Progressive Metal

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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 (leader)
  • DippoMagoo
  • Sisslith

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progressive metal Music Reviews

PAIN OF SALVATION Scarsick

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
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The Crow
After the disappointing and unsatisfying BE, the fans of Pain of Salvation were waiting for a redemption and an album which were able to retrieve the band to the prog-metal Olympus... But then Scarsick came.

We knew that this album was secretly called The Perfect Element Pt.2, so the expectations were very high at first. But after a couple of hearings, I just could not believe my ears. What happened to our beloved technical, atmospheric and intimate prog-metal band? Where were this challenging and innovative songwriting? Where were the intricate rhythmus and nervous drums? Where the hell were all the magic gone?

Because Scarsick is an insipid collection of rap-metal songs with lousy exceptions like the ridiculous America and the horrible Disco Queen (this song is really a shame not only for Pain of Salvation. It's a shame for the music) where the prog-metal is almost gone, being replaced for a lazy and reiterative songwriting where almost all the songs starts and ends with the same bad riff and insipid vocals.

Just bad, my friends. And with the perspective given by the years, Scarsick has not improved. It's still the same lame album now as it was back in 2007.

Best Tracks: Flame to the Moth (the only track of the album which is actually good and diverse) and Enter Rain (powerful despite its repetitiveness)

Conclusion: Scarsick is the worst Pain of Salvation album. The band tried to retrieve their fan base after the dividing experiment of BE, but they just made a step further in the wrong direction, demonstrating that Daniel Gildenlow had definitely lost his grip.

It's not a surprise that Kristoffer Gildenlow gave up before recording Scarsick... And he did well in my opinion.

My rating: *

PAIN OF SALVATION BE

Album · 2004 · Progressive Metal
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The Crow
After two masterpieces of prog-metal, The Perfect Element Pt.1 and Remedy Lane, Pain of Salvation released the most ambitious album of their career!

Which sadly was a big step back for them, dividing the opinion of fans and critics equally.

What I think of this BE? I consider this album a boring and disjointed attempt to create a concept bigger than life, which revolves around philosophy, religion, God, apocalypse and tons of other ideas inside Gildenlow's head at that time. I cannot say that Be is a bad album, but it's too irregular and full of disposable tracks to be a worthy follow up of their previous four records.

There are fifteen tracks here, and I would say that only four or five are really worthy of Pain of Salvation. The rest are a repetition of ideas, melodies, simple instrumentations and tons of voices and dialogues in service of the history, forgetting what a good and enjoyable album really is... Moreover, that makes the hearing of BE on its integrity an odyssey by itself.

Even the fine folk and orchestral elements cannot hide the lack of more consistent and hearable songs.

Best Tracks: Imago (fine primitive and folk melodies), Lilium Cruentus (very cinematic), Nihil Morari (one of the few songs which reminds to the true Pain of Salvation of previous albums), Iter Impius (incredible vocal performance by Gildenlow)

Conclusion: BE is an irregular, pompous and pretentious album where Pain of Salvation tried to make something different and ground-breaking forgetting almost all the trademarks which made them big in their first four albums. Gildenlow set the history above the music and the result is an album with lots of fillers, absurd tracks and just a few good moments.

Sadly, BE supposed the end of a glorious era for the band. And I think that they never really recovered themselves of the flop of this strange and messy album.

My rating: **

PAIN OF SALVATION Remedy Lane

Album · 2002 · Progressive Metal
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The Crow
Which is better, The Perfect Element Pt.1 or Remedy Lane?

I think it depends of personal tastes. The Perfect Element is darker, harder and more difficult to appreciate. However, once you are into the world of this album it takes you forever. Remedy Lane is melancholic and dark sometimes, but also shows a more romantic and sentimental side of the the band (or Gildenlow). For this very reason, I think it is also more accessible while maintaining all the elements that made this band so great back then, marking the peak Pain of Salvation's career.

The production is crystal clear, especially the incredible vocals mix from Gildenlow who has in absolute top form here (producing also the album together with Anders Theander), and everything sounds just perfect. The concept of the album is autobiographical and very touching, giving the best lyrics of the whole band's career in my opinion, and as I said, this is one of the few prog-metal album that is instantly accessible (This Heart of Mine, Waking Every God) and very complex (Fandango, Rope Ends) at the same time.

