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Aspera – Ripples: Review

February 10, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Aspera is a newborn progressive metal band from Norway, having all members age of approximately 20. They released their debut album, entitled Ripples, on January 25 (26 for USA). Though their youth screams “lack of experience,” their music showcases otherwise.

Album art of the year?

The Music (rating: B+)

  1. Intro
  2. Ripples
  3. Do I Dare?
  4. Remorse
  5. Between Black & White
  6. Catatonic Coma
  7. Torn Apart
  8. Traces Inside
  9. Reflections
  10. The Purpose

Ripples is a strong first album from the newcomers. The style of this album is comparable to major progressive metal bands as Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation, and Evergrey. There are numerous similarities that will not go unnoticed. This is good in some ways, but bad in others. Progressive lovers, like myself, will embrace the fine creation of progressive complexities that resound in the bands formerly mentioned. On the other hand, there are those who will discard this album for its lack of uniqueness in the progressive scene.

That being said, there are still distinct characteristics in this album that make Aspera’s sound recognizable. For example, the use of keyboards for atmospheric effects stood out to me. The sound is quite distinct and well-sounded, even in a genre which heavily employs the instrument. However, most of the traits definitive to the band are rather subtle, and without doubt there are many parallels to bands of the genre.

Still, the execution of progressive metal is highly appreciable. Though it is not at as high a level as Dream Theater, the music still reaches a commendable stage of complexity. The album is structured very well and flows very smoothly between (and within) songs. Also, the band finds a great balance between catchy hooks and deep melodies. Though it is a metal album, the variety of sounds is vast. They range from acoustic ballads (“Reflections”) to extremely progressive (“Between Black & White”). There are great expectations of musicianship from this genre, and Aspera no doubt meets them in every way.

But Ripples also definitely satisfies the standards of instrumental performance demanded by progressive metal. The guitarist gives great riffs and solos, and the bass and drums amplify them. Wonderful rhythm lines are also given by the keyboardist, along with a collection of impressive solos. Vocals in this album are also very praise-worthy in terms of both technicality and phrasing. There is a fine balance among all instruments; no band member’s talents are hindered.

However, the album’s biggest shortcoming is the lyrical content. They are not bad per say, but they reveal much immaturity and basic thought. Despite their exceptional level of instrumental expertise, it seems as though the band needs a little time to intellectually develop into a perfect band, though it could very possibly happen.

Ripples is an amazing career kickoff for the Norwegian progressive metal band. Their level of musicianship and instrumental performance are head and shoulders above the standards. Though they still have room for growth in terms of identity and lyrical/thematic intelligence, I have no doubt for their soaring potential. If they keep this up, Aspera will have a long life ahead of them.

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