Aspera - Ripples (Inside Out/Century Media)

Europe prog rock meets American stadium rock as five young bucks from Norway release a debut album that is a mighty fine slice of the commercial end of the prog rock pie.

With influences like prog rockers Symphony X, Dream Theater and King Crimson but also the more commercial rock/pop bands like Bon Jovi and Extreme name dropped too, Aspera has put together a debut album that belies their youth and experience (all members barely 19 when the album was recorded), while showing that they could have a big future in the poppier end of the prog rock stakes. 

Vocalist Atle Pettersen has a great set of pipes, guitarist Robin Ognerdal handles himself admirably, and with the swirling keyboards of Nickolas Pettersen filling in the gaps there’s some pretty sweet work going on.  And maybe it is because of their youth, or maybe because these boys are still trying to pull the chicks while impressing the guys with their virtuosity. But whatever it is, this is an album and a band that doesn’t shy away from the hook, the chorus, the poppier sounds.  Aspera aren’t ashamed to put together a song you can sing along to while still wailing away on your air guitar or 250 piece air drum kit with extra air cymbals.

They do get too clever occasionally, and there is the odd moment where the songs seem to be threatened with overkill but they almost always pull back in time, usually slipping some beautiful fretwork in on the way before Atle lets another chorus loose and you once again find yourself wondering how kids this young could have this much style. 

This isn’t a perfect album by any means: there’s still the feeling that you’ve heard a lot of it before, there are still a few moments of meander that need tightening up. Atle’s vocals at times also become strained when he tries just that little bit too hard to really get the growl going, but for the main, this is a pretty fine first effort.  And one that shows that just maybe prog rock does have a future beyond the old guys who, let’s face it, are gonna have to give it up one day or at least put out something new and fresh. 

Aspera have set them a challenge, let’s see who’s up to it.

Aspera's Ripples is out now on Inside Out/Century Media.