Best Tracks: Of Two Beginnings, Ending Theme, Fandango, A Trace of Blood, Undertow, Chain Sling, Second Love... There is no weak moment to be found here. Really!

Conclusion: Remedy Lane marked the creative peak of Pain of Salvation in my opinion, being of the best prog-metal albums of the last decade. Intricate but accessible, dark and romantic, soft and fierce, and with a beautiful lyrical concept which deserves to be delighted slowly and many, many times.

Sadly, after this masterpiece nothing would be the same for Pain of Salvation again.

My rating: *****

PAIN OF SALVATION The Perfect Element, Part 1

Album · 2000 · Progressive Metal
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The Crow
Prog-metal for the new millennium!

After two excellent albums, Pain of Salvation released one of the best prog-metal records ever made with their third effort. Deep, catchy and challenging, with a dark concept full of meaning and mixed feelings. This is the natural evolution of acts like Dream Theater and Queensryche.

The only complain I have with this album is that it's a bit too dense, maybe also too long sometimes. But this is a minor fault when you are enjoying tracks so splendid, diverse and well produced like these. Perfect mixture between virtuosity, great songwriting and accessibility.

And I want to give a special mention to Daniel's vocals... One of the best singers in metal history in top form here! Just awesome.

Best Tracks: there is no filler here. Really!

Conclusion: dark, melancholic and complex prog-metal with an incredible songwriting, very good production and lots of new ideas and influences (rap, industrial, jazz...) very well crafted in a collection of great songs which helped to create the path to follow for tons of new metal bands in the new millennium.

Not for every day, but perfect to be enjoyed every so often. A true prog-metal masterpiece!

My rating: *****

PAIN OF SALVATION One Hour by the Concrete Lake

Album · 1998 · Progressive Metal
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The Crow
Marvellous Pain of Salvation's second act!

If Entropia was a very eclectic (it's a great album anyway), One Hour by the Concrete Lake is fair to its concept, offering a diverse but very well structured and funny piece of prog metal, full with changes and surprises, but in a clear and personal direction. Every song fit perfectly in the concept, and the sound of the album is homogeneous the whole time. This was the main problem if always found in the debut album Entropia, and they fixed it perfectly with this second opus.

Mixing the typical Pain of Salvation's jazz influences with some folk elements, and the complex hard riffs parts, Daniel Gildenlow made another outstanding performance with his voice. You only have to hear Water, or Pilgrim... I will never be tired of saying this man has the best voice in prog metal ever. Just incredible singing. The rest of the band also makes well. Ok, I never liked the Johan Langell's drum sound, a bit empty and too noisy, but it is not a big problem anyway. The production of the album is crystal clear, and a special mention deserves the keyboards sound, very well accomplished.

Best tracks: New Year's Eve (great guitar melodies), Water (what a way of singing!), Black Hills (dark, complex, and complete track), Pilgrim (the most beautiful Pain of Salvation's acoustic?) The album is full with good tracks, and except a few dull parts, the level is outstanding. The short length also helps to enjoy the full album without avoiding any song.

Conclusion: after the very good Entropia, Pain of Salvation improved their style to making their first full conceptual album. Their personal, dark and complex way to understand prog metal is here yet. And even this album doesn't reach the levels of The Perfect Element or Remedy Lane, is an excellent addition to any prog collection, without a doubt.

My rating: ****

P.S.: this review was originally written for ProgArchives.com, and rewritten to be included here.

progressive metal movie reviews

DREAM THEATER Breaking The Fourth Wall

Movie · 2014 · Progressive Metal
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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
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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.

DREAM THEATER Live at Budokan

Movie · 2004 · Progressive Metal
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AtomicCrimsonRush
One of the first DVDs I saw of Dream Theater before the onslaught of DVDs that have come since. This is an early performance and of considerable interest as a result. These were the glory days of Dream Theater ramming prog down the throats of the hungry Budokan fans. It is an incredible performance best seen than heard though the audio experience offers much as a type of Dream Theater concoction of the best of the earlier years. The CD is good listening but the visual persentation is incredible. There are a few odd surprises scattered in the mammoth set list but the classics are here and played to perfection. Beyond This Life is a huge epic clocking 19:37, and with some dynamic lead guitar from Petrucci. The Test That Stumped Them All is always a killer track live and sounds fresh and powerful with huge bass runs of Myung and Portnoy's slamming percussion.

