Apochs.net Reviews and Rates Solipsistic 9/10

Jason Apoch Weiss is an online blogger who reviews metal music, movies and games.

Here’s the full review

Semantic Saturation is a Canadian Progressive Rock and Metal instrumental act that formed back in 2012. This four piece group, founded by former Nu.Clear.Dawn guitarist Shant Hagopian, wasted no time in recording and issuing their debut full-length album Solipsistic, which finds a home through Cornless Unicorn Records. Aside the active four members, this release finds additional keyboards from guest Progressive legend Derek Sherinian, formerly of Dream Theater fame, as well as some guest vocals from Vanden Plas singer, Andy Kuntz. But, with such a small window to write these nine often extensive performances, does Solipsistic prove to be a Progressive fans wet dream that should be sought out, or is the band’s name more of a warning than anything else?

Despite having some Progressive Metal traits, the production of Solipsistic doesn’t make it all that heavy an offering, which ends up a positive thing for the sake of atmosphere. The guitars have a cleaner distortion to them more akin to the Rock aspect of the style, though can be a bit heavier when lower notes come into play. The bass is a mid-range twanging approach most of the time that helps carry the groove of some songs moreso than just act as an aid to the rhythm in others. However, sometimes it can be played a lot deeper, which is usually during the heavier Progressive Metal songs or passages. The drums sound fantastic, having clear cymbals that sound like they are right there in front of you, along with the tight snaps of the snares, though the bass kicks are pushed back slightly with more of a thud. Then there’s the keyboards that appesar throughout. Most of the time it’s just small passages, but they vary from electronic distortions, to a much cleaner style that tries to replicate an actual piano in a clearly digital manner.

Even though the band mixes together the Metal and Rock worlds of the Progressive style, some of the best material comes more from the latter of the two. “Ambivalence” is the perfect example, and kicks off the album in the right direction. Some of the riffs, such as at the start, do carry a Metal touch as far as the distortion and bass presence goes, but the groove the track has does eventually carry into some lighter riffs from the guitar that offer additional technicality that is simply infectious with an upbeat vibe that continues to grow the further you get into it. This is easily one of the most memorable songs off the album, and thankfully not the last as “Make Believe” comes right in afterwards and offers a far more atmospheric offering. Showing traits of early NWOBHM influence, this track has some simpler, emptier passages that allow the mid-range bass to really take over, and it sounds great. There are additional cleaner chords in some of these spots that give it more emotion, aiding the passionate, catchy, and sometimes upbeat track in really standing out.

“Blessing in Disguise” offers a beautiful ballad piece, one you could see being the final song at the high school dance, or even a conclusionary kiss between main characters one might expect from a dramatic film or television show, such as The Wonder Years. The only difference is that there’s more complexity in the chords for an extended guitar solo style offering. The keyboards also sound fantastic here, and the cymbals help to fill this passionate performance without going too overboard. But, then there’s “Stardust,” which is a much heavier offering for the first half. The bass-rich track carries a darker tone through most of the Metal-drive riffs. Around the half way point, the slight burden the music conveys shifts over to a more astral, somewhat Space Rock approach that the listener can easily be wrapped up in. The additional clean keyboard notes are very subtle, but well played in a Jazz inspired manner for a brief period before going tighter and more electric. The song closes merging both heavier and lighter worlds into a sense of danger, as if cast out into a sea of darkness just to meet an abrupt end that does end up suiting to the track’s conclusion.

But, for all the priase, there’s some material that doesn’t quiet have the same impact. First up is “Point of Singularity,” which is similar to “Blessing in Disguise” in my ways. The main difference is that the acoustic riffs take center stage moreso than the bass, which seems rather muffled and restrained. That being said, the song is still pretty good, sometimes carrying a Spanish touch to it, giving this a vibe more like a serenade without the vocals. The keyboards end up really unneccesary here, presenting more of that astral tone that just doesn’t work with the atmosphere present. This is also the shortest song, and, while it’s still enjoyable, it does end up sounding like a filler composition unfortunately. Finally there’s “What We All Stop,” which features Andy Kuntz on vocals. Aside some various passages and guitar solos, this one doesn’t have the atmospheric bite many others have. The singing isn’t really all that great, but suits the toned down and restricted music outside the richer chorus. In the end, it’s not that unique an experience, and comes off more like a typical Progessive song with a bit of an identity crisis, finding some Power Metal environments here and there that feel forced due to Andy’s presence, all concluding with a very weird keyboard performance after a few moments of silence. It sounds pretty bad, and feels tacked on, as if Derek provided it for a song, and it wasn’t used, but they decided to throw it on as a bonus to make sure it was used.

