DPRP (Dutch Progressive Rock Page) Reviews and Rates Paradigms 9/10

Jan Buddenberg, who is clearly a grand whisky connoisseur, reviews Paradigms in style and special aromatic flavor on DPRP.net

An outstanding album, which grows on you on each turn. Highly recommendable for progressive guitar lovers


Rating: 9/10

The art of blending is a craftsmanship one tastefully encounters in luxury drinks like whisky. Imagine what is to be done for one brand to make every bottle of precious liquid exactly the same; for people expect the same quality, not only in their own country, but across the border it should look, feel and taste the same as well; repeatedly over and over and over all the time. Choosing from all those casks of whisky; all different in age, taste, impregnation and maturation is not an easy task and hence the term master-blender is frequently used as appraisal in the industry.

In slightly higher regard stand those who are able to play freely in the cask-field by not only harmonizing up to explicit quality, but also essentially add a signature to the already perfect drink, thereby creating more depth, stunning flavours and long lasting lingering finishes. On top of this there are a few instances where the master-blender is the master-distiller as well, able to control the whole process from start to finish in the end creating the loveliest of spirits; precisely the circumstances in which Shant Hagopian operates with Semantic Saturation when compared to the musical equivalent of it.

Paradigms is the second release by Semantic Saturation, the first being Solipsistic from 2012. On his first album he used the talented skills of Virgil Donati (drums) and Ric Fierabracci (bass) to present highly entertaining instrumental progressive metal, with guest appearances on one track by Andy Kuntz (Vanden Plas) on vocals, and Derek Sherinian (Sons Of Apollo) on keyboards adding signatures throughout. For Paradigms the base-field has been altered completely resulting in an more than satisfactory versatile form of Shant on guitars and keys, Craig Blundell (Steve Wilson, Frost) on drums and Kristoffer Gildenlöw on bass. With some extraordinary supportive appearances, Shant has surpassed his own standard and raised the bar, subsequently nourishing our senses.

A creative and artistic insight into the mind of Shant shows on the lovely self-designed artwork in which the album is presented. Production by Shant is handled extremely well, for the album is impeccably vivid, harmonious, balanced, vibrant, tight when it needs to be, yet playful when called for; and above all a treat to listen to and enjoy.

Most tracks are based on instrumental jazzy progressive rock fusion structures and melodies, leaving lots of space for the three cornerstones to fill in the blanks when necessary to make it all sparkle. Each member knowing their instrument by heart shines through in their performance, without ever feeling the need to outweigh the other. Genuinely guitar driven, there’s still ample of room for variety, flashes of keys, subtle or hard hitting drums, firm and tight bass and the occasional solo (be it keys or guitar) as perfectly demonstrated in Mirrors Of Confusion and Pareidolia.

Universal and Until We Meet Again showcase a softer touch with more melodic rock whereby acoustic guitars add character and keys giving refinement, often reminding me of Dixie Dregs and Steve Morse. The heavier full bodied tracks like The Stranger From Andromeda and Disturbence show signs of brilliance with influences by Dream Theater reminiscent of their instrumental work during the Images And Words and Awake era.

The support by guest artist lifts the intensity of the music and generates a whole different level in which to play. Short but rounded Empty Whisky Jar starts of bluesy and changes towards jazz thanks to the vocals by Houry Dora Apartian, effectively depicting images of a Mike Hammer Private detective set in the 30’s to me. Carousel Of Death features Alex Argento on keyboards (also responsible for mixing and mastering) and Squiggy McFlannel on Trumpet, whom together with the base three stir things up, resulting in a rather complex heavy dynamical progressive track full of 1950s swing and burlesque. Lastly, Derek Sherinian adjusts the controls towards extraordinary progmetal on Ulterior Harmony, leaving the levers open to maximum extend results in a pure cask strength version of Dream Theater.

