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Wagner, Jeff: Mean Deviation-Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal (book)

Mean Deviation is one of those books that's been a long time coming. There's no doubt in my mind that more than a few folks have thought about putting something together on this topic (myself included), and it's good to see former Metal Maniacs editor Wagner taking the leap and doing the genre well in this very fascinating book.

Wagner takes an in-depth look at prog-metal's birth, with bands such as Black Sabbath, King Crimson, Rush, Scorpions, Rainbow, and a few others, and even talks about how the godfathers of prog, like Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, ELP, and Jethro Tull also had a lot to do with prog and metal coming together. You can certainly see the author's love of avant-garde acts such as Celtic Frost & Voivod, as well as seminal early tech-metal pioneers Watchtower, given the amount of ink given to the three bands here. Don't expect half the book to be dedicated to Dream Theater, Fates Warning, and Queensryche, who Wagner deems the 'big 3 of the 80's progressive metal', but there is a fair share on these three acts, as well as those that came about in their wake. Other important groups such as Atheist, Meshuggah, Opeth, Devin Townsend, Cynic, Pain of Salvation, the early death metal movement, Norwegian black metal, European prog & power metal, and the underground technical metal scene, are all covered here in great detail.

With plenty of black & white and color photos splattered throughout, Mean Deviation is an eye catching tome that also has cover artwork from Voivod's acclaimed drummer Michel 'Away" Langevin. If you find it hard to put this book down, expect to run to your CD collection to pull out many of the rarities and gems that Wagner discusses, you just ain't a prog metal fan.

Another winner from the folks at Bazillion Points!

Added: June 2nd 2011
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Official Website
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Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Wagner, Jeff: Mean Deviation-Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal (book)
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-06-02 12:37:14
My Score:

Even though I'm an avid reader, I never review books. I prefer to share my views on music, especially progressive metal bands. However, I'll have to make an exception for this one.

First of all, the foreword by Steven Wilson explaining his love of great bands like Opeth and Meshuggah is only a taste of what's to come in this great book.

Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal is an absolutely essential piece of work. Written by former Metal Maniacs editor Jeff Wagner, the book is both very easy to read and informative. There are long chapters dedicated not only to the big names in prog but also to more esoteric groups from all across the globe. None of the chapters read like boring biographies about when and how these bands were formed, who the original members were, their discogrpahy lists, etc. Rather, while touching on the essentials, Wagner analyzes the music: how it was created and how it influenced other bands' work. The index section at the end lists all the page numbers a band is discussed, so one can also use Mean Deviation as a resource in the future. You can read the book from beginning to end within two days if you are interested in prog metal or you can simply open it up and read about a 'scene' or a certain album you want to check out. The bands are not limited to Dream Theater, Queensryche, Fates Warning, Crimson Glory, and their followers. Acts on the more technical side of the spectrum are also analyzed in depth: Watchtower, Psychotic Waltz, Sieges Even, Spiral Architect. Wagner also touches on the thrashy progressive acts detailing the discographies of great bands like Voivod, Anacrusis, Coroner, Realm, Toxik, and Hexenhaus. After reading them, I felt compelled to re-listen to these discs and discover their brilliance once again.

That's not all. There are chapters devoted solely to other, more unconventional acts: Celtic Frost, Thought Industry, or the Norwegian acts such as Age of Silence, Ansur, Green Carnation, and Virus. How were these bands formed? From which side of progressive music do they take their roots from? How did they decide to blend it with metal's more extreme forms? It's all in this book.

Wagner does not only relay his own views. He has actually conducted interviews with most of these bands. He has read a million articles, interviews, and reviews. I was extremely surprised to see him quote a part of my write-up while discussing how the Evergrey fan base was divided on their more recent output. You will learn so much about bands' internal affairs -- why they decided to write or produce an album a certain way, why they couldn't sign to bigger record labels, how vastly different the progressive scene in Europe was from the one in the USA, and so much more.

I have read hundreds of biographies and books on heavy metal (and its various subgenres). This one is easily the most important one because it is the first and only book focusing entirely on progressive metal. Highly recommended.



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