2018 was a flourishing year, with a plethora of amazing records in the prog rock and prog metal genre. Today, I’m extremely honored to announce that “Paradigms” was named Instrumental Prog-Metal Album of the Year on Sonic Perspectives.
You know me, I don’t like music to be ranked, because it’s not a competition or a race for who’s the best. There is no best, only favorites. As the author put it best: “music is a subjective listening experience and our opinions are no more valid than yours”
One late review for Solipsistic has surfaced on the dutch prog web ‘zine ProgPraat.com (Prog Talk)
Without further due, here’s the review (hey! that rhymed)
Edit: English translation below the original article is provided by Peter Degreef. Thank you Peter!
Semantic Saturation – Solipsistic
Posted on by Rinco Ennema
Voor de liefhebbers van instrumentale progressieve metal hebben we toch iets lekkers voor onder de kerstboom: Semantic Saturation, en dan wel hun debuutalbum ‘Solipsistic’.
Muziek zonder grenzen, dat is wat ik erover kan zeggen. Het volledige album staat op de bandcamppagina van de band, maar wie de muziek in de hoogste kwaliteit wil horen koopt ‘m natuurlijk gewoon. De opbrengsten gaan voornamelijk linea recta naar de band aangezien ze alles in eigen beheer doen en dus niets hoeven af te dragen aan een maatschappij of label.
Het album is door meerdere (buitenlandse) recensenten al positief beoordeeld en ik kan me daar slechts bij aansluiten. Ik ben nog geen Nederlandse reviews tegengekomen, wat me verbaasde aangezien het album al in januari van dit jaar uitgekomen is. Uiteraard kan ik eventuele reviews gemist hebben.
Er zitten wat bekende namen bij dit project. Initiatiefnemer is Shant Hagopian die de gitaarpartijen doet, hulp krijgt hij van drummer Virgil Donati en bassist Ric Fierabracci. Als speciale gasten deden mee ex- Dream Theater-toetsenist Derek Sherinian en Vanden Plas-zanger Andy Kuntz. Niet dat er veel wordt gezongen, maar de laatste track, ‘What If We All Stop’ breekt de muzikale ban een beetje. Zeker te weten een heerlijk album!
For lovers of instrumental prog metal I have found something nice for under the x-mas tree: the debut album by Semantic Saturation. Music without borders, is what I can say about it. For the best listening experience: buy the record. All benefits go straight to the band. Shant Hagopian plays guitar, Virgil Donati drums and Ric Fierabracci bass, with special guests ex- Dream Theater-keyboardist Derek Sherinian and Vanden Plas-singer Andy Kuntz. Not that there is much singing going on, but the last track ‘What If We All Stop’ breaks the spell al little. A wonderful album for sure!
The tracks: 1- Ambivalence (6:33) 2- Make Believe (5:06) 3- Lost And Found: Insanity (5:26) 4- Stardust (6:49) 5- Blessing In Disguise (4:48) 6- Armchair Activist (4:10) 7- Point Of Singularity (3:50) 8- Time Is An Illusion (5:43) 9- What If We All Stop (8:44)
Sometimes it pays off when you’re searching on YouTube for music that might be interesting. When I heard the first notes of the opening tune of Solipsistic, the debut album of Semantic Saturation, I was completely flabbergasted. I found out that the initiator of this band was a Canadian guitar player of Syrian-Armenian origin by the name of Shant Hagopian. After contacting him through Facebook, he was so kind as to send me the complete album to review for Background Magazine.
What do you get when you bring together a stunning, but fairly unknown songwriter and guitar player – which will soon change I guess – with some of the finest musicians in both prog rock and fusion? The answer is Solipsistic: heavy instrumental progressive rock and metal crossing the edges of fusion. I say instrumental, but that’s not completely true since vocalist Andy Kuntz (Vanden Plas) lends his remarkable voice for the final piece. The great instrumentalists are keyboard wizard Derek Sherinian (Planet X, Black Country Communion, ex-Dream Theater), bass player Ric Fierabracci (Planet X, Frank Gambale and Eddie Jobson’s UK) and drummer Virgil Donati, who also participated in Planet X and recorded solo albums as well as albums with Tony MacAlpine, Derek Sherinian and Frank Gambale. These musicians don’t need any further introduction, because I think that many BM-readers will possess one or more albums on which they play. With musicians like these, it’s hard to imagine that they’re able to create a bad album.
