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

progressive metal top albums

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progressive metal Music Reviews

TEXTURES Silhouettes

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"Silhouettes" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Dutch metal act Textures. The album was released through Listenable Records in April 2008. It´s the successor to "Drawing Circles" from 2006 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as bassist Dennis Aarts has been replaced by Remko Tielemans.

Stylistically the material on "Silhouettes" continues the technical/progressive metal style of "Drawing Circles (2006)". Hard edged angular riffs and rhythms, often delivered in unconventional time signatures, shouting aggresive "core" tinged vocals, and the occasional clean vocal part, and some melodic and atmospheric moments, which are often enhanced by the use of keyboards. Artists like Meshuggah and Gojira come to mind at various points of the playing time, but Textures ultimately don´t sound like those acts, although there definitely are some similarities.

"Silhouettes" features high level musicianship and a powerful, clear, and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly. The material is well written, effective, and catchy (even quite melodic at times). It´s also reasonably varied and "Silhouettes" is overall an album with a good tracklist flow. So upon conclusion "Silhouettes" is a high quality release by Textures. There are a few issues which prevent it from reaching higher levels of excellence, and that is predominantly issues with the vocals. Both the raw shouting vocals and the clean vocals are as such well performed, but none of the vocal styles are particularly unique sounding. The raw vocals sound like a thousand other "core" tinged vocals, and the clean vocals are pretty unremarkable too.

So while the material are both well written and powerful, Textures still haven´t found a sound which make them stand out from the crowd of similar sounding artists (like for example the two above mentioned artists have), and that does have an impact on my overall impression of "Silhouettes". Had the vocals stood out more and enhanced the uniqueness of the music and had the music overall had a more original sound, the sheer quality of the product would have warranted a sure 4 star (80%) rating, but as that unique sound is lacking I feel like I´m stretching, when I a rate the album with a 3.5 star (70%) star rating.

MORBUS CHRON Sweven

Album · 2014 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"Sweven" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act Morbus Chron. The album was released through Century Media Records in February 2014. Morbus Chron was formed in 2007 and released their debut full-length studio album "Sleepers in the Rift" in 2011. The "A Saunter Through the Shroud" EP followed in 2012 and bridges the gap between the debut album and "Sweven".

While Morbus Chron were hardly a traditional old school death metal act on "Sleepers in the Rift (2011)" nor on "A Saunter Through the Shroud (2012)", I don´t think many listeners would have expected the stylistic development which has taken place on "Sweven". Granted...Morbus Chron´s old school death metal core sound is still the basis of most tracks on "Sweven", but the band have added a lot of progressive and quite adventurous compositional ideas to that core sound, which result in something relatively unique sounding. While the two bands ultimately sound pretty different, there are still many similarities to the stylistic development their fellow countrymen in Tribulation have been through.

So "Sweven" features a sound which is quite hard to describe accurately, but progressive death metal is a start. The music also features atmospheric post-rock build-ups as well as the occasional nod towards atmospheric black metal (most dominant in "Towards a Dark Sky"). The vocals are a shouting growling type of vocals. There is a lot of reverb effect on the vocals, which at times makes them sound a bit chaotic. Personally I enjoy the vocals most when they leave the reverb effect alone, but that´s probably an aquired taste. To my ears the vocals are one of the few weak links on the album. Considering that the vocals were a great asset on "A Saunter Through the Shroud (2012)", I think Morbus Chron have made a wrong production choice here.

Thankfully the instrumental part of the music is really strong. Structurally adventurous, progressive, and atmospheric extreme metal, which at times enter´s the weird zone and threatens to bend your mind. It´s not an avant garde release though, and we´re still treated to fairly accessible music. It´s just the kind of album which requires many spins to sink in. It´s not a given where a song will go and there are many surprising twists and turns throughout the album.

Featuring high level musicianship and a well sounding dark and atmospheric production, "Sweven" is a high quality release by Morbus Chron and definitely one of the more interesting and original death metal releases of it´s time. So if you think the idea of old school death metal done in a progressive fashion sounds like a treat, "Sweven" is highly recommendable. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

EARTHSIDE A Dream in Static

Album · 2015 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"A Dream in Static" is the debut full-length studio album by US, New England based progressive metal act Earthside. The album was independently released in October 2015. Earthside consists of four well educated and highly skilled guys, who all have college degrees in music composition and production (or other similar educational skills). It´s like reading the Dream Theater fairytale again, but these guys of course deserve to be judged on their own merits. Earthside doesn´t feature a permanent vocalist, so the band have enlisted the services of singers like Lajon Witherspoon (Sevendust), Björn Strid (Soilwork), Daniel Tompkins (Tesseract), and Eric Zirlinger (Face The King, Seer).

