Progressive Metal

MetalMusicArchives.com — the ultimate metal music online community, from the creators of progarchives.com

Progressive metal, more commonly know as prog metal, is characterized by genre transgression and instrumental virtuosity. Its signature features are guitar driven songs that have complex time signatures and very intricate playing.

Progressive metal as a genre is associated with acts such as Dream Theater, Fates Warning and Queensrÿche, who had their heyday in the early 1990s, but progressive elements have been fused into metal virtually since the inception of metal. For instance, on their early releases, Black Sabbath would incorporate jazzy passages into their compositions, while also drawing on other genres, and many proto-metal acts also had backgrounds in progressive rock and heavy psychedelic rock. In the early to mid 1980s, some NWoBHM groups, such as Iron Maiden would find direct inspiration in progressive rock acts like Genesis, Yes, and King Crimson and incorporate progressive elements, such as complex song structures, twin guitars and changes in time and tempo into their style, while the cult band Mercyful Fate were known for blatantly disregarding the conventions of composition in popular music, opting for complex and unusual song structures.

So, progressiveness was a part of metal since the inception of the genre, but it was not until the late 1980s and mid 1990s as bands like Watchtower, Fates Warning, Queensrÿche, Psychotic Waltz, and Dream Theater that progressive metal became established as an independent subgenre. These bands would draw both on previously established metal genres, like NWOBHM, and progressive rock acts of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Especially Dream Theater would become iconic of the genre, and their instrumentation, which includes prominent keyboards, became the blueprint for many progressive metal bands to follow. The music that came out was very diverse and even symphonic at times. Not all of it was overly technical, though some bands such as Dream Theater were very technical, while others, like Fates Warning and Watchtower emphasized odd time signature. Psychotic Waltz incorporated psychedelia into their sound, and Queensrÿche began to operate with complex lyrical themes.

After progressive metal had been somewhat popular for some time, it began to take on more extreme forms such as progressive death metal, and so on. Bands such as Edge of Sanity and Atheist took prog metal to greater heights with their infusion of prog and death metal. Atheist also added a jazz/fusion sound to their music to make it true progressive death metal, as did Pestilence on their jazz-influenced Spheres. Also during this time, bands such as Opeth and Voivod changed their style to a more progressive sound. While Voivod changed in the early 1990’s, Opeth became a more progressive metal band in the late 1990’s which was probably an effect of the progressive metal movement that was going on at the time. Some already established metal acts in other genres would similarly cross over into progressive metal territory, such as Savatage, who - although having a background in traditional metal and power metal - released several progressive metal albums. In parallel with the development of progressive extreme metal genres, many power metal acts would take their music in a more progressive direction, resulting in the subgenre of progressive power metal (which is included under power metal here at the MMA) some of which, like Kamelot and Savatage, would eventually become fully fledged progressive metal acts.

Most bands in the progressive metal genre have their own unique style; whether it is more spacey, more symphonic, or more technical while others follow the Dream Theater configuration to a smaller or greater extent (these are sometimes referred to as 'traditional progressive metal' bands), but they all have an equal balance between the influences. Over the years progressive metal has gained the title of having longer songs then regular metal, and while this is mostly true, it isn’t always.

These bands are here because they are different, in a sense, than regular metal bands because they not only include metal but different genres as well, such as jazz/fusion, prog rock, and classical music, and put them all together to make an enjoyable sound. Bands and releases who include progressive elements in their music, but whose central sound is more firmly anchored in another genre are placed in that genre - for instance, Enslaved, whose style is progressive and experimental but still quite firmly based in their black metal roots, are placed in the black metal category, while mathcore and progressive metalcore bands are placed in metalcore.

Sub-genre collaborators (shared with Avant-Garde Metal):
  • siLLy puPPy
  • DippoMagoo
  • Sisslith
  • adg211288

progressive metal top albums

Showing only albums and EPs | Based on members ratings & MMA custom algorithm | 24 hours caching

OPETH Still Life Album Cover Still Life
OPETH
4.47 | 196 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
THRESHOLD Legends Of The Shires Album Cover Legends Of The Shires
THRESHOLD
4.74 | 15 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
DREAM THEATER Images and Words Album Cover Images and Words
DREAM THEATER
4.44 | 240 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
HAKEN The Mountain Album Cover The Mountain
HAKEN
4.46 | 74 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
QUEENSRŸCHE Operation: Mindcrime Album Cover Operation: Mindcrime
QUEENSRŸCHE
4.42 | 175 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
ANUBIS GATE Horizons Album Cover Horizons
ANUBIS GATE
4.59 | 22 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
RIVERSIDE Anno Domini High Definition Album Cover Anno Domini High Definition
RIVERSIDE
4.41 | 84 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
MESHUGGAH I Album Cover I
MESHUGGAH
4.44 | 46 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
TOOL Lateralus Album Cover Lateralus
TOOL
4.38 | 140 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
JOHN ARCH A Twist of Fate Album Cover A Twist of Fate
JOHN ARCH
4.52 | 20 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
OPETH Ghost Reveries Album Cover Ghost Reveries
OPETH
4.35 | 156 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
AMORPHIS Under The Red Cloud Album Cover Under The Red Cloud
AMORPHIS
4.44 | 30 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy MMA!

