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Adam's Blog #1: Progressive Metal

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Poll Question: Has Progressive Metal Become Stale?
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1 [11.11%]
5 [55.56%]
3 [33.33%]

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    Posted: 27 Mar 2016 at 10:59am

I've oft thought about starting a blog here on MMA. Nothing too regular, just some place to put my musings and observations on the metal world, possibly some presentation pieces every now and then. We'll just see how this entry goes.

I was recently browsing my best of year list for 2015 on Rate Your Music as part of putting my submission together for the upcoming Collab's Top Albums of 2015, when I noticed something that based on previous years was really odd:

I did not have any traditional progressive metal albums rated higher than four stars. By traditional I mean an album that is first and foremost a progressive metal album and not, say, a progressive power metal album or a progressive death metal album, as I nearly always see such albums as having more to do with the other genre, than progressive metal itself. Thus discounting Wilderun's excellent second album Sleep at the Edge of the Earth (placed at #7) from counting as a progressive metal album. 


Sleep at the Edge of the Earth; progressive and brilliant, but ultimately folk metal.

Now I did not listen to as many albums from 2015 as I normally do due to being on a massive eighties kick for a good portion of last year, which may in fact go some way to explain this, but after discounting Wilderun as being a folk metal album, I had to scroll down to position #21 until I found an actual progressive metal album, that being Native Construct's debut Quiet World, which I think fully earned the four stars I reviewed it with but even so it wasn't an album I was ever really blown away with.


Quiet World; my highest rated progressive metal release from 2015

All told there were only three progressive metal albums on my list that I had felt especially inclined to listen to from 2015. Aside from Native Construct there was also Darkology's Fated to Burn, which was actually one of my most anticipated releases for a long time as I really loved their debut Altered Reflections from 2009 and District 97's In Vaults. Again, their last album (Trouble with Machine (2012)) was one I really loved. Both albums ultimately came across as quite the step backwards compared to their previous efforts.

For me this lack of progressive metal was practically unheard of.

I've considered that perhaps I just wasn't in a progressive metal mood during this time, but I've relistened to multiple older favourites in this time (by bands such as Anubis Gate, Dream Theater, Evergrey, Ayreon, Spheric Universe Experience and more) and enjoyed them just as much as I always did, if not more, which has led me to ask the question I'm now going to put to anyone interested enough to be reading this: has progressive metal become stale?


Into the Electric Castle; quite possibly my favourite album of all time and a progressive metal album.

Or perhaps it's just me having got burned out on progressive metal that it's going to take something really spectacular to get me to take notice of the genre again. So far in 2016 the same deal seems to be happening, even with Headspace whose follow-up to the excellent I Am Anonymous (2012) I've been eager to hear for a long time. I must admit that even as far back as 2014 there are only a couple of true progressive metal albums really high on my rankings list (including the #1) but go back to 2013 and there are a lot more releases that at least interested me enough to try them. In 2011 half of my top ten was progressive metal. Clearly that's something that's stopped happening for me in the last couple of years. I've still enjoyed most of the new progressive metal albums I've heard, the new Dream Theater being a noted exception, but it's been too long since a new progressive metal album really blew me away.

So what do you think? I've included a poll for convenience. And of course you can feel free to name some recent progressive metal releases that you think I might like, especially if you disagree with the notion that progressive metal has became stale.

And if you think it's become stale as well I'll take comfort in the fact that I'm not alone.  



Edited by adg211288 - 03 Apr 2016 at 11:58am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 666sharon666 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Mar 2016 at 11:08am
An interesting read Adam.

Looking at my own 2015 list submission I have three such prog metal albums included (including the Native Construct and District 97 albums). The highest is a 4.5 though, for the ever reliable Symphony X. I guess I'd vote maybe but for some reason I'm not allowed to vote in this poll (?).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote adg211288 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Mar 2016 at 11:12am
Bloody Web Wiz Weirdness again. Angry

I can actually vote myself but that may be admin rights overruling forum permissions. I'll have a look in the admin panel. Maybe there's a switch I can flick. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote adg211288 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Mar 2016 at 11:14am
Try it now. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 666sharon666 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Mar 2016 at 11:17am
Yeah that worked.

Honestly I don't think prog metal has got stale, at least not any more than any long running genre of music. Again, Symphony X aside I don't have any major prog metal favourites from 2015 though. I still need to listen to the new Headspace album.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Unitron Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Mar 2016 at 11:32am
Interesting read, personally I do feel like it's become stale. For me, a lot of recent prog metal I've heard seems to be pretty generic and cookie-cutter. However, I'm in the place where even if something has been done before, it can still be amazing if truly inspired. However, when comparing the likes of classic Fates Warning, Queensryche, Symphony X, and Dream Theater to some recent works of progressive metal I've heard, the recent stuff just sounds dull. 

