Mean Deviation – Four Decades of Progressive Metal By Jeff Wagner (Bazillion Points)

Wednesday, 20th March 2013
Rating: 9.5/10

What a massive undertaking this book by former Metal Maniacs associate editor Jeff Wagner represents. If anyone has the knowledge, passion, skills and class to tackle 40 years of a music movement and synthesize the essential parts into a workable 364 page tomb, this particular scribe is the obvious choice to chronicle all aspects – and here it is for all to enjoy.

Mean Deviation begins with a look into the evolution of progressive rock and obvious starting points include groups such as King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Yes and even Kansas, as well as the burgeoning movements in all parts of Europe. Through the course of the 17 chapters, Wagner leaves little to ponder as he deftly weaves interview snippets from artists like Canvas Solaris, Opeth, Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Voivod, Therion and Devin Townsend to name a few, along with ardent views from fellow writers and label honchos who’ve played a major key in the development of the genre.

You’ll also get plenty of side articles to ponder from “Philosophical Revolt” regarding the burgeoning Norway scene to “Progressive By Numbers” about 10 modern progressive metal acts to look into as well as a four page discourse on Thought Industry and Mind Over Four, as Jeff willingly challenges the reader to expand your viewpoint of what progressive metal is. The appendix section includes even more bands that couldn’t receive a thorough glance in the regular book, a top 50 progressive metal essential album list and another covers section to illustrate the open mindedness these artists display in their craft.

Jeff’s comfort with the English language and expertise as a critic will give the readers months of reading and reference material to look at, look back upon, and debate with your local or national music scene. This book is more than a look at The Big Three (Dream Theater, Queensryche, and Fates Warning), as you’ll get into sub-genres such as doom, tech, thrash, death, and black metal depending on the time period and bands in question. He tackles essential albums with lengthy analysis and often track by track relevance – never fearful to call things as he hears them be it excellent such as Believer’s Sanity Obscure or abysmal such as Celtic Frost‘s Cold Lake.

Laid out in as sequential a manner as possible, this book should be required reading for any metal follower from Alaska to Zaire and all parts of the world. I’m sure you’ll discover more bands to invest your time and money in, as well as come away with much more appreciation for all the writers, bands, and promoters who fuel the creative forces in forward thinking, unconventional progressive music.

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