progressive metal online videos

progressive metal New Releases

.. Album Cover
Lost Not Forgotten Archives: Live in Berlin (2019)
Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)
DREAM THEATER
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Metamorphosis
Single
MICHAEL ROMEO
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Divide & Conquer
Single
MICHAEL ROMEO
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
War of The Worlds // Pt. 2
Album
MICHAEL ROMEO
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Loathing Light
Album
ONI
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Secrets
Single
ONI
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
War Ender
Single
ONI
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
The Lie
Single
ONI
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Opiate²
Single
TOOL
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Radiant Bloom
Album
ASTRONOID
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Shadow Way
Album
ALL THINGS FALLEN
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
The Sentinel
Single
ALL THINGS FALLEN
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Phototroph
Album
MOON TOOTH
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Playing God
Single
POLYPHIA
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Nightingale
Single
HAKEN
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Agenda 21
Album
ZERO HOUR
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Back Home
Album
SPHERIC UNIVERSE EXPERIENCE
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
The Testament
Album
SEVENTH WONDER
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Parrhesia
Album
ANIMALS AS LEADERS
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Vermilion
Album
ODDLAND
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Acid River
Album
DARK MILLENNIUM
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Red Letter
Single
ARCH ECHO
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Lost Not Forgotten Archives: ...And Beyond - Live in Japan, 2017
Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)
DREAM THEATER
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Immutable
Album
MESHUGGAH
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Epigone
Album
WILDERUN
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Metanoia
Album
PERSEFONE
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Halo
Album
AMORPHIS
Buy this album from MMA partners
.. Album Cover
Revel In Time
Album
STAR ONE
Buy this album from MMA partners

progressive metal Music Reviews

DREAM THEATER Black Clouds & Silver Linings

Album · 2009 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Warthur
Little did they know it at the time, but this would be the last album that Dream Theater would record with Mike Portnoy at the drum stool. (It's lucky, then, that it includes The Shattered Fortress, the end of his Twelve Step Suite - would have been a bit awkward if he'd had to get that out on a Transatlantic album or something.)

If the band had any hint that a change was brewing, however, there's no sign of it here - if anything this is business as usual, with ballad Wither's five-and-a-bit minutes amounting to the only sub-epic song on here - everything else is over 8 minutes long, and 4 of the six songs here are over 12 minutes long.

As it stands, Wither ends up offering a bit of a breathing space of the running order, coming as it does between two heavier pieces (A Nightmare To Remember in particular taking the band further towards extreme metal territory they've ever gone) and The Shattered Fortress, which picks the ferocity back up with its intro. This is perhaps the most straight-ahead epic of the album; Portnoy himself has said that in retrospect, he found he'd written himself into a bit of a corner with the Twelve Step Suite, and with hindsight he might have instead just one song covering all twelve steps back when the band were making Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. It's not that I think it's outright bad - but perhaps because it's trying to maintain a thematic and musical link to material spread over the previous four albums, it doesn't quite feel fresh.

The Best of Times, by comparison, lets things pick up, with a beautiful, restrained opening giving way into a light and positive-sounding song, a real breath of fresh air after the band had spent not only much of this album but a fair chunk of previous recent albums looking at darker material. It reminds me almost of a tribute to Rush circa Permanent Waves or Moving Pictures in some respects. The album closes off with The Count of Tuscany, a foreboding narrative about a strange encounter overseas which presents perhaps the album's most classically proggy sections.

Overall, I can't quite give the album full marks, but it is another impressive entry in the Dream Theater discography; if Portnoy never works with the band again, he can at least be proud of going out on a high note.

SPHERIC UNIVERSE EXPERIENCE Back Home

Album · 2022 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
lukretion
French prog metallers Spheric Universe Experience (S.U.E.) have been around for a long while now. Guitarist Vince Benaim put together the band back in 1999 and their first official release dates back to 2003. After their 2005 well-received debut full-length Mental Torments, S.U.E. started gradually distancing themselves from the Dream Theater / Symphony X’s brand of prog metal that they had pursued at the beginning of their career, veering towards a more commercial form of groove / alternative metal. Their fifth LP Back Home is a literal return to the roots, as the band embrace again with full power their progressive metal influences.

While the new album falls squarely into the classic prog metal genre, S.U.E. have retained some subtle elements of their foray into alt / groove metal territory. The guitars are chunky and sometimes have a djenty feel to it that one immediately associates with the modern progressive metal sound of bands like Haken. Singer Franck Garcia has the classic high tenor voice that is characteristic of the genre, but there is a modern flavor to some of his melodic lines that brings to mind bands like VOLA or Voyager. Meanwhile, keyboard player Fred Colombo alternates classic orchestral flourishes with futuristic sounds that are well suited for the sci-fi concept that runs through the LP. This mixture between the old classic prog metal sound and a more modern and alternative take on the genre is the element that distinguishes this record from many similar others.

Fear not, however, Back Home delivers all the progressive goodness that you would expect to find on a classic Symphony X or Dream Theater’s album. There is plenty of muscular, complex riffs that however never lose sight of melody. While the music is strongly guitar-driven the keyboards play an important and prominent harmonic role too. The rhythmic section (comprised of new members Romain Goulon / drums and Julien Negro / bass) is boisterous, with plenty of drum fills and bass solos. The vocals are forceful but melodic. The melodies are not overly catchy, however, and it takes a while before they sink in. This and the complex song structures imply that Back Home is not easy-listening material and it requires a considerable investment in terms of time and attention on the part of the listener before it can be fully appreciated.

