Paradigms Review on Progressive Music Planet


Imagine if Joe Satriani joined up with Liquid Tension Experiment. If you like instrumental progressive rock/metal albums you should check this one out.


Semantic Saturation – Paradigms

Posted on August 12, 2018 by Matthew (restlessamoeba)

I’m new to Semantic Saturation so I dove into this one without knowing anything about them. Figured I would give it a full, fresh, blind listen. And I enjoy what I hear.

The band is made up of creator Shant Hagopian and the featured musicians on this album are: drummer Craig Blundell (Frost* / Steven Wilson), bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw (ex-Pain of Salvation) along with guests Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater), Alex Argento on keyboards, and jazz vocalist Houry Dora Apartian. A whole different set of musicians this time out (except for Derek). It seems Shant wants to change things up from album to album. Neat concept. The best I can do to describe this album is: imagine if Satriani joined up with Liquid Tension Experiment. A little simplistic of a summation but that it is what I hear for the most part.

Mirrors of Confusion, the first track, pretty much embodies that. Nice rocking track. And then we roll into Carousel of Death, the Satch sound takes a break and we go full on LTE. Pretty cool little big band breakdown, but the main theme gets a little repetitive for me. I do dig the heavier parts, though. Alex Argento is the guest keyboardist on this one. Video here.

Pareidolia shifts the gears down a bit and gives us a very melodic track. But really they all are. Semantic Saturation puts a heavy emphasis on melody. As they state, they don’t try to play all the notes really fast. They try to let the songs flow where they will. And they usually succeed!

Empty Whiskey Jar is next and we have reached the first track I really can’t stand. I am no fan of slow, bluesy, wahwah. But that is just me. You may like it. We are joined here by nice sounding, wordless female vocals, provided by the aforementioned Houry Dora Apartian, as well as some soulful guitar solos. YYMV on this track but my car broke down.

The Stranger from Andromeda brings us back into rock territory. Another like you would expect if Satch was part of LTE. Good song. Until We Meet Again offers up a nice laid back tune with a tinge of blues. One of those perfect for sitting outside one evening with you favorite beverage to relax. I really need to make a playlist of these types of songs as I find them. Love these.

Universal gives us a TSO like feel in the intro. Can’t remember the song it reminds me of at the moment. One of those slow keyboard solo numbers. Then it kicks into another mid-tempo rocker. More of that Satch feel coming at ya.

Where Dreams Have Died is the mini epic of the album and it travels a great distance through many styles with that ever present Satch style. Love the bells on the close of the track. Reminds me a bit of early David Arkenstone.

And we close out with a short little reprise of Carousel of Death. Then it’s game over. Inside joke here. Join me, will you?

Over all, this is a really good album. If you like instrumental progressive rock/metal albums you should check this one out. The special edition CD/DVD, includes play-along tracks, so that is a neat feature.

Rating: 8/10


  1. Mirrors Of Confusion 4:41
  2. Carousel Of Death 4:54
  3. Pareidolia 4:52
  4. Empty Whisky Jar 3:40
  5. The Stranger From Andromeda 5:06
  6. Until We Meet Again 4:18
  7. Ulterior Harmony 6:58
  8. Disturbance Within 4:36
  9. Universal 6:41
  10. Where Dreams Have Died 10:33

Label: Self Released
Release Date: 20 August 2018



Paradigms Review by My Global Mind Magazine


Another chapter has been added to the Big Book of Prog with the sophomore release of Paradigms. Semantic Saturation rightfully takes its place at the table with many other forward-thinking musicians who keep the progressive music fresh and alive.

Semantic Saturation – Paradigms Review

Where does instrumental music fit into our society these days? Especially if it’s not jazz or classical, both styles typically noted for not really having a voice (yes, I am aware that both have vocals at times as well. Just going with the predominant thought pattern on both.) The day of the shred album has long since gone, though some of those guys and gals from back in the day (and a handful of notable newbies) still keep that flame burning. I’m talking straight out instrumental songs, not designed to feature crazy solos, but music… songs that could’ve had someone singing throughout, but the band opted to stick with just the instrumental voice. Bands like Scale the Summit and Animals As Leaders create some brilliant stuff but haven’t much of a chance of becoming the next summertime hit with the Pop loving bunch. As a former guitarist, I adore instrumental work, though I don’t often find myself so inclined to listen to it much on a regular basis. With a band Like Semantic Saturation it’s refreshing to hear a band not afraid to go strictly musical, and do it while at the same time not having it spiral into some self-absorbed show-off fest.

