Essential progressive metal albums


Ago 22 2011, 21:25

As Frank Zappa said: "most rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read." Extremely true, if you ask me. However, I'll try my best in this little journal role. Of course, there are thousands upon thousands of music genres. Nevertheless, only a few can boast and entail a sheer bombastic splendour without simultaneously losing any edge of intellectual honesty and rigor. Definitely, is one of those. From wiki: " Progressive metal (sometimes known as prog metal) is a subgenre of heavy metal, which blends the powerful, guitar-driven sound of metal with the complex compositional structures, odd time signatures, diverse philosophical lyrics and intricate instrumental playing of progressive rock. Many progressive metal bands are also influenced by jazz fusion and classical music. Like progressive rock songs, progressive metal songs are typically much longer".

So if the medium is the message (McLuhan et al.,1964) then, most playing devices of prog metal music can be the carriers of vigorous messages, as long as one is literate enough to read between the lines. As Queensrÿche said in
"Anybody Listening?":
"Read between the lines
Criticize the words they're selling
Think for yourself and feel the walls
Become sand beneath your feet"

Now, to get to my main point, upon a topic request on the Old school progressive metal group, I quickly compiled a list with what I consider the essential progressive metal albums :

Dream Theater - Images and Words, Awake, Metropolis pt2 : Scenes From a Memory, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
Queensrÿche - Operation: Mindcrime, Promised Land, Rage For Order
Fates Warning -Parallels, A pleasant Shade of Gray, Perfect Symmetry
Psychotic Waltz - A Social Grace & Into The Everflow
Pain of Salvation - Remedy Lane & A Perfect Element pt.1
Ayreon - The Human Equation (concept prog)
Watchtower- Control And Resistance (benchmark for thrash-prog)
Opeth - Damnation (very prog-rockish though)
Mekong Delta - Visions Fugitives (classical influences)
Shadow Gallery - Carved in Stone & Tyranny (must)
Sieges Even - A Sense of Change & Sophisticated ( the best german prog)
Arcturus - The Sham Mirrors (only 1 black metal song, the others are prog)
Soul Cages- Moments
Porcupine Tree - In Absentia (prog rock & metal hybrid)
Jester's March - Beyond
Symphony X - The Divine Wings of Tragedy (power-progish)
Last Crack - Burning Time
Conception - Flow (lots of synths)
Winds - The Imaginary Direction of Time (lots of violins)
House Of Spirits - both
Enchant- Juggling 9 or Dropping 10
Ark - both (fusion prog)
Eternity X - The Edge (concept prog)
Age of Silence - Accelaration (norwegian prog)
Andromeda- II=I (swedish prog)
Depressive Age- Electric Scum (crazy prog)
Magnitude 9- Reality in Focus (Dream Theater clone prog)
Poverty's No Crime- The Chemical Chaos (same)
Ivanhoe - Visions and Reality (same)
Saviour Machine- 1st (christian prog)
Superior- Younique (atheist prog)
Orphaned Land- Mabool (hebrew/jewish prog)
Naked Sun - S/T
Xerxes - Beyond My Imagination (poetic prog)
Kinetic Dissent - I Will Fight No More Forever (thrash-prog)
Eldritch - El Nino (crazy prog)
Riverside - Out Of Myself & Second Life Syndrome
Heir Apparent- One Small Voice
Threshold - Wounded Land & Critical Mass
Arena - Contagion (more keyboards than usual)
Spiral Architect - A Skeptic's Universe (tech prog)
Mayfair - Behind (thrash-prog)
Voivod- Nothingface (same)
Devin Townsend - Physicist & Terria (industrial prog)
Secrecy - Art In Motion (thrashy edge)
Green Carnation- Light Of Day Day Of Darkness (atmospheric prog)
Vauxdvihl- To Dimension Logic ('ryche prog)
Control Denied- The Fragile Art Of Existence (Chuck prog)
Spastic Ink - Ink Compatible (math prog)

Many other decent progressive metal bands could rise in the prog metal Pantheon but most of them haven't made it so far, for various circumstances. Being a prog musician is not the easiest thing in the world given the constant struggle between art and trying to make a living, amidst the anti-commercial nature of their prog genre.
However, that kind of pursuit can be extremely rewarding in other perspectives. Through my entire prog metal albums collection in my PC, I conducted an alphabetical extraction of prog metal bands with hopeful prospects for the future (for some of them anyway). These include:

