Monday, July 8, 2013

Another Stupid Music Related Update

Retronauts just posted the first "mini" episode, which is sort of about tracing the influence of Prog on videogame music. I assumed they might use one of the other episodes for the second week, to avoid Dr. Sparkle exhaustion in their listeners, but.. nope! Back to back Dr. Sparkle.


Helm said...

Vangelis himself comes from greek Progressive rock stalwarts Aphrodite's Child, whose 666 record is still well remembered.

Pink Floyd definitely added some disco stuff circa The Wall and it's really funny.

I come from the more late '80s early '90s prog metal side (Fates Warning, Watchtower, Mayfair, Psychotic Waltz, Sieges Even, Xerxes, etc) but I do appreciate a lot of progressive rock, especially King Crimson, Magma and Univers Zero (the more abrasive side of dark progressive rock). I do love Yes too, though.

Japan seems to have pocket sub-scenes of all western types of music, with complete aesthetic appropriation without the semiotic values intact - so it's absolutely understandable for Japan psych musicians to not do drugs, just like there are Japanese black metal bands who really have no real opinion on Christianity and punk bands (millions of Discharge clones) who take the mohawk off and go work salaryman jobs in the morning.

You're wrong to think prog rock people have moved on to modern tech. metal and prog metal. They're actually very snobbish of that sort of thing and instead adore new school bands playing neo-prog or RIO or something like that. Crossover is minimal, as progressive rock is more about harmony exploration and meandering instrumentation whereas progressive metal is - like all metal - about compressed linear riffs and rhythmic complexity instead.

Dream Theater are actually closer to bad neo-prog than progressive metal.

Great podcast!

Doctor Sparkle said...

666 is a fantastic record, though it's weird to me that two out of the three guys in AC became huge mainstream superstars.

I'm not exactly sure where the line between heavy prog and prog metal, but I always considered Dream Theater to be THE definitive prog metal band. And soooo many people are into that band nowadays.

I'm also working on a theory where prog went from being the genre with the best album cover art (in the 70s) to being the genre with the worst (today). E.g.: any recent Spock's Beard or Porcupine Tree album cover.

Brian said...

I wish the Prog rock and Prog Metal discography was more easily, well, discoverable especially when it comes to Japan and other foreign locales. It took me until a day or so ago to discover Susumu Hirasawa's old 70's Mandrake outfit was even a thing, and even then only 2 pieces by them---I've long since lost track of all the interesting/talented one off songs I've heard somewhere or another then was never able to track down group info on. :(

parish said...

The inaccessibility of prog is a big part of why I have such an attachment to it. I got into the stuff in the early '90s, so I had no Internet for information, no online auctions and Internet superstores, not even newsgroup access. I had to research and hunt for albums, and some of the things I managed to find -- Gentle Giant's "In a Glass House," Can's "Tago Mago" -- cost a huge amount of money, but since I never had a means to acquire them again until years later, they were worth it.

I still can't listen to "Aumgn," though.

Helm said...

The first Dream Theater record ("When Dream And Day Unite") is a progressive metal record in the sense that it has that thrashy, choppy edge that was in vogue circa 1989 and there are a lot of shreddy neoclassical leads. It has a lot of keyboard work and it is very involved in its songwriting, but in the end it has riffs and double bass and screaming solos. It's two main components are a love of Rush and a love of Iron Maiden/Fates Warning.

Their first record was not a hit. Most people do not even remember it exists.

Their second record "Images and Words" is much more eclectic. The riffs all but disappear (some guitarists only have a few songs worth of good riffs in them, some a record) and are replaced by Pantera type power groove, U2 singalongs (and other AOR influences) and a lot of prog-rock stereotypical orchestration choices. Things only get worse after Kevin Moore leaves.

That is the record that went mainstream for them. And therefore defined progressive metal. But it's not actually very metal at all. In truth, a lot of people into Dream Theater are not into progressive metal, they're into Dream Theater. And if there's a venn diagram there, I would expect them to like ELP much more than they like, say, Omen.

So there are two clear periods of progressive metal. Pre-Images and Words and post. Post is about unlikely combinations of genres, carnivalesque passages, outright prog rock emulation, arena rock singalongs and mad virtuosity. Everybody copied that Images And Words mold. Pre is much more varied, every band had a very distinct idiom to themselves.

Here is some select discography that you can juxtapose to the usual Dream Theater style to get a sense of how much more vital this type of music was before it was formulated by "Images and Words"

Fates Warning - Awaken the Guardian
Mayfair - Behind
Watchtower - Control and Resistance
Psychotic Waltz - A Social Grace

Guthrie said...

Parish, I know you are loath to talk about metal, maybe even to admit it has a bigger influence than prog on much of the best video game soundtrack music out there, but it really has everything your say you are into and more.
Inaccessibility? Try chewing your was through a slab of Blut Aus Nord. You want mellotrons? We gots em. Disicipline and chops? Take a dip into death's symbolic or the latest german tech death band of the week. Dont like any of that shit? Fuck it, try some hipster shoe-gaze black metal-frapicino like Deafheaven. There will be something, somewhere out there for you that makes you think "this is like prog rock but evolved and way the fuck better". I know this Helm dude thinks "its all about compressed linear riffs and rhythmic complexity" as opposed to experimentation, but nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, alot of it is, but we are talking about a huge number of bands with a tree of genres and sub-sub-sub genres that seems to have no end. Just listen to Ulvers full dicography and tell me what the fuck is going on.
And as far as the nerd cred of liking something other people just cant grasp, NOTHING is as offputting to other people as telling them you listen to metal and respect it as an art form. Nothing.
Get Dr. Sparkle to make you a mix tape. His albums of the year post had some great metal albums on it.

Helm said...

Never before has there been a less appealing elegy to modern metal.

Doctor Sparkle said...

For the record, I just bought that new Deafheaven LP, and it's really good. Metal bands drifting towards shoegaze seems to quite a thing right now.