Progressive metal

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Progressive metal (sometimes known as prog metal) is a fusion genre melding heavy metal and progressive rock that combines the loud "aggression" [3] and amplified guitar-driven sound of the former with the more experimental, cerebral or "pseudo-classical" compositions of the latter. [3]

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. With roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre's lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.

Progressive rock is a broad genre of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom and United States throughout the mid- to late 1960s. Initially termed "progressive pop", the style was an outgrowth of psychedelic bands who abandoned standard pop traditions in favour of instrumentation and compositional techniques more frequently associated with jazz, folk, or classical music. Additional elements contributed to its "progressive" label: lyrics were more poetic, technology was harnessed for new sounds, music approached the condition of "art", and the studio, rather than the stage, became the focus of musical activity, which often involved creating music for listening rather than dancing.

Electric guitar electrified guitar; fretted stringed instrument with a neck and body that uses a pickup to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals

An electric guitar is a guitar that uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals. The vibration occurs when a guitar player strums, plucks, fingerpicks, slaps or taps the strings. The pickup generally uses electromagnetic induction to create this signal, which being relatively weak is fed into a guitar amplifier before being sent to the speaker(s), which converts it into audible sound.


Whilst the genre emerged towards the late-1980s, it was not until the 1990s that progressive metal achieved commercial success. [3] Queensrÿche, Dream Theater, Tool, Symphony X [4] , Shadow Gallery, Angra, King's X, and Fates Warning are a few examples of progressive metal bands who achieved commercial success; [5] additionally, many other thrash and death metal bands started to incorporate elements of progressive music in their work.

Queensrÿche American heavy metal band

Queensrÿche is an American heavy metal band. It formed in 1980 in Bellevue, Washington, out of the local band The Mob. The band has released 15 studio albums, one EP, and several DVDs, and continues to tour and record. The original lineup consisted of guitarists Michael Wilton and Chris DeGarmo, drummer Scott Rockenfield, bassist Eddie Jackson, and lead vocalist Geoff Tate.

Dream Theater American progressive metal band

Dream Theater is an American progressive metal band formed in 1985 under the name Majesty by John Petrucci, John Myung and Mike Portnoy while they attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. They subsequently dropped out of their studies to concentrate further on the band that would ultimately become Dream Theater. Though a number of lineup changes followed, the three original members remained together until September 8, 2010, when Portnoy left the band. Mike Mangini was announced as the new permanent drummer on April 29, 2011.

Tool (band) American alternative metal band

Tool is an American rock band from Los Angeles, California. Formed in 1990, the group's line-up includes drummer Danny Carey, guitarist Adam Jones, and vocalist Maynard James Keenan. Justin Chancellor has been the band's bassist since 1995, replacing their original bassist Paul D'Amour. Tool has won three Grammy Awards, performed worldwide tours, and produced albums topping the charts in several countries.


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" [6] of prog metal, or the most important and influential groups of the traditional scene.

Fates Warning American progressive metal band

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.

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). [7]

King Crimson British art rock band

King Crimson are an English progressive rock band formed in London in 1968. King Crimson have been influential both on the early 1970s progressive rock movement and numerous contemporary artists. The band has undergone numerous formations throughout its history, in the course of which 22 musicians have been members; since October 2017 it has consisted of Robert Fripp, Jakko Jakszyk, Tony Levin, Mel Collins, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, Jeremy Stacey and Bill Rieflin. Fripp is the only consistent member of the group and is considered the band's leader and driving force. The band has earned a large cult following. They were ranked No. 87 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. Although considered to be a seminal progressive rock band, they have often distanced themselves from the genre: as well as influencing several generations of progressive and psychedelic rock bands, they have also been an influence on subsequent alternative metal, hardcore and experimental/noise musicians.

Black Sabbath British heavy metal band

Black Sabbath were an English rock band, formed in Birmingham in 1968, by guitarist and main songwriter Tony Iommi, drummer Bill Ward, bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler and singer Ozzy Osbourne. Black Sabbath are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), and Master of Reality (1971). The band had multiple line-up changes, with Iommi being the only constant member throughout its history.

<i>Sabbath Bloody Sabbath</i> 1973 studio album by Black Sabbath

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is the fifth studio album by English rock band Black Sabbath, released in December 1973. It was produced by the band and recorded at Morgan Studios in London in September 1973.

Canadian trio Rush are widely recognised as bridging the gap between the hard rock period, English prog and the purely heavy metal genre. [8] 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.

Rush (band) Canadian rock band

Rush was a Canadian rock band consisting of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson (guitars), and Neil Peart. Formed in 1968, the band went through several configurations until arriving at its longest and most popular line-up when Peart replaced original drummer John Rutsey in July 1974, two weeks before the group's first tour of the United States.

<i>2112</i> (album) 1976 studio album by Rush

2112 is the fourth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on April 1, 1976 by Anthem Records. After finishing touring for its previous album, Caress of Steel, in early 1976, the band was in financial hardship due to the album's disappointing sales, unfavorable critical reception, and a decline in attendance at its shows. The band's international label, Mercury Records, considered dropping Rush but granted the band one more album following negotiations with manager Ray Danniels. 2112 was recorded in February 1976 in Toronto with longtime producer Terry Brown. Its centerpiece is a 20-minute title track, a futuristic science-fiction song that takes up the entire first side of the album. There are five individual tracks on side two.

