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PROGRESSIVE METAL

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Progressive Metal definition

This category represents the core movement of what is called "Progressive Metal" in the literal sense. It is a subgenre of progressive rock as much as it is a subgenre of heavy metal, and this is how its sound is defined: a blend of heavy, guitar-oriented metal music enriched with compositional innovation and complex arrangements, usually expressed through diverse instrumentation and often (but not always) with odd-time signatures. Common, but not essential to define the movement, are the frequent use of keyboards, high-pitched vocals, concept lyrical themes and tracks of longer duration. Similar to progressive rock, progressive metal draws influences from other genres, such as jazz/fusion, ethnic, classical and symphonic music.

The Origins:
The heavy sound of some of the progressive rock bands of the 70's has been one of the building blocks on which progressive metal was raised. Progressive rock pioneers such as KING CRIMSON and RUSH have often been acclaimed as the main influences of progressive metal bands. The other major influence has been the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) movement, and especially the twin-guitar arrangements of IRON MAIDEN, which have left their stamp on the early stages of the genre's development.

The Pioneers:
Often (and not unjustifiably) referred to as the "Big Three" of progressive metal, QUEENSRYCHE, FATES WARNING and DREAM THEATER have set the scene of what was to follow in the movement. The defining era for the genre was the second half of the 80's, among QUEENSRYCHE's "The Warning" (1984) and (most explicitly) "Rage for Order" (1986) along with FATES WARNING's "Awaken the Guardian" (1986) and "No Exit" (1988) releases. The former evolved on their pure American power metal beginnings, while the latter refined their technical/NWOBHM-influenced metal into more progressive forms. Although producing demos since the mid-80's as MAJESTY, DREAM THEATER's first release came in 1989 with "A Dream and Day Unite". The innovative use of keyboards along with influences from American heavy/power metal and progressive rock produced an original blend which was to be further refined in 1992's "Images and Words", which until this day remains next to "Progressive Metal" definition in any musical dictionary.

Among the pioneers of the genre, but enjoying less success and popularity, were PSYCHOTIC WALTZ and SIEGES EVEN. The former were essentially playing progressive metal as ASLAN in the mid-80's and developed a highly eclectic sound in the 90's. The latter's debut classifies them among the European prog-thrash pioneers but their music evolved to more melodic patterns and heavily influenced by RUSH in the early 90's.


Progressive metal is difficult to further divide in sub-genres but a number of tendencies or movements have been critical to the evolvement of its sound.

Traditional Progressive Metal
The style developed by the pioneers was fully established in the 1990s and includes a range of bands from the two sides of the Atlantic. Good examples in this movement are SAVATAGE, who expanded their heavy metal beginnings with operatic and progressive elements in late 80's/early 90's, while SHADOW GALLERY and SYMPHONY X emerged with a unique sound, each embodying a strong theatrical, symphonic and melodic approach. In Europe, SOUL CAGES continued the legacy of SIEGES EVEN in a more artistic path.

Power-Progressive Metal (American style)
The legacy of RIOT (the counterpart of NWOBHM sound in USA) and the early releases of QUEENSRYCHE and FATES WARNING heavily influenced a number of bands that were to develop a common sound towards the late 80's. Among the well-known representatives of what is called American Power Metal (e.g. VICIOUS RUMORS, HELSTAR), a small number of bands enriched their sound with progressive and epic elements. Probably, the most obvious examples of this movement are CRIMSON GLORY and HEIR APPARENT.

Power-Progressive Metal (European style)
This category includes a broad range of bands that could sound fairly dissimilar to each other but their music is significantly influenced by the European Power Metal (primarily German) bands of the 80's (e.g. HELLOWEEN, RAGE, RUNNING WILD). The earliest examples are probably BLIND GUARDIAN, ANGRA (although Brazilian, their sound is mainly European) and CONCEPTION. Slightly later, VANDEN PLAS, ROYAL HUNT, ELDRITCH and LABYRINTH gave rise to the popularity of the genre in Germany, Denmark and Italy respectively. The symphonic and neo-classical elements (made popular by YNGWIE MALMSTEEN) also found their way through power metal with bands like RHAPSODY OF FIRE and NIGHTWISH, whose style does not qualify as being progressive for many people. Nevertheless their music is quite demanding to play and contains many elements of serious classical composition and form.