"A Dream in Static" features 8 tracks, and a full playing time 63:52 minutes. The album opens with the instrumental "The Closest I’ve Come", and it´s audible from the get go, that we´re dealing with incredibly skilled musicians and composers. The performances are tight and the playing technically challenging. The material are relatively varied and while there are both heavy rhyhtms and hard edged riffing on the album, there are also a lot of more atmospheric parts, which lean more towards progressive rock than progressive metal. There are even hints at post-rock which the slow building and atmospheric "Entering The Light" is an example of. The band make the use of different guest lead vocalists work pretty well. The album does however become slightly inconsistent and feels a little more like a "project" instead of a band effort, because there isn´t a designated vocalist in the band, but there is no denying that Earthside have chosen some really skilled guest vocalists who fit well with the instrumental part of the music.

"A Dream in Static" is a very well produced affair, featuring a powerful, clear, and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly. Fans of the more polished and accessible type of progressive rock/metal should be thrilled with this album on all parameters from the high level performances, to the professional sound production, to the intriguing and clever compositions. To my ears Earthside need to work on a more unique sound (there´s very little here that´ll surprise fans of the genre or which sets Earthside apart from other contemporary artists), and a little more raw edge wouldn´t hurt either, but that´s a purely subjective point of view and quality wise, this is a high quality release and a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

DIVISION BY ZERO Independent Harmony

Album · 2010 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"Independent Harmony" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Polish progressive metal act Division By Zero. The album was released through Prog Team in April 2010. Division By Zero was formed in 2003. Their original run ended in 2013 when they disbanded. They released two studio albums during their 10 years together. "Tyranny of Therapy (2007)" and "Independent Harmony (2010)". There´s been one lineup change since "Tyranny of Therapy (2007)" as bassist Michal Wieczorek has been replaced by Maciej Foryta.

Stylistically the material on "Independent Harmony" is pretty much a continuation of the progressive metal style of "Tyranny of Therapy (2007)". So Division By Zero´s brand of progressive metal which features both technically challenging instrumetal sections, melancholic atmospheric parts, and the occasional death metal growl is intact. The band have grown as composers though, and they´ve also honed their already considerable playing/singing skills even more since the debut. Slawek Wierny has a strong voice and a convincing delivery, which isn´t far removed from the sound and style of Mariusz Duda (Riverside). His growling vocals are not as interesting, but they get the job done, when a more aggressive atmosphere is called for. Personally I think the album would have been stronger without them though.

"Independent Harmony" features 7 tracks and a full playing time of 44:03 minutes. The material is very well written. The tracks are generally complex in structure but still catchy and memorable, and the combination of atmosphere, technical wizardry, and heavy riffs and rhythms work really well. "Independent Harmony" also feautures a professional, clear, and detailed sound production which suits the material well, so upon conclusion it is a high quality release and a great sophomore album by Division By Zero. They aren´t necessarily the most unique sounding progressive metal act on the scene, but they deliver their music with great skill and conviction and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

DIVISION BY ZERO Tyranny of Therapy

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"Tyranny of Therapy" is the debut full-length studio album by Polish progressive metal act Division By Zero. The album was released through Insanity Records in May 2007. Division By Zero were formed in 2003. Their original run ended in 2013 when they disbanded. They released two studio albums during their 10 years together. "Tyranny of Therapy" and "Independent Harmony (2010)".

In regards to the material on this album the progressive metal term doesn´t mean progressive metal in the vein of Dream Theater and their ilk. Division By Zero are one of those eclectic progressive metal acts which also include extreme metal elements like occasional growling vocals and they are generally in the harder edged end of the progressive metal scale, although they certainly don´t shy away from melodic moments and more traditional progressive metal traits like tempo- and time signature changes and fast guitar/keyboard harmony runs. Sometimes they remind me of a very heavy version of Riverside.

They are obviously a skilled bunch of guys, who can handle their instruments and lead vocalist Slawek Wierny has a strong and pleasant clean vocal delivery. I´m not as impressed by his extreme vocals, but they get the job done. The material is adventurous and quite dynamic with both loud heavy parts and mellow atmospheric parts. While the song structures extent beyond the regular vers/chorus formula, the tracks are generally still accessible and memorable. So Division By Zero are the type of band who use technical playing and progressive ideas as a means to an end and not to show off or as the central part of their sound.

"Tyranny of Therapy" features a powerful, detailed, and well sounding production, which suits the music perfectly. So all in all it´s a high quality release by the band. Personally I could have done without the extreme metal vocals, when they aren´t more convincing than they are here, but it´s really a minor issue and probably an aquired taste too, so I´d say that a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is still 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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