Kepler Ten: Delta V (White Star Records)
Starting out as a Rush tribute called R2 (which they still perform as) the trio of James Durand, Richard Cahill and Steve Hales have their own band playing original music called Kepler Ten (also the name of a Sun-like star in the constellation of Draco that lies 173 parsecs from Earth). Delta V is their debut record and it's quite possibly one of the finest progressive rock albums I've listened to this year. Ultraviolet opens the album in fine style moving from Floydian textures into harder rocking territory driven by Hales' unbelievable percussive skill (well he does try to emulate Neil Peart) it's got a heavy groove from Durand's bass and Cahill's guitar, there are little beeps and twitches underpinning the song that runs at 9 minutes long but you don't notice as the band's songcraft is magnificent.
Time And Tide has a much more recent sound with the electronics of Muse powering it, The Stone has heavy Rush-like feel and is the nearest thing on this to the Canadian prog legends. The trio are all multi talented with keys, synths and the obligatory bass pedals handled by all three members but what separates the band from Rush are the soul-drenched vocals of Durand who sounds a lot more like Glenn Hughes and Doug Pinnick.
Especially on the dramatic Swallowtail which is a superb middle section to the album orchestral and inspiring with a massive sound however we go back to Rush on The Shallows which has the band's post Signals era nailed. Delta V is progressive rock masterpiece, taking from the glory days of progressive rock but dealing with it in their own way, ambitious, musically interesting and full of virtuosity Kepler Ten are a band that shine bright like their namesake. 9/10
Art Nation: Liberation (Sony/Gain Music Entertainment)
Art Nation's debut record was an AOR tour-de-force, managing to perfectly encapsulate Scandi-AOR perfectly, the keys and choruses were as big as the hair and this young band looked to be the newest band to follow in the wake of countrymen Eclipse and H.E.A.T, if there was one criticism to be levelled at the band was that they were afraid of experimentation, their songs were strong, played by an accomplished band but lacked variation on repeated listens. Second album Liberation redresses this balance, from minute one you can hear the evolution of this group.
The buzzing synths have been ramped up for this album, touching on the euro dance hard rock amalgamation of Amaranthe and Reckless Love, so many of the songs on this record could fit in both rock and dance clubs due to the heavy beats, blazing solos and the excellent melodic vocals. There are thumping rockers such as A Thousand Charades, Ghost Town, power pop with What Do You Want and also massive ballads suitable for Eurovision domination in Take Me Home and the punchier I'm Alive. Liberation takes Art Nation to the next stage of their development and for the better, bringing AOR into the modern era. 8/10
Jupiter Falls: Faces In The Sand - Part One (Broken Road Records)
Swirling orchestras, choirs and a storm open this record, before they segue into acoustic guitars that set the scene for a killer guitar solo, the riff kicks in and Welcome To My World starts off the second full length album from Leeds metallic rockers Jupiter Falls, it's sublime opening song with a huge head banging riff, a chant along chorus and more guitar fireworks throughout, the song and album are multi-tracked to a polished American sound and that is no easy feat, this record sounds like something Avenged Sevenfold, Alter Bridge could release, the production is stellar the songs move between massive rockers, ballads and the occasional misogynist sleaze rocker for good measure, Nothing To Me has vintage Motley Crue feel to it complete with some female moans of pleasure and talkbox guitar ala Kickstart My Heart.
In fact the songs on this record sit between the dramatic rocking of Sixx:A.M and Slash's solo project although with vocals that are neither James Michael nor Myles Kennedy but fit the music due to their gruffer nature. A massive attraction to this record is the incredible guitar playing heard throughout and just the general audacity of the band to sound like the heavy hitters of American radio rock and pulling it off, ballads like Call Me are corny, the wall of acoustic guitars driving the emotive lyrics with it all culminating in yet another solo, yes it sounds like Alter Bridge at their most lighter friendly but you can't argue with just how well these Leeds lads do it. Jupiter Falls aren't going to win any awards for originality but when a pastiche is this good awards don't matter, you listen with smile on your face and I promise you'll be humming the songs for days to come, whether you want to or not. 8/10