A further challenge comes from the fact that S.U.E. have followed a sort of pedal-to-metal approach when they wrote the nearly 70 minutes of music for this album. There is hardly any moment of respite as one goes through the record’s 13 tracks: it’s a sonic assault through and through, with constant fast tempos, hard-hitting riffs, and relentless drumming. There are some drops in tempo and intensity here and there, but not enough to let the listener properly catch a breath. Inevitably, listening fatigue sets in pretty quickly and by the time I reached track 9 “The Absolution pt 1”, which is the first proper break in the album’s flow, I was a spent force.

However, this is mostly me not being overly enthusiastic about this particular brand of prog metal where “more is more” all the time. But I know there is a market for it – hell, there has been one for over 30 years! –, and S.U.E. undeniably give other bands that cater to it, even the most prominent ones named earlier, a run for their money.

OPETH Watershed

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Warthur
Opeth's Watershed is aptly titled, because it follows the departure of two long-standing members of the band: Peter Lindgren had been on every Opeth album up to this one, whilst Martin Lopez had provided drumming from My Arms, Your Hearse onwards. New drummer Martin Axenrot had appeared on The Roundhouse Tapes, whilst this would be the first release to feature Fredrik Åkesson on guitar, though he clearly missed no time in gelling with the rest of the group; he even gets a songwriting credit on Porcelain Heart, which is notable given how much of Opeth's material by this point was written solely by Mikael Åkerfeldt.

Still, the bulk of the composition work here is still done by Åkerfeldt, so this is very much an evolution of the Opeth approach rather than a radical shift in it. Nonetheless, there's still original surprises here and there; Nathalie Lorichs provides a haunting guest vocal on album opener Coil, and the addition of classical wind and string instruments adds a certain spice to things. The air of the spookier side of 1970s prog is still present here and there - Per Wiberg breaks out some Mellotron here and there which is outright haunting, and Burden sounds like a mixture of mid-1970s Pink Floyd and King Crimson's Epitaph - whilst the death metal aspects of the band's sound are as frantic and powerful as ever.

Whilst I would not put it in the top tier of the band's output, it's certainly a strong album, and a good start for a new phase in the band's existence.

ALL THINGS FALLEN Shadow Way

Album · 2022 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
lukretion
A brainchild of guitarist Markus Sigfridsson (Darkwater; Harmony), All Things Fallen are releasing their second LP Shadow Way on June 3rd via their own label Blackoak Records. The band’s line-up is completed by Pain of Salvation’s drummer Léo Margarit, bassist Raphael Dafras (Edu Falaschi; Harmony) and singer Erik Tordsson (End of September). As you might have guessed already from the names in the line-up, All Things Fallen play a dark, melodic brand of progressive/power metal, not terribly different from Markus Sigfridsson’s main band Darkwater. Other useful signposts are bands like Evergrey, Kamelot and Pain of Salvation.

Melancholia and melody are undoubtedly the keywords here. But there is a lot of gutsy power too across the album’s 9 songs. This is probably one of the defining characteristics of Shadow Way that helps to elevate it above many other records dabbling in similar moods and sound. Guitarist Markus Sigfridsson does not hold back and uses a barrage of powerful, engaging riffs and leads that dominate the album’s sound. There’s some really interesting guitarwork on display here, intricate and inventive, yet very melodic, reminding me of bands like Conception and Ark. It’s a throwback to the early 2000s, when progressive/power metal was built around wonderful guitar acrobatics and a thankfully far cry from the contemporary rendition of the genre, where the spotlight is almost exclusively on cheesy vocal melodies and guitars most of the time chug away lazily in the background.

This is not to say that Shadow Way lacks in the vocal department. To the contrary, singer Erik Tordsson puts in an excellent performance, exploiting his considerable vocal range that allows him to reach the lows of the best Roy Khan as well as the highs of James LaBrie. His singing is not all technical bravura, though. It conveys plenty of emotional subtlety too, which gives depth and life to the songs. Experienced drummer Léo Margarit and bassist Raphael Dafras provide a powerful but refined rhythmic section, of which I appreciated the ability to hold back when the songs needed it, avoiding to fill the sound with walls of double-bass and incessant fills like many other bands in the genre sometimes do. The album also sports some interesting arrangements involving keyboards (played by Markus Sigfridsson) and violins on “Pandemonium” and “Path of Dismay” (played by guest musician Maria Grigoryeva).

Shadow Way starts mightily strong: its first 4/5 tracks are absolutely stunning. The two singles “The Sentinel” and “Pandemonium” are particularly engaging, the latter thanks to a catchy, singalong chorus that will be hard to put out of your mind. Unfortunately, there’s a noticeable dip in songwriting quality as we move to the album’s second half. Songs like “Narcissistic Ritual”, “Kiss of Death” and “Desert of the Real” sound a tad too generic and feel melodically uninspired. Most importantly, they lack the freshness and variety that one can find on the record’s first-half, making the later section of the album somewhat of a drag to go through.

Despite this unevenness across its two halves, Shadow Way remains a thoroughly enjoyable record to listen through. It may not be an album that pushes any significant musical boundaries, but it offers a well-played, well-produced slab of solid prog/power metal that is rare to find these days.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

ARTENSION New Discovery

Album · 2003 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
lukretion
Just one year after releasing a strong comeback record such as Sacred Pathways, prog/neoclassical metallers Artension returned with their sixth full-length album New Discovery. The album was recorded by the same line-up who had played on the previous record, comprised of the three permanent band members, keyboard wizard Vitalij Kuprij, vocalist John West and guitar player Roger Staffelbach, plus Mike Terrana on drums and Kevin Chown on bass. Stylistically, the new album follows in the footsteps of the band’s most recent records, embracing the neoclassical metal sound and leaving behind the prog metal ambitions that had characterized their earlier albums. In addition, New Discovery brings back traces of hard rock that was present at the beginning of Artension’s career but had been somewhat left behind in recent years.