Despite the two songs that don’t have the same bite or impact as the others, Solipsistic is a fantastic, varied Progressive journey fans of the style are definitely going to eat up. This doesn’t go off into the showmanship-like performances some bands in the style today seem to love doing, instead offering up some well constructed songs rich with atmosphere and talent in a way that flows smoothly from start to finish. One spin through this recording makes it pretty evident that Semantic Saturation is poised to go pretty far in the genre, and it wouldn’t be surprising if labels like InsideOut Music were to take notice of the group after this stunning debut. Easily one of the most important entries for the style in 2013, Solipsistic by Semantic Saturation is an album that needs to be included in your collection. It’s just sad that, given the underground nature behind it, this will probably be heavily overlooked outside the Candian territory of it’s birth, a true crime for a release of this caliber.

01. Ambivalence – 6:33
02. Make Believe – 5:06
03. Lost and Found Insanity – 5:26
04. Stardust – 6:49
05. Blessing in Disguise – 4:48
06. Armchair Activist – 4:10
07. Point of Singularity – 3:50
08. Time is an Illusion – 5:43
09. What We All Stop – 8:44

Initial Pressing Score: 9/10


Interview and Review on MusikReviews.de

MusikReviews.de is a German metal ‘zine. Andreas Schiffmann has already reviewed the CD last month, and today my interview with them got published, they have translated it to German, but I have the original in English.

Tell me a bit about yourself: How were you socialized with music, and what do you want to achieve as a solo artist – or are you looking for a stable band?

I started playing guitar when I was 15, my interest in music started when I heard Pink Floyd for the first time, as a teenager the many great bands I have discovered along the way made me fall in love with the guitar and the sounds and music you can create with the instrument, thanks to all the technology we have today, from effects processors to amps and software. In 1996 I started jazz guitar studies and graduated in 2003, Frank Gambale was another inspiring jazz musician, not that I wanted to specify in jazz, but there were no rock guitar courses in the school I attended, so jazz for me was definitely an amazing style to complement my music as a progressive rock guitarist. At this point I can’t say if I’m looking for a stable band, but I wouldn’t mind being in one either, I’m pretty happy working as a solo artist, and my plans for the future is to play with different musicians on every album, but that does not mean that I don’t want to play with the same musicians, again at this stage it’s too early to tell.

How come high profile players like Ric or Virgil got interested in a quasi-unknown artist like you?

Ric, Virgil, Andy and Derek are all amazing musicians, I admire everything they do. When I asked Derek if he wants to play or be a guest on my album I sent him some demo tracks and after he gave them a quick listen, he gave me a call and he was more than happy to help. The same thing happened with Virgil, Ric and Andy, they were all excited. It’s really a great honor to have them all on the album.

How did the collaboration with your guests happen logistically, also since Andy, for example, wrote his own lyrics?

Coordination was one of the biggest challenges for me throughout the process. These musicians are all on busy schedules, they have tours, clinics and work in the studio. But thanks to the powers of the Internet, connecting with them was very easy, we had many sessions on Skype and then I’d send them my tracks with the demo drums or bass and every one of them adds their part in, and then sends me back their files and so on. For the lyrics on “What if We All Stop” I have sent Andy the idea and story of the song as well as some verses , then he added his parts based on the music making sure he has enough words to fill the lines and we shaped it down together to the final version that is on the CD. Andy also helped me in the song structure musically, and as a vocalist and a great producer.

What does your project’s name Semantic Saturation mean to you?