Modern Progressive Metal
The second half of the 90's and the early 00's also saw newly formed bands expanding the boundaries of Traditional Progressive Metal via a number of ways: introducing electronic/spacey elements, investing heavily in lyricality and/or syncopation and further rhythmical experimentation. Also the idea of thematically conceptual albums has returned in accord with the practices of the Progressive Metal pioneers. Well-known examples in this category are AYREON, PAIN OF SALVATION and RIVERSIDE.


--- Definition by Thanos and the Progressive Metal Team, January 2012 ---

The Progressive Metal Team
Karl (bonnek)
Kevin (Necroncommander)
Alex (Rune2000)
Thanos (aapatsos)
Dave (Prog Sothoth)


Progressive Metal Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Progressive Metal | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.29 | 2408 ratings
IMAGES AND WORDS
Dream Theater
4.29 | 2465 ratings
METROPOLIS PART 2: SCENES FROM A MEMORY
Dream Theater
4.26 | 1387 ratings
SECOND LIFE SYNDROME
Riverside
4.23 | 945 ratings
REMEDY LANE
Pain Of Salvation
4.23 | 1034 ratings
THE PERFECT ELEMENT PART 1
Pain Of Salvation
4.21 | 905 ratings
OPERATION: MINDCRIME
Queensr che
4.19 | 1078 ratings
ANNO DOMINI HIGH DEFINITION
Riverside
4.19 | 949 ratings
OUT OF MYSELF
Riverside
4.18 | 995 ratings
THE HUMAN EQUATION
Ayreon
4.20 | 324 ratings
THE ART OF NAVIGATING BY THE STARS
Sieges Even
4.14 | 1665 ratings
SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE
Dream Theater
4.15 | 602 ratings
V: THE NEW MYTHOLOGY SUITE
Symphony X
4.13 | 1762 ratings
AWAKE
Dream Theater
4.20 | 251 ratings
THE FULLNESS OF TIME
Redemption
4.13 | 743 ratings
BE
Pain Of Salvation
4.12 | 608 ratings
INTO THE ELECTRIC CASTLE
Ayreon
4.25 | 119 ratings
PARADOX
Royal Hunt
4.13 | 378 ratings
ROOM V
Shadow Gallery
4.17 | 207 ratings
INTO THE EVERFLOW
Psychotic Waltz
4.16 | 221 ratings
A SOCIAL GRACE
Psychotic Waltz
4.13 | 331 ratings
PERFECT SYMMETRY
Fates Warning
4.11 | 489 ratings
THE DIVINE WINGS OF TRAGEDY
Symphony X
4.13 | 314 ratings
A PLEASANT SHADE OF GRAY
Fates Warning
4.20 | 144 ratings
MERCY FALLS
Seventh Wonder
4.16 | 205 ratings
TEMPLE OF SHADOWS
Angra
4.17 | 183 ratings
STREETS - A ROCK OPERA
Savatage
4.12 | 304 ratings
PARALLELS
Fates Warning
4.13 | 268 ratings
THE BLACK HALO
Kamelot
4.09 | 491 ratings
LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT 2
Liquid Tension Experiment
4.07 | 825 ratings
SHRINE OF NEW GENERATION SLAVES
Riverside
4.09 | 451 ratings
ENTROPIA
Pain Of Salvation
4.12 | 264 ratings
TYRANNY
Shadow Gallery
4.11 | 292 ratings
DISCONNECTED
Fates Warning
4.23 | 95 ratings
THE TOWERS OF AVARICE
Zero Hour
4.07 | 495 ratings
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Ayreon
4.07 | 392 ratings
LOVE, FEAR AND THE TIME MACHINE
Riverside
4.14 | 155 ratings
THELI
Therion
4.23 | 81 ratings
RITUAL
Shaman / Shaaman
4.08 | 232 ratings
CRITICAL MASS
Threshold
4.10 | 180 ratings
A GENTLEMAN'S HURRICANE
Mind's Eye
4.07 | 257 ratings
SYMPATHETIC RESONANCE
Arch / Matheos
4.05 | 355 ratings
MARCH OF PROGRESS
Threshold
4.07 | 214 ratings
TALES OF THE SANDS
Myrath
4.10 | 145 ratings
VOVIN
Therion
4.12 | 126 ratings