Even the best master blenders have to make a judgment call now and then when there’s an exquisite and flawless cask that just is too good to be used in a blend, so it becomes a single cask whisky; a whisky-lovers dream with exceptional aromas, flavours, divine taste and a long everlasting finish. Last track Where Dreams Have Died is the exact equivalent: initially smooth, it changes to heavy progressive Pink Floyd and Dream Theater, giving of bursts of explicit guitars reminiscent of John Petrucci and Joe Satriani. Temporarily softening in the middle it slowly evolves into a dazzling exhibition by Shant on guitar, as if to say you don’t need words if your guitar can do it’s singing for you (ironically this being the one track with actual lyrics); ending with a relaxing silky smoothness.

A special mention has to be made to the exemplary bass-work by Gildenlöw which is some of his best I have heard up to date. Combined with the intricate, energetic and refined drums by Blundell and the inspiring guitars by Shant has resulted in an outstanding album, which grows on you on each turn. Highly recommendable for progressive guitar lovers, and for now I’ll savor an established 20 years old Dutch Single Cask 1998 Millstone whisky and listen to it again; though I think the complexity and finish on the drink might take a while so more turns are needed… Let’s hope actual semantic saturation doesn’t happen.


Source: http://www.dprp.net/reviews/2018-069#semantic-saturation

English Review on Esther’s Rock Blog

A couple of weeks ago Esther published a review in Dutch on Esther’s Rock Blog and on Rockmuzine. Yesterday she told me the review is now translated in English, so I’m sharing it below.
Esther rated Paradigms with a score of 92/100


Semantic Saturation – Paradigms (GB)
6 september 2018 – Esther Kessel-Tamerus

Shant Hagopian is a guitarist from Canada. In 2010 he founded the prog rock / metal project Semantic Saturation. The idea behind the project is to work with a different line-up on each album.
‘Paradigms‘ is the second album. Here, contributors included well-known proggers: Craig Blundell (Frost * / Steven Wilson), Kristoffer Gildenlöw (ex Pain of Salvation).

The intro of ‘Mirrors of Confusion’ could have been as well an intro of a blues-rock track. When metal elements kick in, you know that we are in for something different. The metal element is not only alternated with rock, but also with quieter parts. As expected, the drumming is very good. There’s a fine division between rhythm and melody. This opening track ends very nicely.

‘Carousel of Death‘ has a tight start. There are some high, electronic sounds. The rhythm is interspersed with melody. There are many twists and turns, with -for example- trumpet playing, which provides a jazzy twist. Because of the amount of twists your ears almost can’t keep up.
The structure is complex, yet Shant knows how to interweave a catchy melody and rhythm. These are real ear-worms that stay in your head. There are bouts of fast and tight performances. A bit later, sometimes even at the same time, the melody is hovering over. Even the musical rests are nicely placed. This track has a tremendous ending.

‘Empty Whiskey Jar‘ has a calm, collected start. Here too, all instruments are in balance. The vocals sound mainly as an instrument, but they are a wonderful addition. This track has a lingering dreamy atmosphere. For the first time, the ending is less surprising. However, during this part, small details are nicely incorporated.

Initially ‘Ulterior Harmony‘ has a catchy rhythm. The guitars provide the rocking element, which slowly becomes heavier and faster. Again, there are unexpected twists and combinations that you should actually check out for yourself. The high tones of the keys are intermixed, or alternated, with the heavy riffs. This occasionally peculiar or restless mishmash is well balanced. The tempo is fast, while the melody is unwavering. All this is well distributed over the headphones. There is an extensive build-up towards the end, experimental in nature. This seamlessly flows into ‘Disturbance Within‘. After a calm, experimental start, a sudden hit of solid rock follows. Again, the guitar work is exquisite. Electronic sounds provide a spherical end.

Semantic Saturation always knows how to surprise me: In ‘Universal‘ with their piano sounds. There is a transition to a more rocking, with a touch of Latin American atmosphere. There are plenty of twists in this piece. The piano returns briefly. The layers are also beautifully separated during the quiet part. There is a sudden change to rock. This contains a cool bass groove. In a nutshell, there is so much to listen to. Once again, the build-up is very good at the end.