Semantic Saturation also known as “Semantic Satiation” is a psychological phenomenon where repetition causes a word or phrase to lose its meaning temporarily; words are then processed in the mind as meaningless sounds. The idea is much deeper than that, and it doesn’t just stop there. Even though unapparent, but our brains are being saturated on a daily basis, and fed by multiple sources, they may look slow but the effects are the same on the long run.

How do you come up with names for your instrumental tracks, and is writing instrumental music a necessity because you do not have a band of your own?

Track names are inspired by the music I write, and the music I write is inspired by many different sources, it can be a musician, and artist, an article … anything really. The idea is the same when you are writing a song with lyrics, how do you choose the track name of a song? Based on the lyrics and story of course. Writing instrumental music is not a necessity but more a desire, as a guitarist I felt more fulfilled having a (mostly) instrumental album, but that does not mean that future albums will all be instrumental. I love songs as much as I love instrumental music; they are all music in the end.

What do you try to achieve with this project, and where do you see yourself as an artist in the long run?

Semantic Saturation is my baby, and It means a lot to me of course. It’s the result of more than 2 years of hard work. What am I trying to achieve… I’m trying to deliver great music to the music lovers, combining the most appealing elements in rock, prog and metal and mixing them with new styles like jazz and electronica. It’s a very early stage to tell where I do see myself, but for now having a descent fan base, and fans who appreciate the music and the effort I put in creating it is just what I need. And I hope more people will discover this project and enjoy listening to the album.

source: http://www.musikreviews.de/interviews/18-02-2013/Semantic-Saturation/

And here’s a link to the review (only in German) but you can always use Google Translate.

My Global Mind reviews Solipsistic

And yet another review of Solipsistic on My Global Mind metal web ‘zine

Released by: Independent
Release Date: Out Now!!!
Genre: Progressive Rock
Links: http://www.semanticsaturation.com/

Line Up:
keyboards – DEREK SHERINIAN – Ex-Dream Theater special guest
vocals – ANDY KUNTZ

1) Ambivalence
2) Make Believe
3) Lost and Found: Insanity
4) Stardust
5) Blessing in Disguise
6) Armchair Activist
7) Point of Singularity
8) Time Is An Illusion
9) What If We All Stop

Now here we have a sensational Guitar Wizzard from Canada called SHANT HAGOPIAN. He was helped by established musicians such as drummer VIRGIL DONATI (STEVE VAI), bassist RIC FIERABRACCI (PLANET X) and guests DEREK SHERINIAN on keyboards (ex-DREAM THEATER) and vocalist ANDY KUNTZ of VANDENPLAS on 1 song. Together they recorded the brilliant first album ‘Solipsistic’ of this project called SEMANTIC SATURATION.

The instrumental Progressive Rock/Metal is of an incredible high level, with of course the main focus on the amazing guitar work of Shant. He is not continuously shredding like some people might expect from such a gifted guitarist, because he is actually focused on playing these beautiful melodies on his guitar all the time, such as can be heard at best during the uptempo rocker “Ambivalence” and the ballad “Blessing in disguise”. Such material is belonging to the finest instrumental work available at the moment! Shant by the way is actually of Syrian/Armenian heritage, but is now settled in Canada, although if we go back in time to the year 2003, he played in a band called NU CLEAR DAWN, a fantastic Syrian Progressive Metal band, which released the album ‘Poem of a knight’ (review at: http://www.angelfire.com/az2/strutter8/HOTNEWREVIEWS15.htm ).

That band was active in the city of Aleppo and if you follow today’s news every now and then, you will agree that it isn’t possible to live a normal life over there nowadays. Shant already left Syria 8 years ago and hopefully this incredible (almost) instrumental album will bring Shant a lot of success, because if there’s one solution to all the troubles in the world, then it is definitely music!

