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:
  • DippoMagoo
  • Necrotica

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HAKEN The Mountain Album Cover The Mountain
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4.54 | 46 ratings
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DREAM THEATER Images and Words Album Cover Images and Words
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4.41 | 207 ratings
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AYREON The Source Album Cover The Source
AYREON
4.63 | 18 ratings
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ANUBIS GATE Horizons Album Cover Horizons
ANUBIS GATE
4.56 | 20 ratings
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JOHN ARCH A Twist of Fate Album Cover A Twist of Fate
JOHN ARCH
4.62 | 15 ratings
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TOOL Lateralus Album Cover Lateralus
TOOL
4.37 | 117 ratings
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MESHUGGAH I Album Cover I
MESHUGGAH
4.43 | 39 ratings
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AYREON The Human Equation Album Cover The Human Equation
AYREON
4.36 | 87 ratings
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DEVIN TOWNSEND Ziltoid The Omniscient Album Cover Ziltoid The Omniscient
DEVIN TOWNSEND
4.36 | 96 ratings
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OPETH Still Life Album Cover Still Life
OPETH
4.33 | 171 ratings
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PAIN OF SALVATION The Perfect Element, Part 1 Album Cover The Perfect Element, Part 1
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4.36 | 77 ratings
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RIVERSIDE Anno Domini High Definition Album Cover Anno Domini High Definition
RIVERSIDE
4.36 | 72 ratings
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progressive metal Music Reviews

AGE OF SILENCE Complications: Trilogy of Intricacy

EP · 2005 · Progressive Metal
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martindavey87
“Meh”.

I bought this CD in a shop in Germany for 50 cents or something equally daft. I’d never heard of Age of Silence (and apparently, neither had anyone else, since they were in the literal bargain bin), but it was a metal CD, so why not?

Labelled as avant-garde metal... whatever the hell that means... this sounds a lot like something Devin Townsend would do, complete with obscure, gloomy cover art and unusual song titles. Age of Silence have a big sound, with multiple-layered guitars overproduced to give each of the three tracks a huge feeling about them. But otherwise, these songs are fairly dull. The overbearing “big” guitar chords are heard through each track, leaving me feel like there’s been an ongoing chord played throughout the entire EP.

But it doesn’t stop there. It starts to overshadow the vocals, any lead parts, the drums... the whole lot. I don’t “get” this kind of music. I understand it’s based more on ambience and what-have-you, but for the most part this is just pretty boring and repetitive. There’s one or two moments where something might sound catchy or interesting, but as a whole, considering this is only a three-song EP, it’s not really anything I’d come back to.

The shop I’d bought it from was probably relieved to be rid of it.

ANDROMEDA Playing Off the Board

Live album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
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martindavey87
‘Playing Off the Board’, released in 2009, is a live album by Swedish progressive metal band Andromeda. Like many similar bands, Andromeda are not very widely known, and as such, don’t tour very often. So the fact a live recording of such high quality was done at all, is incredible.

Like many prog metal groups, it’s pretty much a prerequisite of the genre that everyone needs to be an absolute virtuoso on their respective instruments, and Andromeda are no exception. The set list, which features all the major tracks from their first three albums, is played immaculately, with each member being given ample opportunities to truly shine and display their technical prowess.

The production is of a high quality too! This literally could pass for any of their studio albums, if not for the few nuances and slight alterations made to the odd solo or two. However, there is one major detriment to this album, and when it comes to live recordings, I didn’t know how much I’d appreciated this until it wasn’t there.

This is not an Andromeda audience.

The DVD of ‘Playing...’ is absolutely beautiful. The auditorium looks fantastic, with its huge stage, incredible camera angles, seated fans with empty seats dotted around everywhere... this feels like it was some kind of showcase, or maybe part of an all-day event where Andromeda had a slot and some unfortunate souls were wrangled into watching a band they’d never heard of (to be fair, the band is awesome, so shut up and stop complaining!). The crowd, which sounds like it’s about twenty people, don’t react excitedly to any song, and applause to the endings with the enthusiasm of an escalator. It’s obvious nobody here really knows who Andromeda are, and it’s a huge shame, because it’s the only real complaint I have with this album, but it makes a much bigger difference than I thought it would.