CALLING THE EARTH TO WITNESS
Darkwater
4.05 | 218 ratings
THE GREAT ESCAPE
Seventh Wonder
4.23 | 64 ratings
GRITAR╔
Matraz
4.09 | 139 ratings
CELESTIAL ENTRANCE
Pagan's Mind
4.04 | 230 ratings
NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE-EARTH
Blind Guardian
4.10 | 124 ratings
JEREMIAS - FORESHADOW OF FORGOTTEN REALMS
Circle of Illusion
4.07 | 169 ratings
THE ORIGINS OF RUIN
Redemption
4.04 | 201 ratings
CHRIST 0
Vanden Plas
4.05 | 179 ratings
HOLY LAND
Angra
4.01 | 293 ratings
RAGE FOR ORDER
Queensr che
4.05 | 158 ratings
QUIET WORLD
Native Construct
4.03 | 217 ratings
BURN THE SUN
Ark
4.06 | 140 ratings
HARVEST MOON
Votum
4.19 | 64 ratings
MENTAL TORMENTS
Spheric Universe Experience
4.05 | 158 ratings
IN SEARCH OF TRUTH
Evergrey
4.53 | 25 ratings
SONGS FOR INSECTS
Thought Industry
4.29 | 43 ratings
JOURNEY OF A ROUGH DIAMOND
Mind Key
4.10 | 95 ratings
DELUSIONS
To-Mera
4.18 | 60 ratings
INTELLIGENT DESIGN
Shaolin Death Squad
4.01 | 212 ratings
SYNTHETIC
Hemina
4.08 | 102 ratings
ABYDOS
Abydos
4.28 | 41 ratings
BILO 3.0
Micic, David Maxim
3.97 | 422 ratings
ONE HOUR BY THE CONCRETE LAKE
Pain Of Salvation
4.05 | 121 ratings
BLOOM
Caligula's Horse
4.10 | 84 ratings
IN YOUR MULTITUDE
Conception
4.03 | 146 ratings
BEYOND DAYLIGHT
Vanden Plas
4.09 | 85 ratings
SECTION X
Beyond Twilight
4.03 | 132 ratings
A SENSE OF CHANGE
Sieges Even
4.19 | 52 ratings
JUST THE TWO OF US ME AND THEM
Mindflow
4.03 | 131 ratings
EDGE OF THORNS
Savatage
3.97 | 318 ratings
PROMISED LAND
Queensr che
4.00 | 186 ratings
UTOPIA
Distorted Harmony
3.99 | 206 ratings
OCEANBORN
Nightwish
4.08 | 85 ratings
SANCTUS IGNIS
Adagio
4.15 | 57 ratings
MI KUBBESI
Nekropsi
3.94 | 486 ratings
THE ODYSSEY
Symphony X
4.00 | 146 ratings
GUTTER BALLET
Savatage
4.31 | 32 ratings
TO DIMENSION LOGIC
Vauxdvihl
3.96 | 228 ratings
HYPOTHETICAL
Threshold
4.12 | 60 ratings
COSMOGENESIS
Gru
4.02 | 113 ratings
EIDOS
Kingcrow
4.02 | 109 ratings
UNDERWORLD
Adagio
4.00 | 128 ratings
TRANSCENDENCE
Crimson Glory
3.99 | 152 ratings
THE TIDE, THE THIEF & RIVER'S END
Caligula's Horse
4.59 | 18 ratings
MODS CARVE THE PIG
Thought Industry
3.96 | 218 ratings
AWAKEN THE GUARDIAN
Fates Warning
3.97 | 169 ratings
A NIGHT AT THE OPERA
Blind Guardian
4.00 | 125 ratings
FIVE DEADLY VENOMS
Shaolin Death Squad
3.99 | 140 ratings
FOR THE LOVE OF ART AND THE MAKING
Beyond Twilight
4.32 | 27 ratings
HUMAN (THE FACTS)
Fughu
3.97 | 142 ratings
HARVEST AORTA
Ephemeral Sun
4.29 | 29 ratings
OMNIEM
Jinetes Negros
4.10 | 54 ratings
5TH SEASON
Dreamscape
3.97 | 125 ratings
EXILE
To-Mera
4.08 | 57 ratings
CHRONICLES OF THE IMMORTALS: NETHERWORLD II
Vanden Plas
3.93 | 214 ratings
SUBSURFACE
Threshold

Progressive Metal overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Progressive Metal experts team

WALKING ON H20
Mind's Eye
ABYDOS
Abydos
BEYOND THE STARS
Ivory Tower
CODA
Octopus

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Latest Progressive Metal Music Reviews


 The Astonishing by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.87 | 265 ratings

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The Astonishing
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by M27Barney

