Progressive metal (sometimes known as prog metal) is a fusion genre melding heavy metal and progressive rock that combines the loud "aggression" and amplified guitar-driven sound of the former with the more experimental, cerebral or "pseudo-classical" compositions of the latter.
Whilst the genre emerged towards the late-1980s, it was not until the 1990s that progressive metal achieved commercial success. Queensrÿche, Dream Theater, Tool, Symphony X, Shadow Gallery, Angra, and Fates Warning are a few examples of progressive metal bands who achieved commercial success; additionally, many other thrash and death metal bands started to incorporate elements of progressive music in their work.
|Cultural origins||Mid 1980s, North America, United Kingdom, Australia|
|Derivative forms||Technical death metal|
Progressive metal, as a distinct musical style, was primarily advanced by members of the American heavy/power metal scene of the mid-1980s, particularly Queensrÿche, Fates Warning and, later, Dream Theater. These bands form the so-called triad, the "Big Three" of prog metal, or the most important and influential groups of the traditional scene.
The origins of the genre date back to the very beginning of heavy metal/hard rock and progressive rock, as some bands began to merge the two different approaches. 1960s pioneers like King Crimson maintained their musical innovation while incorporating a harder approach, using dissonance and experimental tones, yet maintaining a relationship to the power chords of hard rock. At the same time, metal/doom stalwarts such as Black Sabbath began to integrate accentuated progressive influences into pioneering records such as Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973) and Sabotage (1975).
Canadian trio Rush are widely recognised as bridging the gap between the hard rock period, English prog and the purely heavy metal genre. Initially influenced by Led Zeppelin, they evolved to combine established progressive rock technique with blues-based power chords. Records such as 2112 (1976), A Farewell to Kings (1977) and Hemispheres (1978) showcased technical expertise while utilizing a more direct approach than the established English prog rockers.
1984 brought full length debut albums from American bands Queensrÿche, from Washington, and Fates Warning, from Connecticut. Taking inspiration from established metal acts like Iron Maiden, each expanded their music to include more progressive elements (The Warning 1984, The Spectre Within 1985) – some through sound experimentation and compositional refinement, others through extremely complex structures and atypical riffs – up to the two seminal works in 1986: Rage for Order and Awaken the Guardian. In the following years the two bands, while following different paths – more basic and simple the first, more articulate and complex the latter - explore and expand the technical refinement and sonic finesse of their music, continuing to lay the foundations of the genre with important works such as Operation: Mindcrime (1988) by Queensrÿche, No Exit (1988) and Perfect Symmetry (1989) by Fates Warning.
Progressive metal also found a home in the burgeoning U.S. speed metal movement, influencing thrashers Metallica and Megadeth. "Math-metal" pioneers Watchtower, from Texas, took the concept of time-changes to a new level, combining thrash metal, syncopation and prog in their albums Energetic Disassembly (1985) and Control and Resistance (1989), giving rise to an extremely technical approach based on the rhythmic deconstruction typical of jazz fusion. This same type of prog metal will be later integrated into death metal by American bands such as Atheist (1991's Unquestionable Presence) and Cynic (1993's Focus). Among the other pioneering thrash metal bands, one of the most important is the Canadian Voivod, with their complex and experimental style, full of psychedelic dissonances (Dimension Hatröss 1988, Nothingface 1989).
The major second wave US bands that contribute to further delineating and developing the genre are Psychotic Waltz and Dream Theater. The former, with an approach halfway between Watchtower and Fates Warning, produced A Social Grace (1990), melding their signature sound with the psychedelic Into the Everflow (1992), while the latter explored the legacy of the bands that preceded them while advancing their personal style with When Dream and Day Unite (1989). Both albums focused on keyboards and band members' virtuoso instrumental skills, and their efforts resulted in two fundamental albums, that institutionalize classic progressive metal and a certain way of conceiving it - Images and Words (1992) and Awake (1994).
As for Europe, among the pioneers are the Germans Sieges Even, who, starting from the techno thrash of Watchtower, explore the more technical and angular side of progressive metal with Steps (1990), followed the following year by the more melodic A Sense of Change (1991).
