Saturday, May 23, 2015

Arcade Funhouse - Up'n Down

Experience the terrors of Texas traffic with Sega’s classic arcade game, Up'n Down.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hemispheres: Bad Religion - Into the Unknown

Welcome back to Hemispheres, where Isaac Baranoff takes a look at  the constantly evolving world of progressive rock. Developing from rock bands' interest in combining rock with influences from jazz and classical music, prog has developed into a fullblown worldwide phenomenon, with artists across the globe combining prog with influences from other genres, including alternative rock and heavy metal.

I started this series because I wanted to explore, aside from prog albums themselves, what exactly is prog, and I wanted to highlight underrated or overlooked albums within the genre. Into the Unknown is an album which is underrated not because prog fans didn't embrace it, but because it's a prog album made by a hardcore punk band. Bad Religion was formed in Los Angeles in 1979 by high school students Greg Graffin (lead vocals and main songwriter), Jay Bentley (bass guitar), Jay Ziskrout (drummer), and Brett Gurewitz (guitar). The following year after the band's formation, Gurewitz formed the independent record label Epitaph Records and released a couple of hardcore punk records before drummer Jay Ziskrout quit the band, and was replaced by Peter Finestone.

Despite their popularity in the underground music scene, Bad Religion didn't think their success would last very long and decided to record a melodic album influenced by progressive rock and avant-garde music, adding keyboards (synthesizer and piano played by Graffin) to their musical sound. Released in November of 1983, Into the Unknown was a commercial failure marked by unsuccessful accompanying concerts due to poor word of mouth due to the new album's prog sound, which alienated the band's fanbase. Following the unsuccessful accompanying live shows, the band abandoned its keyboards and returned to its hardcore punk sound.

Part of the poor reception might have owed to the fact at the time punk was established, the scene was considered to be the antithesis of progressive rock, and many bands rejected the experimentation and skill-based approach of prog in favor for more aggressive guitar playing, though Bad Religion was founded by musicians who were influenced as much by pop, prog and art-rock bands as they were by bands playing the type of fast punk that permeated their first two releases (Bad Religion would later greatly influence the pop-punk genre upon returning to punk with Back to the Known).

It's Only Over When...: Imagine being a hardcore punk fan and being enthralled by Bad Religion's self-titled debut EP and their full-length follow-up, How Could Hell Be Any Worse? You discover that there is a new Bad Religion LP out. You pick it up, and when you get home, you take the plastic wrapping off excitedly, pull the protective sleeve out of the cover, take the vinyl out of the sleeve, plop the record onto your turntable and put the needle to the groove, and the first thing you hear, instead of the screech of hardcore guitar riffing, is the drone of a synthesizer. The guitar does come in, but it's inter-playing with a synthesizer not present on any of Bad Religion's punk albums. The singing lasts only a short bit before there is a synthesizer solo, then the singing returns. The lyrics are very short, only lasting about 4 lines. After the second round of singing, there is another synthesizer solo. Then a guitar solo, then the guitar and synthesizer soloing together. Bad Religion's fans decided that they had "gone soft" because they produced something other than punk. The synthesizer melody actually comes from one of their hardcore punk songs, "Latch Key Kids". RATING: 3.5/5

Chasing the Wild Goose: Hard rock electric guitar plays solo, leading into an acoustic accompaniment, joined by drums, then singing, then a synthesizer. The lyrics are story-driven and more conceptual than the opening track.  RATING: 4/5

Billy Gnosis: Another story-driven song, the guitars and singing interplay before the introduction of drums, then keyboards. There is a small keyboard solo, then the singing resumes. After the lyrics conclude, there is another instrumental section including a guitar solo. The song deals primarily with drug abuse on an individual scale. RATING: 4/5

Time And Disregard: After a brief keyboard sound effect, acoustic guitars kick in, followed by singing, then a drum beat, then electric guitar and keyboards join in. There is an instrumental section, including a keyboard solo, before the return of the vocals. While musically listenable, the song is hurt by the anti-civilization bent of the lyrics. It's the longest song on the album, clocking in at a total of 7 minutes. RATING: 2.5/5

The Dichotomy: Hard rock guitar playing is joined by a drum beat, then synthesizers, then singing. The lyrics describe human ideals. There is an instrumental section, with the drummer picking up the pace as the synthesizer solos and the bass and guitar keep a steady rhythm. RATING: 4/5

