Albums That Changed My Life

Yesterday I asked you (the fans) on Facebook what albums have changed your lives in a way. Some of you provided amazing explanations, and I thought why not answer this post myself? So here goes…

Pink Floyd - The WallPink Floyd – The Wall

I believe I have already shared with you my story with this album earlier. As a kid, Comfortably Numb was my favourite song for a long time without even knowing who the artist was, and Shazam was not an option back then.
Pink Floyd – not only The Wall – was my entry ticket to the Rock and Prog world.


Metallica - The Black AlbumMetallica – Metallica (A.K.A The Black Album)

Some time in 1992, the moment I realized what metal is about. This is the album that got me into metal with all its sub genres. It was pretty much like a transformation which I felt deep inside, enlightening the shadowy figures that lurked within the darkest corners of my soul. So yeah…
Metallica was my entry ticket to the metal world.


Dream Theater - A Change of SeasonsDream Theater – A Change of Seasons

I know, I know. Some of you are going to say it’s not a full length album. Well I actually mean the track itself. I discovered Dream Theater through Pink Floyd, since they covered The Thin Ice in this album. Boy I was hooked when I listened to title track and after a few spins I sure knew what the hell was going on and I was cursing… in a good way that is.
A Change of seasons was my entry ticket to the prog metal world.


Nu.Clear.DaNu.Clear.Dawn - Poem of a Knightwn – Poem of a Knight

Yep, this was the first album I recorded with my old band. I know it may look like a shameless plug but I cannot not include it in this list. After all it did change my life as a musician and guitarist, it was the album that helped me understand how writing, composing and recording works.
Poem of a Knight was my entry ticket to the recording world.


In Absentia

Porcupine Tree – In Absentia

This album is already in my Top 10 Favorite Albums list. I’m guessing the reason it made it to that list is because I realized how beautiful, colorful and sweet it sounds. Which is also the same reason I’m including it here.
In Absentia made me realize how simple yet beautiful and addictive can progressive rock be.


Semantic Saturation - SolipsisticSemantic Saturation – Solipsistic

Shameless plug #2 – But come on, I get to work with some of the most amazing musicians, and release an album with them. If this album is not included in my own “Albums that changed my life” list, I don’t know what should.
Semantic Saturation was my entry ticket to get to know and get in touch with a lot of prog heads like you, other than the fact that it’s the first album for many more to come.


So there you have it. Thanks for reading, and please share your story with all of us by commenting below or by commenting on the Facebook or Twitter pages.

AMR – Handmade Guitar

In the past few months, my friend and former band-mate Amr Rifai, the vocalist of Nu.Clear.Dawn has been working on a DIY project unlike any other, an electric guitar.

Amr regularly kept me updated of his project with pictures he’s been taking during the creating process. His project has finally completed earlier this week after an entire year of hard work, and I don’t think there’s a better opportunity than this to share this phenomenal creation and thrilling experience of his with all of you.

And here are the specs for all you guitar maniacs

3 laminates maple, neck-through with mahogany body.
Thickness at first fret : 20.5 mm
width at nut : 43 mm
width at last fret : 57 mm
scale length : 25.5 inches
Number of frets : 24
neck shape : vintage D shape
fretboard : Maple

fretboard radius : 16-14 ( compound )
frets : Super jumbo nickle – silver alloy.
pickups : Dimarzio Evolution neck and bridge.
electronic : 1 volume , 1 tone ( Pull – Push ) 1 toggle switch.
bridge : Golden age / Stewmac floydrose.
Finish : Polyurethane

Not only you crafted an instrument, you created an instrument that is able to create music, it must feel like the greatest achievement and you should feel proud! I’d absolutely love to hear it and maybe play it one day. I hope you keep making more guitars, especially now that you earned tons of experience creating your first guitar, I’m sure you already have improvements in your mind for the next one! 
Amr, my buddy, this is absolutely awesome. You are awesome!


Funny Incidents As A Musician

As a teenager, I played a lot of gigs with my previous band Nu.Clear.Dawn, and that gave me the opportunity to witness some funny incidents both on and off stage.