Throughout their career Artension had the unfortunate tendency to alternate strong and weak releases. Although not a complete disaster, New Discovery sadly belongs to the latter category. The main culprit is the uninspired songwriting that mars many of the songs on this album. There is a sense of rigidity and formulaic repetitiveness running through the 9 tracks of this LP. Most songs follow the same structure of verse/prechorus/chorus/instrumental break without any variation or innovation. The arrangements are also quite monotonous. Terrana’s busy double-bass drumwork is pushed to the front of the mix, with bass and guitar chugging away underneath it, to the point that the songs can often come across as rhythmically dull (“Remember My Name”; “The Last Survivor”). The song melodies, carried by West’s vocals and occasionally Kuprij’s keyboards, are frequently cut from the same cloth of Baroque-inspired music that inspired Rainbow and Yngwie Malmsteen, which can be fun to listen to for one or two songs, but rapidly grows tiresome across 50 minutes of material.

To be fair, Kuprij does try to inject some variety into his songwriting, by seeking inspiration in classic hard rock, most evidently on “Hearts Are Broken” and “Call of the Wild” where John West channels his inner Joe Lynn Turner in the most convincing way possible. These songs, however, are quite dull and would probably be classified as fillers on any good Deep Purple or Rainbow album. The album’s best songs are thus those where Artension manage to combine neoclassical metal and melodic hard rock in a less unyielding manner, such as on the title-track, “Innocent Soul” and “Story Teller”. The obligatory power ballad “Endless Days” is also remarkable, thanks to its memorable melody and John West’s soulful performance. Also on the plus side, the album’s sound production is significantly improved compared to some of the previous Artension’s albums, like Sacred Pathways. Drum, guitars and keyboards sound much better than on that album, probably due to the fact that they were recorded in different studios. The mix is still fairly muddy and compressed, though, and this penalizes particularly the guitars and the bass, which are sometimes difficult to hear clearly.

Ultimately, New Discovery gets appreciated mostly for the quality of the playing of the five musicians involved, than for the ideas that form the music. The solos and instrumental jams that inevitably appear in all songs are all excellent and really fun to listen to. If only Artension had managed to write consistently good songs around them, New Discovery could have been a strong album, while instead it only occupies a decent, but lesser place in Artension’s discography.

progressive metal movie reviews

DREAM THEATER Chaos in Motion

Movie · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Warthur
Dream Theater might have thought that their triple live album schtick was starting to wear thin after Live Scenes, Budokan, and Score, because for Chaos In Motion the triple CD is only actually available with the DVD set (though most of the live album - bar an intro track and a keyboard improvisation - is available streaming). I don't think they need to have worried; this live sampling of the Systematic Chaos tour absolutely cooks.

Naturally, Systematic Chaos itself is well-represented, with all but two of its songs represented (those being Repentance and Prophets of War, the latter of which I considered one of the weaker songs on that album). In the Presence of Enemies is presented as one single 26 minute song, rather than split into two halves on the album, which is interesting in itself. As far as dipping into the band's past goes, honourable mention has to go to the extended version of Surrounded from Images and Words, extending it from a five and a half minute piece to a fifteen minute workout which ends up being a medley incorporating a good chunk of Marillion's Sugar Mice, which is a fantastic interpretation of what is already an incredible song.

It's surprising to find that Dream Theater are still excelling to this level on these triple live releases at a point when you would have thought that these would start getting redundant, but I genuinely think Chaos In Motion is an overlooked and undervalued part of their discography and it's well worth a revisit... just, lads, consider a standalone CD reissue, will ya?

AYREON Electric Castle Live and Other Tales

Movie · 2020 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
Electric Castle Live and Other Tales (2020) is a live release by Dutch progressive rock/metal project Ayreon. It is a documentation of the second run of official live Ayreon shows following the Ayreon Universe shows and was recorded in Tilburg in September 2019. While the prior Ayreon Universe was a retrospective show, Electric Castle live is a stage version of Ayreon's breakthrough album Into the Electric Castle (1998) with an assortment of songs from other Arjen Anthony Lucassen projects and one cover song.

Like with Ayreon Universe Arjen Lucassen isn't performing himself as part of the live band, but he does reprise his original vocalist role as the Hippie from Into the Electric Castle so is generally on stage more often on this live release than he was on the former. Speaking of the cast most of the vocalists from the original album have returned to their roles on Electric Castle Live; Fish (ex-Marillion) as the Highlander, Damian Wilson (ex-Threshold, Headspace) as the Knight, Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering, Vuur) as the Egyptian, Edward Reekers (ex-Kayak) as the Futureman, Edwin Balogh (ex-Tamás Szekeres) as the Roman and George Oosthoek (ex-Orphanage, MaYaN) as one of the voices of Death. Replacement cast members for unavailable vocalists are Simon Simons (Epica) as the Indian (replacing Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation)), John 'Jaycee' Cuijpers (Praying Mantis) as the Barbarian (replacing Jay van Feggelen (ex-Bodine)) and Mark Jansen (Epica, MaYaN) as the other voice of Death (replacing Robert Westerholt (Within Temptation)). The vocalists replacements are well chosen and you'd be forgiven for mistaking them for those who original sang their parts. Of course there is one person I have no mentioned yet, the most notable of the re-casts: actor John de Lancie (best known as Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation) replacing Peter Daltrey as 'Forever' of the Stars, complete with new narration. Marcela Bovio (ex-Stream of Passion), Jan Willem Ketelaers (Knight Are) and Dianne van Giersbergen (ex-Xandria) make up a trio of backing vocalists.