Animals as Leaders,
Anubis Gate,
Ice Age,
All Too Human,
Appearance of Nothing,
Art Of Simplicity,
Beyond Twilight,
Behold...The Arctopus,
Black Wings,
Blind Ego,
Canvas Solaris,
Cea Serin,
Circus Maximus,
Civil Defiance
Guilt Machine,
Dali's Dilemma,
Dead Soul Tribe,
Diablo Swing Orchestra,
Dark Suns,
Divided Multitude,
Digital Ruin,
Dreams of Sanity,
Degree Absolute,
Dimension 34,
Divine Regale,
Eclipse Hunter,
Echoes of Eternity,
Elegant Simplicity,
Equal Vector,
Eye 2 Eye,
Factory Of Art,
Fragile Vastness,
Giant Squid,
Gordian Knot,
Horizon's End,
Illusion Suite,
Infinite Horizon,
Ice Age,
Inner Strength,
Into Eternity,
Kayo Dot,
Last Warning,
Lemur Voice,
Linear Sphere,
Mind Colour,
Mind Odyssey,
Mind's Eye,
Moonlight Comedy,
Oblivion Sun,
Pagan's Mind,
Parallel Mind,
Pin-Up Went Down,
Pressure Points,
Presto Vivace,
Red Circuit,
Scale the Summit,
Section A,
Seer's Tear
Seven Gates,
Silent Memorial,
Six Minute Century,
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum,
Spaced Out,
Spheric Universe Experience,
Subterranean Masquerade,
Sun Caged,
Tempus Fugit,
The Algorithm,
The Arkitecht,
The Postman Syndrome,
Thinking Plague,
Thought Chamber,
Tomorrow's Eve,
Twisted Into Form,
Vanden Plas,
Vanishing Point,
Veil of Maya,
World of Silence,
Zero Hour,

I put the above mainly for reference. Wikipedia has a relevant page with prog metal artists as well, but I don't trust that page very much. Besides being incomplete, some bands do not belong there. I could go on indefinitely on prog bands, since Prog metal is my favourite genre, but you get an idea.
Also, Tool, albeit influential, obviously possess an alternative hard rock edge and according to some standards, they are not quite what I would call Prog Metal. As a result, I didn't thoroughly mentioned yet neither Tool-like Alternative hard rock with Prog metal hybrids (e.g. Dregd, Rishloo, Indukti) nor any prog-metal cross-breeds. Regarding these prog metal cross-breeds with other genres, here are some of my selected albums and artists from:

- Prog-Power metal:
Angra - Angels Cry & Holy Land (power, with some prog influences)
Conception - In Your Multitude (Khan's ex-progpower band)
Crimson Glory - Transcendence (powerprog, high pitched vocals)
Time Machine - Act II (Italian prog-power)
Royal Hunt - Paradox ( the best Danish power-prog I know)
Evergrey - Recreation Day (Swedish power-prog)
Nevermore - Dreaming Neon Black (US power-thrash-prog)
Kamelot - Karma (very power-y though)
Savatage - Gutter Ballet (more heavy metal than prog)
Iron Maiden - 7th son of a 7th son (melodic prog-heavy-power)

- Prog-Post-metal/Sludge:
(Isis, maudlin of the Well,Neurosis, Cult of Luna, Callisto etc.)
Lengthy complex songs here, some odd signatures every now and then, but a lot of repetitiveness, typical of doom bands. Lyrically abstract and more close to post rock and 'core bands. Very little aesthetic relevance to classic prog metal.
The same can be said for prog-metal related bands like Between the Buried and Me who obviously have metalcore influences. Metalcore, from wiki "is a subgenre of heavy metal combining various elements of extreme metal and hardcore punk" Hence, the obvious differention and deviation from the prog metal roots, which were aesthetically developed mainly upon the Progressive rock movement. And nearly every progressive rocker despises punk music's simplicity right?

- Prog-Death metal and Prog-Industrial metal:
Everything with growling vocals is not included in my main list for classification reasons. Some of the best albums in this category include, Cynic - 'Focus' or Opeth - 'Still Life' & 'Blackwater park'.
Others like Coroner, Sadist, Ephel Duath, Atheist, Periphery, Disillusion, Wolverine, Solution .45, Gojira, Strapping Young Lad or Meshuggah can also claim some prog relevance, yet they are more close to their original genres (industrial or death metal or whatever ) in most aspects.

- Prog with Avant-garde Black metal :
(Borknagar, Code, Ihsahn, Solefald, Enslaved, Ram-Zet etc.)
Generally, many of those bands are (ex)-Black metalheads that have listened and appreciated quite a lot of 70's-Progressive rock (In The Woods...), or just were oriented by Jazz (Fleurety & Ved Buens Ende) or Classical music (Peccatum) And, sometimes with a hinch of Scandinavic Folk (Vintersorg), case depending.
Lyrics in this folk case are mostly typical of viking metal bands (Pagan mythology etc.) but may include Album concepts, scientific or avant-garde and abstract elements. Other major bands in the genre like Sigh, Vulture Industries or Dismal Euphony are clearly influenced by horror movies as well.

- Prog Gothic-Atmospheric metal and Prog-Doom metal:
(Katatonia, Amorphis, early Anathema, early The Gathering, Green Carnation, Novembre, Agalloch etc.)
The music and arrangements might be at times complex and lengthy, but the lyrics are at 95% mostly typical of goth bands. Constant obsession about love, pain, loss, life, and/or death. Not necessarily bad or good, it depends on the album and each band's period.

I did not mention any other fusion or whatever other innumerable cross-breeds (e.g Dream Theater member projects, which are way too many to count)



  • scorpiondevil

    Hello . I loved your aticle. You should check a band called "Lumsk".

    Dic 20 2011, 11:03
  • Neue_regel_

    Thanks, I also like Lumsk. They remind me of early Vintersorg or Otyg : Good Folk-Prog metal. I didn't include much of that genre here, my journal was already quite long.

    Dic 20 2011, 19:00
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