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
  • DippoMagoo
  • Sisslith
  • adg211288

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HAKEN The Mountain Album Cover The Mountain
HAKEN
4.51 | 54 ratings
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DREAM THEATER Images and Words Album Cover Images and Words
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4.39 | 212 ratings
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ANUBIS GATE Horizons Album Cover Horizons
ANUBIS GATE
4.56 | 21 ratings
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RIVERSIDE Anno Domini High Definition Album Cover Anno Domini High Definition
RIVERSIDE
4.40 | 74 ratings
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TOOL Lateralus Album Cover Lateralus
TOOL
4.37 | 124 ratings
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PAIN OF SALVATION The Perfect Element, Part 1 Album Cover The Perfect Element, Part 1
PAIN OF SALVATION
4.38 | 83 ratings
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MESHUGGAH I Album Cover I
MESHUGGAH
4.43 | 40 ratings
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THRESHOLD Legends Of The Shires Album Cover Legends Of The Shires
THRESHOLD
4.76 | 9 ratings
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AYREON The Source Album Cover The Source
AYREON
4.52 | 20 ratings
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OPETH Still Life Album Cover Still Life
OPETH
4.34 | 176 ratings
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JOHN ARCH A Twist of Fate Album Cover A Twist of Fate
JOHN ARCH
4.54 | 17 ratings
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AMORPHIS Under The Red Cloud Album Cover Under The Red Cloud
AMORPHIS
4.50 | 20 ratings
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progressive metal Music Reviews

MESHUGGAH None

EP · 1994 · Progressive Metal
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Unitron
Listen

Moving on from the ...and Justice for All-era Metallica worship that was Meshuggah's debut Contradictions Collapse (though they didn't worship the complete nuking of audible bass, thankfully), None shows the band beginning to construct their own signature sound. Even with displaying obvious influences from the likes of groovy contemporaries Pantera and Korn and still some Metallica, None shows the first examples of the fantastic groove/nu metal sound that the band would perfect on later albums like Chaosphere.

For the most part, the technical bravado of the debut is gone, and in its place hooks, grooves, and much improved songwriting. As soon as opener Humiliative begins, you get the Meshuggah blueprint. Screeching guitars, repetitive breakdowns, monster hooks, almost hypnotic grooves, angry screams, and most importantly, jumpdafuckup riffs. You don't get hooks like on Sickening and Gods of Rapture without knowing how to reel a listener in. The biggest difference between None and what would follow, are the occasional melodies. Meshuggah's usually the last band that you'd think would get melodic, but when they do they're great. Ritual, which sounds right out of Korn's debut with added Satriani-esque solos, is a heavy and beautiful combination of groove and melody.

The EP fittingly ends with the chaotic early Godflesh-esque Aztec Two-Step, which is just four minutes of constant riffing and screaming, before ending with stop-and-go hooks. The drum fills at the end of each section always get me, such perfect placement. (The rest of the song is just noise, bands in the 90's loved adding silence and noise at the end of the last track. What a waste of disc space.)

A classic EP that shows some of the best early groove/nu metal.

BLOTTED SCIENCE The Machinations of Dementia

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Technical metal jam sessions are a dime a dozen at this time in the 21st century with countless examples of instrumental wankery showcasing the virtuosic abilities of the musician’s involved like an Olympic training session in the hope of winning a gold medal however without a lead vocalist to offer some kind of emotional connection to the extreme freneticism that can result, many of these bands tend to forget that someone else out there is supposed to be listening to what their crafting and much of it seems to exist in a self-made bubble. Luckily that isn’t always the case.

Once in a while a team of seasoned masters congregate to create bona fide craftsmanship and artisan amperage which results in a ridiculous fun listen although the music churns out some of the most demanding technical passages allowed by law. BLOTTED SCIENCE was a short lived act but in its short existence cranked out one killer full length album followed by another shorter length EP. This trio was formed in San Antonio, TX by Watchtower and Spastic Ink shredder Ron Jarzombek, one of modern metal’s most innovative guitar masters who helped push progressive metal into the limelight with Watchtower’s 1989 extravaganza “Control And Resistance” as well as going on to play with Gordian Knot and Spastic Ink amongst others.