Million Days: A 2/2 drum intro leads into acoustic and electric guitar interplaying with a slow drum beat. The lyrics deal with conformity. RATING: 4/5

Losing Generation: The synthesizer melody of "It's Only Over When.." returns, coming across a little recycled rather than a legitimate return of a familiar melody (especially since this same melody came from their hardcore punk song "Latch Key Kids"). This time, the accompanying electric guitar echoes the repeated synthesizer melody. The lyrics, like "Time and Disregard" are pretty anti-civilization. RATING: 2.5/5

... You Give Up: Titled as if a continuation of the opening track's title, creating the axiom "It's only over when you give up". Moody piano lines open this track, creating a distinctly different melody than the opening track, joined in by bass guitar and drums, then appropriately moody electric guitar accompaniment inter-playing with the piano melody and the rhythm. The melody of "It's Only Over When.." reprises again in the singing, a more appropriate reappearance than its use in "Losing Generation", as there is an actual conceptual connection to the opening track. RATING: 3.5/5

I think that Into the Unknown, in spite of its flaws, isn't the colossal misstep Bad Religion's fans often make it out to be. The melodic singing, acoustic guitar playing, piano and synthesizer melodies and the musical interplay of melodies make for an interesting change of pace for the band and a showcase of their musical skill, though some of the songs do reveal the band's limits as songwriters and in their thinking, with some of the anti-civilization lyrics.

In an alternate universe, the band could have shifted into a successful career as a progressive rock band if they continued to improve their musical and songwriting skills and shake off the antisocial elements of their lyrics, but instead chose to return to their original hardcore punk sound and release Back to the Known, deciding that they'd made a mistake and announcing to their fans that they would no longer try to branch out into doing something different and would instead stick to appeasing their closeminded fans instead of experimenting and growing as a band. Into the Unknown, as a result, is an unusual title from the file of "what-if" albums which include Kiss' Music from "The Elder".

In retrospect, though, the crossover of punk and prog likely paved the way for progressive punk bands like Nomeansno, or the thrash-fueled approach of John Zorn's jazz band Naked City, and while the wildly different sounds of the two genres may have made it unlikely for them to intersect at the time Into the Unknown was released, perhaps one day the idea of a punk-prog band will seem less like a contradiction.


Be sure to buy my albums The Wedding AlbumNone More Black and Behind the Green Door. They're $5 each.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015

Hemispheres: Frank Zappa & Captain Beefheart - Bongo Fury

Welcome back to Hemispheres, where Isaac Baranoff takes a look at  the constantly evolving world of progressive rock. Developing from rock bands' interest in combining rock with influences from jazz and classical music, prog has developed into a fullblown worldwide phenomenon, with artists across the globe combining prog with influences from other genres, including alternative rock and heavy metal.

Frank Zappa, known for his intricately composed music deriving from chamber music, R&B, jazz and early rock and roll, and Captain Beefheart, known for his more primitive musical style which combined elements of free jazz, blues and spoken word, were equally conflicting in their relationship with each other as they were in their musical styles. The Lancaster friends -- from when the Captain was known as just "Don Vliet" (later "Don Van Vliet") -- have collaborated artistically since Zappa attempted to produce a science fiction film starring Vliet called Captain Beefheart vs. The Grunt People, a production that fell apart during the fundraising stage when local police, committing entrapment, had Zappa imprisoned with the charge of "conspiracy to commit pornography" after an undercover vice squad officer gave Zappa $100 to produce an audio recording which ultimately consisted of faked orgasmic moans by people who could barely contain their laughter as they attempted to record them (the judge at the trial also laughed when he heard the recording, and ultimately the felony was reduced to a misdemeanor with Zappa's sentence reduced to 10 days).