Among other important groups that have distinguished themselves for the peculiarity of the proposal: in the US, for the melodic and/or power side Shadow Gallery (Carved in Stone 1995), the neoclassical Symphony X (The Divine Wings of Tragedy 1997), Redemption (The Fullness of Time 2005), O.S.I. with Kevin Moore (ex-keyboardist of Dream Theater) and Jim Matheos (guitarist of Fates Warning); for the technical side Zero Hour (The Towers of Avarice 2001), Power of Omens, Arch/Matheos (parallel project of Fates Warning), instrumental groups such as Spastic Ink, Liquid Tension Experiment, Gordian Knot and Canvas Solaris; for a more heavy approach Hammers of Misfortune (The Locust Years 2006) and Heart of Cygnus; in Europe: for the melodic and/or power side the Norwegians Conception (Parallel Minds 1993) and Ark (Burn the Sun 2001), the Germans Vanden Plas (The God Thing 1997) and Secrecy, the English Threshold, the Danish Royal Hunt (Paradox 1997), the Swedes Andromeda (II = I 2003) and Evergrey (In Search of Truth 2001), the Poles Riverside (Out of Myself 2003), the Spanish band Avalanch; for the technical and/or experimental side the Norwegian Spiral Architect, with their innovative approach between Watchtower and Fates Warning in [A Skeptic's Universe (2000), Twisted into Form, Leprous (Tall Poppy Syndrome 2009) and Frantic Bleep. Among the groups outside the European-American context are the Australians Vauxdvihl (To Dimension Logic, 1994).
Among the bands of the late 1990s who managed to bring innovation to the scene, thanks to a strong personality and a substantial discography, there are the Dutch Ayreon, a project by Arjen Anthony Lucassen, and the Swedes Pain of Salvation: they've helped redefine the canons of traditional progressive metal. The first one through theatrical and melodramatic rock operas (Into the Electric Castle 1998, The Human Equation 2004), interpreted by numerous singers and arranged together with many musicians, the latter referring to the eclecticism and anti-conformism of Faith No More, always looking for an unusual style (One Hour by the Concrete Lake 1998, BE 2004). An experimental and alternative approach, that in prog metal sees Thought Industry (Mods Carve the Pig: Assassin's Toads and God's Flesh 1993), Mind over Four, and Voivod as forerunners. Another important and key figure for electical and unusual prog is the singer, guitarist and composer Devin Townsend, who brought the vanguard attitude to highest levels within this genre (Terria 2001).
As of 2018, the genre is still constantly evolving in multiple forms, and has reached a far broader variety of sounds and styles than it had at its origin, with many of the historical bands continuing to record new music and tour, while thousands of other new bands emerge in the underground scene every year, from all over the world. Recently, Mastodon and Gojira are two examples of progressive metal starting to reach mainstream popularity.
Progressive metal can be broken down into many sub-genres corresponding to certain other styles of music that have influenced progressive metal groups. For example, two bands that are commonly identified as progressive metal, King's X and Opeth, are at opposite ends of the sonic spectrum to one another. King's X are greatly influenced by softer mainstream rock and, in fact, contributed to the growth of grunge, influencing bands like Pearl Jam, whose bassist Jeff Ament once said, "King's X invented grunge." Opeth's growling vocals and heavy guitars (liberally intermixed with gothic metal-evocative acoustic passages and clean melodic vocals) often see them cited as progressive death metal, yet their vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt refers to Yes and Camel as major influences in the style of their music.
Classical and symphonic music have also had a significant impact on sections of the progressive metal genre, with artists like Devin Townsend, Symphony X, Shadow Gallery and Ex Libris fusing traditional progressive metal with a complexity and grandeur usually found in classical compositions. Similarly, bands such as Dream Theater, Planet X, Puya, Liquid Tension Experiment, The Faceless, Between the Buried and Me and Animals as Leaders have a jazz influence, with extended solo sections that often feature "trading solos". Cynic, Atheist, Opeth, Pestilence, Between the Buried and Me and Meshuggah all blended jazz fusion with death metal, but in dramatically different ways. Devin Townsend draws on more ambient influences in the atmosphere of his music. Progressive metal is also often linked with power metal, hence the ProgPower music festivals, with bands such as Fates Warning and Conception originating as power metal bands that incorporated progressive elements which came to overshadow their power metal roots.
Recently, with a new wave of popularity in shred guitar, the hitherto-unfashionable genre of "technical metal" has become increasingly prevalent and popular in the metal scene. This has led to a resurgence of popularity for more traditional progressive metal bands like Dream Theater and Symphony X, and also has led to the inclusion within the progressive metal scene of bands that do not necessarily play in its traditional style such as thrash/power metallers Nevermore and technical death metal pioneers Necrophagist and Obscura. These bands are often labeled progressive metal, seeing as they play complex and technical metal music which does not readily cleave to any other metal subgenre.