So you're not alone, the only progressive metal album on my 2015 list is the new Symphony X which I found to be really amazing. I suspect more new progressive metal might be more interesting if they got a bit more varied like the new Symphony X was.  




Edited by Unitron - 02 May 2016 at 12:57am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote UMUR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Mar 2016 at 12:07pm
I think it´s a matter of having listened to a certain style for a number of years. You become more picky, and if you´ve dug Deep enough, you´ve also discovered the history of the genre, which sometimes leads to perceiving "new" artists in the genre as "followers" with very few ideas of their own. I know that´s how I typically feel, and I therefore tend to be a bit reluctant towards new artists. They at the very least have to prove something extraordinary (high level songwriting, musicianship...etc) for me to clap my hands, like I used to when I listened to the artists who invented the style.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote adg211288 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Mar 2016 at 2:05pm
I know what you mean Jonas. It's that sort of thing that has actually led me to start going back and changing a lot of my ratings to a new system. A couple of years ago I think I probably would have give The Astonishing 3 stars at minimum. But I ended up going with 2 as any higher wouldn't fit with my new guidelines:

5.0 // Masterpiece, an all-time favourite 
4.5 // Some of the best the genre has to offer, will be buying it ASAP 
4.0 // Strong example of the genre, will buy 
3.5 // Good, but I won't listen to it very often, will buy when cheaper 
3.0 // Enjoyable, but probably won't buy (unless the artist is a favourite) 
2.5 // Forgettable but inoffensive 
2.0 // For completionists only 
1.5 // Shows slight promise 
1.0 // I never want to hear this again 
0.5 // Unlistenable

I know that I did listen to less new releases last year, but I did only hand out two 5 star ratings compared to 14 in 2014, so yeah, my attitude has definitely been changing. 

With prog though it feels kinda different. I'm having trouble even getting excited about new prog releases right now.


Edited by adg211288 - 27 Mar 2016 at 2:16pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TheHeavyMetalCat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Mar 2016 at 3:02pm
Originally posted by adg211288 adg211288 wrote:

With prog though it feels kinda different. I'm having trouble even getting excited about new prog releases right now.


It's probably because the new DT was so mind-numbingly bad that you've become disillusioned with the genre.

I personally don't think it's got stale. There are some really strong newer prog metal bands out there. Leprous for example. Four brilliant albums under their belt including last year's The Congregation.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DippoMagoo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Mar 2016 at 6:45pm
I don't think prog has gotten stale, though 2015 was a fairly weak year for the genre, to be sure. I personally had 1 full length that definitely counts, 1 EP and then Symphony X which probably counts, though that particular album could also be seen as prog/power as there's a ton of power metal on it. In 2014 I had 4 in my top 30 and a whole bunch just outside of it, and this year already I have a 5 star album (The Astonishing, lol!), 2 4.5's and the Headspace album is just outside of a 4.5 and could get there with more listens, so it's already looking like a better year for me. There's also new Haken on the horizon, and their last album was part of a very strong 2013, so we'll see how things go the rest of the year with prog.

One thing I will say, though, is that prog has become like symphonic metal, in that more and more bands are finding ways to mix elements of it into different genres, so in general there probably have been less standout pure prog albums, just like there have been less standout pure symphonic albums, just because of the merging of sounds.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Prog Geo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Mar 2016 at 6:52pm
Maybe! Because some releases are interesting and others not so much! Especially when we talk about prog metal! Extreme prog metal is still ok (an album I enjoyed is Ehnahre's Douve). Also, generally prog rock/metal isn't so progressive anymore! For example, Dream Theater!

Edited by Prog Geo - 27 Mar 2016 at 6:57pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LittleBig Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Mar 2016 at 3:13am
I don't think it got "stale" or at least "stale" is not a word I would use. There are still a lot of albums I enjoy and there are new bands coming with interesting music - Earthside being an example, also Caligula's Horse, Agent Fresco, Headspace, (and "the not so new")Subsignal, Kingcrow, Voyager, Vangough, Distorted Harmony, Haken and even Myrath I dare say.

Some veteran bands still deliver the goods, Fates Warning being THE example (I hope Jim Matheos will collaborate with Kevin Moore some more as to me OSI is a great project). Threshold has never disappointed me, it would be another example.

I can't complain, there are still a lot of albums I enjoy and discover every year; although I'm not into extreme progressive metal, even here there are interesting things (Barren Earth would be an example, Dan Swano's Witherscape, Dordeduh) or some post-rock/metal related (Sannhet, Sunset in the 12th House), even some djent (Walk Across Jupiter, Widek, Tesseract, Skyharbor, Abnormal Thought Patterns).