Some of the stage musicians are the same as on Ayreon Universe but with some changes that were likely due to availability from their usual projects. Of course Ed Warby is there on drums and Joost van den Broek on keyboards, with a triple guitar setup of Ferry Duijsens (Vuur), Bob Wijtsma (Ex Libris) and Marcel Singor (Kayak), with Johan van Stratum on the bass. Ayreon regular Ben Mathot is on violin with cello performed by newcomer Jurriaan Westerveld. The most noted guest performer is of course Thijs van Leer of Focus, just as on the original album. He makes his entrance during Amazing Flight and continues to appear both through the album show and the Other Tales segment.

The narration change is the biggest difference that the live version of Into the Electric Castle has to the original. The songs themselves are faithfully performed, more so than much of the material on Ayreon Universe was, with minimal other changes to the flow of the album. Some other changes are the inclusion of a piano solo by guest musician Robby Valentine after Cosmic Fusion; some backing death growls on The Castle Hall and some vocal alternations to include Fish on the final song Another Time, Another Space. Nothing changed is out of place and makes the performance unique from the original. In some ways de Lancie's narration is faithful to Daltrey's original, but is a little jarring at first when you're like me and are so familiar with the original that anything else seems wrong to start with. By the time the show is over though, I've come to realise that the de Lancie narration is in some ways a improvement on the original, especially for the live environment.

The show isn't over with Into the Electric Castle though, as there is more to come. After a quick pre-recorded video introduction by Mike Mills (Toehinder) in character as Th-1 from The Source (2017), the other projects of Arjen Lucassen are worked through: The Gentle Storm and the heavy version of Shores of India (sung of course by original vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen), Stream of Passion's Out in the Real World (with Marcela Bovio on vocals), Ambeon's Ashes (with Simone Simons on vocals), Guilt Machine's Twisted Coil (with Damian Wilson on vocals), a cover of Marillion's Kayleigh (with Fish on vocals, of course), Arjen's solo album Lost in the New Real and after a speech by Lucassen and Joost van den Broek, Star One's Songs of the Ocean as an encore with Arjen on guitar and primary vocals by Robert Soeterboek (making his first and only appearance during the show), Dianne van Giersbergen, Marcela Bovio and Damian Wilson before everyone involved in the show comes out on stage for a climatic sing-alone finale. The extra songs allow some Lucassen work that wasn't featured on Ayreon Universe to also get an airing. The total show is over two and a half hours long, so there's a lot of value for money to be had here.

Where Ayreon Universe gave the overall better airing of the Ayreon catalogue in the live environment, a stage show of a complete album is where the project's music really comes to life. The main cast of singers are all dressed up as their characters, with Damian Wilson coming out in full knightly armour and wielding a sword being the best costume, while Oosthoek and Jansen don black metal style corpse paint in the role of Death. The stage is done up as a castle set, though sadly it doesn't look like the Electric Castle from the original album's cover, but that's probably for production reasons: the castle set is set up to its battlements can be used by the vocalists and musicians as well as the main stage.

So Ayreon Universe or Electric Castle Live? There's no easy answer to that question. Except perhaps to say, both. Once again this is an essential live release from the project that I once thought would never have true live releases. This is especially essential if you're as big a fan of Into the Electric Castle as I am (it's my favourite album of all time) and it's clear that more Ayreon albums deserve this kind of attention.

AYREON Ayreon Universe - Best of Ayreon Live

Movie · 2018 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
Ayreon Universe – Best of Ayreon Live (2018) is the second live release by Dutch progressive rock/metal project Ayreon. It follows The Theater Equation (2016), which was a stage adaptation of The Human Equation (2004) in full. Ayreon Universe is presented as more of a traditional live show, featuring a set list covering all of the Ayreon studio albums plus a couple of tracks from Star One's Space Metal (2002) album. There are many reasons why Ayreon has not been performed live until relatively recently (The Theater Equation wasn't even performed as Ayreon though it was released under the name), such as the nature of the project which meant that previously Ayreon songs were only performed on tours for other Arjen Lucassen projects, but there is also the fact that Arjen Lucassen himself isn't a big fan of playing live due to stage fright. He has done it as can be seen on live releases for both Star One and Stream of Passion, but it is something he has often avoided since those tours. So that leads us to the big catch with Ayreon Universe, which might be seen as a deal breaker for some: for the most part, he isn't on stage during this show.

Instead the release is performed by musicians and singers who we might consider the Ayreon extended family. Many of the musicians on stage have been Lucassen's go-to people for some time, mostly notable among these of course is Ed Warby on drums, who has been with Lucassen since Into the Electric Castle (1998), only not drumming on The Dream Sequencer (2000) – that album's Rob Snijders is also performing on Ayreon Universe for a couple of the lighter tracks – and the upcoming Transitus (2020). On keyboards is Joost van den Broek, who has a long history with Lucassen including performing on Star One's Live on Earth (2003) and a regular Ayreon guest since The Human Equation. On bass is Johan van Stratum, who was Lucassen's bandmate in Stream of Passion, while Peter Vink plays on Star One's Intergalactic Space Crusaders. The two guitarists are Marcel Coenen and Ferry Duijsens. Coenen performed a guest solo on The Source (2017) while Duijsens makes his Ayreon debut here, but previously worked on Lucassen's The Gentle Storm project. Elsewhere in the core band are a few names that Ayreon fans will recognise, regular collaborators Ben Mathot, Jeroen Goossens & Maaike Peterse on violin, flues/woodwinds and cello respectively.

