Viper's Theatre of Fate: the unsung pioneers of Prog Metal

Ivison Poleto

Ivison Poleto holds a PhD degree in Social History. He is a History teacher and independent researcher. He has written more than a thousand reviews of metal releases for the site Metal Addicts (https://metaladdicts.com/). His interests are the formation of extreme metal and the history of Brazilian heavy metal.

Deena Weinstein (Weinstein, 2000) posited that “[h]eavy metal has many histories. There is no consensus on its precursors, basic influences, first full-ledged songs and bands, or developmental stages. There is even some debate about its name.” In addition, she noted, inspired on Ronald Byrnise, that the genre had its moments of formation, crystallization, and decay. However, instead of a general decay, heavy metal had its moment of splitting into other subgenres of which progressive metal is one.

Quoting E. P. Thompson’s explanation on how he reached his understanding on the making of the English working class (Thompson, 1980: p. 9) “[m]aking, because it is a study in an active process, which owes as much to agency as to conditioning. The working class did not rise like the sun at an appointed time. It was present at its own making.” Neither did extreme metal. The making of it was a process that took some time and involved many forces. Hence, it was not the product of a day or a name that was brought up in the blink of an eye (op. cit., p. 194), not “the spontaneous generation of the” world of metal music.

It is my understanding that the historical study of popular music may benefit from the use of the historical materialism to understand the formation and development of genres inspired by Engels’s dialectal materialism “of the absolute immutability of nature” (Engels, 1976, p. 26). The proposal of this presentation reminded me of Viper’s biography written by Hervé SK Guélgano contained in the booklet of the re-release of the 1989 album Theatre of Fate [1997, Paradoxx Music in a 2-in-1 edition with 1987’s Soldiers of Sunrise] which I bought years ago. Reading it, I had an idea for the first time of the international relevance of the band and its Prog Metal pioneering.

This proposal works with two main ideas. The first one is that Theatre of Fate was the product of singer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Andre Mattos’ ingenuity combining the interest in concert music with Viper’s power metal, hugely influenced by bands as Iron Maiden and Helloween. The second idea is that, along with Queensrÿche’s early 1980s releases, the album was one of the pioneers of this metal subgenre. Supporting the first idea is the fact that Mattos officially left the band to study Music and subsequently follow a career in concert music. He later joined Angra, a band with which he continued the ideas he brought up to life while in Viper. Perhaps, an elegant way of seeing it would be to consider Theatre of Fate as proto-prog metal whose musical ideas would be developed later by André Matos with Angra.

 

The mix between heavy metal and concert music was not exactly new. However, Viper’s contribution, unlike their peers, was to convey lots of the speed and the punch of their power metal, unlike Queensrÿche whose contribution took a different path not adding classical music elements to their fine technique and musicianship. A path that bands such as Rhapsody, later Rhapsody of Fire, among others, would follow and credit Viper as the main influence.

References

Viper -Theatre of Fate

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0cAbxkMM7s&t=4s

Viper - Soldiers of Sunrise

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5_poxTr6RE&t=5s

Angra - Angels Cry

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vVsIVVIHks&t=7s

Queenrÿche - The Warning

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCygGQOQ_IA&t=8s

WEINSTEIN, Deena. Heavy Metal: The Music and its Culture. Rev. ed. New York: Da Capo Press, 2000
ENGELS, Friedrich. Dialects of Nature. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976.
BYRNSIDE, Ronald. The Formation of a Music Style: Early Rock. In HAMM, Charles, NETTL, Bruno and BYRNSIDE, Ronald (eds.), Contemporary Music Cultures. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1975.

THOMPSON, E. P. The Making of the English Working Class. New York: Vintage Books, 1980.