Coiled Guitar CableOne of the funniest was when we were covering Dream Theater’s Pull Me Under during one of our gigs back in 1999. So me and the bass player Rami decided we’ll make some stage action during the song and switch our positions, and we started kind of running towards each other and passed each other safely, but I turn around proud of our epic move only to see the coiled cable of my guitar and the jack both airborne and flying towards me. I had to pick it up and plug it back into the pedal board, and I felt stupid. It is good to mention here that I never used coiled guitar cables again.

Other funny, more like idiotic moments we witnessed when we were touring in the middle east. These people working on the borders were not the very bright, so they were always dumbstruck when they had to check our equipment. In one of the instances, they instructed us to open up the bass drum of our drummer so he can check what are we hiding inside, since the drummer Aram, had filled it with a thick bed cover for muffling it.

Another time, there was this man sweeping the side of a road where our bass player had placed his guitar in a hard case while we waited to board the bus, the man approaches him, while trying to express his utmost comprehension of music and art, holding the broomstick and gazing at my band-mate, and he goes like: “Sir… I need to clean here, could you please move your piano?”

If you have lived to witness funny moments as a musician yourself, don’t be shy to share it with us.

Definition of Prog

One of my fans Andrew Grabowska is writing a speech about progressive rock and metal for his class, he chose me as his source and I’m quite honored.

He wanted answers to some of his questions:

  1. Why do you listen to/enjoy progressive metal and rock?
  2. Why did you chose to write and play it?
  3. Is there anything else you think is important about progressive rock and metal in comparison to other genres?

Well, below was my reply.

I started playing guitar when I was 15, and we played and covered a diversity of metal songs from different bands with my previous band Nu.Clear.Dawn.

At some point I was almost finding heavy metal sounding a bit boring to me, specially the standard song structures, verse chorus verse chorus solo chorus, also the regular guitar chords. I mean don’t get me wrong here, there are a lot of great metal bands out there that I enjoyed playing and listening to and still do sometimes, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Scorpions, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, Zeppelin, Judas Priest, Iced Earth.. The is pretty much endless but still something was missing for me, perhaps the fun factor.

When I first got into prog, it was mostly Dream Theater and Rush that I listened to, and what got me into Dream Theater was Pink Floyd, when Dream Theater covered for Pink Floyd in A Change of Seasons, and how I got into Pink Floyd is quite the story.

Now why do I enjoy listening to prog? The song structures are different, sometimes there’s no chorus at all, sometimes very short lyrics, sometimes long intros, so there’s always the element of surprise, the music is diverse as well, different melodies, different moods, different builds in one track, odd time signatures, and of course some tracks are long which allows for instrumental sections, I just love how everyone in the band could get to solo at some point, in the end the band is not only the singer and then the rest of the band. It’s the singer, the guitarist, the drummer, the bassist, and everyone has their moment to shine.

It pretty much goes the same when it comes to writing and playing progressive music, plus, playing progressive rock is a lot of fun it’s almost like a video game, as a guitarist your left hand and fingers need to move around and hit the right notes on the fretboard while your brain is getting ready to play the next part in the song which is completely a new section, and it keeps progressing!
The chords sound a lot wider, jazzy, each position gives you a different mood, unlike the regular power chord that’s pretty much what every metal song is made of, why play the same four boring chords over and over and wait for the song to be over?

The same applies to everyone else in the band, the drummer has to remember all these odd time signatures and not mess up, and that’s where the fun is. Playing 4/4 time signature gets very old specially for a drummer. When you’re playing a progressive song you have to keep going, the band keeps going, the song keeps going and the melodies and harmonies unite to create an epic song. If you mess up you’re back to the last checkpoint, and keep practicing until you can play the whole thing in one shot, like a pro!

A lot of people think that playing prog is very hard. I almost thought the same, before I first picked up my guitar and tried to play a Dream Theater song, lucky for me I had the transcribed notes and guitar tabs for the song, so I started to learn the parts and I was surprised how extremely easy and fun some sections were to play, despite how difficult they sounded. (Check out guitar tabs and jam tracks from Solipsistic)

You don’t have to be a highly technical musician to play progressive rock or progressive metal, and all new prog bands are missing the point nowadays, they put everything they know in one song, like showing off their muscles.

Music is NOT a race, music is NOT a competition, music is art.

Now tell me why do YOU like prog?


Top 10 Favorite Albums

So I have finally decided to complete the list of my favorite albums and publish it. I’m gonna have to limit myself to 10 albums only, otherwise this list can grow quite long.

