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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HAKEN The Mountain Album Cover The Mountain
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4.51 | 54 ratings
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DREAM THEATER Images and Words Album Cover Images and Words
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4.56 | 21 ratings
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progressive metal Music Reviews

DREAM THEATER Tokyo, Japan - 1995-10-28

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 2004 · Progressive Metal
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martindavey87
‘Tokyo, Japan 10/28/95’ is the second release in Dream Theater’s live series of official bootlegs. Recorded in 1995 (the clue’s in the title!), it shows a fairly young band who, while playing immaculately, are still polishing off and refining their live shows.

With only three studio albums and one EP under their belts at this point, the set list seems fairly limited by today’s standards, especially as the band don’t play anything from their debut, and miss two pretty important tracks from their seminal ‘Images & Words’ album. Still, it’s a look back at the band in their early days, and the set is pretty solid nonetheless. There’s a fair bit of “jamming” added in which does get a little tedious, especially as some of the placements of these sections seem a bit jarring, but again, this is something the band will refine over time.

The sound is okay. The band themselves sound great and everyone is perfectly balanced in the mix. Unfortunately the audience are barely audible, which, considering this is a live album, is a little bit of a shame. Vocalist James LaBrie trying to get the crowd to sing only for the listener to receive near-silence in response is a bit of a letdown.

But otherwise, this is a decent enough release. The performances from all involved are fantastic, including LaBrie, who struggled enough live as it was, even before his infamous food poisoning incident, and there are a few added in extras that make this worth having for fans, such as an acoustic guitar version of piano ballad ‘Wait for Sleep’. While this pales in comparison to the bands later official live albums, it’s still cool to hear them in their earlier days, making this a worthy addition to any fans collection.

QUEENSRŸCHE Promised Land

Album · 1994 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"Promised Land" is the 5th full-length studio album by US power/heavy/progressive metal act Queensrÿche. The album was released through EMI Records in October 1994. Queensrÿche had a relatively lengthy recording break after the release of the multi-platinum selling success of "Empire (1990)", but they returned on "Promised Land" with the same lineup and a new ‌inspired concept.

"Empire (1990)" was a fairly accessible and commercial oriented release, which provided Queensrÿche with great success and worldwide recognition. Following up a release like that was always going be a difficult task (just as it was a daunting task following up the artistic achievement of "Operation: Mindcrime (1988)"), but Queensrÿche took the bold and adventurous path, instead of releasing "Empire (1990)" number two. "Promised Land" is generally a much more progressive and experimental release than it´s predecessor, although progressive in this respect shouldn´t be understood as if the band have now have started playing long instrumental sections or that they focus on odd time signatures. It´s an experiment within the confines of their own sound, and overall they succeed pretty well. Stylistically this is still at it´s core heavy metal/rock with only the occasional progressive metal leaning.

"Promised Land" is a bit of a fragmented release though, featuring quite a few different atmospheres and music styles. Tracks like "Damaged" and "disconnected" are both dark and very heavy songs. The former probably features THE most heavy riff ever on a Queensrÿche release and it´s an absolutely brilliant composition. But then there are also tracks like "Out of Mind", "Bridge", "Lady Jane", and "Someone Else?", which are power ballads (in the case of the latter it´s a pure piano and vocal ballad, and probably the weakest and least interesting track on the album. It´s definitely not a good way to close the album), and tracks like "I Am I" and the title track are of a more experimental nature, both featuring middle eastern music influences, and the latter featuring saxophone. "My Global Mind" and "One More Time" are rather forgettable heavy rock tracks, which don´t stand out much. To my ears the album is frontloaded with the best material, and especially the last three tracks on the album leave you with the impression that the quality has dropped markedly since the high quality opening to the album. For all the greatness of tracks like "Damaged", "Out of Mind", and "Lady Jane", "Promised Land" simply features too many tracks which aren´t remarkable enough.

