It seems as if the dubiously titled nu-prog has been slowing down over the past two to three years, at least when compared to the onslaught from the genre that we experienced in 2014-2016. However, the collective imagination around the sound still seems to be there. Something about the unabashed acceptance of shred, of the upbeat technicality displayed perhaps, makes sure that an artist or two worth listening to will emerge within the nu-prog spaces every once in a while. This year, that artist’s name is Stephen Taranto.
While certainly not a newcomer (he’s done work with his band The Helix Nebula, which has been celebrated in the community, as well as collaborating with the likes of Joel Lindfors and I Built the Sky) Permanence is his debut EP is a solo artist. And it’s a doozy; on it, Taranto flashes his already proven guitar skills but paints them with a very bright brush. Leads, chugs, and fills all coalesce into a fast-paced and dreamy eyed album, which conveys the rich, otherworldly, and enchanting vibe of its cover art very well.
When we got the opportunity to run an Anatomy Of piece for Taranto, the opportunity seemed more than worthwhile. To be frank, we got exactly what we expected: a great mix of old-school progressive metal and heavier genres, replete with some of the finest technical players to have ever graced the guitar, alongside some of the best ensembles in the history of metal (and also Radiohead, for your left field surprise). Read on down below for notes aplenty and don’t forget to check out Permanence!
1.) Dream Theater – Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory
Choosing a favourite DT album is a pretty difficult task for me as I feel like each of their albums offer something unique, but I don’t think any album of theirs had as much of a profound impact on me as Scenes did when I first heard it in the early 2000’s. The idea of incorporating a cinematic and thematic approach to an entire album whilst still maintaining the level of technical proficiency that Dream Theater are known for was just mind-bending to me.
The little throwbacks to familiar themes and motif’s is something I still try and incorporate in my own writing (although to a much lesser extent) to this day. This was probably one of the first true concept albums I had heard up until that point in my life and will probably forever be my favourite. A masterpiece from start to finish.
Favourite Track: The Dance of Eternity
2.) Meshuggah – Destroy Erase Improve
This album kind of marked the turning point in my musical interest. The most extreme metal I had been exposed to at this point in my life was probably Machine Head, so to jump from that into this was…jarring, to say the least. “Future Breed Machine” was the first song I heard off of the album and I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
Even though I was apprehensive to like it at first, I found myself getting sucked in more and more each day, that I had to go buy the album. I couldn’t believe how unique they were for the time. It combined insane rhythmic ideas, technical finesse, brutality and even tinges of melodicity into what I think is still their best work to date. I love absolutely everything Meshuggah has ever put out, but I always find myself coming back to this classic at least once a month.
Favourite Track: Vanished
3.) Radiohead – OK Computer
Much like Meshuggah, there’s not a lot about Radiohead’s back catalogue that I don’t like. OK Computer sticks out to me as their best work and most influential work for me personally. I’m sure nostalgia plays a huge role in my connection with this album, but it’s hard to deny the cultural impact it had at the time. Every second of each song sounded like it was hand-crafted to perfection and nothing felt out of place. A true masterpiece from start to finish.
Favourite Track: Subterranean Homesick Alien
4.) The Faceless – Planetary Duality
A few years after getting heavily into Prog, I discovered a newfound love for Death Metal. Particlarly, Technical Death Metal. Hearing bands like Necrophagist, Psycroptic and Spawn of Possession for the first time really opened my eyes as to what is possible on the guitar. I feel that Planatery Duality by The Faceless perfectly blended the abstract technicality and progressive song structures and melody perfectly on this album. Next level stuff!
Favourite Track: Planetary Duality Pt. 2
5.) Between the Buried and Me – Colors
BTBAM are one of the most interesting, daring and talented modern prog bands that exists today. Colors combined the aggression of technical death metal with the spastic genre-shifting nature of progressive rock/metal so seamlessly. Even though they were meshing so many styles together, they still manage to create their own signature sound that has clearly influenced many bands ever since. I’d be lying if I said that they didn’t influence me in some way. The fact that they went on to make even bigger and better albums ever since is a true testament to how talented this band is. Colors will always be a top 10 album for me.
Favourite Track: White Walls
6.) Symphony X – The Odyssey
An answer that is sure not to surprise anyone who’s known me for a long time. Whilst Dream Theater made me fall in love with listening to the genre, Symphony X were the first band that truly made want to write progressive metal music. This album was such a great fusion of their 90’s power metal sound and their future straight-up progressive metal sound they’re known for today.
Not only was Michael Romeo’s guitar playing probably the best I had ever heard at that point, but the compositions and arrangements are just flawless. It’s almost hard to believe it’s just five guys that came up with it all. The title track itself is probably my favourite song of all time to this day. Essential listening.
Favourite Track: The Odyssey