So here are my top 10 favorite albums in no particular order.
Post your top personal 10 in the comments below.

Wish You Were Here album cover
Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
As a person who grew up listening to every Pink Floyd record, I cannot permit myself to choose a single Pink Floyd album as my only favorite record. But for the sake of compiling this list I had to torture myself and after numerous debates I had to settle down with the album ‘Wish You Were Here’. So there you have it, I’m still going to say this is not my only favorite Pink Floyd album.

Images and Words album cover
Images and Words

Images and Words – Dream Theater
If I had said “all time favorite records” instead of albums in the title, I would’ve went with ‘A Change of Seasons’, but because this record is considered an EP I can easily pick ‘Images and Words’ as my favorite Dream Theater album, specially knowing that ‘A Change of Seasons’ was actually written in the same era. I must admit that I’ve listened to ‘Images and Words’ continuously during three consecutive months when I first discovered it.

Moving Pictures album cover
Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures – Rush
Can I also pick ‘Signals’ and ‘2112’ ? No ? Then I guess I’ll go with ‘Moving Pictures’, YYZ does it for me. The song is also tied to many memories and the many times we enjoyed playing it live and during jam sessions with my previous band Nu.Clear.Dawn. As a Canadian, I feel proud to have given the world Rush, to balance out all those embarrassing travesties the country produced in the recent years.

The Human Equation album cover
The Human Equation

The Human Equation – Ayreon
As if James LaBrie singing on another Arjen Lucassen epic double-album progressive rock opera was not enough, Mikael ??kerfeldt of Opeth makes this record easily one of my favorites of all time. Some of the songs like Mystery still sends multiple shivers down my spine.

Souvenirs album cover

Souvenirs – The Gathering
Anneke van Giersbergen [period]
To this day I haven’t heard any other female voice in the rock genre on this planet that can beat Anneke’s magical, mysterious, tender and passionate vocal cords. Not only with The Gathering, but every time I listen to her latest solo album ‘Everything is Changing’ I feel complete satisfaction and enjoy every millisecond of her presence. And I really hope that I get the chance to work with her one day. (hint hint)

Remedy Lane album cover
Remedy Lane

Remedy Lane – Pain of Salvation
These guys had a huge influence on me, although not apparent in the Nu.Clear.Dawn record, they continuously inspire me with their lyrics, compositions, power of will and determination.??Daniel Gildenl??w is the Roger Waters and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd in one body.

In Absentia album cover
In Absentia

In Absentia – Porcupine Tree
I cannot keep this record away for longer than a couple of weeks. I just can’t get enough of it. Blackest Eyes,??Trains,??The Sound of Muzak, the instrumental Wedding Nails, the closing track Collapse the Light Into Earth, enough said ? I have to also admit that I had one of the most amazing concert experiences when I saw the band live during the ‘Tour of a Blank Planet’, it was an intimate venue in Montreal, the sound was amazing, the crowd were amazing, and my spot was amazing as well.

Beyond Daylight album cover
Beyond Daylight

Beyond Daylight – Vanden Plas
An absolute masterpiece, melodic, heavy and addictive. Andy’s voice is an absolute wonder, the guitar work by Stefan Lill is spectacular. I consider myself very lucky having had the chance to share the stage with Vanden Plas in Turkey back in 2004, it was an experience I will never forget. And I feel extremely honored to have Andy as a special guest on ‘Solipsistic’.

Apostrophe album cover

Apostrophe – Frank Zappa
The father of prog. The mother of invention.??Great googly moogly.
The humor, the wacky sounds, and sometimes pointless lyrics are what we are missing today. Although I still hear a lot of Zappa in all of Steve Vai’s records but I still think that’s not enough to fill the shirt of the muffin man with dried muffin remnants, and I’m honestly not a fan of cupcakes.

Experiments in Mass Appeal album cover
Experiments in Mass Appeal

Experiments in Mass Appeal – Frost*
Since I have limited myself to only 10 albums for this list I had to pick one between, Symphony X, Frost, Steve Vai and others. ‘Experiments in Mass Appeal’ is a wonderful mix of melodic and proggy themes. The album (contrary to the cover) is just too colorful and sweet and makes me shoot colorful rainbows from my ears while riding a pink flying unicorn. Ok well, may be that was a bit too much.

So what’s your top 10 ?