Their second album, Paradigms, is a tasty ten-course meal that serves up some truly delectable treats. Guitarist and mastermind behind the project Shant Hagopian has constructed a brilliant line-up of ultra-talented musicians to bring his vision to life. The guitar work alone on this album is enough to keep ones rapt attention for years to come, but there is also some divine keyboard work from guys like Derek Sherinian and Alex Argento, bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw creates a pulsing, vibrant flow with his skills, and drummer Craig Blundell keeps everything in perfect time. There is a brief bit of vocals from Houry Dora Apartian that is mostly jazz riffing or scatting. Even though there are times throughout this album that you get that whole Prog battle between the musicians there is plenty of space in those notes too. The frenzied chaos of “Ulterior Harmony” is juxtaposed by a bouncy “Carousel of Death” and then brought to a close by the epic “Where Dreams Have Died.”

Another chapter has been added to the Big Book of Prog with the sophomore release of Paradigms. Semantic Saturation rightfully takes its place at the table with many other forward-thinking musicians who keep the progressive music fresh and alive. Hagopian has certainly got enough talent and ability to keep this project going for a long while, and creates soundscapes worthy of any musician to want to join him in the future based on the two albums thus far.

Written by: Chris Martin

Ratings: 8/10



Paradigms Review by Sonic Perspectives


Albums do still matter and can be an art form, and should be treated as if every song counts – because it does. The complete roller coaster ride that is Paradigms is a testament to how well it can still be done today, and Hagopian deserves praise for what is a well-planned story he and his cohorts tell.
Each song has its own unique personality and feel, full of melody and technical fireworks when needed, but most importantly, it takes this genre back to a time when it maybe wasn’t so stale or predictable.

Semantic Saturation – Paradigms (Album Review)
By AUSTIN KOKEL August 6, 2018

Think about how it feels when a musician leaves one of your favorite bands, or even worse, most of the band packs up and quits, leaving one central musician to carry on alone. Well, that’s what happens with Semantic Saturation on every album, and it’s by design. Guitarist and composer Shant Hagopian started the project in 2010, and now in 2018, the band project is set to release a sophomore effort with Hagopian the only main musician returning from one album to the next. That idea is actually the foundation of what Semantic Saturation strives for… to keep it fresh and interesting with each new album. It was difficult to see how that would go after just one album (2013’s Solipsistic) but now that we’re seeing it happen as the release of the new album Paradigms is on the horizon, just how well does it work?

The main power trio of the first album was comprised of Hagopian on guitars, Virgil Donati on drums, and Ric Fierabracci on bass, with a lot of keyboard work performed by quite possibly the most unique keyboardist on the planet, Derek Sherinian (though he is listed as a special guest, whereas the others were featured musicians, with a shout-out to Andy Kuntz on lead vocals for a bit). Now, on the follow-up effort, the only returning musicians are Hagopian, of course, and a significantly smaller (but not lesser) contribution from Sherinian. Our new lineup for this album is completed by drummer Craig Blundell (who seems to be everywhere these days, which is a high-class problem) and bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw (most known for his time in Pain of Salvation, and for his more recent solo albums), with additional keyboard work from Alex Argento, and some dreamy vocalizations from Houry Dora Apartian.

So, to answer the question above, it works surprisingly well. Admittedly, this new album does have a slightly different feel from Solipsistic, whereas Donati‘s drums gave a larger-than-life sound, and Blundell plays his cards a bit closer to his chest, if you will… which is not to diminish his playing, because he’s a fantastic drummer and one of this reviewer’s favorites currently (with his work with John Mitchell in KINO and Lonely Robot, and Steven Wilson these days) but Donati has a style that’s pretty immediately recognizable, similar to a Terry Bozzio, Mike Portnoy, or Bill Bruford. So, to follow up a debut album with a different drummer, there will surely be some departure in sound, but that might also work in Paradigms‘ favor, as Blundell is an extremely solid drummer whose performance on this album is full of groove, power, and playing in the pocket when called for.