As always the musicianship are on a high level on all posts. The instrumental work is delivered with great skill and with an adventurous spirit, and Geoff Tate also delivers a strong vocal performance. "Promised Land" features a dark and heavy production job, which suits the material perfectly, so it´s in the songwriting department and overall tracklist flow, that the album doesn´t score perfectly in my book. It´s actually a bit hard to rate an album, which maybe features some of the best material written by Queensrÿche, when said material sits among some of the most lacklustre and uninspired material written by the same artist. Despite these issues I still find "Promised Land" highly recommendable, although I almost always skip around 30% of the album, when I give it a listen (including the way too long intro track "9:28 A.M."). A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

QUEENSRŸCHE Empire

Album · 1990 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"Empire" is the 4th full-length studio album by US power/heavy/progressive metal act Queensrÿche. The album was released through EMI Records in August 1990. It´s Queensrÿche´s most commercially successful release selling 3 million copies (triple Platinum status in those days) and spawning a top 10 Billboard charts hit in "Silent Lucidity". While "Operation: Mindcrime (1988)" was the band´s big breakthrough on the heavy metal scene, "Empire" was their mainstream breakthrough...

...and listening to the album it´s obvious why that is. "Silent Lucidity" is a Pink Floyd influenced power ballad, which resonated well with hard rock audiences in the early 90s, but the rest of the material on the album are also predominantly mainstream oriented heavy rock/metal tracks, which could easily have been played on the radio. Tracks like "Jet City Woman", "Another Rainy Night (Without You)", and "Hand On Heart", are almost ridiculously catchy and obviously aimed at the most heavy rock loving AOR audience. Queensrÿche flirt a little with progressive ideas on "Best I Can" and on "Anybody Listening?", but it´s only an influence and not a dominant trait on the album. Compared to the slightly more hard edged and dark themed predecessor, "Empire" is generally a more light-hearted release, and the only track on the album with a really dark atmosphere and heavy riffs is the title track. Not that tracks like "The Thin Line" and "Della Brown" doesn´t feature serious lyrical subjects and darker moods, but overall "Empire" is a fairly accessible release with a focus on "regular" vers/chorus structures and quite a few lyrics dealing with love and romance.

It´s a polished release with a pretty sterile and clear sounding production, courtesy of Peter Collins, who also produced "Operation: Mindcrime (1988)". The album could have prospered from just a slight organic touch, but it is still arguably a well produced release. As always the musicianship are on a high level on all posts. A tight playing rhythm section, plenty of great guitar work, and a well singing Geoff Tate in front.

Featuring 11 tracks and a full playing time of 63:23 minutes, "Empire" ends up feeling a bit too long for its own good. Many of the tracks feature similar structures and compositional ideas, and not enough of them stand out as particularly remarkable although there of course are some standout tracks like "Silent Lucidity", the title track, "Della Brown", "Best I Can", and "Jet City Woman" (damn that is one catchy chorus). So upon conclusion af 3.5 star (70%) rating isn´t all wrong.

QUEENSRŸCHE Operation: Mindcrime

Album · 1988 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"Operation: Mindcrime" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US power/heavy/progressive metal act Queensrÿche. The album was released through EMI Records in May 1988. It´s the successor to "Rage For Order" from 1986 and as something new in the band´s repetoire at the time, it´s a concept album/rock opera, telling the story of the recovering drug addict/political activist turned brainwashed hitman Nikki, who becomes involved in a revolutionary group lead by the mysterious Dr. X. It´s a story of questionable morality, political corruption, abuse of religious authority, exploitation of the weak, love and murder. While Queensrÿche were already relatively successful before "Operation: Mindcrime", this was the album which turned them into a highly commercially successful act too...

...and it´s obvious why that is when listening to the material on the 15 track, 59:14 minutes long album. There´s so much quality in all departments of "Operation: Mindcrime", that had the album, and the band, not achieved the high degree of the success that it did, it would have been a near crime.

Stylistically the music is US power/heavy metal with the occasional progressive leanings. It´s predominantly the 10:41 minutes long and highly impressive "Suite Sister Mary" (featuring female vocal contributions from Pamela Moore, a choir, and orchestration), which can be applied the progressive metal label, but there are other sporadic moments throughout the album, where that label also apply. Mostly this is US power/heavy metal though, featuring hard rocking riffs, melodic lead guitar work, a powerful and tight playing rhythm section, and one of the most powerful and skilled vocalists of the era in front. There are no words big enough to describe Geoff Tate´s vocal contributions on the album. Not only does he possess a powerful and distinct sounding voice, he is also an incredibly pathos filled singer. His delivery is commanding and every word of the lyrics are performed with conviction and great passion. He is also quite the versatile singer in the respect that he can sing both deep and really high notes with a natural ease.

