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Original Fates Warning lineup performs entire “Awaken the Guardian” album at 2016 ProgPower Fest (video)

The original line-up of Fates Warning performed the entire “Awaken the Guardian” album last week at the ProgPower USA fest in Atlanta.

Although “Awaken the Guardian” was released in the 1980s — and although the band has been recording acclaimed prog metal albums in the decades since — progressive metal people who heard “Guardian” have long held that the album was truly something special.

I consider “Awaken the Guardian” one of my “essential albums.” If you’re curious, or just are looking to kill some time, you can find my review of the album here.

So it’s awesome to see the “Guardian” era band — John Arch (vocals), Jim Matheos (guitar), Frank Aresti (guitar), Joe DiBiase (bass) and Steve Zimmerman (drums) performing together once again. Arch, in particular, retired from music for the most part, except for a couple of pairings with Matheos — particularly the excellent Arch/Matheos album “Sympathetic Resonance” in 2011.

Norrsken Photography videotaped the entire 90 minute set, which includes every note of “Guardian” and several Arch-era Fates tracks. Here’s the set. Enjoy.

Man jailed for posting Exodus song lyrics on his Facebook page settles lawsuit for $60,000

A lawsuit filed by a Muhlenberg County man who was jailed for eight days after posting song lyrics on his Facebook page has been settled.

Muhlenberg County and Michael A. Drake, a school resource officer for the Muhlenberg County Police Department, agreed to settle the lawsuit, which was filed by James E. Evans, who was charged with terroristic threatening after posting lyrics from the heavy metal song, “Class Dismissed: A Hate Primer” by the band Exodus on his Facebook page in August 2014.

Evans posted the lyrics, from a song about school shootings by the band Exodus, on his page on Aug. 24. Evans posted the song’s chorus: “Student bodies lying dead in the halls/A blood splattered treatise of hate/Class dismissed is my hypothesis/Gun fire ends the debate/All I ever wanted was a little affection/But no one ever gave it to me/My hate primer’s the result of my rejection/You’ll die for it, and I’ll die for thee.”

Court records say law enforcement became aware of the post that day, and Evans was interviewed by Central City police. Court documents say Central City officers didn’t charge Evans with a crime.

Drake filed an affidavit for probable cause against Evans on Aug. 25, writing that Evans committed terroristic threatening by “threatening to kill students and or staff at school.”

The complaint filed by Evans says Drake “did not provide any details about the alleged crime.” State law says to qualify as first-degree terroristic threatening, a threat must include a false statement that a person “has placed a weapon of mass destruction” on public property or school property. A person who places a simulated weapon of mass destruction can also be charged with first-degree terroristic threatening.

Evans was held in jail for eight days after his arrest before the criminal charge against him was dismissed. Evans filed suit, with the American Civil Liberties Union representing him, alleging Drake “knowingly and intentionally made a material misstatement of fact” when preparing the probable cause affidavit that led to Evans’ arrest.

The settlement agreement says the county and Drake agreed to pay Evans $60,001. Evans could not be reached last week for comment.

William Sharp, an ACLU attorney who represented Evans in the suit, said the settlement should send a message about how online speech is also protected by the First Amendment.

“I can’t speak for the defendants, and I don’t think they would concede they were in the wrong,” Sharp said. “But I think, at the end of the day, there was an enforceable judgement against them … that folks can draw from what they will.

“We think the financial settlement is substantial,” Sharp said. “… The ACLU of Kentucky are hopeful the message it sends to officials, that violation of speech rights online can be an expensive proposition.”

The attorney representing Muhlenberg County and Drake could not be reached Friday for comment.

ACLU files civil suit on behalf of man who was jailed after posting EXODUS song lyrics on Facebook

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Muhlenberg County man who was jailed for eight days last year after song lyrics he posted on his Facebook page prompted law enforcement to charge him with felony terroristic threatening.

On Monday, the ACLU filed papers in U.S. District Court on behalf of James E. Evans, who was charged with first-degree terroristic threatening in August after Evans posted some of the lyrics to the song “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)” from the band Exodus on his Facebook page.

The complaint names as defendants both Muhlenberg County and Muhlenberg County Police Department Officer Michael Drake, who filed the probable cause affidavit against Evans. The complaint says Drake allegedly “knowingly and intentionally made a material misstatement of fact” when preparing the affidavit that led to Evans’ arrest.

The complaint also says Drake allegedly “knowingly and intentionally omitted relevant and material information from his affidavit that, had it been included, would have established that probable cause did not exist to arrest (Evans) for any alleged criminal wrongdoing.”