Gildenlöw provides his own unique contributions to this album – playing with feeling and subtlety on fingered fret-less bass at times, but also adding surgical precision and hard rock prowess for the majority of the record, in unison with Hagopian and Blundell when needed, and holding down the low-end superbly at any other point. Probably his most tasteful contribution is in this reviewer’s surprise favorite song on the album, the tender ballad “Until We Meet Again”, where his high fills are subtle and pleasing to the ear, and his walking bass during Hagopian‘s soloing is just what the song needs. Bassists never receive the recognition they deserve (speaking from experience here,) but even the most understated of performances can be exactly what a song needs. It’s also nice to hear Kristoffer Gildenlöw after his recent solo album, The Rain, being part of an ensemble again and being the underrated bassist that Pain of Salvation fans loved for a couple of decades, and likely still do.

That brings us to Shant Hagopian, the mastermind of the project. Admittedly, he is not a household name in the prog-rock community, but after one listen to Paradigms, it’s hard to see why he isn’t one. His playing style is a lot of what we love about our favorite guitarists, especially with a lot of John Petrucci at times, all chameleon-ized into whatever the album needs at any given moment. His clean playing is understated and gentle, his lead melodies are singable to the point where Joe Satriani could be jealous, his speed and shredding are tasty and never self-indulgent, and yet his greatest strength might be as a band leader. His compositions are fantastic, and full of melody, and as you know this album was probably all recorded in home studios and then put together, the entire thing feels very cohesive and has a complete band feel to it. And yet where it might shine the most, and something that people might not think about these days, is in its track sequencing.

The entire work has a great album feel to it, with the highs and lows right where they should be, and the introspective quiet moments giving the listener exactly the break that is needed at the right times. One of the best moments on the album, which works so well, is the seamless transition between the two songs “Ulterior Harmony” and “Disturbance Within”, which come together to work as a yin and yang of songs, and complement each other so well. The listener is taken from one song that is reminiscent of an outer-space epic akin to Satriani‘s Crystal Planet, with its insane keyboard and guitar delay arpeggios, screaming lead parts, and crunching seven-string rhythm parts, into a softer and more emotional side of space, like so much George Clooney in Solaris, with a heavy-yet-light chord progression in line with today’s newer bands like Sithu Aye, Plini, or even TesseracT. And the whole thing works incredibly well together.

Even when it’s time to start winding down, Hagopian sets us up perfectly with an album pre-closer of “Universal”, to lead up to the actual finale that is the epic-length “Where Dreams Have Died” (and please, be sure to listen all the way to the end). In this era of singles and downloads, and hitting shuffle on streaming sites, albums do still matter and can be an art form, and should be treated as if every song counts – because it does. And the complete roller coaster ride that is Paradigms is a testament to how well it can still be done today, and Hagopian deserves praise for what is a well-planned story he and his cohorts tell.

The album, while not entirely breaking new ground, knows what it needs to do and does it well. The bluesy opening riff belies what comes next, with everything from Sevendust-detuned-groove and swagger, to brass and New Orleans band moments that Diablo Swing Orchestra would love, to the aforementioned sweet and sour singing passage from Houry Dora Apartian, to even piano balladry and just a slight hint of chip-tune, and plenty of great keyboard moments all throughout. The first album, Solipsistic, felt a bit like a love letter to Liquid Tension Experiment at times, and while good, was maybe a bit too safe. And with Paradigms, it feels like anything goes, and often does… maybe that’s the inspiration for the album title? And that’s what, most likely, is what draws many listeners back to this style of music, the promise of hearing something new or unexpected, that still is cohesive within a whole.