Then there are the vocalists. As a project known for its often large casts of different singers on each album, it isn't going to be an Ayreon live show without a while host of talented vocalists getting on board with it. Some of the singers are the same as on album, but elsewhere changes have been made. But the live cast is as good as any studio cast: there are singers who were regulars in Ayreon's early days who may not be as well known in the metal scene in particular, but perhaps are the ones who most deserve to be part of this experience. There are also some of the biggest names in both prog and power metal performing under the Ayreon name on this show. I'm not going to mention them all here: there really are too many to list, so instead I'm going to form this review based around what's taken from each album, so let us go back to the dark ages and The Final Experiment (1995).

The debut Ayreon album is represented by three tracks on Ayreon Universe and fittingly it's the duo of Prologue and Dreamtime that kick off the event. Prologue is altered to instead be in the voice of The Source's TH-1, performed by Mike Mills of Toehider. Mills is a modern Ayreon regular having first appeared on The Theory of Everything (2013). Mills is a standout performer on Ayreon Universe. You can tell that this guy is just so fucking into it as he comes out on stage in full TH-1 costume, bringing a theatrical performance to the stage. We haven't even got into a proper song yet and the man has proved that he is a born entertainer.

Then we get Dreamtime and you can probably see that it's called that and not The Awareness which is what the song is on album. That's because it's edited down for the live show. That is unfortunately a trend with the track selection on the album. Honestly I think that does kinda suck because Ayreon is a prog act and prog is known for it's impressive instrumental work, something Ayreon is no exception to, but I can understand why they've taken this approach on the live show: they're maximising the time for vocalists to be on stage as well as the amount of songs that can get an airing: there is a lot of material that needs to be covered.

Singing Dreamtime is of course none other than Edward Reekers (ex-Kayak), the original vocalist who did the song. Reekers is one of those early Ayreon legends. It's been a long time since Lucassen used him on a studio album (come on you Hippie sort that out!), and this marks his return to the project. For long time fans of Ayreon Edward being here and singing this song must be like nostalgia overload. It certainly is for me and I only discovered Ayreon in 2007.

The other song from The Final Experiment is another classic one: Merlin's Will. On album this was sung by Leon Goewie, the vocalist of one of Lucassen's pre-Ayreon heavy metal bands: Vengeance. Leon is not among the vocalists performing on this show, so instead the song is performed by Floor Jansen (Nightwish), which makes it a unique version. Floor's sister Irene, part of a trio of backing vocalists on this show, previously sang an acoustic version of the song for the special edition of The Final Experiment, but this is the metal version. And Floor rocks on it.

The second Ayreon album Actual Fantasy (1996) is also represented by three songs. One of these is the short title track that on this show leads into Computer Eyes rather than Abbey of Synn, which is the other track performed from the album. Actual Fantasy is the oddball Ayreon album with only three lead vocalists, but two of them are present on the show. One of course is Edward Reekers again and the other is Robert Soeterboek (Wicked Sensation). The latter performs Abbey of Synn on his own and they duet on Computer Eyes. Because the album was structured that differently to most Ayreon albums and was disconnected from the overall concept that The Final Experiment begun, Actual Fantasy is probably the Ayreon album that gets most overlooked by fans, so its good to see that it gets a fair airing.

The third Ayreon album of course was Into the Electric Castle. Into the Electric Castle is my personal favourite album of all time. It would later get the full live show treatment which resulted in the next Ayreon live release Electric Castle Live (And Other Tales) (2020), but on Ayreon Universe it still gets a four track showing, in order of performance: Valley of the Queens, The Two Gates, The Castle Hall and Amazing Flight. The latter two performances are notable for being the two that Arjen Lucassen himself is playing guitar on and singing in the case of Amazing Flight. But first is Valley of the Queens. Initially sung solo by Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering), this version is an alternative one for three voices, with Floor Jansen and Marcela Bovio (ex-Stream of Passion) joining her on stage. It's a really good and haunting rendition.

The Two Gates is used as an opportunity to introduce the musicians on stage with the song itself being sung by Damian Wilson (Headspace), returning to his role of the Knight with the Barbarian performed by John "Jaycee" Cuijpers (Praying Mantis). Cuijpers also went on the play the role on Electric Castle Live later on, but here he's an odd choice considering that the original vocalist Jay ven Feggelen (ex-Bodine, another band Lucassen was a part of though they were never on the same album) is actually there and sings the role later on during Amazing Flight. Neither does he sing the character's parts on The Castle Hall, there handled by Robert Soeterboek. Both men do the part well, but it really does beg the question over why when the man himself is present. Good versions though and rightly chosen as staples of the Ayreon discography.

Then we have The Dream Sequencer (2000) and what is the most under-represented album of the night with just one song played: And the Druids Turn to Stone. Damian Wilson sang it originally and of course performs it here too to perfection, actually raising the song in my personal estimations to be honest. There's really little else to say on that. I've have loved Lucassen to come out to do my personal favour Carried by the Wind though, or for perhaps other personal highlights My House on Mars or The First Man on Earth to be included. But I guess they took the Universal Migrator selection between the two albums, speaking of which...