Zappa and Vliet ultimately embarked on solo careers, with Zappa's Mothers of Invention releasing their debut album, Freak Out! in 1966 and Captain Beefheart making his musical debut with 1967's Safe As Milk. Vliet was difficult to get along with, irritable and conflicting in attitudes, and problems between Vliet and his former record label led Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band to record Trout Mask Replica for Zappa's Straight Records, with Zappa at the helm as producer, recording much of the album in the house where the Magic Band lived as a group, until Vliet accused Zappa of being cheap and insisted on moving the recording to a professional studio. After one more album for Straight (Lick My Decals Off, Baby), Vliet parted ways with Zappa, attempting to shift the Magic Band into a more mainstream, accessible sound before legal problems left Vliet unable to either tour on his own or record for any label, forcing him into a tour with Zappa's band, though Vliet couldn't get along with Zappa and Vliet often spent performances drawing unflattering cartoons of Zappa while the band performed.

Bongo Fury captures Zappa and Vliet's 1975 Austin, Texas performance, along with two and a half L.A. studio recordings (including the intro to "Muffin Man") deriving from the same sessions as Zappa's One Size Fits All.

DEBRA KADABRA: Right off the bat, the opening song showcases how well the Captain's voice balances with Zappa's music and lyrics in this loose tale of Debra Algebra Ebneezra Kadabra, "Witch Goddess, Witch Goddess of Lankershim Boulevard". Terry Bozzio's trotting drum beat bounces off the guitar licks and saxophone squealing of Napoleon Murphy Brock before seguing into a 5/4 sax/keyboard/drum breakdown, all while Mr. Vliet howls a typically Zappa-esque lyrical treatment of the song's subject, replete with California-specific and B-movie references. Time signatures change rapidly before the 4/4 "Cast your dancing spell my way" section and a callback to the Pachuco Hop of Zappa's Cruisin' with Ruben & the Jets, making for one hell of an opening number. RATING: 5/5

CAROLINA HARDCORE ECTASY: With Captain Beefheart on the sidelines, Zappa and Brock take the lead vocals for a story of a one-night stand that concludes in S&M abuse ("Now darling, stomp all over me!"). The composition offers Zappa's perversion of a blues-rock/country-rock form, from quoting the Doobie Brothers' "Listen to the Music" to breaking out into an operatic duet between Brock, the synthesizer, the bass and the drums, and before the closer, Zappa gives a fiery guitar solo. RATING: 5/5

SAM WITH THE SHOWING SCALP FLAT TOP: Captain Beefheart returns in only one of two songs on the album composed by him. Vliet's poetry delivery is accompanied by minimalist instrumentation before the band calls back to "Louie Louie", a frequently reoccurring composition throughout Zappa's discography, as he would frequently receive requests to play it as a member of several bar bands. Vliet's lyrics are very personal, telling Sam's story with a minimal amount of the William S. Borroughs-esque fantastical embellishing Vliet is known for, before howling "I wish I had a pair of bongos!" and coining the album's title. RATING: 4/5

POOFTER'S FROTH WYOMING PLANS AHEAD: Vliet's vocals continue as the sole focus in Zappa's "sort of a cowboy song" imitating country/western musical stylization. Typical Zappa humor lines the lyrical themes of societal breakdown courtesy of governmental/corporate bureaucracy, incompetence of the "Flakes" in your local union and the attraction to low-quality products. It can't happen here? Eddie, you've got to be kidding.  RATING: 4/5

200 YEARS OLD: The first side of the album is concluded with one of two and a half (including the intro to "Muffin Man") studio recordings featured on what is otherwise a live album, deriving from around the same time as the recording sessions for Zappa's One Size Fits All. The piano-driven instrumentation is capped off with a guitar solo by Zappa and harmonica solo by Vliet. The arrangement is deeply rooted in Zappa's blues background. RATING: 4/5

CUCAMONGA: With Zappa again on lead vocals, a number of Conceptual Continuity clues are revisited, from the suburban city where Zappa made many of his early recordings as a producer and guitarist, to Nanook the Eskimo from "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow", with a bluesy piano line incorporating chamber-esque chord breaks. RATING: 4/5

ADVANCE ROMANCE: With the Captain back on lead vocals, Zappa's band dives into another bluesy number about fractured sex lives, including "Potato-Headed Bobby" who gets his fry Frenched by a woman who leaves her lovers broke and heartbroken. RATING: 5/5

MAN WITH THE WOMAN HEAD: Another Captain Beefheart poem backed by bluesy avant-jazz. Clocking in at just slightly over a minute, Vliet is in full Borroughs mode here. RATING: 4/5