The complaint says Evans, who was not a student or involved with the schools, posted the lyrics on his Facebook page on Aug. 24.

The lyrics Evans posted contained the lines: “Student bodies lying dead in the halls/A blood splattered treatise of hate/Class dismissed is my hypothesis/Gun fire ends the debate/All I ever wanted was a little affection/But no one ever gave it to me/My hate primer’s the result of my rejection/You’ll die for it, and I’ll die for thee.”

At the time the song was released, the band described the song in interviews as being about the incidents such as mass shootings at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School. After Evans was arrested, band songwriter Gary Holt said the song “in no way endorses” school violence, and the song “was written through the eyes of a madman.” In a statement, the band expressed their support for Evans.

The complaint says Evans had posted song lyrics on his Facebook page before. The complaint says law enforcement officials from several agencies became aware of the posting on Aug. 24, and a trooper for the Kentucky State Police and the chief of the Greenville Police Department identified the posting as song lyrics that day.

The complaint says Evans was interviewed at his home by Central City police officers, but the officers did not arrest or charge Evans with an offense. The interview, which was recorded, includes one of the officers telling Evans, “‘I’m not trying to tell you what to do. You have the right to freedom of speech. I’m not trying to infringe on that.'” Evans’ wife told officers Evans does not possess any weapons, the complaint says.

Drake filed his probable cause affidavit on Aug. 24; the complaint cites Drake’s affidavit, which says Evans “committed the offense of Terroristic Threatening, to wit: by threatening to kill students and or staff at school.”

The complaint says Drake, “did not provide any details about the alleged crime,” such as “specific language used to communicate” the threat, whether “the alleged threat specified a specific school, building, vehicle or event,” whether “the alleged threat included a threat to use a weapon of mass destruction” or “the manner in which the alleged threat was communicated.”

State law says, to qualify as first-degree terroristic threatening, a threat must include a false statement that a person “has placed a weapon of mass destruction” on public property or school property. A person who places a simulated weapon of mass destruction can also be charged with first-degree terroristic threatening.

First-degree terroristic threating is a class C felony, punishable upon conviction by between five and 10 years in prison. The complaint says Evans was arrested on the charge Aug. 26 and was held in jail for eight days. The charge was later dismissed.

The complaint claims Drake sought an arrest warrant against Evans although “the facts and circumstances were insufficient to establish probable cause to believe (Evans) had committed a criminal offense.” The complaint claims Evans suffered from malicious prosecution, and “suffered a deprivation of his liberty” by being incarcerated and being put through the court process.

The lawsuit seeks damages, “including punitive damages” and attorney fees, as well as “any and all other relief to which (Evans) may be entitled.”

Drake said Tuesday he was aware of the suit, but had not yet seen it.

“I can’t really talk about it right now,” Drake said. An attorney sent a story about the lawsuit from a website about heavy metal music to Drake, but, “I haven’t been served with it yet,” he said.

No hearings on the suit have yet been scheduled.

James Mayse, (270) 691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: JamesMayse

Book Review: “Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal”


If you think you’re pretty knowledgeable about progressive metal, as I did, you’re in for a rude awakening with Jeff Wagner’s “Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal.”

Wagner, a former editor of Metal Maniacs magazine, is an apparent aficionado of progressive rock and metal — which makes him a particularly good guide into the world(s) of metal’s most adventurous auteurs. By the time I was finished, I had compiled a long list of “must have” bands I’d never heard of before meeting them through “Mean Deviation” (and then YouTube).

Wagner knows his metal and I have a suspicion the man could write fluently about music theory. But Wagner has a conversational writing style that never becomes dry or gets bogged down in discussions of time signatures or sixteenth notes. He’s also not a sycophant; Wagner can appreciate classic Celtic Frost — while still admitting “Cold Lake” was a shocking, embarrassing disaster.

As Wagner describes it, the stirrings of progressive metal can be found in albums like King Crimson’s “In The Court of the Crimson King” and with 70-era Pink Floyd, Yes, Kansas, Genesis (pre-Phil Collins, of course) and mid-career Black Sabbath.

Sabbath? Progressive? I doubted as well — but Wagner makes a strong argument that Sabbath ventured into uncharged musical territory on classic albums like “Sabotage,” “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” “Technical Ecstasy” and even the maligned “Never Say Die.” Today, Sabbath is considered sacred, untouchable and calcified metal gospel, due to the overplaying of “Paranoid,” “War Pigs” and “Iron Man” by lazy rock radio — but Sabbath reached for something new on albums like “Sabotage” and “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.” Really, go find the track “Am I Going Insane?” and you’ll agree Sabbath were a lot more progressive than people might suspect.

