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 ?

Progressive Area reviews Solipsistic

Olivium from the French web’zine Progressive Area reviewed Solipsistic on April 7
Here’s the original review in French, and the Google’s English translation attempt below it.

Solipsistic Album Cover
Solipsistic Album Cover

Et oui je le sais, je vais encore me comporter comme une midinette ang??lique qu???un petit rien ??moustille, mais avoir entre les mains une nouvelle galette de pur Rock Metal Progressif sur laquelle joue Virgil DONATI (PLANET X, Steve VAI, Tony MacALPINE, etc???) et Derek Sherinian anciennement dans DREAM THEATER, est un instant jubilatoire et excitant.
Bon, commen??ons par le debut. SEMANTIC SATURATION n’est pas ?? proprement parl?? un groupe, mais un projet n?? de l???esprit de Shant Hagopian (guitariste de NU.CLEAR.DAWN), compos??, autofinanc?? et produit par lui : donc autant dire que comme il n???y a pas de label ou de maison d?????dition ?? r??tribuer ; quand vous achetez l???album, l???int??gralit?? des dividendes tombent dans son escarcelle. ?? Solipsitic ?? n???est pas cher (un peu moins de 9 ???), son packaging est superbe, mais surtout???son contenu musical ne peut que f??d??rer un large panel de fans de gros Rock, allant de Steve VAI, Joe SATRIANI, John PETRUCCI ou RUSH.
Une petite pr??cision tout de m??me, les 53 minutes de ?? Solipsitic ?? sont essentiellement structur??es par des morceaux instrumentaux, sauf ?? What if We All Stop ??, sur lequel chante Andy Kunts du groupe VANDEN PLAS.
?? Solipsitic ?? est un album qui me convient ?? 800%, pour la simple et bonne raison qu???il n???utilise pas tout ce qui me fait mourir d???ennui dans le Rock ou le Metal : la surench??re de technique pour la technique, les sons de batteuse genre ??????mitraillettes blast??s?????? au taquet, un son actuel hyper st??r??otyp?? et manquant profond??ment de chaleur. ?? Solipsitic ?? est justement tout l???inverse !
Je retrouve tout ?? fait l???univers m??lodique et ??pidermique transmis par les 3 ??????guitar h??roes?????? pr??cit??s plus haut. Chaque riff est construit pour v??hiculer une sensation, donc pas de d??ballage de notes ici, mais de la fluidit?? ?? ??????fleur de peau??????. L???expressivit?? est de rigueur et chaque solo raconte une histoire, surtout quand toute la place lui est fait comme sur une composition telle que ?? Point of Singularity ??, ??pur??e et jou??e ?? la guitare acoustique.
La construction rythmique globale pousse cette logique jusque l?? aussi ; allant dans le sens de l???efficacit??, bien souvent Shant se dispense justement de soli car les riffs principaux, bien structur??s, ??tayent largement l???ambiance en richesse harmonique, donc il n???y pas forc??ment besoin d???en rajouter.
Virgil DOANTI avec son jeu reconnaissable d???entre tous, met ??tonnamment beaucoup de r??serve dans ses d??veloppements, apurant au maximum pour mettre en avant l???aspect ??????faussement facile?????? des titres. M???enfin, ses breaks restent toujours spectaculaires ?? entendre.
Ensuite, et l?? cela m???a presque fait un choc???non j???exag??re un peu, mais la l??g??re folie cr??atrice ?? laquelle nous ?? tr??s souvent habitu?? SHERINIAN est elle aussi mise de c??t??. Hormis sur ?? Lost and Found Insanity ?? o?? il se fait novateur aux niveaux sonorit??s, le reste du temps il adopte un jeu classique de ?? question/r??ponse ??, ou de renfort harmonique sur les soli de la guitare auquel tout le monde est habitu?? dans le Progressif. Attention ce n???est pas r??dhibitoire, et j???imagine que c???est ce que Shant voulait lors du processus de cr??ation des compositions.
Par contre je trouve dommage que Andy Kunts n???ait pas ??t?? mis plus ?? contribution, il apporte beaucoup sur ?? What if We All Stop ??. Lui aussi a su s???y faire ??volutif, doux et pos??, la Setlist est assez ??clectique et connaissant l?????tendue vocale du m???sieur, il y a fort ?? parier que le r??sultat dans son ensemble en aurait ??t?? rehauss??. Bon, par contre je pense que cela ne regarde que moi apr??s tout.
?? Solipsistic ?? est une excellente rentr??e de d??but 2013 en mati??re de Rock Metal Progressif, soutenons, et ne boudons pas notre plaisir.


[Translated by Google]

And yes I know I’ll still have me as a shopgirl angelic little thing that tantalizes, but the hands have a new slab of pure Rock Progressive Metal Virgil Donati plays on which (Planet X, Steve Vai, Tony MacAlpine etc …) and Derek Sherinian formerly in DREAM THEATER, is a joyous and exciting time.
Well, first things first. SEMANTIC SATURATION is not strictly speaking a group, but a project born from the spirit of Shant Hagopian (guitarist NU.CLEAR.DAWN), composed, self-financed and produced by him so far as to say that there no label or publisher to reward, when you buy the album, all the dividends fall into her purse. “Solipsitic” is not expensive (just under $9), its packaging is gorgeous, but mostly … musical content can only unite a wide range of fans of big Rock from Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, John PETRUCCI or RUSH.
A small precision anyway, the 53 minutes of “Solipsitic” are essentially structured instrumental tracks except “What if We All Stop”, on which Andy Kuntz from VANDEN PLAS group sings.
“Solipsitic” is an album that suits me 800%, for the simple reason that it does not use anything that makes me die of boredom in Rock or Metal: the escalation of technology for technology, sounds like thresher” blasts” the cleat machine guns, sound current hyper stereotyped and lacking deep heat. “Solipsitic” everything is just the opposite!
I find the world quite melodic and epidermal transmitted by 3” Guitar Heroes” above above. Each riff is built to convey a feeling, not unpacking ratings here, but the fluidity” edge”. The expressiveness is required and each solo tells a story, especially when it is all over the place is like a composition such as “Point of Singularity”, refined and played acoustic guitar.
Overall rhythmic construction pushes this logic up there too along the lines of efficiency, often Shant dispenses precisely because solid riffs major, well-structured, largely supports the atmosphere in harmonic richness, so there not necessarily need to add.
Virgil with his game DONATI recognizable among all, is surprisingly great caution in its development, auditing up to highlight the look deceptively easy”” titles. I finally breaks his spectacular remain to hear.
Then and there that I was almost a shock … no I’m exaggerating a bit, but the slight creative madness that we often used to SHERINIAN is also set aside. Except on “Lost and Found Insanity” where he is at innovative sounds, the rest of the time it adopts a classic game of “question / answer” or reinforcing harmonic guitar solos that everyone is accustomed to The Progressive. Warning this is not prohibitive, and I guess that’s what Shant wanted in the process of creating compositions.
By cons I find it unfortunate that Andy Kunts has not been more involved, it brings a lot of “What if We All Stop”. He also managed to make it scalable, sweet and laid the setlist is quite eclectic and knowing the extent of voice sir, it’s a safe bet that the overall result would have been enhanced. Well, by cons I think it is my business after all.
“Solipsitic” is a great start back in 2013 in Rock Progressive Metal, support, and do not spoil our fun.