Paradigms is good upon a first listen, very good after a few listens, and something of a grower over time, as it will likely open itself up more and more to the listener, with repeated listens. Each song has its own unique personality and feel, full of melody and technical fireworks when needed, but most importantly, it takes this genre back to a time when it maybe wasn’t so stale or predictable. It’s actually fun to listen to. Remember listening to progressive metal in the ’90s, and it was a little wacky and new, and the style championed by Dream Theater or Symphony X felt simply fun and exciting? That’s how Paradigms feels. It honors its roots, but has its own potpourri-like identity, and shows the listener a good time, and gives them all of the emotion that an album should, along the way.

Not to compare apples and oranges, but this album is a much more unique and inspired record than its predecessor, though that album is quite good in its own right, and should be heard before embarking on this adventure. While it’s respectable that Hagopian founded this project on the principle that each album would have its own unique identity by changing out band members, it’s a shame we won’t hear the trio of Shant Hagopian, Craig Blundell, and Kristoffer Gildenlöw together again (at least in the studio,) as it’s quite a special concoction. Shant Hagopian might not be a household name, but his work with Semantic Saturation is something special, and unique in a genre slowly becoming a sea of homogeneous bands, and if he keeps putting forth work of this level of quality, he’ll hopefully soon earn the acclaim he deserves.



Paradigms Review By Prog Radar


As instrumental albums go ‘Paradigms’ is an absolute monster featuring such amazing tracks. The riffs and grooves come thick and fast almost giving you no pause to really appreciate the mind blowing musical structures and spellbinding melodies.

Review – Semantic Saturation – Paradigms – by Progradar

Does anybody remember Infectious Grooves? The funk metal supergroup led by Suicidal Tendencies frontman Mike Muir released a completely bonkers album in 1991 called ‘The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move…It’s The Infectious Grooves.’ It was so out there it made my CD collection and I’ve yet to hear anything come close to that infectious energy that the album contained.

Fast forward to 2013 Semantic Saturation (a progressive rock/progressive metal project founded by Canadian guitarist Shant Hagopian) release their debut album ‘Solipsistic’ featuring progressive metal gurus such as drummer Virgil Donati, bassist Ric Fierabracci and guests; keyboardist Derek Sherinian (ex. Dream Theater) and vocalist Andy Kuntz (Vanden Plas). A dizzying and complex release that has touches of the spirit of Infectious Grooves hidden in its convoluted depths.

After 5 years wait virtuoso guitarist Shant returns with the mind blowing ‘Paradigms’, this time aided and abetted by legendary musicians, drummer Craig Blundell and bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw. The album also features guest musicians, some of the greatest names in metal, with Derek Sherinian returning to feature on the track Ulterior Harmony, Alex Argento on Carousel of Death and the lovely jazz vocalist Houry Dora Apartian on Empty Whisky Jar.

As instrumental albums go ‘Paradigms’ is an absolute monster featuring such amazing tracks as the powerfully funkadelic opener Mirrors of Confusion and it’s identical twin Carousel of Death which are a real echo of that Infectious Grooves monster of 27 years previous. On the former, edgy, thunderous guitar combine with Blundell’s cacophony of drumbeats and Gildenlöw’s stylish bass drives all before it. It’s a grin inducing roller coaster ride and one you don’t want to get off. The latter takes you on an insane, acid jazz trip through a really warped mind where Alex Argento stands tall like a crazed professor.

The infectious grooves (see what I did there?) of Pareidolia give a moments pause of foot tapping energy before calm is finally restored with the elegance of Empty Whiskey Jar where Houry Dora Apartian adds her sultry jazz vocals.

The riffs and grooves come thick and fast almost giving you no pause to really appreciate the mind blowing musical structures and spellbinding melodies. Personal favourites are the intelligently constructed charm of Until We Meet Again, the otherworldly experience of Disturbance Within and the calm and collected polish of classic rocker Universal.

This magical experience is completed by Where Dreams Have Died, a ten minute journey that becomes Shant’s grand paradigm of musical intrigue and astounding mastery. It is an elaborate, baroque composition that trades on each musician’s undoubted skill and dexterity to deliver a sublime listening experience.