Any history of progressive metal must visit with Rush, and Wagner pays the band their due — even if he acknowledges the band left most of its creative masterworks behind after recording “Moving Pictures” in the early 1980s. But even while we can fault Rush for, essentially, sticking with a winning formula in its post “Pictures” work, the band’s influence can’t be dismissed. My tolerance for Rush is somewhat limited, but certainly the band heavily influenced some of the bigger names in progressive metal, particularly Dream Theater.

Along the way, Wagner examine bands like Fates Warning (also one of Dream Theater’s biggest influences), Queensryche, Voivod and the Dream Theater boys themselves. It was nice to see Fates Warning get some deserved recognition — they were never commercially as successful as Queensryche or Dream Theater, but they’re the band people like Mike Portnoy name check when discussing their inspiration.

Wagner makes some interesting stops along the way and finds the progressive gene in the death metal swamps of Florida, the arctic cold of black metal and in the hearts of Swizerland, Germany, Finland and Japan. You’ll want to take notes, because many of the bands Wagner highlights — like Coroner, Mekong Delta, Anacrusis, Nocturnus, Atheist, Sigh and Amorphis, to name a few — are worth your time. Death gets particular mention, and rightly so — go back and listen to “Human,” “Symbolic” and “Individual Thought Patterns” and you’ll be amazed at the innovation.

History aside, “Mean Deviation” particularly shines when Wagner digresses into an min-essay on the difference between progressive metal and “Progressive Metal.” The progressives with a small-p, Wagner says, were (and are) the bands willing to throw out their own rule books in order to push themselves musically. Large-P “Progressive Metal” is largely a formula founded on Dream Theater that, at its core, isn’t terribly progressive, Wagner argues.

For example, compare Voivod to Symphony X. Going into the 1990s, Voivod had a cult of followers after bludgeoning metal albums like “War and Pain,” “Killing Technology” and “Dimension Hatross”  — but Voivod lost many of those fans when the band followed its muse (and Floydian influences) on somewhat controversial albums like “Nothingface” and “Angel Rat.” Taking musical strides while risking alienating fans makes Voivod small-p progressive, Wagner says.

Symphony X, however is large-P “Progressive Metal” in that they took Dream Theater’s style, did it as well or better than Dream Theater, but never deviated much from that style. Now, don’t get upset — Symphony X is a stellar band, with excellent musicianship and vocals, complex musical arrangements and fascinating songs. But really, there are few surprises with Symphony X. They’re great at what they do … but they’re never going to shock us with a unexpected left hook. Symphony X is never going to produce its own “Angel Rat.”

The final third of the book is a series of mini-biographies on a host of bands Wagner found significant in the progressive genre. Frankly, I found myself skipping some bands — look, I can appreciate what Therion is doing, but I don’t find it overly interesting. But many of the bios were intriguing enough to keep me adding names of my list of bands.

With the exception of Opeth, Wagner doesn’t spend much time on the current crop of progressive bands, which makes sense. Who knows what those bands will sound like tomorrow?  But what I found myself doing after reading “Mean Deviation” was listening to current progressive metal bands with new ears — now, it’s hard for me to listen to Mastodon or Opeth without hearing bits and pieces of Voivod, or classic progressive bands like Kansas.

If you’re a fan of progressive metal — or if you always wondered what the fuss of progressive bands was all about — you’ll find something of interest in “Mean Deviation.” You’ll also find about 30 to 50 albums you’ll discover you have to own. Prepare your wallet to take a bit of a beating.

You can read an interview with Wagner about progressive metal here.

Are metal fans more likely to be depressed?

Blabbermouth.net posted an interesting little article about a study done by University of Melbourne professor Katrina McFerran. Blabbermouth reports McFerran found teens who listen to metal “habitually and repetitively”  are more likely to suffer from depression.

McFerran — who is listed at the University of Melbourne Web site as a music therapist, researcher and lecturer with a specialty in music therapy for adolescents and children with disabilities — interviewed 50 teens between the ages of 13 and 18 and conducted a nationwide survey of 1,000 other teens while compiling her study.

According to university press release, “young people at risk of depression are more likely to be listening to music, particularly heavy metal music, in a negative way.” McFerran’s study concluded.

“Examples of this are when someone listens to the same song or album of heavy metal music over and over again and doesn’t listen to anything else,” the press release quotes McFerran as saying. “They do this to isolate themselves or escape from reality.”

“If this behavior continues over a period of time then it might indicate that this young person is suffering from depression or anxiety, and at worst, might suggest suicidal tendencies,” McFerran says in the press release.

