Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jeff Wagner Plans Book Release, Solves a Life Mystery

I saw this headline and I did a little dance of glee: "Former METAL MANIACS Editor JEFF WAGNER To Author History Of Progressive Metal." See, I'm not just a metal nerd who loves himself some Opeth and Dream Theater: I actually have a history with the non-existent history of progressive metal.

Back in 2002/2003, I was a senior in college. I was a music major - no surprise there - and because my aptitude was in analysis (and because I thought I was going to go to study ethnomusicology) I decided to spend the year writing a lengthy senior thesis in music. On Dream Theater, Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory, and the history of progressive metal. Like I said, huge metal nerd. Or maybe just nerd in general.

I wrote the history part first, as part of another paper I had to write for a colloquium class I took in the fall (doubling up was the way they kept thesis writers from going insane and strangely enough, it worked). As it turns out, there are no good histories of progressive metal out there. In fact, from what I remember, my options came down to the short blurb in the All Music Guide, whatever was up on, and the BNR metal pages, none of which actually answered the fundamental question: what exactly prompted all of these bands to mix progressive elements into their music? Lacking access to any of the artists in question, I did the next best thing: took a history of progressive rock, a history of metal, and came to my own conclusions. The result was, well, it's probably wildly inaccurate, but I look pretty smart doing it, and I get to say I wrote a 120+ page page while in college. The ladies were impressed, believe you me.

Reading all of that history should give you an understanding of why I'm excited to read this book once it comes out next year: if Jeff Wagner really did his homework, he might just come up with a common root for all of the experimentation done by bands as diverse as Dream Theater, Celtic Frost, and Voivod and answer the question I failed to answer five years ago. And you know what? I'd really appreciate that.

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