Also ‘Where Dreams Have Died‘ is fantastic. Towards the end the mysterious music is played softer and softer until you hear almost nothing. Then there is silence. But… the music returns. But just for a few seconds. This is amazing, what a surprising ending. This last track is an epic, which is a fantastic way to wrap up the album.

The artwork is made by Shant, and looks very professional. He is very talented, both visually and audibly. I have heard many beautiful things. I was regularly impressed by the sublime guitar playing of Shant. He has, together with this team, made a very good album.



Paradigms Review in iO-Pages magazine

The review by Geert Ryssen is in Dutch, translated poorly by Google below.

“Semantic Saturation is the brainchild of Canadian guitarist Shant Hagopian, who with his second album Paradigms consolidates his fusion between metal, progressive rock and jazz. He does not want to be stuck with the same musician, and besides guest contributions from Derek Sherinian, Alex Argento (keyboards) and Squiggy McFlannel (trumpet) – each with a song – he opted for a rhythm section consisting of Kristoffer Gildenlów (ex-Pain Of Salvation) on bass / double bass Crain Blundell (Frost*/Steven Wilson) on drums. Particularly original is the choice of jazz singer Houry Dora Apartian in Empty Whiskey Jar, the only vocal number on the record. Hagopian does not want to fall into the trap of virtuosity because of the virtuosity and plays in the compositions, that offers enough space to display his guitar skills. Hagopian is not dictated by a certain sound but chooses variation in the sound spectrum and has a nice, full tone. He can fiercely and energetically rage, but also lyrical and thoughtful and that never goes away because the focus always remains on the composition. The interplay of the three protagonists is communicative and does not sound mechanical at all, here are clearly three musicians who are listening to each other. With the ten-minute closing song Where Dreams Have Died, Shant puts the crown on an enjoyable album.”

Source: https://www.iopages.nl/editie/id/153/io-pages-152

Polish Metal Web ‘Zine Laboratorium Muzycznych Fuzji.com Reviews ‘Paradigms’ Rating it 9.5/10

Egon Klank reviews Paradigms and gives it 9.5/10 stars on the Polish online metal magazine Laboratorium Muzycznych Fuzji.com.
English translation can be found below.

An album that changes the essence of progressive metal. Hagopian is often compared to Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. Believe it or not, none of them convince me emotionally as Hagopian does.


Semantic Saturation – Paradigms
Posted by: Egon Klank – 27 Aug. 2018

Shant Hagopian. Człowiek, o którym mało kto wie, a na, którego płytach zawsze udzielają się tuzy największego formatu. Człowiek, który muzyką przekracza wszelkie kulturowe bariery. Fascynujący debiut „Solipsistic” zebrał u mnie gromkie oklaski. Debiut przez tak niewielu oczekiwany, a robiący tak kolosalne wrażenie. Album, który zmienia wręcz istotę progresywnego metalu, często zawężonego do wąskich szufladek. Debiut Hagopiana to jedna z niewielu płyt, zwłaszcza pokroju tego gatunku, którą bez mrugnięcia okiem uznałbym za jedną z najbardziej wizjonerskich wśród progresji. Muzyk, jeżeli dziś nie wybitny, to z pewnością za takiego za kilka lat zostanie uznany. Tak ambiwalentny kunszt podparty takimi muzycznymi legendami i ich umiejętnościami jak świetna trakcja bezprogowego basu Kristoffera Gildenlöwa czy też chirurgiczna precyzja Craiga Blundell na najnowszej płycie dobrze rokuje.