McFerran says parents should pay attention to the music their children are listening to and should ask questions if a child’s behavior raises concerns.

“If parents are worried, they should ask their children questions like – how does that music make you feel?” the press release quotes McFerran as saying. “If children say the music reflects or mirrors the way they feel then ask more about what the music is saying.”

The comments on Blabbermouth were, for the most part, predictably histrionic. Without bothering with direct quotes, many of comments were in the vein of “metal’s awesome,” “I listen to metal and I’m not depressed,” and “McFerran sucks.”

But I think McFerran raises an interesting question — why do people listen to certain types of metal, and what does the music do for (or to) them?

The answer, of course, is that there is no one answer. People listen to music for a variety of reasons — and yes, one of those reasons (for some people) is that music reinforces their world view. That’s true of more genres than metal — country star Taylor Swift (and I’m only slightly familiar with her work) seems to have several songs about broken hearts and love gone wrong. Now, do people listen to those songs because they feel empowered by the fact that other people have also suffered broken hearts and have lived to tell the tale — or do they listen to them because they want to wallow in their pain?

Again, the answer depends on the individual. Somewhere, if we could find them, I’d sure we would come across scores of women and girls who play Swift’s broken heart songs repeatedly because they are experiencing the pain of a relationship gone wrong. Some of those women will feel better by identifying with the sentiments in the song, while others will be reminded of their own pain and feel worse.

My point here is that any depressed person is going to find music in any genre  that could potentially feed their feelings of isolation and sadness. I’m a big fan of classical music, but there are some pieces I won’t listen to because they’re just too much of a downer. Jazz, blues and even pop music are also full of sad tunes; It’s not hard to imagine a depressed person obsessively playing Miles Davis’ “Flemenco Sketches” over and over and feeling even bluer than before.

But McFerran singles out metal — or, more specifically, the teens she interviewed who were depressed more often than not indicated a preference for metal music. Well, certainly, metal (generally) is darker music than country or classical or pop, so a person with a dark mindset could be drawn to metal’s dark themes. But that’s not the case for everyone.

Some people, myself included, find metal rather empowering; as McFerran says the University of Melbourne press release, some people use metal as exercise music; I never go for a run without metal on my mp3 player — and when I recently ran a half-marathon, songs like Motorhead’s “Deaf Forever” and S.O.D.’s “United Forces” gave me an energy boost at times when I was feeling tired.

But when I’m not pounding pavement, I still listen to metal — largely because I think it’s fun. Sure, there’s policial, religious and social commentary thrown in by some of the better bands … but mostly metal is just exciting music . I don’t listen to any music that makes me sad, or would make a bad day worse; for example, I think Nine Inch Nails’ “The Downward Spiral” is a fantastic metal album … I just never want to hear it again.

I agree with McFerran that parents should be aware of what kind of music their children listen to — just as parents should know what movies and TV shows their kids watch and who they socialize with on a daily basis. I also think, if a child is listening to sad songs in any genre over and over, that’s cause for an intervention.

I think McFerran’s study is even-handed — and I think McFerran would agree that not every teen metal fan is depressed and not every depressed teen is a metal fan.

Hopefully, parents and adults won’t use McFerran’s study to stereotype metal fans. There are a lot of teen metal fans who are doing just fine.

Goodbye, Clay Burns

Metatron: Aaron (left), David (kneeling) and drummer Clay Burns (right). Burns passed away this week and will be buried Aug. 10. Goodbye, Clay.

I haven’t written anything for a while. Sorry about that.

Anyone familiar with the Owensboro, Ky. music scene will remember Metatron, the eclectic, psychedelic death metal band that was equal parts chaotic metal, free jazz and space-age fuzz. I’ve been a supporter of the O’boro scene for a long time and did what I could through the weak tool that was the Messenger-Inquirer’s entertainment page to promote local metal bands … but there’s no question that my favorite local band was Metatron.

So it’s with some sadness that I report Clay Burns, the band’s drummer, passed away this week at University of Kentucky Hospital. Burns was 30 years old.

I interviewed Clay several times over the years . Clay was extremely easy-going and relaxed, with a quiet unexpected sense of humor. Clay was always the least talkative member of the band — but Clay’s drumming was always unpredictable and interesting. Clay played metal, but he had the improvisational feel of a jazz musician. The man could play and his drumming drove the band. While some drummers are content to just provide a backbeat, Clay was an equal creative partner with vocalist/bassist Aaron King and keyboardist (later guitarist) David Daniel.

Goodbye, Clay. You’ll be missed … and thanks for the years of great music.