MUFFIN MAN: One of Zappa's iconic tunes, opening with a studio recorded intro, which seems to be intended for another song recorded at the same sessions, "A Little Green Rosetta" (as it appears on the album L├Ąther, not in the reggae-inspired version from Zappa's rock opera Joe's Garage which was recorded much later). The live part of the song has a metal-esque hard guitar riff accompanying its oddball treatment of sexuality ("Girl, you thought he was a man / But he was a muffin / No cries is heard in the night / As a result of him stuffin'" [it in, i.e. penetrating her]), making the perfect capper for the album. RATING: 5/5

While Bongo Fury isn't the first album people usually think of when discussing either Zappa or Captain Beefheart, it provides an invaluable peek into a point in the two artists' careers.  I chose this album as the first Zappa release spotlighted here to introduce two artists into your musical lexicon, in one of their finest collaborations, containing some of Zappa's best and most memorable compositions intermingling with the Captain's raspy, Howlin' Wolf-inspired vocals (Don Van Vliet was the original Tom Waits).


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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hemispheres: King Crimson - In The Court of the Crimson King

Welcome back to Hemispheres, where Isaac Baranoff takes a look at  the constantly evolving world of progressive rock. Developing from rock bands' interest in combining rock with influences from jazz and classical music, prog has developed into a fullblown worldwide phenomenon, with artists across the globe combining prog with influences from other genres, including alternative rock and heavy metal.

Last time, I wrote about one of my favorite prog-metal albums, L.D. 50 by Mudvayne, and said that I wanted to explore progressive rock outside of its metal variant. What exactly makes a prog album? Wikipedia says that prog developed from psychedelic rock, something I disagree with strongly. There were some psychedelic bands who had a predisposition towards improvisation, inspired by jazz, such as the Grateful Dead, but I think that progressive rock is built more from musicianship and skill than psychedelic rock, and while there's nothing inherently wrong with bands like the Grateful Dead, I think their improvisation is more along the lines of noodling than actual musical skill, and the Dead's form of free-form playing can be boring to prog fans.

That being said, psychedelic rock produced a lot of interesting albums, like Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow and Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which I still insist is better than anything else that band ever wrote, and this will probably be the last time I write about Pink Floyd here considering that Roger Waters is an anti-semitic twat, and David Gilmour supports a pro-Palestine group that distributes anti-semitic art. Just wanted to put that out there before anyone asks if I will ever review Pink Floyd here. The answer is: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Fuck off.

But I did want to talk an album that exhibits one of my favorite overlaps between psychedelic and progressive rock, In the Court of the Crimson King by the band King Crimson. The band originated when brothers Michael Giles (drums) and Peter Giles (bass) were joined by guitarist Robert Fripp to form the trio Giles, Giles and Fripp, to record the unsuccessful album The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp. The trio expanded their sound by adding Ian McDonald, who played keyboards and wind instruments. With lyricist Peter Sinfield, McDonald began writing songs for what would be King Crimson's debut album.

21st Century Schizoid Man: King Crimson introduced themselves to the world with this fiery blend of heavy rock and jazz. Proto-metal guitar riffs intertwine with saxophone squeals before the band breaks down into a Zappa-esque jazz improvisation, the bassist playing forthright jazz lines while the guitarist solos. The lyrics draw from the then-current Vietnam conflict as well as an encompassing and unfortunately continuing strain of political corruption ("Blood rack barbed wire / Polititians' funeral pyre / Innocents raped with napalm fire"), concluding with a heavy avant-jazz breakdown. This was my introduction to King Crimson and I loved it from the first time I heard it. Rating: 5/5

I Talk To The Wind: This is where the album shifts dramatically in style, and while I bought the album off the basis of the heavier opening track and did not expect a flute-driven sort-of ballad leading off a set of orchestral-fused tracks somewhat reminiscent of the Moody Blues, I loved this song as much as I loved the first. Flutes and subtle bass and cymbal hits open the song, as mellow wind instrumentation comes in, followed by strings and a slow drum beat. The lyrics are thoughtful and introspective. Rating: 5/5

Epitaph: Acoustic guitars and orchestral strings/drum hits introduce the song before the electric bass and rock drums come in. The lyrics speak of a perspective of facing danger: "If we make it we can all sit back and laugh / But I fear tomorrow I'll be crying". This is an incredible song, great in both its performance and writing. Rating: 5/5

