“HEY KID, CHECK OUT ALL THE COOL STUFF I CAN DO WITH THIS WOOD” – LEVEL 99 GUITAR WIZARD Z
Kids are often into flashy shit when they’re young. I share as much guilt as anyone else; I ain’t mad about it. Dream Theater kicked ass when I was 16 and I was learning about guitar. As I’ve gotten older, though, subtle creativity has appealed to me more.
Being progressive isn’t necessarily about instrumental wizardry; that’s one tool of many used to convey a “new” idea and attempt to explore new sonic territory. The bands that have been more interesting to me in a progressive sense are able to establish and fence off their own unique territory and sonic fingerprint. That, to me, is a MUCH bigger accomplishment than some 18 year old YouTube wiz reworking the Vai or Holdsworth riffs he heard about on gearslutz into his neighborhood skateboard buddies’ djent breakdowns, even if the kid can and will always play circles around me. That’s probably a callous and not entirely serious perspective on the state of things today, but I’m sure you get the point.
Don’t get me wrong; I think all that shit is cool too, even instrumental progressive music that relies on instrumental fireworks as its main tool (arrangement usually coming in a close second). Animals as Leaders, Lazer/Wulf and Exivious all put out records that I have been listening to all year, and that whole Behold! the Arctopus / Dysrhythmia / (partially) Gorguts family of Jedi always teach me new things with their records; those guys are true artists and I love what they do.
It’s not a bad tool at all; I’m trying to point out is that it is not the ONLY tool and there are other ways to apply “progressive” thinking to music, and I’ve come to appreciate the latter much more. Here are some examples of what I might consider “progressive” music that don’t necessarily rely on the flashy things that made our collective nips hard as a teenager:
And, I know this is old hat, but just to drive the point home with the best example possible: