Metal Evolution: Season 1, Episode 11

Progressive Metal (27 Jan. 2012)

TV Episode  -  Documentary | Reality-TV
7.9
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A genre that takes root with the likes of Rush in the '70s, Queensryche and Fates Warning in the '80s, and Dream Theater in the '90s. Since then, the genre has exploded with creativity, spawning mind-bending, genre-defying acts.

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Title: Progressive Metal (27 Jan 2012)

Progressive Metal (27 Jan 2012) on IMDb 7.9/10

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Episode credited cast:
David Bottrill ...
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Terry Brown ...
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Bill Bruford ...
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Peter Collings ...
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Brann Dailor ...
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Chris De Garmo ...
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...
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Jerry Ewing ...
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Michael Giles ...
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Tomas Haake ...
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Steve Hackett ...
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Matt Jacobson ...
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Bill Kelliher ...
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Geddy Lee ...
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Storyline

A genre that takes root with the likes of Rush in the '70s, Queensryche and Fates Warning in the '80s, and Dream Theater in the '90s. Since then, the genre has exploded with creativity, spawning mind-bending, genre-defying acts.

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27 January 2012 (USA)  »

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Suite Sister Mary
Written by Geoff Tate and Chris De Garmo
Performed by Queensrÿche
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Makes a mockery of the word "progressive".
27 February 2012 | by (Serbia) – See all my reviews

The episode lasts only 43 minutes, and yet Rush take up an entire 10 minutes. Am I missing something here? The title does say "progressive" and "metal". Or did I misread it?

Dunn's approach to progressive metal is at times painfully and annoyingly moronic. Rush are about as metal as a heavily-censored lullaby. Besides, their influence on metal is greatly exaggerated here. Lee's high-pitched thin vocals sound like a retirement-home granny after her nappies are changed, and the guitars are as heavy as an ant's vagina.

Dunn is such a predictably conventional metal-fan, he actually even fails to mention his fellow countrymen, Franco-Canadian experimental thrash band Voivod. They are arguably the most unique-sounding metal band of all time, not to mention one of the best metal bands of the past 3 decades, extremely progressive and often copied, and yet Dunn only includes their logo on his tree-chart.

But it gets worse. Dunn makes a total layman of himself by omitting to even mention – let alone feature - the hands-down best progressive metal made in the past 15 years, Devin Townsend's solo efforts. All the stranger is this cretinous exclusion given that Townsend hails from Vancouver, i.e. yet another one of Dunn's many experimental and well-known countrymen. But time and time again I keep forgetting that Townsend's music was never intended for peasants such as Dunn. His music goes beyond the progressive; indeed, most metal fans (especially typical fist-pumping metal-heads like Dunn) do not even understand Townsend's music, let alone like it. Future generations will place Townsend as the most creative and most talented prog-metal and thrash-metal song-writer of all time, I do not doubt this in the least.

Instead, Dunn wastes time on the influences of prog-metal bands. If you want to make a connection between the guitar-tapping started by the horrible Genesis in the early 70s, then you might as well go a few decades earlier and find a connection between the jazz guitarist and the prog-metal guitarist: they both use a guitar-pick and both (usually) play on 6 strings. (And they both have a pair of ears on their heads and two legs.) What I'm saying is that there is a limit to how far back one should go in describing metal's evolution. (Sort of like trying to explain the Vietnam War by going back to the early settlers from "Mayflower".) Dunn might as well have started every episode with Elvis, or even Mozart.

After boring us with Rush's rise and fall (due to a sell-out period when they almost sounded like Journey), Dunn drools about Queensryche, a band that played somewhat heavy pop songs, in my opinion. A vastly overrated metal band which, just because they played longer songs and wrote conceptual albums, is somehow still considered "progressive". Their music was so radio-friendly they could have appeared on the Eurovision Song Contest, where slightly more open-minded grannies could have moved their walking sticks to the rhythm of their commercial-sounding, dull tunes. "Queensryche developed from a HM band to a progressive unit," says one "expert". No. Queensryche moved from making run-of-the-mill hero-BS heavy-metal anthem crap to selling out by making more poppy metal with hook-lines. Next!

Next up are a couple more overrated bands, such as Tool - the definitive suicide-teen's band-to-die-along-to, who played what I refer to as "whine-metal", with some of the most irritating sob-like vocals ever; where's the progressiveness here? This came totally out of left field for me. On to Meshuggah; in what way are monotonous rhythmic escapades progressive? Obituary are more melodic than that. Later, finally a quality band, The Dillinger Escape Plan. "We wanted to take ourselves out of the comfort zone, because no great art ever comes out of comfort", says a TDEP member. A bit of a sweeping statement there.

All in all, progressive bands unfortunately haven't contributed many classics. Most bands that tried something new were simply way in over their heads, greatly overrating their own potential for being able to pull off something as adventurous as innovation. True experimentation requires great musical talent as a pre-requisite (which very few musicians have), otherwise the results end up being pitiful, embarrassing, laughable even, as was/is the case with most well-known "progressive" bands.

A crucial point which Dunn failed to make is that thrash itself was very progressive when it appeared in the mid-80s; it wasn't just a faster/heavier version of NWOBHM but introduced a mini-revolution to composing melodies. It wasn't just an introduction of a new style of playing riffs, but the substance had changed drastically too; blues-based riffs of traditional metal bands gave way to dissonant melodies that had been forbidden in the Middle Ages, only to be resurrected by the likes of Mussorgsky and Stravinsky in the 19th and early 20th century.

"HM will remain relevant and will continue to evolve for decades to come", says Dunn, during his "grand" series conclusion; the dumbest thing he'd said throughout the entire series, I'm afraid. So clueless is Dunn that he fails to notice the glaring-you-in-the-face fact that metal has been heavily stagnating in the past 15 years. It would appear that Dunn's superficial, inferior ears have never picked up on the mega-obvious lackluster repetitiousness and lack of originality of modern bands, with metal fans being bombarded by an endless slew of uninspired clones of yesteryear's bands. He is indeed blissfully blind to the fact that metal is almost finished musically, while optimistically/foolishly waving the flag of some imaginary future "evolution", deludedly harbouring hope for a genre that had seen its heyday way back. Yes, goofy black metal bands and pseudo-thrash/core bands still sell tickets, but the ingenuity and speedy evolution that was once part-and-parcel of heavy music is now all but gone.


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