In order to make this a band album and not just a guitar demo for the next tech death metal band, Jarzombek solicited the help of two other seasoned instrument abusers to bring BLOTTED SCIENCE into existence. Cannibal Corpse bassist Alex Webster fit in perfectly and after Hate Eternal’s Derek Roddy and Lamb of God’s Chris Adler opted out, the slot of drum skin abuser in chief was handed to Charlie Zeleny of Behold…. The Arctopus. With a trio of music mangling maniacs in tandem, it was guaranteed that this would be a wild ride and on the sole full-length album THE MACHINATIONS OF DEMENTIA, the listener is guaranteed to enter a frenetic time signature rich tech extreme metal with an incessant flow of angular rhythms, staccato stop / start outbursts whizzing by at faster than the speed of light tempos.

While many instrumental tech albums are steeped in neoclassical riff attacks, THE MACHINATIONS OF DEMENTIA succeeds in its varied structures that are based on the jittery complexities of jazz underpinnings while dressed up in ridiculously fast guitar rampage of thrash, death and progressive metal riff attacks while the bass and drumming antics exist in their own independent realities but are dialed into create a uniform symbiotic effect. While similar to bands like Animals As Leaders and Liquid Tension Experiment, BLOTTED SCIENCE mastered the art of keeping the tracks engaging with accessible hooks and unexpected twists and turns that manage to remain innovative throughout the album’s run however at a near hour of playing time, it does become enervating to absorb such frenetic wankery.

A classic in the world of jazz-fusion meets tech metal, THE MACHINATIONS OF DEMENTIA remains a favorite for those who love prog induced high octane metal that doesn’t wimp out for one moment despite incorporating softer passages that break the monotony of the one-dimensionality that instrumental tech metal can often offer. BLOTTED SCIENCE dished out an amazing delivery of tracks on this one. Jazz metal tracks laced with math rock, progressive rock and hints of death, thrash and even classical elements, MACHINATIONS is a stellar release worthy of the high praise it has received over the years and stands the test of time that it has so far been released and a much more engaging instrumental experience than many similar albums of its ilk. Perhaps not quite the masterpiece it’s made out to be, it’s nonetheless an excellent example of three top tier performers working in tandem to create a behemoth of bountiful bombast.

MIND KEY Mk III - Aliens in Wonderland

Album · 2019 · Progressive Metal
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Kev Rowland
Mind Key were formed in Napoli some twenty years ago by in 1999 by Dario De Cicco (keyboards) and Emanuele Colella (guitars) who wanted to create a band that brought together Dream Theater, Symphony X, Evergrey, and Pain of Salvation with short direct hard rock numbers. They release their debut in 2004, played gigs with the likes of Dream Theater, Vision Divine, and Pendragon, before releasing their second album “Pulse for a Graveheart” in 2009. This saw them with a new singer, Aurelio Fierro, and they again toured with the likes of Edguy, Vanden Plas, Europe, and Hammerfall, but the band then went on an extended break.

Now they are back, bolstered by a new rhythm section of bassist Lucio Grilli (ex-Soul Secret) and drummer Mirko De Maio (The Flower Kings, Hangarvain), and one has to wonder why they have been away for so long as this is high octane from the start and never lets up. I can certainly see where the guys get their inspiration from, but I am a little surprised not to find classic Stratovarius in the list as well as that style is all over this. Prog Metal, melodic metal, call it what you will, this is class from start to finish. Aurelio Fierro has a great voice, with an edge which gives it additional breadth and quality, combined with a great range. Add that to a rhythm section who are never going to just sit back and play gently but instead are driving and adding to the melody, and a keyboard player and guitarist who are locked together swapping leads and one is transported.