Surowy klimat płynnej improwizacji utwierdzonej na skale doskonałej dynamiki i alergii na brzmieniową losowość. Do tego solidna produkcja oraz idealny balans instrumentarium. Gama stylów nie łamie może paradygmatów, ale zdecydowanie przybliża najnowszy dorobek Hagopiana do miana arcydzieła. Nie wiem, czy „Paradigms” przebija debiut. Być może tamtej był bardziej ekstatyczny i entuzjastyczny. Najnowszy zdecydowanie jest bardziej stonowany oraz wyważony, co też może wynikać z dość drastycznej zmiany obsady, ale jak zawsze całość jest doszlifowana do samego końca.

Twórczość Hagopiana to emocje rozszczepione na czynniki pierwsze, głównie dzięki solidnej interpretacji atmosfery każdej z kompozycji, które zawsze tworzą spójną muzyczną koncepcję. Trudno wyobrazić sobie bowiem lepszą identyfikację z utworem, jak dzieje się to za przykładem Dereka Sheriniana w Ulterior Harmony. Całość jest doskonale przemyślana. Hagopian nie błądzi, chociaż ciężko pracuje, aby jego albumy były heterogenicznymi obłokami niejednorodnych styli. Sterylność instrumentarium i technicznej konstrukcji nie zaburza jednak przesłania emocjonalnego (When Dreams Have Died). To jeden z utworów, który utwierdzają wiedzą kompletną w zakresie konstrukcji i mieszania różnych stylistyk. Słuchacz po tak wyczerpującej dawce wypełniających muzycznych nastroi musi być spełniony.

Systematycznie nakładające się na kompozycje warstwy tworzą materiał równie przystępny co skomplikowany dzięki inteligentnej konstrukcji utworów. Nie odurza ona słuchacza przepychem, ale stopniowym wprowadzaniem do kolejnych muzycznych wymiarów. Od akustycznej krotochwilności przez rozpaczliwość ballad, a na rockowo-orkiestracyjnych kohortach dźwięku kończąc (Universal). To nie wszystko! W Mirrors of Confusion dostajemy genialny funkowy rytm. Spore wrażenie pod względem budowania atmosfery i przestrzeni robi tripowy Disturbance Within. Do tego dostajemy ciężki, acz zaparty jazzowymi melodiami rozrywkowy utwór Carousel of Death czy też świetne melodie w Pereidolia. Melancholia zaskoczy nas w blusowym Empty Whisky Jar. Gorące progresje z efektownymi ornamentami znajdziecie w The Stranger From Andromeda. Ultrarelaksujący Until We Meet Again ukoi. Ta umiejętność zabawy dźwiękiem kojarzy mi się z Hagopianem najbardziej. Robi to nie tylko z niebywałą lekkością, ale i z piorunujące efektem ostatecznych aranżacji. Niektóre tematy rozwijają się w sposób całkowicie zaskakujący. Nieprzewidywalność utworów to jedna z podstawowych zalet, dla których do jego twórczości się wraca.

Hagopian porównywany jest często do Joe Satrianiego oraz Steve’a Vaia. Wierzcie czy nie, ale żaden z nich nie przekonuje mnie pod względem emocjonalnym tak jak robi to właśnie Hagopian, a o to w tej muzyce bardzo ciężko ze względu na brak lirycznego podkładu. Na nic jednak porównania. Universal przecież na ten przykład można podciągnąć oraz interpretować jako hołd formacji Camel z czasów płyty „The Snow Goose” (1975). Jego subtelność, delikatność oraz finezja tworzą naprawdę niesamowitą i unikatową całość i raczej nie należałoby tego konkretyzować w ramy znanych standardów, które pojawiają się raczej przypadkowo. Dobry album instrumentalny nie zależy od bicia rekordów prędkości, ale od wyczucia klimatu i wszechstronności. Te cechy Hagopian posiadł w całej ich synergii.

Twórczość Hagopiana dorasta jednak tak naprawdę ze słuchaczem. Trywialnym wydaje się pisać o tym, że album rośnie wraz z każdym przesłuchaniem, ale jego twórczość naprawdę tworzy coś do czego nie tylko wraca się z wielką przyjemnością, ale za każdym razem skłania nas ku innym zakamarkom tej brzmieniowej poezji. Niesamowita atmosfera, przy tych technicznych fajerwerkach rzadko kiedy ma tak emocjonalny wydźwięk. „Paradigms” to kolejne wyjątkowe i unikalne wydawnictwo. „Solipstistic” nie był dziełem przypadku.


