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Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal Paperback – December 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


“Mean Deviation zeroes in on heavy metal’s more cerebral, challenging, and even geeky side.”—Ghetto Blaster

“Fans of prog metal would be wise to learn more about Mean Deviation…”—Guitar World

“A focused, well-organized narrative from the combined musical output of over 40 years and scores of bands from across the globe…excess comes with the territory.”—Library Journal

“Jeff goes deep into this much maligned music form and presents it with fervor”—Vice

“An extremely fluent read…sits high on the list of canonical metal texts”—PopMatters

“An expertly researched love letter to the largely misunderstood and often maligned progressive metal scene”—AOL Noisecreep, Holiday Gift List

“An impressive historical work”—Chromatique [9/10 review]

“What a massive undertaking… knowledge, passion, skills, and class… this book should be required reading for any metal follower.”— [9.5/10 review]

“Mean Deviation is an amazing compendium of everything weird in the world of metal—a book as grand and unlikely as the music it documents.”—

“The book looks and feels fabulous. Thank you, Jeff Wagner, for this massive information highway for all things progressive metal.”—Paul Masvidal, Cynic/Death

“The book is awesome. I read it in two days.”—Glenn Harveston, ProgPower USA

“Looks cool! I’m looking forward to digging in.”—Jim Matheos, Fates Warning

“This goes beyond being well-informed…kudos for great work!”—Vorph, Samael

“We now have a definitive book on the relationship between metal and progressive music.”—Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree

“Another winner from the folks at Bazillion Points!”—Sea of Tranquility [4.5/5 stars]

“An invaluable compendium”—

“Mean Deviation is a comprehensive history of the genre that fans will enjoy, and future music scholars will use as an essential reference guide.”—Aboutcom

“Jeff Wagner nailed it…another triumph for Bazillion Points”—Metal, 4.5/5 review

“With great passion and attention to detail…a colorful read… an impressive achievement”—Joel McIver, Record Collector

“Breathtaking… pick it up and get lost in another dimension”—Terrorizer

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bazillion Points (December 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979616336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979616334
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,201,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeff Wagner is a music connoisseur and metal historian, and a former editor of Metal Maniacs magazine. He has penned incisive liner notes for releases by Emperor, Possessed, Dark Angel, Confessor and others. A music industry professional since 1994 and a lifelong music obsessive, Wagner lives for what he writes about and writes about what he lives.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Snorkapotamus on April 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
Before I review "Mean Deviaton: Four Decades of Progressive Metal," I have two disclaimers: First, metal has always frightened me. Second, the author Jeff Wagner is a friend of mine.

Accordingly, I opened the cover of Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Metal like a polite dinner guest forks up something fishy and gelatinous.

From the prologue, where he describes the evolution of "sex and violence" to "sax and violins," I relaxed and knew I was in for a treat. Soon I was munching away on old faves like King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Yes, Rush and old Genesis, which I was delighted to learn provided the foundation for decades of prog metal to come.

Jeff serves up rich portions. As a metal neophyte I could digest only a few pages at a time. It didn't take long, though, to get hungry again, and a day didn't pass where I didn't enjoy at least a taste of Mean Deviation.

One day when I was about halfway through the book Jeff and I were in the car somewhere and the name Ron Jarzombek popped into my head. Ron Jarzombek, of course, has played an instrumental role in the history of progressive metal, and appears frequently in the book. I mentioned to Jeff that I was waking up to the name Ron Jarzombek and thinking through the day Jarzombek this and Jarzombek that, saying things like "Honey would you pass the Jarzombek" and "Ow, I Jarzombeked my toe." Jeff chuckled and said, "That's funny. I'll have to tell him that."

This blew my mind, because reading Mean Deviation I assumed that Jeff had gotten most of his quotes and data from magazine articles or the internet or something. In fact (as he clarifies in small print about 10 pages from the end of the book) he interviewed all these prog gods personally.

He knows the people.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Justin G. TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
With Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal, former Metal Maniacs editor Jeff Wagner has penned the definitive analysis of progressive heavy metal in all its myriad forms. Starting with a look at early progressive artists like King Crimson, Black Sabbath and especially Rush, Wagner takes readers on a journey of progression that has some unexpected detours. Obviously, attention is paid to "the big three" of Fates Warning, Queensryche and Dream Theater, but equal emphasis is placed on the influential early works of Celtic Frost and Voivod. Wagner also devotes chapters to Watchtower's early "math metal," progressive thrash, innovations in the early Florida death metal scene, progression in the Swedish death metal scene, avant-garde Norwegian black metal offshoots, the Japanese progressive scene, the ProgPower and NEARfest events, and just about any kind of heavy metal where boundaries are being pushed to new extremes.

King Crimson, Black Sabbath, Rush, Fates Warning, Dream Theater, Queensryche, Celtic Frost, Voivod, Watchtower, Sieges Even, Anacrusis, Believer, Atheist, Death, Cynic, Borknagar, Arcturus, Sigh, Diablo Swing Orchestra, Therion, Pain of Salvation, Devin Townsend and Opeth are but a sampling of the bands Wagner covers in Mean Deviation, and for every band you're already familiar with, it seems like there's at least one you haven't yet discovered.

Taking a potentially controversial stand, Wagner makes it clear that there's a LOT more to progressive metal than Dream Theater worship. This is probably Mean Deviation's "line in the sand." We all know that there are scores of bands who are essentially playing music in the Dream Theater mold.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joe Henzler on March 31, 2011
Format: Paperback
Having known the author for a few years, I was eager to dive into this book. Beginning with the pioneering acts of Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, Rush and many others, Jeff Wagner begins the journey of progressive, and Progressive metal. Being a big fan of Rush, I knew this book would be very enlightening. Having never really plumbed the depths of King Crimson, or fully listened to the vast catalogs of Yes and Genesis, I prepared myself to explore a family tree that would reveal a whole new world of music.

As a metal fan at heart, I really appreciated learning about so many different bands, artists, genres and sub-genres that exist in the world of progressive music and heavy metal. The book is eye-opening in the fact that aside from the early groundwork, so many bands have contributed to the evolution of the music we all love. Even the mighty Black Sabbath were part of the progressive movement of heavy metal. The author covers a lot of time and focuses on core groups of bands and time frames and even countries that have been driving forces behind progressive heavy metal.

I had heard of the band Watchtower, but never knew how much they influenced others. I had listened to Celtic Frost in 1986, but even though I was not into that type of music at the time, this book makes any metal fan appreciate the progressive metal that was evolving at the time. That is the real beauty of this book. Jeff Wagner takes you back in time, and makes you remember things like: Yeah, I remember them, that album cover was totally cool, they had a video, I used to have that album on cassette or even vinyl! As a DJ at my college radio station, a metal show of course, I got exposed to some of the music the author covers.
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