In the late 2000s, bands such as Periphery, Tesseract, Animals as Leaders and Vildhjarta popularized the "djent" style of progressive metal based in a sound originally developed by Meshuggah. It is characterized by palm-muted, syncopated riffs (often incorporating polymeters), as well as use of extended range guitars. Extended range guitars also feature in other forms of progressive metal; artists including Devin Townsend, Dir En Grey, and Ne Obliviscaris have used 7-string guitars without being part of the "djent" movement.
Proyecto Eskhata, a Spanish band, has received much press coverage in Spain for its fusion of progressive rock and rap metal, which journalists have described as "progressive rap metal".
Although progressive metal and experimental metal both favor experimentation and non-standard ideas, there are rather large differences between the two genres. The experimentation of progressive metal has a strong emphasis on technicality and theoretical complexity. This is done by playing complex rhythms and harmonies and implementing unusual time signatures and song structures - all with the use of traditional instruments. For avant-garde/experimental metal, most of the experimentation is in the use of unusual sounds and instruments - being more unorthodox and questioning of musical conventions.
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Adagio is a French progressive metal band formed in 2000 by guitarist Stéphan Forté.Animals as Leaders
Animals as Leaders are an American instrumental progressive metal band from Washington, D.C. It currently consists of guitarists Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes and drummer Matt Garstka, having been formed by Abasi in 2007. They are a prominent band within the djent scene. Prosthetic Records released the band's eponymous debut album in 2009. They went on to release the albums Weightless (2011), The Joy of Motion (2014), and The Madness of Many (2016).Avant-garde metal
Avant-garde metal (or experimental metal) is a subgenre of heavy metal music loosely defined by use of experimentation and innovative, avant-garde elements, including non-standard and unconventional sounds, instruments, song structures, playing styles, and vocal techniques. Avant-garde metal is influenced by progressive rock and extreme metal, particularly death metal, and is closely related to progressive metal. Some local scenes include Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, and Seattle in the United States, Oslo in Norway, and Tokyo in Japan.Between the Buried and Me
Between the Buried and Me is an American progressive metal band from Raleigh, North Carolina. Formed in 2000, the band consists of Tommy Giles Rogers Jr. (lead vocals, keyboards), Paul Waggoner (lead guitar, backing vocals), Dustie Waring (rhythm guitar, lead guitar), Dan Briggs (bass, keyboards), and Blake Richardson (drums).
Their debut eponymous album was released through Lifeforce Records in 2002, shifting to Victory Records for subsequent releases until their signing to Metal Blade in 2011, where Between the Buried and Me released their first extended play, The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues that year, and its full-length follow-up The Parallax II: Future Sequence the following year. Their seventh studio album, Coma Ecliptic, was released in 2015. Their eighth album Automata I was released March 9, 2018, and their ninth album, Automata II, was released July 13, 2018.Danny Carey
Daniel Edwin Carey (born May 10, 1961) is an American drummer and instrumentalist best known for his work in American Grammy Award-winning progressive metal band Tool. He has also contributed to albums by artists such as Zaum, Green Jellö, Pigface, Skinny Puppy, Adrian Belew of King Crimson, Carole King, Collide, Lusk, and the Melvins.Djent
Djent () is a subgenre of progressive metal, named for an onomatopoeia for the distinctive high-gain, distorted, palm-muted, low-pitch guitar sound.Evergrey
Evergrey is a progressive metal band from Gothenburg, Sweden. The band was founded in 1995 and released its debut album, The Dark Discovery, in 1998. After a short hiatus the band returned with its ninth album Hymns for the Broken, released on September 2014.Fates Warning
Fates Warning is an American progressive metal band, formed in 1982 by vocalist John Arch, guitarists Jim Matheos and Victor Arduini, bassist Joe DiBiase, and drummer Steve Zimmerman in Hartford, Connecticut.A pioneer of the progressive metal movement, Fates Warning is often credited as one of the so called "Big Three" of the genre, along with Queensrÿche and Dream Theater; namely, the bands who are most responsible for prog metal's creation, developing and popularization. Their early work, influenced by new wave of British heavy metal, is also important in the development of American power metal.
