English Review on Esther’s Rock Blog

A couple of weeks ago Esther published a review in Dutch on Esther’s Rock Blog and on Rockmuzine. Yesterday she told me the review is now translated in English, so I’m sharing it below.
Esther rated Paradigms with a score of 92/100

*****

Semantic Saturation – Paradigms (GB)
6 september 2018 – Esther Kessel-Tamerus

Shant Hagopian is a guitarist from Canada. In 2010 he founded the prog rock / metal project Semantic Saturation. The idea behind the project is to work with a different line-up on each album.
‘Paradigms‘ is the second album. Here, contributors included well-known proggers: Craig Blundell (Frost * / Steven Wilson), Kristoffer Gildenlöw (ex Pain of Salvation).

The intro of ‘Mirrors of Confusion’ could have been as well an intro of a blues-rock track. When metal elements kick in, you know that we are in for something different. The metal element is not only alternated with rock, but also with quieter parts. As expected, the drumming is very good. There’s a fine division between rhythm and melody. This opening track ends very nicely.

‘Carousel of Death‘ has a tight start. There are some high, electronic sounds. The rhythm is interspersed with melody. There are many twists and turns, with -for example- trumpet playing, which provides a jazzy twist. Because of the amount of twists your ears almost can’t keep up.
The structure is complex, yet Shant knows how to interweave a catchy melody and rhythm. These are real ear-worms that stay in your head. There are bouts of fast and tight performances. A bit later, sometimes even at the same time, the melody is hovering over. Even the musical rests are nicely placed. This track has a tremendous ending.

‘Empty Whiskey Jar‘ has a calm, collected start. Here too, all instruments are in balance. The vocals sound mainly as an instrument, but they are a wonderful addition. This track has a lingering dreamy atmosphere. For the first time, the ending is less surprising. However, during this part, small details are nicely incorporated.

Initially ‘Ulterior Harmony‘ has a catchy rhythm. The guitars provide the rocking element, which slowly becomes heavier and faster. Again, there are unexpected twists and combinations that you should actually check out for yourself. The high tones of the keys are intermixed, or alternated, with the heavy riffs. This occasionally peculiar or restless mishmash is well balanced. The tempo is fast, while the melody is unwavering. All this is well distributed over the headphones. There is an extensive build-up towards the end, experimental in nature. This seamlessly flows into ‘Disturbance Within‘. After a calm, experimental start, a sudden hit of solid rock follows. Again, the guitar work is exquisite. Electronic sounds provide a spherical end.

Semantic Saturation always knows how to surprise me: In ‘Universal‘ with their piano sounds. There is a transition to a more rocking, with a touch of Latin American atmosphere. There are plenty of twists in this piece. The piano returns briefly. The layers are also beautifully separated during the quiet part. There is a sudden change to rock. This contains a cool bass groove. In a nutshell, there is so much to listen to. Once again, the build-up is very good at the end.

Also ‘Where Dreams Have Died‘ is fantastic. Towards the end the mysterious music is played softer and softer until you hear almost nothing. Then there is silence. But… the music returns. But just for a few seconds. This is amazing, what a surprising ending. This last track is an epic, which is a fantastic way to wrap up the album.

The artwork is made by Shant, and looks very professional. He is very talented, both visually and audibly. I have heard many beautiful things. I was regularly impressed by the sublime guitar playing of Shant. He has, together with this team, made a very good album.

*****

Source:
http://kessel-tamerus.nl/Esthers_Blog/rock-gb/semantic-saturation-paradigms-gb/

Paradigms Review in iO-Pages magazine

The review by Geert Ryssen is in Dutch, translated poorly by Google below.

“Semantic Saturation is the brainchild of Canadian guitarist Shant Hagopian, who with his second album Paradigms consolidates his fusion between metal, progressive rock and jazz. He does not want to be stuck with the same musician, and besides guest contributions from Derek Sherinian, Alex Argento (keyboards) and Squiggy McFlannel (trumpet) – each with a song – he opted for a rhythm section consisting of Kristoffer Gildenlów (ex-Pain Of Salvation) on bass / double bass Crain Blundell (Frost*/Steven Wilson) on drums. Particularly original is the choice of jazz singer Houry Dora Apartian in Empty Whiskey Jar, the only vocal number on the record. Hagopian does not want to fall into the trap of virtuosity because of the virtuosity and plays in the compositions, that offers enough space to display his guitar skills. Hagopian is not dictated by a certain sound but chooses variation in the sound spectrum and has a nice, full tone. He can fiercely and energetically rage, but also lyrical and thoughtful and that never goes away because the focus always remains on the composition. The interplay of the three protagonists is communicative and does not sound mechanical at all, here are clearly three musicians who are listening to each other. With the ten-minute closing song Where Dreams Have Died, Shant puts the crown on an enjoyable album.”