The album is structured so there are short interlude samples, effects, or narrative attached to many of the "regular" length tracks, and there are also a couple of shorter atmospheric interludes/intros, which function as individual tracks. "Operation: Mindcrime" features many great rockers like "Revolution Calling", "Speak", "Spreading The Disease", and "The Needle Lies", epic tracks like "The Mission" and "Suite Sister Mary", but also more melodic and accessible material like "Breaking the Silence" and "I Don´t Believe in Love". The heavy title track also deserves a mention as one of the highlights of the album. So the material is relatively varied, although there is a clear stylistic thread throughout the album.

"Operation: Mindcrime" was produced by Peter Collins who had recently produced the two Rush albums "Power Windows (1985)" and "Hold Your Fire (1987)", and he has put his audible mark on the sound of the album (especially the drums feature a very characteristic sound). The sound production is powerful and detailed, and considering that it was recorded in 1987 and released in 1988, this is a very well sounding heavy metal release.

So upon conclusion this is a perfect release by Queensrÿche (and to my ears the peak of their career). The concept story works, the songwriting and the tracklist order are varied and keep the listener intrigued throughout, the musicianship is outstanding, and the sound production is professional and brings out the best in the material. There´s not a single sub par moment on the album and a 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.

PSYCHOTIC WALTZ Bleeding

Album · 1996 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"Bleeding" is the 4th and last album in the original run of US, San Diego based progressive metal act Psychotic Waltz. The album was released through Bullet Proof Records in July 1996. It´s the successor to "Mosquito" from 1994 and features one lineup change as original bassist Ward Evans left Psychotic Waltz shortly after the completion of "Mosquito (1994)" and has been replaced here by Phil Cuttino. Although "Bleeding" was a successful release for the band (...underground successful), it was unfortunately the beginning of the end for the band. During the shooting of the promotional video for the track "Faded", an actress who appeared in the video said she was exposed to a light which caused partial blindness, and she subsequently sued the band. During the lengthy legal battle which ensued the band folded. The legal battle was probably the trigger for the split-up of the band, but creative differences had also begun to appear.

But that´s getting ahead of history, as things were still good around the time of writing and recording "Bleeding". Stylistically "Bleeding" continues the more regular vers/chorus formula songwriting approach of "Mosquito (1994)", but it´s ultimately still a very different sounding release to its direct predecessor. While "Mosquito (1994)" was dark and heavy, "Bleeding" is more melodic and bright release (although still mostly featuring a melancholic atmosphere), loaded with memorable soaring vocal melodies. Keyboards were used on all three predecessors to varying degrees, but here they are more dominantly present in the soundscape. Not as a lead instrument, but as an atmosphere enhancer. There´s still an occasional psychadelic touch to the band´s music, but to my ears that element is not as strong as it has previously been, although a track like "Northern Lights", featuring lyrics about smoking weed in Amsterdam and walking around town, of course still point in that direction (as does many of the lyrics on the album).

Scott Burns who produced "Mosquito (1994)" was tapped to engineer "Bleeding", but guitarist Dan Rock is credited for mixing and producing the album (with Woody Barber). As a result the sound production is what I´d characterize as a bit up and down in quality. The drums don´t feature the most pleasent sound and the guitars are sometimes a bit too high in the mix (and the flute solo on "My Grave" is placed too low in the mix)), but overall the album still sounds relatively good.

The material on "Bleeding" are generally well written and catchy, but to my ears the album is frontloaded with the best tracks, while the latter part of the album features most of the less remarkable songs. Highlights are "Faded", "Locust", "Morbid", the title track, and "Northern Lights", the first four of which happen to open the album. The acoustic based power ballad "My Grave", which includes flute playing courtesy of lead vocalist Buddy Lackey, should also be mentioned among the standout tracks on the album, although it´s a bit of a rehash of the ideas used on "I Remember" from "A Social Grace (1990)". Psychotic Waltz are as well playing as ever and Lackey´s voice and vocal style provide the band with a touch of originality. "Bleeding" is not a flawless album and it´s not the band´s strongest album either, but it´s still an original sounding high quality progressive metal album and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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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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