Finishing with the Beginning
Updated: Sep 23, 2022
by Ross Richardson
Proem: A preface or preamble to a book or speech.
It started late one night while I was pondering the project over a glass of whiskey (like you do). We were deep in the growing pains of mixing and mastering, but aside from those few final touches, the album was done. Objectively listening to the album, the intro to “On the Meltdown Periphery Lies The Reverie Forge” does a pretty good job of tapering you into the madness of what I would consider our sound, but it doesn’t really prepare the listener for the fact that there is this massive narrative going on. By the second or third glass of whiskey, I thought that I might have a solution to that.
Most of the great works of fiction that I have loved over the years have had some sort of prologue, preamble, or introduction. The perspective that one comes from changes depending on the author or the work, but the vast majority of my favorites offer some sort of content to give the reader (or viewer, listener, etc.) some sort of context for the story.
While we had done a ton to flesh out this concept, one might say that our bicycle had no training wheels.
I wasn’t looking for an entire, conventional song. Just something to scratch that itch for an opening. I recorded some rough riffs on my baritone guitar, framed some percussion out, and got ready.
The next band meeting was wrapping up as I interrupted the normal end of meeting banter with “So, I might really regret saying this, but … I think we need to add one more track.” Alan and Gabriel just laughed, as I am typically the last person who would suggest something like this. I pitched them the idea and had them listen to the rough tracks—and to my surprise, they were both super down with the idea.
Introducing: Accidentally Prog Rock
One of the occupational hazards of doing the majority of rough composition and concepting in the middle of the night after several drinks and a long, stressful day working in a restaurant is that it is often hard to make sense of what in the hell you were thinking the next day. Proem was certainly no exception to this.
After counting out and actually writing down what I had roughly composed the night before, it followed a very atypical structure. The basic melody was 2 measures of 6/4 followed by one measure of 5/4 and another measure of 6/4 to make a line that felt like it had a sort of anxiety; an urgency to jump into the next phrase as soon as it could. As much as I hated how absurd the timing was, it really worked.
I feel like I have spent countless hours talking Alan out of writing melodies that did exactly this sort of shit, and here I was pitching the introduction to our entire project with a song built around one. At this point, it was too late to try to recover. The only choice I had was to lean into it. It was at this moment that I feel we truly became a “progressive” genre band. We were absolutely a concept band already; we had songs following very atypical structures and formats for rock, we implemented lots of MIDIs, sound effects, and classical instruments, and now I was just wantonly pretending that counting no longer mattered to the organized world.
We had accidentally become a prog-rock band.
Of course Alan and Gabriel were excited about this.
Of course the absurdity has only become more focused as we work on Arc Two.