<i>A Farewell to Kings</i> 1977 studio album by Rush

A Farewell to Kings is the fifth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on September 1, 1977, by Anthem Records in Canada and by Mercury Records in the United States. It was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales and was mixed at Advision Studios in London.

Other heavy metal bands of the era contributing to the genre include England's Iron Maiden [9] and the Danish Mercyful Fate. [10]

Iron Maiden English heavy metal band

Iron Maiden are an English heavy metal band formed in Leyton, East London, in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris. The band's discography has grown to thirty-eight albums, including sixteen studio albums, twelve live albums, four EPs, and seven compilations.

Mercyful Fate Danish heavy metal band

Mercyful Fate is a Danish heavy metal band from Copenhagen, formed in 1981 by vocalist King Diamond and guitarist Hank Shermann. Influenced by progressive rock and hard rock, with lyrics dealing with Satan and the occult, Mercyful Fate were part of the first wave of black metal in the early to mid-1980s. Many of the bands from this movement went on to influence later black metal musicians in the 1990s, particularly in Norway. Since the band's inception in 1981, Mercyful Fate have released seven studio albums, two extended plays and four compilations.

1984 brought full length debut albums from American bands Queensrÿche, [11] from Washington, and Fates Warning, [12] 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 . [13] [14] 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.

Other important groups of 1980s prog-metal included Crimson Glory ( Transcendence 1988), Heir Apparent, Savatage, and Canadian innovators Voivod.

Progressive metal also found a home in the burgeoning U.S. speed metal movement, influencing thrashers Metallica and Megadeth. [15] "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) [16] and Control and Resistance (1989), giving rise to an extremely technical approach based on the rhythmic deconstruction typical of jazz fusion. [17] 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 ). [18] 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). [19]

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), [20] 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). [21]

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). [22]

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). [23] 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. [24] 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.

Opeth playing live May 30, 2009 Band03.jpg
Opeth playing live May 30, 2009

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, [25] 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 Born of Osiris, 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. [26] 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". [27] [28] [29] [30]

Progressive doom is a fusion genre that combines elements of progressive metal and doom metal. [1] Notable bands include King Goat, [1] Below the Sun, [31] Sierra, [32] and Oceans of Slumber. [33]

Differences from experimental 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. [34] 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. [35]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "The 9 albums that inspired King Goat's progressive doom sound".
  2. "Alternative Metal". AllMusic . Retrieved July 15, 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 "Progressive Metal Music Genre Overview - AllMusic". AllMusic.
  4. AllMusic . Tool. Retrieved on February 11, 2013.
  5. "PROGRESSIVE METAL:A Progressive metal Sub-genre [sic]". Progarchives. Progarchives. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
  6. "Progressive metal". Progarchives.
  7. Wagner 2010, pp. 11–14.
  8. Wagner 2010, pp. 21–32.
  9. Wagner 2010, pp. 33–37.
  10. Wagner 2010, pp. 37–39.
  11. Wagner 2010, pp. 47–54.
  12. Wagner 2010, pp. 55–63.
  13. "Awaken The Guardian Retrospective". Power of Prog.
  14. "10 Essential Progressive Metal Albums". teamrock.
  15. Wagner 2010, pp. 40–44.
  16. Wagner 2010, pp. 69–72.
  17. Wagner 2010, pp. 83–84.
  18. Wagner 2010, pp. 160–169.
  19. Wagner 2010, pp. 103–129.
  20. Wagner 2010, pp. 79–82.
  21. Wagner 2010, pp. 91–107.
  22. Wagner 2010, pp. 76–78.
  23. Wagner 2010, pp. 195–229.
  24. "The Genres at Heavy Harmonies". Heavy Harmonies. Heavy Harmonies. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
  25. Mateus, Jorge Arévalo (2004). "Boricua Rock". In Hernandez, Deborah Pacini (ed.). Rockin' las Américas: the global politics of rock in Latin/o America. D. Fernández, Héctor l'Hoeste; Zolov, Eric. University of Pittsburgh Press. pp. 94–98. ISBN   0-8229-5841-4.
  26. "What is Djent". Djent Hub. Djent Hub. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  27. "Proyecto Éskhata + Zarcort".
  28. "MetalKorner - PROYECTO ESKHATA adelanta un tema de su futuro álbum".
  30. "[Críticas de Discos] Proyecto Eskhata – La edad postcontemporánea (2015)". 29 May 2015.
  31. "Full Album Stream: Below The Sun - 'Alien World' - Decibel Magazine". 23 May 2017.
  32. "Canada's purveyors of progressive doom metal issue new video".
  33. "6 New Metal Albums That Set a Strong Mood - Pitchfork". feed character in |title= at position 42 (help)
  34. "Genres: Avant-Garde Metal". Rate your music. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
  35. "About". Avantgarde metal. Avantgarde Metal. Retrieved 16 May 2012.

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Speed metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music that originated in the late 1970s from new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) roots. It is described by AllMusic as "extremely fast, abrasive, and technically demanding" music.

Thrash metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music characterized by its overall aggression and often fast tempo. The songs usually use fast percussive beats and low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead guitar work. The lyrical subject matter is often sympathetic to liberal social issues and often deals with criticisms of The Establishment, and at times shares a disdain for Christian dogma resembling that of their black metal counterparts. The language is typically quite direct and denunciatory, an approach borrowed from hardcore punk.

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<i>The Spectre Within</i> 1985 studio album by Fates Warning

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