Progressive Metal

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Progressive metal, more commonly know as prog metal, is characterized by genre transgression and instrumental virtuosity. Its signature features are guitar driven songs that have complex time signatures and very intricate playing.

Progressive metal as a genre is associated with acts such as Dream Theater, Fates Warning and Queensrÿche, who had their heyday in the early 1990s, but progressive elements have been fused into metal virtually since the inception of metal. For instance, on their early releases, Black Sabbath would incorporate jazzy passages into their compositions, while also drawing on other genres, and many proto-metal acts also had backgrounds in progressive rock and heavy psychedelic rock. In the early to mid 1980s, some NWoBHM groups, such as Iron Maiden would find direct inspiration in progressive rock acts like Genesis, Yes, and King Crimson and incorporate progressive elements, such as complex song structures, twin guitars and changes in time and tempo into their style, while the cult band Mercyful Fate were known for blatantly disregarding the conventions of composition in popular music, opting for complex and unusual song structures.

So, progressiveness was a part of metal since the inception of the genre, but it was not until the late 1980s and mid 1990s as bands like Watchtower, Fates Warning, Queensrÿche, Psychotic Waltz, and Dream Theater that progressive metal became established as an independent subgenre. These bands would draw both on previously established metal genres, like NWOBHM, and progressive rock acts of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Especially Dream Theater would become iconic of the genre, and their instrumentation, which includes prominent keyboards, became the blueprint for many progressive metal bands to follow. The music that came out was very diverse and even symphonic at times. Not all of it was overly technical, though some bands such as Dream Theater were very technical, while others, like Fates Warning and Watchtower emphasized odd time signature. Psychotic Waltz incorporated psychedelia into their sound, and Queensrÿche began to operate with complex lyrical themes.

After progressive metal had been somewhat popular for some time, it began to take on more extreme forms such as progressive death metal, and so on. Bands such as Edge of Sanity and Atheist took prog metal to greater heights with their infusion of prog and death metal. Atheist also added a jazz/fusion sound to their music to make it true progressive death metal, as did Pestilence on their jazz-influenced Spheres. Also during this time, bands such as Opeth and Voivod changed their style to a more progressive sound. While Voivod changed in the early 1990’s, Opeth became a more progressive metal band in the late 1990’s which was probably an effect of the progressive metal movement that was going on at the time. Some already established metal acts in other genres would similarly cross over into progressive metal territory, such as Savatage, who - although having a background in traditional metal and power metal - released several progressive metal albums. In parallel with the development of progressive extreme metal genres, many power metal acts would take their music in a more progressive direction, resulting in the subgenre of progressive power metal (which is included under power metal here at the MMA) some of which, like Kamelot and Savatage, would eventually become fully fledged progressive metal acts.

Most bands in the progressive metal genre have their own unique style; whether it is more spacey, more symphonic, or more technical while others follow the Dream Theater configuration to a smaller or greater extent (these are sometimes referred to as 'traditional progressive metal' bands), but they all have an equal balance between the influences. Over the years progressive metal has gained the title of having longer songs then regular metal, and while this is mostly true, it isn’t always.

These bands are here because they are different, in a sense, than regular metal bands because they not only include metal but different genres as well, such as jazz/fusion, prog rock, and classical music, and put them all together to make an enjoyable sound. Bands and releases who include progressive elements in their music, but whose central sound is more firmly anchored in another genre are placed in that genre - for instance, Enslaved, whose style is progressive and experimental but still quite firmly based in their black metal roots, are placed in the black metal category, while mathcore and progressive metalcore bands are placed in metalcore.