Source: https://www.iopages.nl/editie/id/153/io-pages-152

Polish Metal Web ‘Zine Laboratorium Muzycznych Fuzji.com Reviews ‘Paradigms’ Rating it 9.5/10

Egon Klank reviews Paradigms and gives it 9.5/10 stars on the Polish online metal magazine Laboratorium Muzycznych Fuzji.com.
English translation can be found below.

An album that changes the essence of progressive metal. Hagopian is often compared to Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. Believe it or not, none of them convince me emotionally as Hagopian does.

*****

Semantic Saturation – Paradigms
Posted by: Egon Klank – 27 Aug. 2018

Shant Hagopian. Człowiek, o którym mało kto wie, a na, którego płytach zawsze udzielają się tuzy największego formatu. Człowiek, który muzyką przekracza wszelkie kulturowe bariery. Fascynujący debiut „Solipsistic” zebrał u mnie gromkie oklaski. Debiut przez tak niewielu oczekiwany, a robiący tak kolosalne wrażenie. Album, który zmienia wręcz istotę progresywnego metalu, często zawężonego do wąskich szufladek. Debiut Hagopiana to jedna z niewielu płyt, zwłaszcza pokroju tego gatunku, którą bez mrugnięcia okiem uznałbym za jedną z najbardziej wizjonerskich wśród progresji. Muzyk, jeżeli dziś nie wybitny, to z pewnością za takiego za kilka lat zostanie uznany. Tak ambiwalentny kunszt podparty takimi muzycznymi legendami i ich umiejętnościami jak świetna trakcja bezprogowego basu Kristoffera Gildenlöwa czy też chirurgiczna precyzja Craiga Blundell na najnowszej płycie dobrze rokuje.

Surowy klimat płynnej improwizacji utwierdzonej na skale doskonałej dynamiki i alergii na brzmieniową losowość. Do tego solidna produkcja oraz idealny balans instrumentarium. Gama stylów nie łamie może paradygmatów, ale zdecydowanie przybliża najnowszy dorobek Hagopiana do miana arcydzieła. Nie wiem, czy „Paradigms” przebija debiut. Być może tamtej był bardziej ekstatyczny i entuzjastyczny. Najnowszy zdecydowanie jest bardziej stonowany oraz wyważony, co też może wynikać z dość drastycznej zmiany obsady, ale jak zawsze całość jest doszlifowana do samego końca.

Twórczość Hagopiana to emocje rozszczepione na czynniki pierwsze, głównie dzięki solidnej interpretacji atmosfery każdej z kompozycji, które zawsze tworzą spójną muzyczną koncepcję. Trudno wyobrazić sobie bowiem lepszą identyfikację z utworem, jak dzieje się to za przykładem Dereka Sheriniana w Ulterior Harmony. Całość jest doskonale przemyślana. Hagopian nie błądzi, chociaż ciężko pracuje, aby jego albumy były heterogenicznymi obłokami niejednorodnych styli. Sterylność instrumentarium i technicznej konstrukcji nie zaburza jednak przesłania emocjonalnego (When Dreams Have Died). To jeden z utworów, który utwierdzają wiedzą kompletną w zakresie konstrukcji i mieszania różnych stylistyk. Słuchacz po tak wyczerpującej dawce wypełniających muzycznych nastroi musi być spełniony.

Systematycznie nakładające się na kompozycje warstwy tworzą materiał równie przystępny co skomplikowany dzięki inteligentnej konstrukcji utworów. Nie odurza ona słuchacza przepychem, ale stopniowym wprowadzaniem do kolejnych muzycznych wymiarów. Od akustycznej krotochwilności przez rozpaczliwość ballad, a na rockowo-orkiestracyjnych kohortach dźwięku kończąc (Universal). To nie wszystko! W Mirrors of Confusion dostajemy genialny funkowy rytm. Spore wrażenie pod względem budowania atmosfery i przestrzeni robi tripowy Disturbance Within. Do tego dostajemy ciężki, acz zaparty jazzowymi melodiami rozrywkowy utwór Carousel of Death czy też świetne melodie w Pereidolia. Melancholia zaskoczy nas w blusowym Empty Whisky Jar. Gorące progresje z efektownymi ornamentami znajdziecie w The Stranger From Andromeda. Ultrarelaksujący Until We Meet Again ukoi. Ta umiejętność zabawy dźwiękiem kojarzy mi się z Hagopianem najbardziej. Robi to nie tylko z niebywałą lekkością, ale i z piorunujące efektem ostatecznych aranżacji. Niektóre tematy rozwijają się w sposób całkowicie zaskakujący. Nieprzewidywalność utworów to jedna z podstawowych zalet, dla których do jego twórczości się wraca.