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote adg211288 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Mar 2016 at 4:32am
Originally posted by TheHeavyMetalCat TheHeavyMetalCat wrote:

Originally posted by adg211288 adg211288 wrote:

With prog though it feels kinda different. I'm having trouble even getting excited about new prog releases right now.


It's probably because the new DT was so mind-numbingly bad that you've become disillusioned with the genre.

I personally don't think it's got stale. There are some really strong newer prog metal bands out there. Leprous for example. Four brilliant albums under their belt including last year's The Congregation.

You've obviously not seen my review for Bilateral.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vim Fuego Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Mar 2016 at 6:45am
I'm not a big progressive metal fan. In fact, the "P" word generally puts me off something! I always thought the idea of prog stuff was to keep experimenting and expanding, and thus not going stale? Bands do run out of steam and inspiration eventually, and sometimes entire genres stagnate, like thrash did, and death metal did to a lesser extent.

However, I have burned myself out on various genres over the years, to the point where I've avoided them for a few months, or a couple of years, only to come back later with a fresh appetite for them after exploring something else. I suppose my biggest burn out was around 1995, when I just got bored with the metal being released at the time. Nu-metal was on the rise, grunge was huge, (both of which I dislike) thrash had died, death metal was going back underground, and black metal was impossible to find in NZ.

So I got in to the pop punk thing which was also just taking off. I discovered a heap of great bands (NOFX, still my favourite punk band, Bad Religion, Pennywise, Diesel Boy, Guttermouth, The Vandals) and a new scene. Around 1997-1998 my interest in metal kicked back in with the discovery of the internet. Finally, I could find what I wanted when I wanted it, and didn't have to just rely on what was in the shops. And my old favourite bands started coming back with stuff worth listening to again.

I still like the punk stuff, and I'm almost glad of the metal burn out now which pointed me in that direction. I'm not saying ditch prog altogether, or that the genre is dying. I'm just suggesting taking a bit of a rest from it for a while and look at something else for a bit, and then you'll come back with a fresh, and perhaps clearer, appreciation of it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TheHeavyMetalCat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Mar 2016 at 6:49am
Originally posted by adg211288 adg211288 wrote:

Originally posted by TheHeavyMetalCat TheHeavyMetalCat wrote:

Originally posted by adg211288 adg211288 wrote:

With prog though it feels kinda different. I'm having trouble even getting excited about new prog releases right now.


It's probably because the new DT was so mind-numbingly bad that you've become disillusioned with the genre.

I personally don't think it's got stale. There are some really strong newer prog metal bands out there. Leprous for example. Four brilliant albums under their belt including last year's The Congregation.


You've obviously not seen my review for Bilateral.


A whole star less than that snoozefest The Astonishing? Were you smoking something or what?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote adg211288 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Mar 2016 at 7:17am
Perhaps I should have been. It might have sounded better then.

All joking aside I've never got the hype about that band. My experience with Bilateral has also meant that I haven't touched either of the following albums with a barge pole. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nightfly Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Mar 2016 at 12:12pm
I think it's in pretty good state for now although a look at my own list for 2015 only has 3 prog metal albums on - Symphony X, Amorphis and Queensrhyche and Symphony X aren't as prog as they used to be but no worse for it. There are others on my list that have a fair bit of prog in them like Enslaved for example though.

I think like any genre you get great years and sometimes bad years. I don't think 2015 was brilliant for prog metal (or 2014 for that matter) but I'm not writing it off yet. Hopefully 2016 will be better.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rushfan4 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Mar 2016 at 4:21pm
The irony of this thread is that Dream Theater tried something different i.e. less stale, and you hated it. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote adg211288 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Mar 2016 at 4:29pm
This thread isn't all about Dream Theater. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rushfan4 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Mar 2016 at 5:45pm
Sorry Adam, that came across more critical than I had intended.  I had to run so I posted before I was ready.  I realize that the thread isn't about DT, but I just find it ironic how many people hate the new Dream Theater album, and yet they tried to do something different.  So maybe it is a case of be careful what you wish for.    I don't have a good response to your query.  One might argue that "traditional" progressive metal, is bound to grow stale and lose any progressiveness just by being pigeonholed as "traditional".  They can either become more prog and less metal or more metal and less prog or continue to do what they do, thus becoming "stale".

My top list for 2015 may include District 97, Vanden Plas, Subsignal, Pyramaze, The Gentle Storm, Kingcrow, Riverside, Baroness, BTBAM, Caligula's Horse, Scale The Summit, TesseracT, Leprous, Symphony X, Kamelot, Royal Hunt, Native Construct and Queensryche.    I think that most of these are traditional prog, although BTBAM may be more extreme than traditional.

This being said, I think that just about every one of those bands has produced a previous album that I would say is better than their 2015 release, which might be my way in agreeing with you. 
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