1 stars Well, if your introduction to DT was this latest CD, just released in2016. You would probably be impressed by some of the virtuosity and composition shown throughout. You may also be impressed by a band's audacity to make a CD with over two hours of concept linked music. However, if, like me, you have their entire back catalogue and are very familiar with each and every past release, you will realise that this CD is a mere shadow of what the band has produced prior to the loss of Mike Portnoy! There is NO doubt that, DT have 'Jumped the Shark' with this release ' no amount of slick packaging (could have been a concept album of the mid 70's in terms of sleeve and booklet design) can disguise a band that has simply run out of ideas. This album should have been named ' 'Dream Theater Overture' since it is just a pastiche of all their previous music bashed into shape with poor lyrical content and a risibly weak conceptual story ' it's sickly-sweet quasi-Christian bilge really makes this CD for the completionists only I'm afraid. Yeah there are some nice guitar solo's and a few interesting musical passages, but these are hidden amongst loads and loads of filler. No interesting keyboard solo's! ' what a waste of talent Rudess has shown here! Is this the end?
 Farewell by TOXIC SMILE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.23 | 18 ratings

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Farewell
Toxic Smile Progressive Metal

Review by Progrussia

4 stars All of the projects that Marek Arnold is involved in (at least the three I heard) share the same wild eclecticism, combining heavy theatrical rock with soul, funk, fusion and so on. Of these, Toxic Smile is probably the rockiest, hence the prog metal label (although his other bands have death metal elements in them that this one doesn't), lessening on the soul, but still following the same eclectic formula. This is one has a single 42-minute song on (that's right, a true song, and not just a medley-type of a composition). Despite the attention to vocals usually given by the Arnold musical family and the fine vocalist here as well, there are surprisingly few vocal lines, with most of the album being a kind of a plodding synth-infused hard rock jam, with snippets and interludes of a myriad of styles. The thing I like is that its not too a dense production, crunchy, but not overlayered, with often just the basic instrumentation playing. As with most 40-minute prog opuses, it has a tendency to unneccesarily drag out the ending, but otherwise a surprisingly coherent work.
 The Astonishing by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.87 | 265 ratings

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The Astonishing
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by MrMan2000

2 stars I commend Dream Theater for getting outside their comfort zone and trying something truly new. I felt they had been retreading well trod ground since Scenes From A Memory and things had grown very stale. I'd prefer they try something new like this, and perhaps fail, than just keep regrugitating stuff they've already done.

And major, major props to James LaBrie. He does indeed give the performance of a lifetime; his vocals are easily the highlight of the entire work. Unfortunatley, the material he's given to work with is lacking in many ways. What ways? Well, let's count them:

1. Lyrics: simply they are embarrassing. Petrucci has no sense of subtlety, with wholly literal lyrics that render the storey-telling dull. I find myself cringing at the junior-high level lyrics frequently throughout the album. This, more than anything, makes significant portions borderline unlistenable. (Honestly, I think if they had hired an outside, maybe someone from the theater world, they would have been better served).

2. Structure: concept albums are problematical because the artist's are telling a story and that often means standard song structures don't apply. Instead you often get bits and pieces of music that, on their own, don't really stand up very well. Great concept albums, however, make this a strength by stitching the bits and pieces together in creative, pleasing ways. DT's own Scenes album does this; The Wall and Operation Mindcrime are other good examples. Both use spoken-word or media snippets to not only transition from one piece to the next effectively but also supplement the story-telling. Songs are often designed to flow naturally from one to the next. We find very little of that in The Astonishing. Instead we get dozens of musical snippets that often sound randomly organized; transitions are clunky, jarring. The whole of a great concept album is greater than the sum of its pieces whereas with The Astonishing the sum of the pieces is less.

3. No songs. Another key to most concept albums is while there are musical bits here and there there's also some great stand-alone songs. Comfortably Numb and Eyes of a Stranger for example. I'm not sure ANY of the songs here are anything better than meh on their own. Which means you need to listen to a 2 hour plus piece to hear it in its most pleasant setting...and who can do that?

4. Where's the climax? I've listened six times....and while Act one makes sense to me I have no idea what's going on in Act Two. There is no climactic song or moment. EVERY great concept album has this. Suite Sister Mary, The Trial, the "perimeter walk" section of Blind Curve from Misplaced Childhood...I could go on and on. It's just not here in the Astonishing, and it leaves me wanting and bewildered as a listener.

5. Finally,...this is largely a 2.5 person album. I feel like it's a Petrucci / Rudess album and LaBrie is featured. Myung and Mangini, as great as they are, have nothing more than a hired hand role and that is sad considering DT's roots.