Hagopian porównywany jest często do Joe Satrianiego oraz Steve’a Vaia. Wierzcie czy nie, ale żaden z nich nie przekonuje mnie pod względem emocjonalnym tak jak robi to właśnie Hagopian, a o to w tej muzyce bardzo ciężko ze względu na brak lirycznego podkładu. Na nic jednak porównania. Universal przecież na ten przykład można podciągnąć oraz interpretować jako hołd formacji Camel z czasów płyty „The Snow Goose” (1975). Jego subtelność, delikatność oraz finezja tworzą naprawdę niesamowitą i unikatową całość i raczej nie należałoby tego konkretyzować w ramy znanych standardów, które pojawiają się raczej przypadkowo. Dobry album instrumentalny nie zależy od bicia rekordów prędkości, ale od wyczucia klimatu i wszechstronności. Te cechy Hagopian posiadł w całej ich synergii.

Twórczość Hagopiana dorasta jednak tak naprawdę ze słuchaczem. Trywialnym wydaje się pisać o tym, że album rośnie wraz z każdym przesłuchaniem, ale jego twórczość naprawdę tworzy coś do czego nie tylko wraca się z wielką przyjemnością, ale za każdym razem skłania nas ku innym zakamarkom tej brzmieniowej poezji. Niesamowita atmosfera, przy tych technicznych fajerwerkach rzadko kiedy ma tak emocjonalny wydźwięk. „Paradigms” to kolejne wyjątkowe i unikalne wydawnictwo. „Solipstistic” nie był dziełem przypadku.

(** TRANSLATION BY GOOGLE **)

Shant Hagopian. A man who is hardly known by anyone, and whose albums are always shared by the largest format. A man who transcends all cultural barriers with music. The fascinating debut of “Solipsistic” brought me thunderous applause. Debut for so few expected, and doing such a colossal impression. An album that changes the essence of progressive metal, often narrowed down to narrow drawers. Hagopian’s debut is one of the few records, especially the type of this genre, which I would have considered without blinking as one of the most visionary among progression. Musician, if not prominent today, it will certainly be recognized in a few years.

The harsh climate of liquid improvisation fixed on the rock of perfect dynamics and allergy to sound randomness. For this solid production and perfect instrumental balance. The range of styles does not break paradigms, but it definitely brings Hagopian’s newest output to the name of a masterpiece. I do not know if “Paradigms” is breaking through the debut. Perhaps he was more ecstatic and enthusiastic. The latest one is definitely more toned down and balanced, which can also result from quite a drastic cast change, but as always the whole is polished to the very end.

Hagopian’s work is emotions split into prime factors, mainly thanks to the solid interpretation of the atmosphere of each composition, which always form a coherent musical concept. It is hard to imagine a better identification with the song, as is the case with Derek Sherinian in Ulterior Harmony. The whole is well thought out. Hagopian does not err, although he works hard to make his albums heterogeneous clouds of heterogeneous styles. The sterility of the instruments and technical design does not, however, disturb the emotional message ( When Dreams Have Died ). This is one of the pieces that confirm the complete knowledge in the field of construction and mixing of different styles. The listener after such an exhausting dose of musical moods must be fulfilled.

Systematically overlapping layers make the material as accessible as it is complicated due to the intelligent design of the tracks. It does not dazzle the listener with glamor, but with gradual introduction to subsequent musical dimensions. From acoustic krotochwilność through the desperation of ballads, and on rock and orchestral sound cohorts ending ( Universal ). It’s not everything! In Mirrors of Confusion we get a brilliant funk rhythm. The trip Disturbance Within makes a great impression in terms of building the atmosphere and space . For this we get a heavy, though jazz-entwined tunes, the entertaining song Carousel of Death or great melodies in Pereidolia . Melancholy will surprise us in the bluesEmpty Whiskey Jar. You will find hot progressions with spectacular ornaments in The Stranger From Andromeda. Ultrarelaxing Until We Meet Again soothes. This ability to play with sound reminds me of Hagopian the most. It does it not only with an incredible lightness, but also with a stunning effect of the final arrangements. Some topics develop in a completely surprising way. The unpredictability of works is one of the basic advantages for which he returns to his work.