Moonchild: Another mellow song. This one is possibly more orchestral and jazz-oriented than rock oriented. I can't really call it rock at all. It's a fantastic song, though. The lyrics would not be out of place on a psychedelic album, but they fit perfectly with the orchestral instrumentation. After the song ends, the avant-jazz creeps back in, in a much lighter variation than the avant-jazz breakdown at the end of "Schizoid". Rating: 5/5

The Court of the Crimson King: According to the band themselves, a "crimson king" is a monarch whose reign was frought with civil unrest and bloodshed. The political atmosphere of the era that the group was formed in, the late '60s, made their name even more relevant to their day, debuting an album at the height of the Vietnam War. Orchestral strings give way to flutes, then to a slow, atmospheric drum beat. Following the lyrics, there is an instrumental section where the strings interplay with keyboard hits. Rating: 5/5

Again, this is another album that I absolutely love. Every track is fantastically well-written and performed, and the album is really cool to listen to, and always puts me in a good mood whenever I hear it. The opening track was a strong influence on the developing heavy metal genre, to the point where Ozzy Osbourne even did a cover of it, and the Moody Blues-inspired orchestral tracks are awesome as well. The overall balance between the instrumentation and the lyricism makes the album at once ahead of its time and of its time, something I find true of the album in general, that as much as the lyrics were driven by the time period that produced the album, they continue to speak to listeners as much today as the album did in its time.


Now, again, I don't just want to focus on older progressive rock, or metal-prog, or any other time of fusion, I want to focus on progressive rock as a whole, exploring what, by necessity is a wide-ranging and diverse genre of experimental music. I hope you'll keep posted to this site to read more of my writings on progressive rock and other albums I love, as well as watch the videos by our other contributorsbuy some of our comics, buy my albumsbuy my novels...

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Hemispheres: Mudvayne - L.D. 50

Welcome to "Hemispheres", a new segment from Horndog Studios, where Isaac Baranoff will take a look at the constantly evolving world of progressive rock. Developing from rock bands' interest in combining rock with influences from jazz and classical music, prog has developed into a fullblown worldwide phenomenon, with artists across the globe combining prog with influences from other genres, including alternative rock and heavy metal.

This week I'll be taking a look at one of my favorite underrated albums from the world of progressive metal, L.D. 50 by Mudvayne, a band formed in 1996 as an alternative band, whose debut EP Kill I Oughtta bore influences largely from hard rock and alternative bands and wasn't particularly progressive, though it did have some traces of the band's later experimentation, and discounting my bias from that EP not being progressive, it's a pretty energetic and fun rock album, with some cool tracks. But it wasn't until founding members electric guitarist Greg Tribbett and drummer Matthew McDonough, along with singer Chad Gray were joined by a progressive rock bassist named Ryan Martinie that the sound that Mudvayne is best known for fully formed.

With Martinie on board, the band began to write more technical and progressive songs, incorporated more influences from extreme genres like death and thrash metal, as well as drawing from hardcore punk and Martinie's jazz and prog background, became more ideas-based in their lyricism, Gray's singing developed as well, his vocals now sounding like the instrumentation of avant-garde jazz (think Ornette Coleman's saxophone when you listen to his singing), and also decided, to attract fans, that they would wear eye-catching face and body paint, drawing a connection between the new art rock direction and rock and roll showmanship, combining the musical traditions of King Crimson, ...And Justice For All-era Metallica, Porcupine Tree. Obituary, Emperor and Alice in Chains with the visual tradition of guys like Alice Cooper or Kiss.

The unusual visual style and technical, heavy playing attracted the attention of Slipknot percussionist Shawn "Clown" Crahan, who got Mudvayne signed with Epic Records and produced their debut album L.D. 50, a concept album about human evolution influenced by philosopher Terrence McKenna and the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

I should point out that while I'm a composer of progressive rock music, I'm not very technical in my composition style. I can't see the music I write until I hear it played, which is why I consider synthesizer programs such as Acoustica Mixcraft, the one I used to compose and synthesize my own prog albums Behind the Green Door, None More Black and The Wedding Album to be a major aid (much like Frank Zappa's use of the synclavier). I can only really guess as to the time signatures of any given track (I programmed all my music in 30/16 because I like putting as much notes as possible into my music). Most of the descriptions of the time signatures came from carefully listening to the song and counting off the hits when factual data on the song's signatures was not available, such as in the case of "Nothing to Gein", where I learned that the lunar time signature stuff was used via a band interview.