Thankfully the production is up to the task, and the result is an album that fans of bands such as Alcatrazz will also enjoy, with Colella proving he can shred like Malmsteen when the need arises. For fans of great rock music, let’s hope we don’t have to wait nearly as long for the next one.

OPETH In Cauda Venenum

Album · 2019 · Progressive Metal
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progshine
I respect Opeth very much! And I still believe they are one of the most important/innovative bands of the last 30 years. As the world sank with regrets over the group's changes since Heritage, I was curious to know where the band was going. It turns out that the band... keeps going! After the great Pale Communion Opeth released a very weak album with Sorceress and I really didn't have much hope for the next album, but here they are with In Cauda Venenum!

First of all I need to get out of my head two little things that I noticed right away that are little easter eggs in the album (maybe there are more): The title of the album was obviouslyce mezzo-stolen from Italian Jacula's In Cauda Semper Stat Venenum. The album's opening track, Livets Tr'dg'rd, is a clear 'tribute' to the Swedish group 'lgarnas Tr'dg'rd. Being Mikael 'kerfeldt an avid 70s Prog collector this is no surprise. This makes me a little unquiet, I still don't know why.

In Cauda Venenum is a record that should please fans of the band's new phase. Despite the completely unnecessary introduction (an instrumental introduction only makes sense if it is linked to the concept of the album, it is not the case here, at all) the album brings variety, weight and also a little freshness to the band's sound. The fact that the album was composed in Swedish is extremely pleasant to my ears (yes, there is an English version, but Mikael himself in an interview said that for him the official album is in Swedish). There are several times when the weight takes over the songs, but there are parts with strings and many vintage keyboards.

The production of the record did not please me completely, the sound seems too compressed, there is the attempt, it seems, that everything has to sound vintage, but obviously recorded in digitail system. The drums suffer the most, a shame as Martin Axenrot did a fantastic job. But at the same time the insertion of voices and dialogues in Swedish throughout the album comes in quite well done.

Now, speaking about how long it is... 67 minutes! Needlessly long, at least 20 minutes longer than it should and this weighs on the end result: hearing fatigue.

Nevertheless, in the end, the Swedes delivered an exquisite work that requires some auditions to enjoy the album (I needed 4 and counting) and can easily reach the ears of the band's Prog period fans.

ODDLAND The Treachery of Senses

Album · 2012 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"The Treachery of Senses" is the debut full-length studio album by Finnish, Turku based progressive metal act Oddland. The album was released through Century Media Records in April 2012. Oddland was formed in 2003 and released three demos, which preceed "The Treachery of Senses". The band won the "Suomi Metal Star" competition in 2011, which led to the deal with Century Media Records.

Oddland is rightfully labelled progressive metal, but they aren´t your typical Dream Theater clone progressive metal act. Lead vocalist/guitarist Sakari Ojanen isn´t a high pitched vocalist, but predominantly sings in mid-range. He is quite the skilled vocalist and he has a relatively unique sounding voice. The music is pretty heavy at times and the guitar riffs and rhythms can be relatively aggressive. But ultimately it´s dynamic music, and there are as many softer and not so loud sections as there are louder heavy ones featured on the album. It´s not ultra complex progressive metal, but it´s cleverly written and quite sophisticated. It´s music which requires a few listens to sink in, but given enough spins, "The Treachery of Senses" is quite the intriguing release.

The sound production is powerful, clear, and detailed (Dan Swanö is credited for mixing the album) and the musicianship is on a high level on all posts, so all in all "The Treachery of Senses" is good quality progressive metal album with a lead vocalist providing the album with something a bit more unique than what many of their contemporaries put out. To my ears it´s not a perfect album as the band lose me a bit sometimes in the vocal melody department. It´s all nice and melodic, but it´s not always the melodies stick. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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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