As the last note fades out a small but knowing smile appears on my face as I reminisce back to 1991. ‘Paradigms’ is a wonderfully complex and accomplished piece of work but, deep at its core this album is full of incredibly infectious grooves. Shant Hagopian and your stellar cast of musicians please take a bow for this fantastic achievement.

Released 20th August 2018

Order the album in various formats direct from the band’s website



Semantic Saturation Featured on Noah’s Arkhive

Noah, my neighbor is studying journalism, he wanted to interview me last week and write a piece about me and Semantic Saturation on his blog.

Thank you Noah, I wish you the best of luck in your studies; and after reading the article you wrote I can already tell you are on the right track.


Shant Hagopian, syrian rock superstar!

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 5.35.18 PMMy father introduced me to Shant’s album last summer, and it was within the first five minutes of listening to “Solipsistic,” his latest album, that I knew that this guy had something special. On election day, I was lucky to get a hold of him, as he happened to be standing behind me in line; generously, he agreed to an interview

“He’s obsessed with Pink Floyd,” told me Shant Hagopian’s wife as I noticed a painting made out of guitar picks of the legendary guitarist David Gilmour of the band “Pink Floyd.” My walk here from home was under 1 minute, I live across the street. As I sat on the couch and asked his wife, Nanor, a few questions, she served me a glass of water. After a few minutes of finding out about how they met and what their first date paintballing was like, Shant came upstairs from his hard work looking exactly like what you would think a metal guitarist would look like. From the long hair and scruffy beard to the casual t-shirt and jeans, this guy says rock’n’roll from head to toe. We had a small chat about his life and career as a musician.

It all started because of bands like Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Pink Floyd that Shant got into the rock world and began playing guitar at the age of 15 later going to music school.

“Nobody told me I was going to freeze my ass up here,” Shant explains. Born in Syria, he first created the band named “Nu.Clear.Dawn” in his youth while studying music. The band became popular in Syria after doing many cover shows, and a few years later for being the first metal band in Syria to release an album, but it did not come easy. “It’s a lot easier to build a house in Canada than it is to play a rock concert back in Syria, it’s almost impossible to release a rock album”IMG_7979s

But they did it, and the band grew and gained more and more recognition. Unfortunately Shant felt conflicted with the fact that there was no way the band could really take off from Syria. So he moved to Canada, one of the safest and most peaceful countries in the world. Honestly, who could blame him after all the conflicts, wars and explosions in the Middle East. “I consider myself very lucky for moving out of Syria before the revolution started which eventually led to the current horrible situation.”

But while Shant moved to Montreal, his other band mates fled Syria to move to different parts of the world. Shant used the incredible technology of today’s world to create his album through the Internet. He would write the songs, write down how he wanted them to be and then he would send them to different musicians around the world to add their touch and combine their talent creating an incredible piece of art. In 2013 the band he named “Semantic Saturation,” released the album “Solipsistic.”

“Semantic Saturation” and “Solipsistic”, two names I found extremely fascinating after he explained to me what they meant. “Semantic Saturation”, was the term used to describe the moment when you say a word over and over until it begins to lose meaning and starts being funny. The choice of the album name was a reflection of how the media causes us to become desensitized to the events revolving around us. Considering all the shocking things happening in Syria it’s easy to see why he would pick the name. “Solipsistic” on the other hand is the theory in which only you exist and everything and everybody around you is an illusion created simply for you. He chose the name, because it reflected the way he worked, he was reaching out to all these people through the Internet and it felt as though he was the only real person in his music-making world.

Look at the album artwork and you’ll see a girl representing “the listener” facing a metropolis of fake buildings, facades are what you see and with incredible detail you’ll notice some construction workers building everything for no one but her . Open up the CD pack and you get a 360 view of this “false reality” the girl is seeing.

After reading the reviews of the album it seems as though the album was quite a success especially since I did not notice a single trace of negative criticism. Getting to know Shant was great and I could truly say that this guy is the definition of cool.His laidback attitude and the detailed description of his life allowed for the opportunity to see how much he must have worked hard for what he’s accomplished.

If you want to get to know Shant Hagopian a little better you can either follow him on bandcamp, or you could check out his latest video on YouTube, believe me you won’t regret it. (Links Down Below)

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