Between A Rock And A Prog Place: SCULPTURED’s DON ANDERSON On New Album - “I’m Pretty Comfortable With Progressive Metal”
August 6, 2021, 2 months ago
What truly is progressive music? Each month BraveWords will aim to dissect that answer with a thorough overview of the current musical climate that is the prog world. Old and new, borrowed and blue. A musical community without borders. So watch for a steady and spaced-out array of features, current news and a buyer’s guide checklist to enhance the forward-thinking musical mind. So, welcome to BraveWords' monthly column appropriately titled, Between A Rock In A Prog Place.
In this month’s column, Sculptured leader Don Anderson discusses his band’s return with their fourth full-length overall on August 27th (and first in thirteen years, due to Don’s work with the now-defunct Agalloch taking up most of his time), The Liminal Phase, as well as his thoughts on both prog rock and prog metal.
Do you consider Sculptured a prog band?
“I would say that I am comfortable with the term ‘prog metal.’ Although I don’t really listen to a lot of prog metal. I prefer progressive rock – I think there is a real difference. I certainly don’t call myself progressive rock, but I’m heavily influenced by progressive rock. But mostly influenced by death metal. So I couldn’t help but write something a bit harder edged and influenced by metal. I’m pretty comfortable with progressive metal.”
You just said there was a ‘real difference’ between progressive rock and progressive metal.
“What I like about progressive rock is that on a smaller level, the guitar tones aren’t very overdriven. They’re not overly crunchy. I listen mostly to progressive rock from the golden age of the ‘70s, so it’s hard not to think about the production – the sounds of Hammond organs and Mellotrons, and just the sound of a band playing without any digital or modern recording equipment. So, to me, that just sounds really different. I really prefer the sound of a band where it’s not about extremity or overdriven guitars – everything sits more like a kind of chamber ensemble. I think contemporary prog bands do this very well. A band a listen to a lot is Wobbler – a current Scandinavian band. Their last record, Dwellers of the Deep, is phenomenal. So, to me that’s the big distinction – progressive rock isn’t about the aggression…or even the technicality of a band like Dream Theater or Fates Warning. Or even the more progressive death metal stuff.”
You mentioned some bands. Who are some of your favorite prog metallists and prog rockers?
“Prog metal, it’s hard not to not mark Dream Theater as a tremendous influence on me. When I first heard ‘Pull Me Under,’ I was one of those young kids that was getting into death metal, but seeing James LaBrie wearing a Napalm Death shirt, I was like, ‘What the fuck?!’ Everything about that song, ‘Pull Me Under’ – it was heavy, of course Petrucci is a phenomenal guitarist. It was actually the track ‘Another Day’ off of Images and Words that encouraged me to try the trumpet – just because I was tired of guitar solos. That’s the whole reason why I was like, ‘Well, the studio owner plays trumpet…so I’ll just have him jump in and do a solo.’ That’s definitely very much a Dream Theater influence. But that’s about it – I don’t listen to a lot of progressive metal. My favorite progressive rock stuff is the Italian stuff of the ‘70s – La Locanda delle Fate, Museo Rosenbach, Semiramis. And of course, King Crimson is probably my favorite of the British scene – definitely with the atonality and the more dissonant guitar riffs of Robert Fripp. I also loved the French stuff – not just Magma, but also the other Magma-inspired bands. And the Rock in Opposition stuff – Henry Cow, Univers Zero, and Present. The French scene, too – the non-Magma bands, like Dün, Eskaton, and Shub-Niggurath are big influences. I just love that atonal/jarring stuff. To me, that’s heavy. That’s also what progressive rock is – it’s heavy, because sometimes it’s just really hard on the ears. And that was a huge influence in how I like to use dissonance and atonality in my music.”
What is the meaning behind the new album’s title, The Liminal Phase?