Shant Hagopian. A man who is hardly known by anyone, and whose albums are always shared by the largest format. A man who transcends all cultural barriers with music. The fascinating debut of “Solipsistic” brought me thunderous applause. Debut for so few expected, and doing such a colossal impression. An album that changes the essence of progressive metal, often narrowed down to narrow drawers. Hagopian’s debut is one of the few records, especially the type of this genre, which I would have considered without blinking as one of the most visionary among progression. Musician, if not prominent today, it will certainly be recognized in a few years.

The harsh climate of liquid improvisation fixed on the rock of perfect dynamics and allergy to sound randomness. For this solid production and perfect instrumental balance. The range of styles does not break paradigms, but it definitely brings Hagopian’s newest output to the name of a masterpiece. I do not know if “Paradigms” is breaking through the debut. Perhaps he was more ecstatic and enthusiastic. The latest one is definitely more toned down and balanced, which can also result from quite a drastic cast change, but as always the whole is polished to the very end.

Hagopian’s work is emotions split into prime factors, mainly thanks to the solid interpretation of the atmosphere of each composition, which always form a coherent musical concept. It is hard to imagine a better identification with the song, as is the case with Derek Sherinian in Ulterior Harmony. The whole is well thought out. Hagopian does not err, although he works hard to make his albums heterogeneous clouds of heterogeneous styles. The sterility of the instruments and technical design does not, however, disturb the emotional message ( When Dreams Have Died ). This is one of the pieces that confirm the complete knowledge in the field of construction and mixing of different styles. The listener after such an exhausting dose of musical moods must be fulfilled.

Systematically overlapping layers make the material as accessible as it is complicated due to the intelligent design of the tracks. It does not dazzle the listener with glamor, but with gradual introduction to subsequent musical dimensions. From acoustic krotochwilność through the desperation of ballads, and on rock and orchestral sound cohorts ending ( Universal ). It’s not everything! In Mirrors of Confusion we get a brilliant funk rhythm. The trip Disturbance Within makes a great impression in terms of building the atmosphere and space . For this we get a heavy, though jazz-entwined tunes, the entertaining song Carousel of Death or great melodies in Pereidolia . Melancholy will surprise us in the bluesEmpty Whiskey Jar. You will find hot progressions with spectacular ornaments in The Stranger From Andromeda. Ultrarelaxing Until We Meet Again soothes. This ability to play with sound reminds me of Hagopian the most. It does it not only with an incredible lightness, but also with a stunning effect of the final arrangements. Some topics develop in a completely surprising way. The unpredictability of works is one of the basic advantages for which he returns to his work.

Hagopian is often compared to Joe Satriani and Steve Vaia. Believe it or not, none of them convinces me emotionally as Hagopian does, and it’s very hard in this music because of the lack of a lyric foundation. However, no comparison.Universal, for example, can be drawn up and interpreted as a tribute to the Camel band from the time of the album “The Snow Goose” (1975). Its subtlety, delicacy and finesse create a truly amazing and unique whole, and it should not be concretized in the context of well-known standards, which appear rather accidentally. A good instrumental album does not depend on breaking speed records but on feeling the climate and versatility. These features Hagopian possessed in all their synergy.

Hagopian’s work, however, really grows with the listener. It seems trivial to write about the fact that the album grows with each interrogation, but its creation really creates something that not only returns with great pleasure, but each time leads us to other nooks of this sonic poetry. An amazing atmosphere, with these technical fireworks, is rarely so emotional. “Paradigms” is another unique and unique publishing house. “Solipstistic” was not a coincidence.

Full Review https://www.laboratoriummuzycznychfuzji.com/2018/08/semantic-saturation-paradigms.html