Might sound like a cliché, but progression is the only constant in life, and this is especially true in music. In fact, incessant change is the norm in prog. For instance, Dream Theater used to define progressive metal. But it’s safe to say that benchmark is now comfortably buried — under layers of odd time signatures, robotic precision and polyrhythms.

But change is also an obvious broader pattern, manifesting over time and at numerous levels.

Both artists and their listeners tend to evolve, often in different trajectories. We are all simply wired differently and more importantly — we constantly learn. At least most of us do. In that sense, it’s also impossible to listen to the same song twice – because each iteration would be perceived through a slightly different neural filter.

Nothing illustrates this more than going back and listening to our decade old favorites. This will inevitably reveal a new facet to the very same sound, something which was never obvious before. Essentially, artistic experiences tend to forge new sets of mental connections, and this way we progressively develop our own individual palate.

A fellow metal-head and a Progarchy reader had recently managed to summarize her own progression, and that also in just about six artists. This sort of prompted me to jot down and share my own seven song list. Needless to say, Powerslave to Funeral Fog took a few years.

Martin Eric Ain (1967 – 2017)

Years ago I had visited this rundown record store, and tucked away into one corner was this used CD – a grotesque cross-over artwork with Morbid Tales stamped on it. Of course, picking that up for the long drive back home was the next obvious step. Definitely not my first encounter with Celtic Frost, but this time they stunningly hit all the right notes. Not every day will someone inadvertently stumble into a Morbid Tales, quite an understated introduction for a viciously influential record.

How that eerie album intro explodes ‘Into the crypt of rays’—making an instant and deep impact. With the dusky coastal highway as an idyllic backdrop – a moment forever engraved in mind.

The whole experience was almost like discovering a trap door, straight into the nether vaults of metal. Suddenly, numerous aspects of late 80s and early 90s black/death wave starts to make sense. Those coarse structural patterns, surreal and nightmarishly poetic lyrics – they afflicted and spawned hordes of imitators. Some elevated those very elements to stratospheric levels. Quite like Venom — Hellhammer and Celtic Frost are vital, to grasping an era which otherwise might sound like sheer white noise.

Martin Ain might have departed this mortal world. But, what he invented with Tom Warrior remains vibrantly ablaze.

Image Attribution:
By Jarkko Iso-Heiko [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons