Grand Master | Saligia
Release Year: 2015
Country: Manitoba Canada
Genre: Progressive Metal
Shane Barron – Guitar, Vocals
Matt Kathler – Drums, Vocals
Mark Barron – Keyboards, Vocals, Additional Guitar, Violin
Alec Schaefer – Vocals, Bass
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Let’s face it, 2015 has most definitely been a banner year in progressive rock and metal since the years of the early 2000’s . We have seen many new faces rise like Australia’s Arcane, Poland’s Abstrakt and Russia’s Emerald Mind. We have seen some of the familiar return as well, SymphonyX, Riverside, and even a stage version to Ayreon’s 2004 project of The Human Equation with the Theater Equation.
Now comes a band out of the great white north of Manitoba Canada called Grand Master. They have risen with a brilliant concept album titled Saligia. After multiple listens of this fine piece of musicianship I can now say the old guard with the Dream Theater’s, SymphonyX’s, Vanden Plas’ and Threshold’s are all on notice. Grand Master will be spoken about in the same breath and the bands I just mentioned. I would even go out on a limb and on record to say that the bands I just mentioned should seriously consider Grand Master as a future opening act.
I am normally not this bold, however Saligia is a very different concept album. It is a story of nine tracks consisting of track one Capital Vices such as tracks 2.Pride, 3.Greed, 4.Lust, 5. Envy, 6. Gluttony, 7.Wrath and 8.Sloth. And there track 9. Holy Virtues to offset the Vices in the story. They have taken the listener in this concept and placed them in a reality of reflection on life, what is there and what can be. Now the breakdown of the masterpiece that is Grand Master’s Saligia.
Capital Vices opens with a deep heavy and dark intro progression for the first 1:16. Then it takes another progression on with a crunchy distortion of guitar. At the 1:52 mark it explodes and the band are on all cylinders. Both the stringed section of guitar and keyboard work in harmony with the deep rhythm progressions. The keyboard appears to go into realms of neo progression much like Dream Theater’s Images and Words and Awake albums. Capital Vices is the only instrumental on the album. Towards the 2:20 mark the track takes on a regression with the right while hooking you with another progression with the left. The track flows quite fluid into track 2. Pride.
Pride starts off with a thunderous progression with the drums and bass before going into a more verse progression with vocals at the 1:40 mark. The vocals remind me of another Canadian outfit Annihlator. Pride consists of several thunderous hooks and progressions. The band nicely fits a multitude of passages in its 4:09 entirety. Then the album takes a total riff progression leading and flowing into track 3.Greed.
Greed stays on point with some serious rhythmic riff work on the guitar by Shane Barron. Greed at its core takes on a thrash metal style quality in progression. The vocals often remind me of early Kronos of Venom meets DRI’s Spike Cassidy or even Overkill’s Bobby Blitz before balancing out to a more traditional progressive metal vocal. There is a rare punk sensibility about Greed. Nice tight blast beats with serious intricate chord progressions. About the 2:48 mark the vocals take the more deathy black metal style growls and screams. The track flows fluidity into Lust.
Lust begins with a nice acoustical passage that is ethereal in nature. The bass and drum rhythm sections come in harmony quite nice with the stringed section. The band displays two dimensions of their talent while bringing it together in a spot on well engineered progression. At the 2:25 mark a nice violin perfectly compliments the stringed section. At the 3:45 mark the track takes a very odd yet tasteful psychedelic vibe. There are layers upon layers of keyboard effects. It gives the listener the appearance there are two seperate tracks into one single composition. Towards the 6:40 mark to end of the track the composition takes on a semi acoustical semi electric atmosphere. Once again the band has a deathy vocal in harmony with the lead.
Envy opens up with almost a sheer Arabic scale vibe meets a primal east African style percussion giving the album a unpredictable quality. At the 1:45 mark the keyboards come in almost in a minimalist krautrock style before balancing out to a more progressive exchange of various time signatures and hooks. Envy is also sprinkled with subtle yet noticeable Djent math post rock signatures at various times after the 4:00 mark. About the 4:39 mark there is a guitar and keyboard exchange before at the 5:30 mark where Envy takes a more jazz to blues style progression before going to the traditional prog metal signatures.
Gluttony begins once again with a heavy bottom progression in the rhythm section. There is a progression giving the listener a appearance of being stalked. At the 1:25 mark the vocal takes a very deep board line vibe that reminds me of the late Pete Steele of Type O Negative. Gluttony takes on a very heavy horror style and even incorporates some nice spoken word tracks that give the listener a more vintage horror film score effect.
Wrath opens up with some strange special effect as if someone enter a room lurking for trouble. Wrath takes on a progression that incorporates a 1990’s alternative sound. It is met with a nicely engineered guitar echo before exploding at the 2:00 mark into a more traditional progression instrumentally with a offset spoken vocal. Wrath is a reminder that Grand Master refuse to be pigeonholed into one single time signature, progression or sub genre. Wrath has its tentacles in the punk and alternative world while carrying the traditional progressive metal signatures. Wrath serves up a great dynamic of various experimental properties not traditionally heard in the progressive metal and rock community.
Sloth serves as a transitional track before the other half of Siligia takes the listener on a 21:44 journey of Holy Virtues. Sloth has a heavy ballad style while maintaining a more traditional old school prog rock progression.
Holy Virtues opens with a slow but easy progression bringing the listener in gently and delicate. The orchestration is a true progressive one with a traditional longer progressive rock instrumental orchestral. Holy Virtues brings the listener in in such fashion where they can paint a vivid film in the theater of the mind. The opening instrumentation even has some heavily dispersed folk elements before the vocal comes in at the 4:18 mark. This track takes on elements that remind me of classic rock in the vein of The Eagles and Steve Miller Band meets Yes or Genesis. This is supported with the rolling acoustical underbelly.
At the 7:35 mark the rhythm section of the drums and bass are almost a jazz fusion progression that keeps the listeners interest intrigued. At the 8:42 mark the keyboard once again takes on a neo progressive element on top a good guitar solo. About the 9:50 mark Holy Virtues takes on almost a symphony style orchestration with semi classical progressions and signatures before balancing towards the traditional signatures. The track goes in and out of the heavy progressive hallmarks satisfying the progressive purists while attracting a newer listener base. From the 13:30 mark towards the end the track takes on a easy listening experience all the while as to not insult the prog purist intelligence. A gentle balance of various progressions in other words.
Much like previous progressive concept albums like Pink Floyd’s Darkside of The Moon to the Dream Theater’s Metropolis 2: Scenes From A Memory to the Pain Of Salvation’s BE and Perfect Element Part 1. Grand Master’s Saligia maintains the traditional progressive rock/metal integrity while appealing to a much younger audience through the harder more death and metalcore elements. I give Saligia a 4.25/5 for great integrity while appealing to various musical demographics and pallets.