Sub-genre collaborators (shared with Avant-Garde Metal):
  • siLLy puPPy
  • DippoMagoo
  • Sisslith
  • adg211288

progressive metal top albums

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AYREON The Source Album Cover The Source
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4.68 | 19 ratings
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HAKEN The Mountain Album Cover The Mountain
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DREAM THEATER Images and Words Album Cover Images and Words
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4.39 | 218 ratings
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4.56 | 21 ratings
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progressive metal Music Reviews

PERSEFONE Truth Inside the Shades

Album · 2004 · Progressive Metal
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siLLy puPPy
When it comes to nations of the world that have produced some great metal bands, the tiny little nation of Andorra sandwiched between Spain and France doesn’t exactly come to mind but as the odometer moved on to the 21st century, this tiny forgotten principality high up in the Pyrenees Mountains finally got a bit of attention in 2001 when one of its best musical exports hit the scene. Named after the daughter of the mythological Greek goddess Demeter, PERSEFONE expanded past its origins in this nation’s capital city Andorra la Vella and took the international metal world by storm.

While this band has gone through a few lineup changes over the years, it all began with the founding members of Carlos Lozano (guitar), Jordi Gorgues (guitar), Toni Mestre (bass) and Xavi Pérez (drums) who started as a cover band and slowly gained the confidence to craft their own musical visions. The four members worked hard and long on this first album TRUTH INSIDE THE SHADES and after adding two more members, Aleix Dorca (Drums) and Marc Martins (lead vocals), found the perfect chemistry to finish off this debut album and unleash it on an unsuspecting planet. The band experienced instant feedback as the album was a surprise hit at least in terms of the metal underground which has led to a two decade career that has found many slots at various festivals across the European continent.

TRUTH INSIDE THE SHADES actually started off as a demo but after months of crafting new tunes, PERSEFONE found it had enough decent material for a bonafide official full-length release. The style of PERSEFONE is quite diverse and is usually described as a progressive death metal band but those tags only take you so far. It is indeed a progressive metal band that stitches together myriad elements including Chopin-esque piano rolls, symphonic touches, complex Opeth inspired compositional flow and a plethora of time signature deviations, tempo changes and abrupt hairpin turns from aggressive brutality to placid atmospheric contemplation. While guitar riffs rampage, symphonic prog inspired keyboard runs are just as prevalent. Neo-classical guitar shredding sits side by side with black metal screams and death metal growls.

While considered the most underdeveloped of the PERSEFONE canon, TRUTH INSIDE THE SHADES certainly debuted with a bang. While the tracks often begin with classical piano and keyboard melodies, the musical procession offers twists and turns that fuse the elements of power metal, death metal, neoclassical shredding and even elements of black metal in the vein of Cradle of Filth. There are the expected blastbeats, double bass banging and chugging riffage of metal madness but there are also clean melodic moments with clean vocals that offer a glimpse of a true progressive metal album delving into the mellower aspects of progressive rock. The tracks come off as epic with lengthy journeys of musical processions that take on disparate characteristics that at times even mimic operas especially with some of the brief choral vocal moments.

PERSEFONE would go on to craft even more adventurous albums with the following “Core” sending shockwaves into the prog metal community but for a first time effort this debut is not slouch however some of the keyboards do come off as a bit cheesy and there is something missing to the overall effect that really makes this a top notch release but after all is said and done, TRUTH INSIDE THE SHADES delivers an excellent mix of stylistic approaches coupled with outstanding instrumental interplay. The guitar playing is particularly impressive with Jordi Gorgues Mateu displaying some impressively rapid fire shots of shredding. The musical flow runs the gamut of soft and heavenly to hellish and chaotic. Andorra is one of the oldest nations in Europe having been formed in 1278 but finally in the 21st century the tiny microstate at long last had produced a musical artist that put it on the map!

FARMAKON Robin

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"Robin" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Finnish, Tampere based progressive death metal act Farmakon. The album was released through Four Seasons in February 2007. It´s the successor to "A Warm Glimpse" from 2003 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as drummer Riku Airisto has been replaced by Matti Auerkallio. Farmakon formed in 2001 and disbanded in 2010, releasing two demos, one single, and two full-length studio albums in that period.

