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Book Review: Jeff Wagner’s Mean Deviation

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Mean Deviation: Four Decades Of Progressive Metal

By: Jeff Wagner

Published by: Bazillion Points Press

Released on: 12/1/2010

MSRP: $24.95


Jeff Wagner knows his heavy metal. He was the editor of Metal Maniacs for some time and has since published books, done liner notes, and more or less ‘been around.’ This experience and knowledge makes him a pretty solid pick to pen a tome on the most bastardized of musical genres, but rather than just write about metal as a whole, Wagner has narrowed his focus on the progressive side of heavy metal. Great. Another book about Rush and Rush clones, right? Well, that does come into play here. By default it has to. That said, this three hundred plus page tome casts its net with a pretty wide birth and winds up pulling in some really and truly interesting insight, criticism, and musical history that should appeal to anyone with an interest in metal, progressive or otherwise.


Wagner, quite logically, starts at the beginning. He opens up discussing the influence of sixties era prog rock on the metal community, how it lead to Black Sabbath’s more experimental work, how it gave birth to Rush, and how more marginally more obscure early prog-metal bands like King Crimson would have influence over a lot of what was to come. From the seventies we move into the eighties as metal gets harder and death and thrash metal are born. Here he discusses the influence of bands like Queensryche, Fates Warning, Voivod, Celtic Frost, Death, Watchtower and then later Dream Theater and the countless clones they inspired.


Wagner also heads into Europe quite frequently to cover the evolution of Scandinavian prog-metal, with a lot of focus given to Norwegian imports such as Opeth and, to a lesser extent Mayhem, as well as Swedish prog-metal masters Meshuggah. He more or less wraps up his chronological exploration of all things prog-metal by bringing us into the present day and discussing some of the more recent entries and with some speculation as to where it all might go.


Wagner’s book is written with a lot of passion and insight. Not personally being a huge ‘prog-metal’ fan it was hard to say ahead of time how much value there would be inside, but it turns out to be a consistently entertaining and interesting read for anyone with an interest in metal at all. Of course, as mentioned, Wagner covers the titans of the genre. Rush, Dream Theater and Queensryche all get a lot of coverage here and that’s all well and good. They deserve a place in this book, it wouldn’t be complete without them. Where the book excels, however, is in its coverage of the numerous forgotten prog-metal bands and in its coverage of the more obscure groups who took and continue to take stabs at expanding what metal can be.


Those looking for massive, stretching biographies will be disappointed – this isn’t that type of book and for most of the heavy hitters, there are (sometimes numerous) books out there that provide that type of information. This is instead a look at the formation and evolution of the prog-metal subgenre of heavy metal. As a how, why, and where explanation of prog-metal and its many deviations, it makes for very readable material. Wagner’s style is intelligent and well informed without coming across as pretentious or heavy handed. His passion for this music comes through on pretty much every page and the man writes with enough style that the book is never dull. On top of that, the book is nicely illustrated with black and white pictures throughout and contains a nice full color section in the middle. Illustrations throughout which come courtesy of Voivod’s Michel Langevin give parts of it an appropriately spacey feel while the index and appendices make the book a convenient reference volume as well.


For more information on Mean Deviation, check out the Bazillion Points website here.

Dark Stars Rising From Shade Rupe On Shelves 12/14 From Headpress

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Conversations from the Outer Realms
by Shade Rupe
The smaller half of Penn & Teller ends his silence for a lengthy discussion of magic and falsehoods, Divine opens the closet during his transition to playing male roles, Crispin Glover gives love to Fassbinder, Faster Pussycat! Kill, Kill!’s Tura Satana tells it like it is from burlesque shows to Hollywood, Alejandro Jodorowsky showers cinema lovers with psychomagic, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge lays down the gauntlet with his creations Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, and much much more.
DARK STARS RISING: CONVERSATIONS FROM THE OUTER REALMS is a collection of 27 candid interviews spanning 24 years with unique, free-thinking artists, from America, Austria, and beyond. Working in different media, countries, constraints, and freedoms, the vortex here is created by New York film writer Shade Rupe, known for his avant interests and the cultural realm he inhabits with his Funeral Party books. Everyone in this collection has produced artifacts that affect the heart, mind, soul, and future.
With over 500 stunning photographs and illustrations, many previously unpublished, DARK STARS RISING is a visually sensational pulsating miasma—a hearty feast for the mind!
• “The most fearsome creatures in the transgressive cinema.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times“
• “An untamed grab bag of gonzo weirdos in one lovingly sculpted collection. A must-have for miscreants of almost every persuasion.” – Chris Alexander, Fangoria
• “There is a smarter universe out there and Shade may just have inadvertently mapped its manifesto.” – Steven Severin, Siouxsie and the Banshees
• “Nobly horrific. I loved it!” – Ken Russell, director Altered States
Shade Rupe lives in Manhattan and publicizes, assists, and attends film festivals the world over, including Sundance, Toronto, Sitges, and Cannes. His screenplay Fear Factory will be produced in 2011.
ISBN 978-1-900486-69-9 Binding Paperback Size 9.5” x 6.9” x550pp
Market Art/Biography Price $27.95
Illustrated 500 b&w photos and 8 color plates
Publication Dec 8, 2010 Publisher Headpress
Trade distribution: SCB
A book published by HEADPRESS Suite 306, The Colourworks 2a Abbot Street London, E8 3DP, UK


FATES WARNING, CYNIC, WATCHTOWER Members React to ‘Mean Deviation’ Prog Metal History Book

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

React to ‘Mean Deviation’ Prog Metal History Book
Visionaries Praise Author Jeff Wagner’s Debut
Due for release on Dec. 1, former Metal Maniacs editor Jeff Wagner’s highly anticipated ‘MEAN DEVIATION: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal’ (Bazillion Points Books) has already garnered  staggering advance praise from some of the most respected figures in the progressive metal sphere.

