Album review: Kepler Ten – Delta-v

Genre: Progressive rock / progressive metal

Release date: 10th February 2017

Record label: White Star Records

untitledWhen you’re a metalhead, roughly 90% of the music you consume is a heavy, skull-crunching exercise in despondency, petulance and nihilism. Very little about the heaviest end of the musical spectrum is intended to be uplifting or happy. And it’s arguably been that way ever since metal’s inception, with such gloomy acts as Black Sabbath and Pentagram being quintessential to its early development.

Thus, it becomes all the more enchanting when a metal band that has managed to tap into a more charming and pleasant tone enters your radar: a band that blasts away the archetypal negativity of stereotypical rock, yet also manages to keep the power, energy and indomitable musicianship. One of these bands is Kepler Ten, a proggy power trio from Southampton, England.

Despite the dingy bars and littered, cluttered environs that inhabit their hometown, this act (which began its life as a Rush tribute band) is a touching, enthralling progressive rock/metal powerhouse that both inspires and impresses with its upcoming debut album, Delta-v.

Set to be unleashed into the world on Friday, 10th February, Delta-v is a beautiful record that flawlessly harkens back to such experimental pioneers as Dream Theater and Yes while also remaining starkly fresh, modern and unpredictable.

Bookended by the two amazingly mind-bending opuses “Ultraviolet” and “Red Skies Rise”, this is certainly a record that makes no bones about its complex, prog rock roots. Both of these two songs are majestic, lengthy juggernauts, fuelled by the big riffs and solos from the blistering Richie Cahill as well as the enticing rhythms and melodic vocals of bassist/singer James Durand. Blending the tone of old-school lengthy tracks like “2112” with a heavy injection of modern vitality, the songs that both begin and end Delta-v are ceaselessly enigmatic.

Meanwhile, the five other tracks that inhabit the space between “Ultraviolet” and “Red Skies Rise” are also invigorating, albeit in a different way. The main meat of Delta-v continues with the prog rock sentimentalities, but remains notably more radio-friendly. “The Shallows” and lead single “Time and Tide” are both particularly accessible, the latter especially channelling overtones of such radio rock giants as Muse.

“The Stone” is a six-minute rocker that lets technical lead guitar work dominate, while “In the Sere and Yellow” and “Swallowtail” are much calmer, adding in elements of the clean and acoustic to let the record cross the entire melodic rock gamut.

“Swallowtail” in and of itself is especially stunning, not only through its eight-minute length, but also in the massive dose of adrenaline it apparently receives almost three-quarters of the way through, abruptly changing from a calming, acoustic piece to one of the heaviest and greatest progressions of the entirety of Delta-v. It begins as a subtle, harmonic lullaby, but ends as a grandiose blend of synths, intense chords, rip-roaring drumming from Steve Hales and blood-pumping excitement.

In short, everything about this record is an absolute sonic gem. Delta-v demonstrates classically-inclined prog at its very finest, to the point where if this record came out thirty-to-forty years earlier, it would now be hailed as a genre-bending masterwork.

However, this is something of a moot point, as it is Kepler Ten’s ability to mix the old and new that makes for, at the very least, an interesting debut release. Rock fan or not, this is an inalienable record that all should seek out.

Final rating: Delta-v gets 9 R2’s out of 10.

Delta-v will be available physically and digitally via White Star Records on 10th February.