Hagopian is often compared to Joe Satriani and Steve Vaia. Believe it or not, none of them convinces me emotionally as Hagopian does, and it’s very hard in this music because of the lack of a lyric foundation. However, no comparison.Universal, for example, can be drawn up and interpreted as a tribute to the Camel band from the time of the album “The Snow Goose” (1975). Its subtlety, delicacy and finesse create a truly amazing and unique whole, and it should not be concretized in the context of well-known standards, which appear rather accidentally. A good instrumental album does not depend on breaking speed records but on feeling the climate and versatility. These features Hagopian possessed in all their synergy.

Hagopian’s work, however, really grows with the listener. It seems trivial to write about the fact that the album grows with each interrogation, but its creation really creates something that not only returns with great pleasure, but each time leads us to other nooks of this sonic poetry. An amazing atmosphere, with these technical fireworks, is rarely so emotional. “Paradigms” is another unique and unique publishing house. “Solipstistic” was not a coincidence.

Full Review https://www.laboratoriummuzycznychfuzji.com/2018/08/semantic-saturation-paradigms.html

Review on Angry Metal Guy

A new review published on Angry Metal Guy web ‘zine.

Paradigms is chock full of excellent, inventive compositions, with a healthy range of genres infusing the album with their particular flavors.

*****

By GardensTale On August 23, 2018

Semantic Saturation – Paradigms

Welcome to Psych 102! Today we discuss the phenomenon of semantic saturation, or satiation. Ever hear a word so often it just becomes a sound and loses all meaning? Let’s try it here! Read this out loud, focusing on the sound of the word: juxtapose. Juxtapose. Juxtapose. Juxtapose. Juxtapose. Are you feeling it yet? Syrian/Canadian guitarist Shant Hagopian was, and he was feeling it with music rather than words. Developing an acute allergy to repetition, he decided to create a band with a focus on variety, resulting in the instrumental band Semantic Saturation. Then, a few years later, he took it to the next level by replacing all the band members for the second album Paradigms. At least he’s consistent with his theme.

There is one common thread across the album: Hagopian was trained as a jazz guitarist, and it shows. Though his aim towards varied music is a generally successful one, borrowing from progressive rock and metal as well as blues and post-rock on occasion, the undercurrent is always jazz-fusion. The resulting amalgam is a more restrained and coherent cousin to Liquid Tension Experiment. But while LTE often seemed bent on cramming as much show-offiness (vocabulary patent pending) into an album as humanly possible, Hagopian has a clear vision toward tracks with an internal consistency, keeping the music dynamic without becoming random for the hell of it.

That’s not to say there is no show-offiness (it’s gonna catch on, I swear) to be found on Paradigms. I don’t think such a thing is possible on an instrumental album fronted by a jazz guitarist. But with such diversity as the choppy Steve Vai electro-experiments of “The Stranger from Andromeda,” the sultry jazz-blues of “Empty Whiskey Jar,” and the various bendy Joe Satriani solos strewn across the album, there’s no help but admiring the skill on the six-string. What’s more, the album sounds crystal clear, with drums as natural as though you were in the room with them and a smoothly thrumming bass of which every note rings true. Thankfully, neither is at any point entirely outshone by the guitar, in spite of its clear protagonist role. The solid production and sensible compositions result in an album that feels whole, not like a competition between its performers. Not every instrumental record can lay claim to such an achievement.

As much as I enjoy the album, I miss the real peaks, the moments to get well and truly excited about. There’s not one single reason for this restraint on my enthusiasm. Perhaps it is a result of the angle of variety, the compositions spreading themselves too thin to be honed to their very maximum. Maybe it’s the lack of a tension arc within the compositions, lacking any real sense of climax. I might simply be less receptive to instrumental albums. Whatever the case, it certainly doesn’t break Paradigms. The gamut of styles it employs ensures that boredom never has much chance to set in, making the record if not a masterpiece, then at least a joy to listen to from start to finish.

A good album, even an instrumental one, depends on more than a versatile and talented guitar player. Hagopian seems to understand this, and he gets to shine as much as can be reasonably expected as the lead guitarist without vocals to compete with. Paradigms is chock full of excellent, inventive compositions, with a healthy range of genres infusing the album with their particular flavors. Though short in real climaxes, I never felt averse to spinning the record just one more time. Completed by a lush production, Semantic Saturation proves itself a capable project, and skillfully avoids the yawning pits of show-offiness (third time’s the charm.)