“I was a graduate student in an English department. And you can’t get out of the English department without having read the philosopher, Jacques Derrida. I was heavily into his work and the whole idea of deconstruction – not being one thing and not being another, but being something in between, that contains both its positive and its negation. And I’ve always been intrigued by the in-between-ness and the grey area. Most of the songs reference kind of in-between-ness. The term ‘ordeal of undecidability’ comes from a book on Derrida and deconstruction. And that’s what the title really tries to capture – is the idea of not being one thing or another, but being in-between and hard to define.”
What is the trickiest Sculptured tune?
“The hardest song…on the new record, it would have to be ‘State of Exception.’ It was a little more technical, crazy changes. And then I would say next to that would be ‘Bodies Without Organs’ off Embodiment. That’s one of the hardest songs I’ve written. It’s mostly Matrix serialism, and very, very atonal. Kind of a mess.” [Laughs]
Between A Rock And A Prog Place News Blast
Prog legends King Crimson are in the midst of their Music Is Our Friend 2021 tour – including dates in the US and Japan. Tickets can be obtained here. Swedish extreme tech-metallists Meshuggah recently announced a 2022 headlining tour, which will hit the US from February 23-March 20, and will feature special guests Converge and Torche. Tickets are already on sale and can indeed be purchased.
Canadian cellist and composer Raphael Weinroth-Browne has issued a live version of his solo debut Worlds Within, entitled Worlds Within Live. Hear/see the man discuss the story behind the album here. Classical metal collective Lost Symphony recently issued their third album overall, Chapter III, and have revealed a new video for the album’s “My Last Goodbye,” featuring a performance from the late All That Remains guitarist Oli Herbert.
Marillion recently issued a live album and DVD, With Friends at St. David’s, which was recorded in Cardiff in November 2019 and features the band joined on stage by a string section. A rendition of the tune ‘Seasons End’ can be viewed/heard here. Original Kansas violinist Robby Steinhardt passed away on July 17 at the age of 71 in Tampa, Florida, from complications of acute pancreatitis. Steinhardt was a member of the band from 1973-1982 and 1997-2006, and appeared on such classic Kansas albums as Leftoverture and Point of Know Return, and was featured prominently on the classic tune "Dust in the Wind."
Described as combining “progressive stoner rock with doom, folk and psychedelic rock influences,” the Swedish five-piece Gaupa recently announced they have signed with Nuclear Blast Records, and have issued a video for their tune, “Mjölksyra.” Seven Spires will be returning on September 10th with their third album overall, Gods of Debauchery, for which a new video for the song ‘Lightbringer’ (featuring Casey Lee Williams) can be viewed here.
Canadian proggers The Wring recently issued the album The Wring² Project Cipher, which features guests Marc Bonilla (Keith Emerson Band, California Transit Authority, Glenn Hughes), Bryan Beller (Joe Satriani, The Aristocrats, Dethklok, Steve Vai), and Thomas Lang (Robert Fripp, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Williams), among others. Want a sample? You got it! Finnish symphonic metallists Nightwish have issued the tune "Nemo (Virtual World Version)" exclusively through Amazon Music, and can be purchased here.
Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett will be releasing his latest solo album, Surrender of Silence, on September 10, and a ‘visualizer video’ for the album’s second single, ‘Fox’s Tango,’ can already be viewed. And speaking of Genesis, Mr. Collins, Mr. Banks, and Mr. Rutherford will be releasing a 4-LP or 2-CD compilation on September 17, The Last Domino?, which will coincide with the band’s autumn tour, and can be purchased here.
August New Albums
August 6, 2021:
Frequency Drift – Of Lost Illusion
August 20, 2021:
The Osris Club – The Green Chapel
Kyros – Recover
August 27, 2021:
Neal Morse Band – Innocence & Danger
Leprous – Aphelion
Who the heck knew that prog metallists Watchtower had issued a video for their song “The Eldritch,” off their 1989 classic, Control and Resistance? Well…now we know! Shame on MTV’s Headbangers Ball for not showing this clip repeatedly at the time (guess they couldn’t find some space between all their go-to Great White, Poison, and Warrant videos?).
(Top photo by: Veleda Thorrson)