...Flight of the Migrator (2000), the heavy counterpart to the Dream Sequencer, has two tracks featured and they are obvious choices: Dawn of a Million Souls and Into the Black Hole. However neither of their original vocalists are there on the night, Russell Allen and Bruce Dickinson respectively. Busy men, those guys. John "Jaycee" Cuijpers takes on Allen's song Dawn of a Million Souls and ends up being a highlight of the whole show though. I kid you not by the time the man had walked off stage again my first thought was precisely this: 'Damn, Russell Allen just got handed his arse!'.

Into the Black Hole is an Ayreon classic and not just because of who happened to sing it on the album originally. If anything the song is more known in the fan base these days because of Damian Wilson's renditions on the Star One and Stream of Passion live releases. So it comes as a surprise that he isn't the chosen singer for it on this show. Instead Tommy Karevik (Kamelot & Seventh Wonder) performs it for another good, though like many other tracks, edited down version.

Between Flight of the Migrator and the next Ayreon album The Human Equation came the first Star One album Space Metal. Two tracks are featured in the set list, Intergalactic Space Crusaders and The Eye of Ra. As they decided to feature Star One as well I do find it a shame that the second album Victims of the Modern Age (2010) was ignored, but I can't deny they picked a couple of good ones. As Russell Allen is absent, the former track becomes a vocal battle between Damian Wilson and Maggy Luyten (at that time still Nightmare's vocalist) and it's a damn good take with plenty of vocal interplay between the two. The Eye of Ra is the final song of the show and is used as a celebratory climax: with everyone singing it, including many singers I haven't even had the opportunity to mention yet! So moving on...

...The Human Equation is one of the most popular Ayreon albums so it may come as a surprise that it isn't that represented here, with only two songs, the singles Loser and Love, featured. Perhaps that's because The Theater Equation saw that album performed in full, I don't know. Loser is a highlight of the show. It starts with Jeroen Goossens bringing out a didgeridoo for the I dare say iconic intro before Mike Mills starts to sing. Once again you can tell he's really into this just by looking at him. The song is changed from it's original version by swapping Devin Townsend's original manic harsh screaming at the end for four the female vocalists coming down to stage to reject Mill's character Father. Mills draws out the last high note displaying his incredible vocal ability, before giving a shout out to the late Mike Baker, who originally sang the song, which is enough to get any fan of The Human Equation or Baker's band Shadow Gallery choked up.

The version of love features a number of vocalist changes from the original version. Dream Theater's James LaBrie is not here, so the role of Me is taken over by Edward Reekers. Heather Findlay's role as Love is converted to the voice of Wife (Marcela Bovio). Irene Jansen original appeared on the song and is able to step down from a backing vocalist role, as does Lisette van den Berg, a singer that Arjen hasn't really worked with outside of backing roles yet. Robert Soeterboek also takes part and taking over the lines of Fear, originally Mikael Åkerfeldt's part, is none other than Ed Warby in his first Ayreon vocalist role.

01011001 (2008) is the most represented Ayreon album on Ayreon Universe, with five songs, though very edited from their original versions, in order of performance: River of Time, Waking Dreams, Ride the Comet, Comatose and Age of Shadows. River of Time brings out Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) with Marco Hietala (Nightwish) subbing for Bob Catley's role. It's a very good version, their voices work well together. Waking Dreams is as on album, with Katatonia's Jonas Renske with Anneke van Giersbergen, though edited to not feature notably the keyboard solo originally played by Tomas Bodin, which ends up being jarring to my ears and actually spoils that track a bit. The same vocal team also handled Comatose, again shortened. Jorn Lande originally sang the song and it is one of my favourite light Ayreon songs. This is a good version, but I do really wish Jorn could have been there to do it.

Ride the Comet originally had several singers delivering short lines in its verses, but here Renkse takes over with Floor Jansen for some reason sitting out her bits in favour of the trio of backing singers, while Maggy Luyten does her chorus. Age of Shadows is just that, not the We are Forever deviation, with the vocals shared between Kürsch, Hietala and Floor Jansen. An iconic more recent Ayreon track it's an obvious pick for the show, though I'd have rather seen in played in full, since the vocalists who did the We Are Forever part were Jonas Renkse and Anneke van Giersbergen, both featured elsewhere on this show.

The Theory of Everything (2013)'s tracks is where things get more theatrical and if there's any other Ayreon album apart from The Human Equation and Into the Electric Castle that could perhaps have the full performance stage show treatment it's that one, as the singers prove on the selection of four tracks featured here, with props used and the vocalists visibly acting the parts, a highly of which is the exchange between Tommy Karevik, Marco Hietala and Anneke van Giersbergen during Magnetism.

Finally we come to The Source, the then latest Ayreon album and surprisingly represented by just two songs: Star of Sirrah and Everybody Dies. You'd think the latest album would have more presence here but then maybe not, this isn't in support of that album and it certainly isn't a show from any kind of normal tour. These songs are all done by singers originally on that album with the addition of Luyten, but with some changes due to absences, notably James LaBrie again. Everybody Dies is a highlight, again seeing Mike Mills in his TH-1 regalia.

Arjen Lucassen himself shows up for the final song of the main set which was The Castle Hall and then gives an over ten minute speech about the event before the first encore. Although he talks about his fear of playing live and public speaking he does a pretty good job of it when he does perform on stage and delivers his speech well, a point he does reference himself as it goes on. On most shows I don't think audiences want a band member to speak for over ten minutes, but this is no normal show or normal musician. The audience is rapt and Lucassen's speech is amusing. He has always struck me as a musician to be a very down to Earth and humble man and it is obvious that he is overwhelmed by what has been done with his music for this show and how many people have turned out to see it performed.