Monolith: The album opens up with an atmospheric soundscape that continues throughout the album, originally a part of the avant-garde piece "L.D. 50" composed by MjDawn, which the album was named after (an alternate edit of this piece appears on The Beginning of All Things to End, a reissue of Mudvayne's early EP Kill I Oughtta). The piece samples an interview with philosopher Terrence McKenna, who believed that human evolution was triggered by an encounter with psychedelic mushrooms, as well as muted clips from Mudvayne's earlier song "Poop Loser". Rating: N/A

Dig: One of the band's most memorable headbangers, Ryan Martinie's bassline begins in 3/3 and continues to become faster and more technical against 16th drumlines. The lyrics draw from the band's extreme metal influences, with vocalist Chad Gray instigating threats of violence in screamed styles. Many fans fell in love with the band upon hearing this blend of prog-metal and shock value. Rating: 5/5

Internal Primates Forever: The revolving 5/3 guitar riffs by Greg Tribbett give way to syncopated drum, bass and guitar playing as Gray invokes the imagery of the evolution scene in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (which the band watched constantly throughout the recording of the album) before the lyrics tell a tale of drug addiction -- connecting the metaphor of a "monkey on my back" with the "monkeys" (apes) of Kubrick's film, against 16th basslines and 8th drumlines. Rating: 5/5 

-1: The melodic vocals lull you into a false sense of security before the rage kicks in. The guitarlines, drumming and bass playing start off slowly before becoming more energetic, and back again. The lyrics talk about depression, isolation and the feeling of being an outsider, as well as the concept of an outsider's living hell as simply being a dream that they may one day wake up from. Rating: 5/5

Death Blooms: A 5/3 guitar riff leads way to 8th basslines and finally to 16th cymbal hits. As the lyrics come in, the guitar, bass and drums revolve in 8ths and 3s. The lyrics were inspired by the illness of Chad Gray's grandmother, and deal with the concept of growing old and dying as no one around you cares about you. This is one of my favorite progressive metal songs, combining the best of both genres, the ideas-driven lyricism and technicality of prog and the heaviness of metal. Rating: 5/5

Cradle: The creepiness of the creeping guitar riff gives way to uncomfortably quiet 16th cymbal hits before the explosion of sound hits. The lyrics discuss birth, the pain of life and the idea that we're all just heading for death. As the song fades from quiet to aggressive moments, the time signatures change in revolution. Gray's vocals imitate and fuse with Tribbett's guitar solo as Martinie plays smooth jazz-inspired basslines. Rating: 5/5

Nothing to Gein: The serial killer Ed Gein is a popular subject for heavy metal bands. Slayer wrote a song about him called "Dead Skin Mask". Mudvayne's Gein song is written from Gein's perspective. 8th guitarlines give way to 16th drumming while the vocals lull you into another false sense of security before the song explodes into an outbreak of rage. Then as the lyrics begin to describe insanity, the bass, guitar and drumlines imitate the ticking of a clock, the guitar lines alternating in bars of 4 and 5 and 9th riffs, used on the basis that 9 is a lunar number and Ed Gein performed his activities of murder, necrophilia and taxidermy at night. In the combination of approaches -- the unsettling horror-inspired lyrics of heavy metal and the technicality and experimentation of prog, "Nothing to Gein" is one of the best progressive metal songs of the modern era. Rating: 5/5

Everything and Nothing: The lyrics deal with disconnection, as society encourages conformity while punishing individuality, as well as encouraging an understanding between human beings with different ideas. The track is very energetic and technical, driven by jazz-influenced basslines. Rating: 5/5

Severed: 5/8 guitar riffs and 5/4 cymbal hits give way to jazz-fused basslines before the guitar playing becomes darker-sounding. The vocals flow in an avant-jazz inspired form; overdubs of aggressive metal growls mix with melodic singing, creating an effective progressive metal groove, the lyrics evoking H.P. Lovecraft while the music evokes jazz. Rating: 5/5

