 (Images & Words), which raised my excpectation-bar to the maximum, and left the pitfall for disappointment massive.

After listening the title-track to death on their MySpace (and loving it), waiting around for my login information to the promo-pool was torture. I finally got my hands on this gem a week ago roughly, and it hasn't left my mind, my iPod nor my CD-player since. While not quite the masterpiece good Mr. Bogren claims it to be, it has everything a good, modern day melodic progressive metal band should possess. It's addictive to the core, not leaving a moment to boredom, and after its first spin, I simply had to spin it again. Ripples is a concept-album basically surrounding actions, both global and personal, and their concequences. Pompous some might say, and while that particular point is something I can agree with, the focus is entirely on the music here. These guys are all from the same class of a music-tinged course on high school, and only a couple of years later, all at the age of twenty, they've released their first full-length. After a short intro to set the tone, the rumbling keyboard-intro of the title-track kicks in. Coupled with Robin Ognedal's distinct, heavy and melodic guitar work, you know what you're in for. Inspired by bands such as Dream Theater, Pagan's Mind and arguably Jorn Lande, Aspera set the tone with some of the most interesting melodic metal I've heard since Seventh Wonder's excellent Mercy Falls. This however, is maybe even better.

The journey continues with Do I Dare which reminds me alot of Pagan's Mind on their latest record. With an energetic 80s influence, Ognedal leads the way along with Atle Pettersen on vocals. For some reason, Pettersen has got some crap for his style earlier which is all a juicy load of bullshit. He sounds young and inspired, can twist his voice into many shapes and forms and possesses a range that would make most young hopefuls jealous. Speaking of which, guitarist Robin Ognedal is probably one of the more interesting guitarists I have listened to in a very long time. Inspired, blazing leads, drenched with emotion, blistering skill and determination wraps every song on here in brilliant white light. So to say, he will either make you practice more, or make you throw away your guitar for good. Except a few, there are very few guitarists that manage to dazzle me these days in the way young Ognedal does here. The solo on the slow, thundering yet melodic Catatonic Coma will make you shiver with excitement, and his overall guitar-work on just about everything is flawless down to the very last detail. Backed up by excellent, playful drumming from Joachim Strom Eklund that'll follow every twist and turn with ease, and powerful mountain-moving bassing from Rein Blomquist makes for an astonishing and majestic debut. Add Nickolas Henriksen's delightfully tasty keyboards on top of everything, ranging from slightly plastic but very fun nintendo-sounds to the lovely old-school hammond organ-sound, and you've got yourself a winner.

Led by a brilliant artistic performance, Ripples contains 9 outstanding songs (excluding the intro) that will inherit many a CD-player when the year comes to an end. If you didn't think progressive metal could be catchy, modern, entertaining, and downright addictive all at the same time, think again. Aspera just proved you very wrong. Songs like Ripples, Remorse (features Nils K. Rue on backing vocals), Catatonic Coma, Torn Apart and Traces Inside will unveil new details with each listen, and keep your level of attention on a constant rise. Wearing their robes of influences proudly, Aspera have released the most promising debut in a long time, and highlighted a path that shows great promise as these guys are bringing progressive metal back in my life. Highly recommended. Great stuff.

Killing Songs :
Ripples, Remorse, Catatonic Coma, Torn Apart, Traces Inside
Thomas quoted 90 / 100
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There are 4 replies to this review. Last one on Fri May 28, 2010 4:33 pm
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