After listening to the first song Ambivalence I immediately knew that I got a winner here. On this track the spirit of Dream Theater wanders about. It’s a powerful instrumental piece with guitar work that reminds me of John Petrucci. The keyboards just add that little extra; they sound quite differently from the way Jordan Rudes plays, but Derek Sherinian clearly leaves his mark. At the end it’s melodic but heavy. Make Believe has a fluent guitar line and, as in the previous song, you’ll notice the strong drum sound of Donati which I think has been mixed perfectly! In this song Hagopian duels with Sherinian; in the solos his guitar play seems to be slightly influenced by Steve Morse (Deep Purple, ex-Kansas). First thing that came to mind when Lost And Found – Insanity started was Beyond The Realms Of Euphoria, the latest Galahad album: many modern influences and the guitar that basically tells the story and again that perfect mix. Fierabracci’s bass stands out and listening to the music I have to refer to Planet X, but a more heavy metal one. Stardust is a perfect showcase for the guitar of Hagopian, who again tells the story by mixing melody lines with a heavy riff and a Dream Theater-like structure. This almost seven-minute monster completely blew me away with its combination of piano, guitar and keyboards.
They slow down a bit with Blessing In Disguise; you may call this piece an instrumental ballad wherein Derek Sherinian excels, while Shant Hagopian plays the acoustic guitar in order to create an intimate atmosphere. His sustained notes on the electric guitar perfectly combine with the bass and drums. In Armchair Activist the band regain speed and power with energetic drumming. The bass creates a foundation for two different sounding guitars and Sherinian’s keyboards. The guitar line sounds as if it’s easy to play, but experience shows that easy sounding passages are often the more difficult ones to play. Point Of Singularity contains the combination of an acoustic guitar with quirky background sounds while Shant plays sustained guitar notes; it slightly differs from the other compositions. Fluent guitar lines over impressive drum chops create a stunning combination in Time Is An Illusion. Donati’s typical drum sound is being highlighted in this fine piece. As I mentioned before, the only vocal song What If We All Stop is also the final song on Solipsistic. This impressive epic shows great songwriting skills. It’s good to hear Andy Kuntz supported by a different guitarist instead of Stefan Lill, who has a totally different sound with Vanden Plas. Although I like instrumental music very much, What If We All Stop is so impressive that it became my personal favourite of Solipsistic. By the way, the last four seconds really did the trick!
I’m glad to have found Shant Hagopian on YouTube and I’m grateful that he has sent me the album to review. I think Solipsistic really is a perfect album for all progressive metal and guitar fans. Hagopian made his debut on the highest possible level that can only be demonstrated by a five-star rating! I’m anxiously looking forward to his next effort.
Laboratorium Muzycznych Fuzji (what a name!) has reviewed Solipsistic yesterday (March 10, 2013). Here’s the review in Polish, and since I’m not that fluent in Polish I’ve used Google to translate it first, which didn’t make much sense, but Marcin and Kris; 2 fans from Semantic Saturation Facebook page have provided much better translated versions. Thank you guys!
You can read the full review below. Original first, then translation.
[Original] Miłośnicy rocka/metalu progresywnego wreszcie dostali antidotum na “monotonię” tych gatunków, a raczej eliksir odświeżający wcześniej popełnione arcydzieła Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, solowe projekty Dereka Sheriniana, czy też instrumentalne meandry Joe Satrianiego. Gitarzysta Shant Hagopian zebrał niebywały kolektyw muzykalnych talentów, którzy na granicy magii i rzeczywistości dosłownie w każdej sekundzie „Solipsistic” ukazują swój artystyczny kunszt na tle teorii… solipsyzmu. Nie ma różnicy, czy są to bajeczne popisy gitarowe S. Hagopiana, kawalkada perkusyjnych uniesień Virgila Donatiego, bijąca echem pulsacyjna linia basu Rica Fierabracciego, czy też niezwykła maestria znanego wszystkim D. Sheriniana. „Solipsistic” to skarbnica progresji roku 2013, a może nie tylko tego… Absolutne arcydzieło!Autor: Egon Klank
[Translation by Marcin Dymalski and Kris Mier] Prog rock/metal lovers finally get an “antidote” to the monotony of the genre, or rather a refreshing potion to pour upon classic masterpieces of Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, Derek Sherinian’s solo work or instrumental explorations of Joe Satriani. Guitar player Shant Hagopian gathered an incredible set of talented musicians who balance on the verge of reality and magic, displaying their artisrtry every single second of “Solipstistic”, with the idea of solipsism in the background. Be it fabulous shredding by Shant Hagopian, never ending drum extasy by Virgil Donati, vibrating and pulsating bass work by Ric Fierabracci or the undenied mastery of keyboard hero Derek Sherinian. “Solipsistic” is a progressive goldmine of 2013??and that’s just to begin with. The absolute masterpiece! Author: Egon Klank