Right off the bat on opening track "Time-Tables" the strong Opeth influence of "A Warm Glimpse (2003)" is again clearly heard. So this is a continuation of the progressive death metal sound of the predecessor, featuring heavy riffs, intriguing melodic leads and solos, acoustic breaks, and both growling and clean male vocals (and some higher pitched screaming vocals too). Although Farmakon are at times close to being Opeth clones, they do have a lot of ideas of their own. There is an occasional tecnical death/thrash metal edge to their music and also a slight nod towards fusion in the way the drums are played, which the more famous Swedes don´t have in their music. "A Warm Glimpse (2003)" featured some odd musical ideas and sections with elements from funk, blues, and fusion/jazz, but "Robin" is a less eclectic release, and to my ears that´s a good thing, as many of the quirky musical ideas of the predecessor made it an uneven and in some ways unsatisfying listen. Farmakon have obviously come to the same conclusion and "Robin" is a stylistically consistent release, and when the band do decide to step outside their core sound, the experiments work relatively well (at least better than they did on the debut album).

The quality of the material is also relatively high throughout and "Robin" features a heavy, dark, and well sounding production too. Add to that high level musicianship (the clean vocals have improved greatly since the predecessor and they are fewer here too), and "Robin" is upon conclusion a good quality progressive death metal release. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

FARMAKON A Warm Glimpse

Album · 2003 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"A Warm Glimpse" is the debut full-length studio album by Finnish, Tampere based progressive death metal act Farmakon. The album was released through Earache Records in October 2003. Farmakon formed in 2001 and disbanded in 2010, releasing two demos, one single, and two full-length studio albums in that period.

Stylistically the material on "A Warm Glimpse" is progressive death metal featuring heavy riffs, intriguing melodic leads and solos, acoustic breaks, and both growling and clean male vocals. There are occasional journeys into technical death/thrash territory and also the odd fusion/jazz section thrown in. Other than the last two mentioned elements the music on "A Warm Glimpse" sounds a lot like Opeth sounded around the turn of the millenium. Lead vocalist/bassist Marko Eskola has a voice and growling vocal style which is very similar to how Mikael Åkerfeldt sounds, and that doesn´t exactly lessen the Opeth comparisons. Eskola´s clean vocals aren´t up to par though, and while they work on some parts of the album, they are slightly cringe worthy at other times.

The quality of the material is a bit up and down. Sometimes Farmakon produce some really effectful, heavy, and atmospheric progressive death metal, but their experiments with funk, fusion/jazz, blues, and other genres don´t always work that well within their overall progressive death metal sound. Sure the listener is kept on his/her toes throughout the duration of the album, and you never really know what´s lurking around the corner, but I end up with the feeling that "A Warm Glimpse" would have been a much better album, had Farmakon focused a bit more on a more conscise songwriting and less on odd musical ideas.

"A Warm Glimpse" is a well produced album, and every instrument and vocal part is heard clearly in the mix. I have to give a special mention to the drum sound, which to my ears is quite brillant. That snare drum sound is just killer. Farmakon are a very well playing band too, and in many ways "A Warm Glimpse" is a high quality progressive metal album. The slightly questionable clean vocals and songwriting which sticks in every direction do dampen my excitement over the album some though. A more open minded listener may find the many odd musical experiments more suiting to the music than I do, but ultimately I find the album more interesting from a musicians point on view than an overall great listening experience. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is still deserved though.

EFFLORESCE Coma Ghosts

Album · 2012 · Progressive Metal
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Kev Rowland
I am very used to being late to the party, especially with living at the end of the world, so I have only just come across this album which was released in 2012. It was the debut album from German band Effloresce, following on from a 3-track EP and according to their website it was very well received at the time, even being voted best progressive metal album of 2012 by some. But their site has not been updated since 2016, although I have tracked down singer Nicki Weber and found a post from 2018 where she says the band will still do a second album, so there may be hope yet. Hope? Yep, I want to hear more from these guys as unlike many bands within the spectrum who either embrace metal so hard they forget the prog, or vice versa, these guys have a strong grip on both sides of the spectrum moving along the scale as it suits them.