Prod: "Prod" is an example of what progressive metal excels at: Musician-driven instrumentation. The 6-minute piece again combines a sense of heaviness with a sense of melody. The lyrics hint at the coming of malevolent invaders from beyond, a theme explored in full on the band's next concept album, The End Of All Things To Come. The song open up with guitar riffs in 5, then the drums come in hard-hitting and the basslines drift in stealthy in jazz improvisation mode. Rating: 5/5

Pharmaecopia: Driving guitar lines as the song starts off aggressively and gives way to arty soundscapes as the horror-based lyricism carries the song throughout. Rating: 5/5

Under My Skin: The aggressive guitar riffs and 8th-based drumming against fast, hard-hitting bass playing giving way to jazz-inspired lines. I have to take issue with the frequent description of the breakdown vocalization from some reviewers: Chad Gray is not rapping towards the end. I know a lot of reviewers think the vocals sound like this, but, again, refer to my introductory description of Chad Gray's singing: Think of Ornette Coleman's saxophone playing when you listen to his vocals on this album. Imagine this breakdown as an instrument playing in 16th notes. Rating: 5/5

(K)now F(orever): The longest track on the album, clocking in at 7 minutes and 6 seconds, the song combines everything we've heard musically and lyrically from before: The heaviness, the time signature experimentation, jazz-inspired basslines, 16th drum hits, 8th guitar riffs and lyrics describing human evolution and hinting at the future nightmares to come from the band's upcoming albums, this track clocks off the conclusion of a new, exciting voice in progressive metal. Rating: 5/5

As you can tell from all the 5's, I love this album. It's one of those albums that you can listen to from start to finish, without skipping a single track, which is something I consider to be one of the major hallmarks of a great album, and the playing, experimentation and skillful songwriting contributes to what I consider to be one of the classics of the progressive metal genre. I named this one of my top 5 favorite prog-metal albums for a reason: It's that damn good. As a proghead and a metalhead, I consider this album to be a skillful example of the crossover between the two genres, and it still perplexes me that this album and band got lumped into the nu-metal categorization despite the fact that this album sounds nothing like nu-metal and everything like progressive metal. I'm not anti-nu-metal, but there's a clear sound difference between bands like this and Slipknot (who I have no problem with as artists). If you're a metalhead and you feel that Mudvayne isn't "heavy" enough for you or "extreme" enough for you, that's fine, but that doesn't inherently make something nu-metal. Many progressive metal bands aren't trying to be "extreme", and if you want more extreme bands, there's stuff like early Opeth (in their death metal days) and Meshuggah to tide you over. Mudvayne has their own style and a lot of technical skill to go with their sound experimentation, offering an album that rewards not just in decibel levels, but in musicality, too.


Now for those of you who read the previous list, you might be wondering why I didn't choose to write about what I consider to be my favorite prog-metal album, Heritage by Opeth, as my first entry in this new series, and the reason for that is very simple. L.D. 50 is an album that I feel hasn't gotten represented properly within its genre, and I wanted to highlight albums that I consider to be underrated or overlooked within progressive rock. Some people don't even consider  L.D. 50 to be a prog album, or Mudvayne to even be progressive as a band, and I wanted to write about why I feel that the dissing of Mudvayne is wrong (hey, if Pink Floyd can put out a song with the word "dissing" in their lyrics, I can use in my prog blog, too) and why they are a progressive band and why this album does belong within the genre.

As I continue this series, I want to discuss Mudvayne some more, as well as other progressive metal bands and albums, as well as prog-metal albums which are dismissed because they come from bands not typically associated with prog, such as Spheres, a jazz-fused prog-metal album from the death metal band Pestilence, who, I admit, are not entirely a prog band, but that doesn't discount the fact that they released a prog album.

Seriously, does this LOOK like a metal album to you?
However, I do want to focus on progressive rock as a whole, and not just its metal-fused variants, and there are tons of non-metal prog albums that I'd love to write about, such as Frank Zappa's entire discography, King Crimson's In The Court of the Crimson King and the pre-80s output of Rush. Progressive rock as a genre gives me a world of possibilities to write about, and I hope you'll keep posted to this site to read more of my writings on progressive rock and other albums I love, as well as watch the videos by our other contributors, buy some of our comics, buy my albums, buy my novels...seriously, I have a lot of stuff I want to sell you. Don't you remember Spaceballs?

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