Semantic Saturation is a progressive rock/metal project founded by guitarist Shant Hagopian, featuring progressive metal gurus Virgil Donati (drums), Ric Fierabracci (bass), with guests; Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater – keyboards) and Andy Kuntz (Vanden Plas – vocals)

Shant Hagopian is a Canadian songwriter/guitarist, of Syrian/Armenian heritage. From 1996 to 2003 he specialized in Jazz guitar studies, and in 1997 he founded the progressive rock/metal band Nu.Clear.Dawn along with musicians in the Syrian city of Aleppo, as one of the first and very few bands to emerge out of the Syrian scene. Touring throughout the Middle East and playing in large festivals such as “Rock the Nations” in Istanbul along many international names like Pain of Salvation, Epica, Sentenced, Vanden Plas and more, their 2003 album “Poem of a Knight” which also was the first officially released metal record in Syria, received positive reviews from acclaimed webzines such as Metalstorm and the Metal Observer and others.

Shant moved to Canada in 2005 and recently started working on his solo project “Semantic Saturation” with the debut album “Solipsistic” which was released on January 21, 2013, featuring progressive rock and metal gurus such as drummer Virgil Donati, bassist Ric Fierabracci with guests; keyboardist Derek Sherinian (ex. Dream Theater) and vocalist Andy Kuntz (Vanden Plas).

Written by Gabor – Rating 8/10

source: http://myglobalmind.com/2013/02/11/semantic-saturation-solipsistic-review/

Sea of Tranquility Reviews Solipsistic rating 4.5/5

Peter Pardo from the prog metal webzine Sea of Tranquility has reviewed and rated the debut album Solipsistic 4.5 out of 5

Here’s the full thing:

Semantic Saturation: Solipsistic

Here’s the latest progressive rock/metal all-star project, titled Solipsistic from the collective going by the name of Semantic Saturation, comprised of guitarist Shant Hagopian, drummer Virgil Donati, bassist Ric Fierabracci, keyboard player Derek Sherinian, and vocalist Andy Kuntz. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or so, most of these names should be very familiar to you from their associations with Planet X, Dream Theater, Nu.Clear.Dawn, Steve Vai, and Vanden Plas among many others. The seeds for Semantic Saturation were first sown by Hagopian, a Canadian guitarist/songwriter of Syrian/Armenian heritage who became friends with Kuntz while their two bands Nu.Clear.Dawn and Vanden Plas played some shows together in recent years. When the guitarist showed interest in a new project, Kuntz was happy to help out, and after rounding up some stellar talent in the form of Donati, Fierabracci, and Sherinian, Solipsistic became a reality.

For the most part, the album is all instrumental progressive rock/metal/jazz-fusion, complete with thunderous, complex rhythms and wild guitar & keyboard exchanges. Most of the tunes rock, and rock hard, led by the amazing guitar skills of Hagopian, who really is a ‘super talent in waiting’ . He’s come up with some truly sizzling songs here that showcase the whole band, so look for instrumental tracks that are actual ‘songs’, complete with memorable melodies and riffs that stick in your hand, while the instrumental brilliance of the musicians is used to highlight the songs rather than steal the limelight and make this a chops fest. Take a song like “Lost and Found: Insanity” for example, which has a great melodic hook and some really catchy guitar & keyboard riffs, which make for an incredibly memorable song. While there are some tasty solos for sure, it’s the main themes of the song that really hook the listener in, not just the shredding. Hagopian & Sherinian make for a great team, and hearing them tastefully play off each other is a complete joy. Donati is as incredible as always, turning it up a notch on the more aggressive songs but holding back just enough on the laid back jazzy/prog numbers, like the gorgeous “Stardust”. If there is one disappointment here, it’s that Kuntz only appears one one track, the epic closer “What If We All Stop”. He’s at his best of course, as the song ranges from atmospheric prog to bombastic metal. A couple of the tunes here would have sounded great with vocals (“Time Is An Illusion” instantly comes to mind), but if the one-song teaser with Kuntz is any indication of what all these guys can do together, it really leaves the door open for something spectacular in the future.

What that future holds for Semantic Saturation is anyone’s guess, but Solipsistic is of such high quality that I can envision any fan of instrumental prog-metal & fusion soaking this right up and wanting more.

Track Listing

1) Ambivalence
2) Make Believe
3) Lost and Found: Insanity
4) Stardust
5) Blessing in Disguise
6) Armchair Activist
7) Point of Singularity
8) Time Is An Illusion
9) What If We All Stop

Added: February 7th 2013
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score: ??4.5 / 5
Related Link: Band Website
Language: English