Fates Warning rose to international fame in the 1980s and has experienced numerous line-up changes. From 1982 to 1996 — and temporarily in 2010 — Matheos and DiBiase were the only remaining original members of the band, with the former being the only constant member. Their current lineup consists of guitarist Jim Matheos, vocalist Ray Alder, bassist Joey Vera, and drummer Bobby Jarzombek.
Fates Warning has released twelve studio albums, two live albums, one compilation album, one VHS, three DVDs (each of them features live concerts) and four demo tapes. The band experienced major American commercial success with the 1986 release of their third studio album, Awaken the Guardian, which peaked at number No. 191 on the Billboard 200, and became the first album released on Metal Blade to enter that chart. Their next three albums — No Exit (1988), Perfect Symmetry (1989) and Parallels (1991) — were also successful; the first two peaked at No. 111 and No. 141 on the Billboard 200 respectively. By 2001, Fates Warning had sold over a million albums worldwide. Their most recent studio album, Theories of Flight, was released on July 1, 2016.Joey Vera
Joseph "Joey" Vera (born April 24, 1963) is an American heavy metal bassist who is known as a member of the heavy metal band Armored Saint and the progressive metal band Fates Warning. In 2004-2005 he replaced Frank Bello in Anthrax as the band's bassist, but did not record with them. He was also a member of Engine, recorded with Tribe After Tribe, and appears on the OSI album Free. His first solo album, A Thousand Faces, was released in 1994. His current solo project, A Chinese Firedrill, released an album titled Circles in 2007.John Petrucci
John Peter Petrucci (born July 12, 1967) is an American guitarist, composer and producer. He is best known as a founding member of the progressive metal band Dream Theater. With his former bandmate Mike Portnoy, he produced all Dream Theater albums from 1999's Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory to 2009's Black Clouds & Silver Linings. He has been the sole producer of the band's albums released since Portnoy's departure in 2010. Petrucci was named as the third player on the G3 tour seven times, more than any other invited guitarist. Joel McIver's 2009 book The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists ranks Petrucci second, after Dave Mustaine. He was also named as one of the "Top 10 Greatest Guitar Shredders of All Time" by GuitarOne magazine. In 2012, Petrucci was ranked the 17th greatest guitarist of all time by a Guitar World magazine reader's poll.Justin Chancellor
Justin Gunnar Walter Chancellor (born 19 November 1971) is an English musician formerly in the band Peach but best known as the bass player for progressive metal band Tool. Chancellor is of English and Norwegian descent. After settling in the US, along with his engagement in his musical projects, he and his wife Shelee Dykman Chancellor ran a store called Lobal Orning in Topanga, California, dedicated to music and literature "that shaped and changed" both of them. The store closed in 2008. He started M.T.Void music project with Piotr "Glaca" Mohammed from Sweet Noise. In October 2012, Chancellor featured as bass player on the song "In the Spirit Of..." on The Fusion Syndicate album, released by Cleopatra Records. His track also appears on the 2014 album The Prog Box.List of progressive metal artists
The following is a list of progressive metal artists, bands and groups. This list contains some bands that at least at some point during their career played progressive metal. Rooted in the early 1980s, the genre fused mellow progressive rock with a heavy metal aesthetic. Characteristics may include complex song structures, unusual time signatures, lengthy songs and often using concept albums.Later on, many extreme metal bands began to experiment and developed an array of progressive metal fusions with other genres, including death metal, black metal, thrash metal and avant-garde metal.Meshuggah
is a Swedish extreme metal band from Umeå, formed in 1987. Meshuggah's line-up consists of founding members vocalist Jens Kidman and lead guitarist Fredrik Thordendal, drummer Tomas Haake, who joined in 1990, rhythm guitarist Mårten Hagström, who joined in 1993 and bassist Dick Lövgren since 2004.