This means we can get numbers which are quite neo prog in many ways, except often with more metallic drumming, and then we can go into full on metallic-style prog with the band fully firing. Then at the front there is Nicki, who often sings like an angel but can also growl when she needs to, immediately making me think of Angela Gossow. There are times when they remind me somewhat of Lacuna Coil, which did make me wonder if the album title is a tip of the hat to the 2002 album ‘Comalies’, and like them they have a very diverse approach to the job at hand. The sound and production are superb, but one would expect nothing less seeing as how the mighty Dan Swanö mixed and mastered the release. It is polished, interesting throughout with plenty of movement and change in the overall approach, by a band who are skilled and a great singer. It never sounds like a debut by an unknown band but instead by one who has been around for years and are at the top of their game. Why they have not been picked up by a label such as Nuclear Blast is something of a surprise, and one can only hope the second album is still a possibility, as this is a band with a lot to offer.

PSYCHOTIC WALTZ The God-Shaped Void

Album · 2020 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"The God-Shaped Void" is the 5th full-length studio album by US, San Diego based progressive metal act Psychotic Waltz. The album was released through InsideOut Music in February 2020. Psychotic Waltz folded after touring in support of "Bleeding" from 1996, as a consequence of a law suit from an actress who appearing in the promotional video for the track "Faded" who said she was exposed to a light during the shooting of the video which caused partial blindness. Psychotic Waltz reunited in 2010 to play some shows, and slowly the idea to record a new album began. Rumours of the writing and recording of the album have circulated for years, but now "The God-Shaped Void" is finally here.

Psychotic Waltz were never a major player on the progressive metal scene and didn´t accomplish much commercial succes in their early- mid 90s heyday, but they had a strong underground following (especially in Europe), which were quite dedicated fans (including myself). Psychotic Waltz stuck out because of their psychadelic tinged take on the progressive metal genre and their relatively original music style, which initially was rooted in US power metal and traditional heavy metal acts like Fates Warning, Queensrÿche, and Iron Maiden, but also incorporated the more complex structures and technical playing of artists like Watchtower and Realm. Their love for 70s progressive rock and hard rock/heavy metal was also audible on the albums from their original run.

"The God-Shaped Void" is the sound of Psychotic Waltz, but in a sligthly more mature and formulaic version. Heavy riffs, mid-paced tempos and grooves, harmony leads and blistering solos, and Devon Graves (yeah that´s the one who used to be called Buddy Lackey) distinct sounding voice on top. Atmospheric keyboards are also a big part of the soundscape (and the flute is used on "Pull the String" and "Demystified"). In other words it´s a natural progression from the sound on "Bleeding (1996)", but featuring a darker and heavier production job, closer to the sound found on "Mosquito (1994)". Using the word formulaic above pertains to the song structures more than the compositional details, as most tracks on "The God-Shaped Void" are built over the tried and true vers/chorus skeleton. Again this is no surprise given the direction the band were heading in before their untimely break-up. So don´t expect this to sound much like the first two albums by Psychotic Waltz.

While all tracks are well written, and don´t take more than a few spins to be able to hum along to, I miss the anarchistic songwriting of the first two albums, and the high pitched ornamented vocal melodies, that characterized those two albums (listen to the incredibly dull vers melody on "Pull the String" and then think back on some of the technically crazy vocal melodies on the old albums. There´s really no competition is there?), but then again I missed those elements on "Mosquito (1994)" and "Bleeding (1996)" too, so I´m probably just one of those annoying old-school fans, who thinks everything was better in the old days...

...well I also miss changes in pace and being surprised by something on "The God-Shaped Void". Don´t get me wrong, this is a quality release on almost every measurable parameter (professional sound production, high level musical performances, solid songwriting: check, check, check) and sometimes the heavy riffs and the epic atmospheres ignite excitement in me (take a listen to the intro or the middle section to "While The Spiders Spin" for some truly epic moments, or listen to the closing track "In the Silence"), but overall it´s all a little too safe and predictable. I´m a little conflicted here, but a 3.5 (70%) rating isn´t all wrong.

progressive metal movie reviews

DREAM THEATER Breaking The Fourth Wall

Movie · 2014 · Progressive Metal
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rdtprog
It seems like it was just yesterday that the Luna Park DVD was released. Now it's another one from the Boston Opera House less than a year later. The show is divided in three acts. The first act is tracks from the last two albums and the song "A Trial of Tears" from "Falling to Infinity". The second act is 5 songs from the "Awake" album to celebrate his 20th anniversary and the third act is the encore celebrating again "Scene from a Memory" with his 15th anniversary. On those 2 albums, the band use the same pattern by starting to play the technical, fast and heavy songs like "The Mirror", "Lie", "Overture 1928" and "Strange Déjà Vu" and finishing with the slower and emotional songs like "Lifting Shadows Off A Dream", "Space Dye Vest" and "Finally Free".