In summary Ayreon Universe as a live release does have a few niggles like tracks being edited down, but ultimately it's a minor issues. The whole thing is damn impressive, especially when you consider how many major bands couldn't possibly have plans for the three nights these shows were performed due to their vocalists being occupied with it for ultimately very little time on stage each. It's a massive undertaking to put Ayreon on stage. It's testament to the quality of the music that Lucassen can get such talented people not just to appear on his albums but on stage as well. And despite it's niggles, Ayreon Universe is a damn entertaining show. It's very possibly the best live release I've seen to date.

DREAM THEATER Breaking The Fourth Wall

Movie · 2014 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
rdtprog
It seems like it was just yesterday that the Luna Park DVD was released. Now it's another one from the Boston Opera House less than a year later. The show is divided in three acts. The first act is tracks from the last two albums and the song "A Trial of Tears" from "Falling to Infinity". The second act is 5 songs from the "Awake" album to celebrate his 20th anniversary and the third act is the encore celebrating again "Scene from a Memory" with his 15th anniversary. On those 2 albums, the band use the same pattern by starting to play the technical, fast and heavy songs like "The Mirror", "Lie", "Overture 1928" and "Strange Déjà Vu" and finishing with the slower and emotional songs like "Lifting Shadows Off A Dream", "Space Dye Vest" and "Finally Free".

"The Illumination Theory", the most progressive and the epic song of the last album is played with an orchestra in the second act which is the perfect fit with this song that contains an irresistible classical break in the middle. The picture is crystal clear and the camera work more satisfying than the "Luna Park" DVD. As for the sound, I had to crank up the volume very high to get the full sound. Again, I wish we could hear John Myung louder, but that's what happens on live recording, it rarely match the sound quality of a studio release. James Labrie's voice is in nice shape as well as all others members. It's another nice addition to your Dream Theater collection. 3. 8 stars.

DREAM THEATER Dream Theater - Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour Live with the Octavarium Orchestra

Movie · 2006 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
AtomicCrimsonRush
I always look forward to putting this DVD on as I know I am going to get the best of both worlds; symphonic orchestrated music and full on Dream Theater prog. I agree with some reviewers that the setlist is not exactly mind blowing but it nevertheless spans the 5 year history. It is interesting the way the orchestra blends into the metal sound, similar to the Metallica S&M concert, or indeed Kiss Alive IV. It is always of interest when metal meets symphony. The DVD "Score" is very well produced, sharp editing throughout and excellent sound quality. There is nothing wrong with the visuals at all, with the band members sharing the spotlight, but the problem lies in the setlist itself. There are too many omissions and some opportunities wasted in the early part of the concert.

It opens with some deadset oddities such as The root of all evil, I walk beside you, Another won and Afterlife. It isn't until Under A Glass Moon that it really takes off showing the power of that brilliant track and Petrucci's amazing guitar solo. Later we are treated with The spirit carries on and the entire suite of Six degrees of inner turbulence; absolutely flawless and indispensable on the live stage. After an ovation the band belt out Vacant, The answer lies within, Sacrificed Sons and the masterpiece epic Octavarium that is quintessential to the band. The Encore: Metropolis Pt. 1 is a brilliant way of ending the concert to a rapturous crowd.

Disc 2 is packed with some hit and miss Bonus material including a mammoth 20th Anniversary Documentary, that has some fascinating info on the band and the way that not everything goes to plan on a tour. Portnoy has too much to say and now it is a bitter taste now he has scarpered and been replaced. The Octavarium Animation is terrific, and the live performances are always a treat including Another Day (Tokyo - 1993), The Great Debate (Bucharest, Romania - 2002) and Honor Thy Father (Chicago - 2005).

The DVD comes with high recommendations due to the visual quality, and overall package. Ignore the early part of the set and just enjoy DT at their absolute best in the middle half of the concert accompanied by masterful orchestration. A must for all DT fans and one of the best DT DVDs available to this point in time.

Artists with Progressive Metal release(s)

MMA TOP 5 Metal ALBUMS

Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
Albums with 30 ratings and more
Master of Puppets Thrash Metal
METALLICA
Buy this album from our partners
Moving Pictures Hard Rock
RUSH
Buy this album from our partners
Paranoid Heavy Metal
BLACK SABBATH
Buy this album from our partners
Powerslave NWoBHM
IRON MAIDEN
Buy this album from our partners
Rising Heavy Metal
RAINBOW
Buy this album from our partners

New Metal Artists

New Metal Releases

Eternity Melodic Metalcore
DIMINISHED REASON
Buy this album from MMA partners
War of The Worlds // Pt. 2 Progressive Metal
MICHAEL ROMEO
Buy this album from MMA partners
Electrified Brain Crossover Thrash
MUNICIPAL WASTE
Buy this album from MMA partners
The Shower Scene Playlist Metalcore
ICE NINE KILLS
Buy this album from MMA partners
The Devils Death Metal
BELPHEGOR
Buy this album from MMA partners
More new releases

New Metal Online Videos

Dark Tranquillity - Zodijackyl Light
DARK TRANQUILLITY
leechburton· 4 days ago
More videos

New MMA Metal Forum Topics

More in the forums

New Site interactions

More...

Latest Metal News

members-submitted

More in the forums

Social Media

Follow us