Among the first responders:

Steven Wilson (PORCUPINE TREE): “We now have a definitive book on the relationship between metal and progressive music.”

Jim Matheos (FATES WARNING): “Looks cool! I’m looking forward to digging in.”

Ron Jarzombek (WATCHTOWER): “The book is awesome! Damn, talk about work!”

Paul Masvidal (CYNIC): “The book looks and feels fabulous. I can’t wait to dig into this thing. Thank you, Jeff Wagner, for this massive information highway for all things progressive metal”

Kurt Bachman (BELIEVER): “Wow! I can’t wait to read it.”

Glenn Harveston (ProgPower USA Festival): “The book is awesome. I read it in 2 days.”

Albert Mudrian (Decibel Magazine): “I’ve only read through chapter one, and I’m already hooked.”

Weighing in at 400 pages, the heavily-illustrated ‘Mean Deviation’ offers original artwork throughout by Michel “Away” Langevin of VOIVOD, and a foreword by Steven Wilson of PORCUPINE TREE. The package includes a 16-page color photo insert, a constellation of appendixes, and an exhaustive index mapping the story of heady metal with exacting precision.

For more information, and to order immediately, visit: http://www.mean-deviation.com
America’s “smallest but heaviest publisher,” Bazillion Points presents authors of a submerged reputation to a rabid and otherwise overlooked readership over a bazillion points of interest.


Midwest Punks Invade NYC Next Week for TOUCH AND GO Book Events

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Midwest Hardcore Masters Invade NYC for TOUCH AND GO Book Release Events Tesco Vee and Negative Approach to spread some hate (and literacy)
In 1981, a delegation of hardcore punks from Michigan were invited to the set of Saturday Night Live by comedian John Belushi. While the band Fear performed during that week’s broadcast, the uncouth mob of slam-dancers swarmed across the SNL stage, causing a mini-riot and introducing the nation to the DIY music revolution.

Next week, many of those same early Midwest punks – including author Tesco Vee and book cover icon John Brannon of Negative Approach – will return to the East Coast for a slew of events in honor the new book TOUCH AND GO: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine ’79-’83, by Tesco Vee and Dave Stimson. [Bazillion Points].

Dubbed “influential” by the Village Voice, “essential” by the Washington Post Express, and “slapdash, ornery, and entertaining” by PopMatters, the 576-page anthology offers introductions by Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, and other key figures. Time Out Chicago wrote: “As a hardcore punk primer you couldn’t do better.”

Events will erupt as follows, building to a fantastic blowout Saturday Aug. 28 at Santos Party House with Tesco Vee’s Hate Police and Negative Approach. As John Brannon screamed into the live SNL mic for the nation to hear: “Negative Approach is gonna f/ck you up!”

Tuesday, August 24, 12PM – 3PM
WFMU 91.1FM Hardcore History Day on Diane’s Kamikaze Fun Machine
Diane welcomes Ian Christe of Bazillion Points Books, publisher of TOUCH AND GO, and author Tony Rettman of Why Be Something You’re Not: Detroit Hardcore 1979-1985, playing LOTS of Midwest Hardcore! Calling in will be: Tesco Vee (Meatmen frontman and co-author of TOUCH AND GO) and John Brannon of Negative Approach. [wfmu.org]

Tuesday, August 24, 7PM – 10PM
PowerHouse Arena, 37 Main Street, DUMBO, Brooklyn, NY
Ian Christe (publisher of TOUCH AND GO) and Tony Rettman (author of WBSTYN) will discuss both books and screen rare footage of Detroit hardcore shows from the early ’80s. Special guests!

Friday, August 27, 7PM – Philadelphia, PA
READING @ Brickbat Books (709 South 4th Street)
with TOUCH AND GO authors Tesco Vee and Dave Stimson, and editor Steve Miller

Friday, August 28, 9PM – Philadelphia, PA
BOOK RELEASE SHOW @ The North Star Bar (Poplar & N. 27th Street)
Tesco Vee’s Hate Police and Hellmouth

Saturday, August 28, 1PM – NYC
EARLY SHOW @ Generations (210 Thompson Street)
Tesco Vee’s Hate Police

Saturday, August 28, 2PM – NYC
READING @ Generations (210 Thompson Street)
TOUCH AND GO authors Tesco Vee and Dave Stimson, and editor Steve Miller

Saturday, August 28, 4PM – NYC
BOOK RELEASE SHOW @ Santos Party House (96 Lafayette Street)
w/Tesco Vee’s Hate Police, Pissed Jeans, and Negative Approach

Thank you!
For further information, contact bazillion@bazillionpoints.com or visit http://www.touchandgobook.com

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BAZILLION POINTS is America’s smallest but heaviest publisher.