"The Illumination Theory", the most progressive and the epic song of the last album is played with an orchestra in the second act which is the perfect fit with this song that contains an irresistible classical break in the middle. The picture is crystal clear and the camera work more satisfying than the "Luna Park" DVD. As for the sound, I had to crank up the volume very high to get the full sound. Again, I wish we could hear John Myung louder, but that's what happens on live recording, it rarely match the sound quality of a studio release. James Labrie's voice is in nice shape as well as all others members. It's another nice addition to your Dream Theater collection. 3. 8 stars.

DREAM THEATER Dream Theater - Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour Live with the Octavarium Orchestra

Movie · 2006 · Progressive Metal
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AtomicCrimsonRush
I always look forward to putting this DVD on as I know I am going to get the best of both worlds; symphonic orchestrated music and full on Dream Theater prog. I agree with some reviewers that the setlist is not exactly mind blowing but it nevertheless spans the 5 year history. It is interesting the way the orchestra blends into the metal sound, similar to the Metallica S&M concert, or indeed Kiss Alive IV. It is always of interest when metal meets symphony. The DVD "Score" is very well produced, sharp editing throughout and excellent sound quality. There is nothing wrong with the visuals at all, with the band members sharing the spotlight, but the problem lies in the setlist itself. There are too many omissions and some opportunities wasted in the early part of the concert.

It opens with some deadset oddities such as The root of all evil, I walk beside you, Another won and Afterlife. It isn't until Under A Glass Moon that it really takes off showing the power of that brilliant track and Petrucci's amazing guitar solo. Later we are treated with The spirit carries on and the entire suite of Six degrees of inner turbulence; absolutely flawless and indispensable on the live stage. After an ovation the band belt out Vacant, The answer lies within, Sacrificed Sons and the masterpiece epic Octavarium that is quintessential to the band. The Encore: Metropolis Pt. 1 is a brilliant way of ending the concert to a rapturous crowd.

Disc 2 is packed with some hit and miss Bonus material including a mammoth 20th Anniversary Documentary, that has some fascinating info on the band and the way that not everything goes to plan on a tour. Portnoy has too much to say and now it is a bitter taste now he has scarpered and been replaced. The Octavarium Animation is terrific, and the live performances are always a treat including Another Day (Tokyo - 1993), The Great Debate (Bucharest, Romania - 2002) and Honor Thy Father (Chicago - 2005).

The DVD comes with high recommendations due to the visual quality, and overall package. Ignore the early part of the set and just enjoy DT at their absolute best in the middle half of the concert accompanied by masterful orchestration. A must for all DT fans and one of the best DT DVDs available to this point in time.

DREAM THEATER Live at Budokan

Movie · 2004 · Progressive Metal
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AtomicCrimsonRush
One of the first DVDs I saw of Dream Theater before the onslaught of DVDs that have come since. This is an early performance and of considerable interest as a result. These were the glory days of Dream Theater ramming prog down the throats of the hungry Budokan fans. It is an incredible performance best seen than heard though the audio experience offers much as a type of Dream Theater concoction of the best of the earlier years. The CD is good listening but the visual persentation is incredible. There are a few odd surprises scattered in the mammoth set list but the classics are here and played to perfection. Beyond This Life is a huge epic clocking 19:37, and with some dynamic lead guitar from Petrucci. The Test That Stumped Them All is always a killer track live and sounds fresh and powerful with huge bass runs of Myung and Portnoy's slamming percussion.