Endless Sacrifice is an 11 minute gruelling journey into prog excess with a wild keyboard section from Rudess. The Instrumedley to follow features some awesome musicianship. LaBrie is in fine form on soaring vocals, and shines on such compositions as the 14 minute Trial Of Tears and New Millennium. It is always a pleasure to experience a Jordan Rudess keyboard solo and it is as inventive here as ever. There are some amazing songs such as Solitary Shell, Stream Of Consciousness and quintessential Pull Me Under. The set closes with epic 16 minute In The Name Of God. So overall this is a great set with power metal and tons of instrumental breaks. It is progressive and packed to the gills with mind bending virtuoso solos and material from some of their best albums. It was the "Train of Thought" tour so there is plenty from that album as well as "Six Degrees" and "Images and Words" among others.

The special features are wonderful featuring 'Riding The Train Of Thought" a Japanese Tour Documentary of about half an hour, and John Petrucci Guitar World segment, Jordan Rudess Keyboard World, and a Mike Portnoy Drum Solo clocking 12 minutes. The Dream Theater Chronicles - 2004 Tour Opening Video is okay showing the video the crowd saw in the opening, and Instrumedley with multi-angles is lots of fun. Overall it is a fantastic DVD concert, and all Dream Theater fans must have it.

DREAM THEATER Metropolis 2000: Scenes from New York

Movie · 2001 · Progressive Metal
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Dellinger
Since this DVD is a live interpretation from the studio album of the same name, and the source material is great, of course the concert is also a great experience. Of course, having the plus of seeing the band perform is a great advantage for this release, specially given that watching this guys play is a great experience. However, one big disapointment from this release is that it misses many other songs that are included on the CD release of this live album, which I really wanted to see them perform. The performance of the songs is really great, with everyone in fine form... except perhaps LaBrie who at times can't keep to his studio performance. My favourite songs are "Overture 1928 / Strange Deja Vu", "Fatal Tragedy", "Home" and "Finally Free". Now, the video from this concert has many acted scenes from the story inserted throughout the performance, which is kind of nice for it helps to keep track of the story... however, on "Fianally Free", this scenes got extra annoying, and blocked the performance of the band throughout the whole murder part, which is perhaps one of the strongest parts of the album and one I would have loved to see them performing (well, at least the second time they play a very similar section near the end of the song we can actually see the band playing it, but still it is annoying). "Beyond this Life", is also a very cool song, specially at the beginning, but then it kind of drags on and loses some of it's spark. "The Dance of Eternity", however, is one song I still can't get into, just a bit too messy and full of fast and technical playing just for the sake of it.

On the other hand, what usually draggs this bands albums are their ballads. The one ballad I actually liked on the studio album was "One Last Time", though something kind of doesn't work so well on this release... I guess it's the vocals and backing vocals, which are kind of weaker here. However, "Through her eyes" and "The Spirit Carries On", are really upgraded here, with extra vocals from Theresa Thompson and gorgeous guitars from Petrucci.

From the extra songs, I was never a big fan of the "Mind Beside Itself" set of songs, but "Learning to Live" and "A Change of Seasons" are both among my favourite DT songs, and having them on video here is a great thing.

TOOL Vicarious

Movie · 2007 · Progressive Metal
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Earendil
Many descriptions and reviews on the internet are misleading about the content of this Vicarious DVD, and for that reason I didn't purchase it until recently. What a mistake to wait! This DVD is essential for any Tool fan and an excellent find for anyone who likes the surreal, psychedelic, and strange. The main feature of the DVD is the Vicarious short film, which is Tool's first completely CGI video. Adam Jones and Alex Grey are the two main artists behind the video, and it's a really cool experience to see their ideas merge. Anyways here are the full DVD contents:

1. Vicarious music video (9 minutes)

2. 2 overdubs of the music video with actor/comedian David Cross making hilarious commentary (18 minutes)

3. Vicarious documentary (40 minutes)

4. Footage of the storyboards from Alex Grey and Adam Jones (1 minute)

5. Footage of Alex's art gallery COSM and him talking about it (4 minutes)

Rating: 8/10

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