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MEAN DEVIATION: FOUR DECADES OF PROGRESSIVE  HEAVY  METAL
MEAN DEVIATION: FOUR DECADES OF PROGRESSIVE HEAVY METAL
Jeff Wagner
364 pages, written in English
(Bazillion Points)

Over the years Bazillion Points have built up a superb catalogue of books about Metal, and “Mean Deviation” is not the lesser in term of quality. Jeff Wagner’s idea was simple: to analyze the evolution of Technical / Progressive Metal throughout the years. One can imagine the difficulty to synthesize what is not a musical movement per se, but a cluster of bands dedicated to technical acrobatics, progressive soundscapes, bizarre amalgamation of styles, and labyrinthine compositions. Jeff Wagner achieved has achieved the exploit of painting a vivid portrait, vibrant in various tones, thanks to a clear delineation of his subject matter and a fluid concatenation of the book chapters. Identifying “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” as the first Progressive Metal album (a bold and original point of view) Jeff unrolls a colourful carpet woven with multiple currents and undercurrents of musical inspirations, from seventies Prog to Jazz and Avant-garde. After rightly paying tribute to the forerunners of Progressive Metal, namely RUSH (whose influence on the Metal world is no less than huge), Jeff studies the case of FATES WARNING, QUEENSRYCHE and DREAM THEATER, before prolonging his analysis towards the Tech Thrash of the eighties (VOIVOD, MEKONG DELTA, WATCHTOWER, CORONER), the influence of progressive music and Jazz onto the Death Metal scene (DEATH, CYNIC, ATHEIST), the surge of the Progressive Power Metal of the nineties and the Scandinavian musical weirdness (even MAYHEM’s “Grand Declaration Of War” is thoroughly examined). Be warned that Wagner doesn’t look after being exhaustive, don’t expect an encyclopaedia of unusual Metal, but rather a lively chronicle of a fascinating musical world proving that Metal as a whole is as intellectually articulate as classical music or Jazz. The book aims at two target audiences: the younger ones among us will find a definitive resource to explore new horizons, while the oldest readers already familiar with the music will have great pleasure to rediscover old chestnuts and to connect them with each other into a coherent vision. The book has two effects on me: at first, I slowed down the reading to not finish it too fast, because I spent exquisite moments in Wagner’s company, then I rummaged into my treasure trove to exhume albums I neglected to listen to these last few years. Don’t cut yourself from this essential work of communicative passion! www.mean-deviation.com, www.bazillionpoints.com

Edouard Vergriete

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