Endless Sacrifice is an 11 minute gruelling journey into prog excess with a wild keyboard section from Rudess. The Instrumedley to follow features some awesome musicianship. LaBrie is in fine form on soaring vocals, and shines on such compositions as the 14 minute Trial Of Tears and New Millennium. It is always a pleasure to experience a Jordan Rudess keyboard solo and it is as inventive here as ever. There are some amazing songs such as Solitary Shell, Stream Of Consciousness and quintessential Pull Me Under. The set closes with epic 16 minute In The Name Of God. So overall this is a great set with power metal and tons of instrumental breaks. It is progressive and packed to the gills with mind bending virtuoso solos and material from some of their best albums. It was the "Train of Thought" tour so there is plenty from that album as well as "Six Degrees" and "Images and Words" among others.

The special features are wonderful featuring 'Riding The Train Of Thought" a Japanese Tour Documentary of about half an hour, and John Petrucci Guitar World segment, Jordan Rudess Keyboard World, and a Mike Portnoy Drum Solo clocking 12 minutes. The Dream Theater Chronicles - 2004 Tour Opening Video is okay showing the video the crowd saw in the opening, and Instrumedley with multi-angles is lots of fun. Overall it is a fantastic DVD concert, and all Dream Theater fans must have it.

DREAM THEATER Metropolis 2000: Scenes from New York

Movie · 2001 · Progressive Metal
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Dellinger
Since this DVD is a live interpretation from the studio album of the same name, and the source material is great, of course the concert is also a great experience. Of course, having the plus of seeing the band perform is a great advantage for this release, specially given that watching this guys play is a great experience. However, one big disapointment from this release is that it misses many other songs that are included on the CD release of this live album, which I really wanted to see them perform. The performance of the songs is really great, with everyone in fine form... except perhaps LaBrie who at times can't keep to his studio performance. My favourite songs are "Overture 1928 / Strange Deja Vu", "Fatal Tragedy", "Home" and "Finally Free". Now, the video from this concert has many acted scenes from the story inserted throughout the performance, which is kind of nice for it helps to keep track of the story... however, on "Fianally Free", this scenes got extra annoying, and blocked the performance of the band throughout the whole murder part, which is perhaps one of the strongest parts of the album and one I would have loved to see them performing (well, at least the second time they play a very similar section near the end of the song we can actually see the band playing it, but still it is annoying). "Beyond this Life", is also a very cool song, specially at the beginning, but then it kind of drags on and loses some of it's spark. "The Dance of Eternity", however, is one song I still can't get into, just a bit too messy and full of fast and technical playing just for the sake of it.

On the other hand, what usually draggs this bands albums are their ballads. The one ballad I actually liked on the studio album was "One Last Time", though something kind of doesn't work so well on this release... I guess it's the vocals and backing vocals, which are kind of weaker here. However, "Through her eyes" and "The Spirit Carries On", are really upgraded here, with extra vocals from Theresa Thompson and gorgeous guitars from Petrucci.

From the extra songs, I was never a big fan of the "Mind Beside Itself" set of songs, but "Learning to Live" and "A Change of Seasons" are both among my favourite DT songs, and having them on video here is a great thing.

TOOL Vicarious

Movie · 2007 · Progressive Metal
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Earendil
Many descriptions and reviews on the internet are misleading about the content of this Vicarious DVD, and for that reason I didn't purchase it until recently. What a mistake to wait! This DVD is essential for any Tool fan and an excellent find for anyone who likes the surreal, psychedelic, and strange. The main feature of the DVD is the Vicarious short film, which is Tool's first completely CGI video. Adam Jones and Alex Grey are the two main artists behind the video, and it's a really cool experience to see their ideas merge. Anyways here are the full DVD contents:

1. Vicarious music video (9 minutes)

2. 2 overdubs of the music video with actor/comedian David Cross making hilarious commentary (18 minutes)

3. Vicarious documentary (40 minutes)

4. Footage of the storyboards from Alex Grey and Adam Jones (1 minute)

5. Footage of Alex's art gallery COSM and him talking about it (4 minutes)

Rating: 8/10

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