With hits such as ‘The Words Unspoken’, ‘Periscope’, ‘Two is One’ and ‘Inner Circle’, this is still a decent live album, and these guys are absolutely phenomenal musicians, but the audiences lack of enthusiasm kills it for me. It’s a decent enough album though, but I’d highly recommend the DVD instead.

DREAM THEATER The Making Of Falling Into Infinity (International Fanclub Christmas CD 1997 / Official Bootleg 2009)

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 1997 · Progressive Metal
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martindavey87
Dream Theater’s Official Bootlegs series has always been a nice touch for collectors, whether it’s demos, live recordings, compilations, or reissues of previous fan club CD’s (which is actually what this one is), they’re usually pretty cool little nuggets of joy for die-hard fans of the band.

And occasionally, there’s utter nonsense like this.

‘The Making of Falling Into Infinity’ is completely and utterly pointless. Not containing any full tracks, the entire album is nothing more than snippets of songs. Guitar riffs, the odd vocal harmony, someone working out a part or someone saying something. It might be interesting for some tech nerd who wants to look into the process of writing and recording an album, but without any commentary or narrative, this CD really is unlistenable.

I can understand with demos that at least it’s interesting to listen to how songs were originally intended to sound and how they’ve evolved to become the finished product, but this is completely useless and doesn’t even show us that. Die-hard fans who must own everything will probably resent having to purchase this, and I’d know, because I’m one of them.

DREAM THEATER Live at Budokan

Live album · 2004 · Progressive Metal
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martindavey87
As if 2000’s ‘Scenes from a Memory’ wasn’t enough, here’s Dream Theater with another three-disc assault on the senses, with 2004’s live album from Japan’s world-renowned Budokan venue, aptly titled ‘Live at Budokan’.

Touring to promote 2003’s ‘Train of Thought’, ‘Live at Budokan’ sees the band storm through a set of highly energetic and crushingly heavy material. The format of the shows were simply “an evening with...” type affairs, which meant there were no support acts. Yet, despite the mind-boggling duration of the set, the band remains on top form throughout, and shows no signs of fatigue or letting up.

Focusing more on their later material, ‘Live at Budokan’ is three discs of some of the bands strongest material, played impeccably by some of the absolute finest musicians in the world. Millions upon millions of notes are hit flawlessly, with a number of noodles and jamming sections bungled in amongst the set, this is a highly entertaining live album, and shows an unparalleled chemistry between the highly-respected musicians.

There’s an abundance of highlights here. From newer tracks ‘As I Am’, ‘This Dying Soul’ and ‘In the Name of God’, to older classics such as ‘Pull Me Under’, ‘New Millennium’, ‘Only a Matter of Time’ and ‘Beyond This Life’, which features a near-ten minute jam section which is absolutely incredible and never gets boring. Then there’s the exclusive of this album, ‘Instrumedley’, a 12-minute instrumental medley of various parts of the bands discography. It’s genuinely mind-blowing and further demonstrates how these guys are the absolute best of the best at what they do.

‘Live at Budokan’ may lie a little on the heavier side of things, but this is truly a gem that belongs in any prog fans collection. With an absolutely banging production and top-notch performances, this will surely come to be recognized as a true prog classic.

SAVATAGE Commissar

Single · 2001 · Progressive Metal
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martindavey87
‘Commissar’ is a single by metal band Savatage, released in 2001 to promote their ‘Poets and Madmen’ album, it features three tracks that total at just over eleven minutes in duration.

‘Poets and Madmen’ is an absolute masterpiece in my opinion, and easily one of the bands best releases, so no doubt it’d be tricky to choose which songs to use as promotional singles. However, ‘Commissar’, with its bombastic intro, its intense guitar playing and Jon Oliva’s rapid-fire vocals, is a fine choice, and easily stands out as one of the more memorable tracks on the album.

Second track, ‘Drive’, is mostly a straight-up metal song, but highlights the bands ferocity. With lightning fast riffs and wailing vocals, this is also a noteworthy track that makes ‘Poets and Madmen’ an essential purchase, and gives guitarist Chris Caffery a chance to truly shine. And finally, there’s ‘Voyage’, a short, two-minute acoustic guitar track. It’s a nice little instrumental that fills out the disc well, but isn’t overly essential.

Overall, ‘Commissar’ is an all-round decent enough CD single for Savatage fans.

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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