Meshuggah first attracted international attention with the 1995 release Destroy Erase Improve for its fusion of fast-tempo death metal, thrash metal, progressive metal and jazz fusion elements. Since its 2002 album Nothing, Meshuggah has switched from seven-string to downtuned eight-string guitars. Meshuggah has become known for their innovative musical style, complex, polymetered song structures and polyrhythms. Meshuggah was labelled as one of the ten most important hard rock and heavy metal bands by Rolling Stone and as the most important band in metal by Alternative Press. Meshuggah is a significant act in extreme underground music, an influence for modern metal bands and has a cult following. In the late 2000s, the band was an inspiration for the djent subgenre within progressive metal and in 2018, Meshuggah was nominated for a Grammy Award for their song "Clockworks" under the "Best Metal Performance" category.Since its formation, Meshuggah has released eight studio albums, six EPs and eight music videos. The band has performed in various international festivals, including Ozzfest and Download, and embarked on the obZen world tour from 2008 to 2010. In 2006 and 2009, the band was nominated for a Swedish Grammis Award. Nothing and the albums that followed have all charted on the Billboard 200. Meshuggah's latest studio album, The Violent Sleep of Reason, was released on 7 October 2016, debuting at number 17 in the US.Periphery (band)
Periphery is an American progressive metal band based in Washington, D.C., formed in 2005. Their musical style has been described as progressive metal, djent, and progressive metalcore. They are considered one of the pioneers of the djent movement within progressive metal. The band consists of vocalist Spencer Sotelo, guitarists Misha Mansoor, Mark Holcomb, Jake Bowen, and drummer Matt Halpern.
The band has released six studio albums - Periphery, Periphery II: This Time It's Personal, Juggernaut: Alpha, Juggernaut: Omega, Periphery III: Select Difficulty, and Periphery IV: Hail Stan - and two EPs - Icarus EP and Clear. All Periphery material is self-produced by the members of the band.Progressive metalcore
Progressive metalcore (also called technical metalcore or ambient metalcore) is a fusion of progressive metal and metalcore characterized by highly technical lead guitar, "atmospheric" elements, and complex instrumentation. Some notable practitioners take influence from djent.Sons of Apollo
Sons of Apollo is an American progressive metal supergroup formed in 2017 and composed of drummer Mike Portnoy, bassist Billy Sheehan, keyboardist Derek Sherinian, vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, and guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal.Symphonic metal
Symphonic metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music which combines the heavy drums and guitars of metal with different elements of orchestral classical music, such as symphonic instruments, choirs and sometimes a full orchestra. Keyboards reminiscent of power metal are also sometimes featured.Symphonic metal bands often feature classically trained female vocalists, giving rise to the nickname opera metal or operatic metal, and it is not uncommon for them to feature a second vocalist performing growls, a more common characteristic of gothic metal.
Perhaps the most typical and prominent examples of symphonic metal bands are Dutch bands Epica, and Within Temptation, Finnish band Nightwish, and Swedish band Therion,Kamelot which is an international band , all five of which place a large focus on elements prevalent in film scores on top of the more basic classical components utilized more widely in the genre.Tesseract (band)
Tesseract (often stylized as TesseracT) are a British progressive metal band from Milton Keynes, England. The band, formed in 2003, consists of Daniel Tompkins (lead vocals), Alec "Acle" Kahney (lead guitar & producer), James Monteith (rhythm guitar), Amos Williams (bass, backing vocals), and Jay Postones (drums, percussion). The band is currently signed to Kscope. They are credited as one of the bands to pioneer the djent movement in progressive metal. As of 2018, Tesseract have released four studio albums: One, Altered State, Polaris, and Sonder, as well as a live album, Odyssey/Scala, and the extended plays Concealing Fate, Perspective and Errai.Voivod (band)
Voivod (or Voïvod) is a Canadian heavy metal band from Jonquière, Quebec. The band's current line-up consists of Denis "Snake" Bélanger (vocals), Daniel "Chewy" Mongrain (guitar), Dominique "Rocky" Laroche (bass) and Michel "Away" Langevin (drums). Their musical style has changed several times since the band's origin in the early 1980s. Starting out as a speed metal band, Voivod have added a mix of progressive metal and thrash metal to create their own unique metal style, and they are credited as one of the "big four" Canadian thrash metal bands, along with Sacrifice, Razor, and Annihilator.Since 1982, when it was co-founded by guitarist Denis "Piggy" D'Amour, Voivod have released fourteen studio albums, as well as one EP, one live album, two compilations, seven demos and one DVD featuring a live concert. The band found mainstream success in the late 1980s with their fifth studio album Nothingface (1989), which is Voivod's only album to enter the Billboard 200 charts, peaking at number 114. The band won the "Visionary" award at the 2017 Progressive Music Awards. Voivod's most recent studio album, The Wake, was released in September 2018.
|By style and subgenre|