All in all....again, I give credit for trying. But in the end a failure. I can't imagine after digesting this a few more times really ever listening to the Astonishing or even individual songs from it.

 Farewell by TOXIC SMILE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.23 | 18 ratings

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Farewell
Toxic Smile Progressive Metal

Review by DreamAndDay

5 stars 'When I listen to this song and close my eyes / I have comparisons', following the lyrics of the magnificent central theme, is what first came to mind when I heard of and later listened to the new concept album of Leipzig based Toxic Smile. The first comparison suggested itself right from the start, when they announced that it was just one 42 minute song: Dream Theater's 'Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence' is another 42 minute CD-filling piece of superb music. But let's take a closer look. SDOIT, no matter how much I like it, is a concatenation of different individual songs which is not only obvious when listening to it but also from the fact that the CD is split into different tracks. "Farewell", however, is indeed ONE SONG and that is what I find most remarkable about it. At the same time the whole song does not get dull at any point, so don't be afraid that you will find a chorus that is repeated over and over again. With the 'When I listen ...' lines, there is a landmark chorus, no doubt about that, but you will not hear it too often (first time occurs at 8:20!), as the band has so much more to offer. The 'let me break my illusion' motif, starting at 4:30, is yet another brilliant melody that will occasionally reprise.

Another comparison is 'Tangerine Windows Of Solace' of Sieges Even's outstanding album 'Steps': Another long track, another German band, another custom-crafted mainly gray/black cover painting (in case of 'Farewell' by base player Robert Brenner), another production using a string ensemble. But apart from TWOS also being a sequence of songs, it is based on early Sieges Even's 'Pronounced rhythm section - non Keyboard' trademark sound (which is not meant negatively, but is, in fact, the special charm of 'Steps'), while 'Farewell' serves us up with a wide variety of sounds and styles far beyond the strings popping up from time to time after their appearance in the elegiac intro. We have Galahad-like sequencer/distorted guitar combinations (11:00) as well as funky elements (23:50), there are Hammond sounds (13:00) as well as quiet piano/percussion-driven ones (18:00) which then turn into Floyd-like parts (20:30). Just a little later on, there is a virtuoso speed picking guitar solo by founder member Uwe Reinholz who will regrettably be leaving the band after 'Farewell' for personal reasons. As with almost all productions involving the versatile keyboard player Marek Arnold, 'Farewell' also particularly benefits from Marek's saxophone contributions (35:40, to mention just one of them).

However, one noteworthy thing that is very similar to Sieges Even's song: It has long instrumental parts so that the lyrics all fit on one single page in the CD box. Nevertheless, there is enough room for singer Larry B to bring in his wonderful warm voice. Indeed, 'warm' is the adjective that best fits how 'Farewell' feels to me.

All in all, the extraordinary strength of this album is that Toxic Smile always do the right thing at the right time. Despite its complexity, it always sounds completely natural , which I think is also to the credit of of Robert Eisfeldt on drums and Robert Brenner on bass with their unobstrusive but ever present style.

Speaking about the concept of the song, it deals with our current, visually-dominated world in which most of the media and information are made for the eye rather than the ear. Even at the risk of this comparison sounding overdone, there seems to be a connection to another album involving Marek Arnold, namely Seven Steps to the Green Door's new CD 'Fetish', which also deals with visual material in some sense. Certainly, there is quite a secondary personal relationship between both bands, with SSTTGD's guitar virtuoso Martin Schnella bringing in backing vocals and mixing/mastering the whole thing to make it sound so great.

So I am grateful not only to the band but also to Progressive Promotion Record's Oliver Wenzler who has released yet another masterpiece of German prog rock/metal. Weiter so!!

 Love, Fear And The Time Machine by RIVERSIDE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.07 | 392 ratings

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Love, Fear And The Time Machine
Riverside Progressive Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Love, Fear and the Time Machine" is the 6th full-length studio album by Polish progressive rock act Riverside. The album was released through InsideOut Music in September 2015. It's the successor to "Shrine of New Generation Slaves" from 2013. Riverside slowly evolved over the years from a progressive rock act with some metal leanings to a more fully progressive metal oriented act on their 4th full-length studio album "Anno Domini High Definition (2009)". On "Shrine of New Generation Slaves (2013)" they moved away from the metal influences again though, and that development continues on "Love, Fear and the Time Machine"...

...it's actually their least metal tinged album up until now. There are still some relatively hard rocking sections featured on the album, and even a couple of sections which borders metal, but "Love, Fear and the Time Machine" is generally a very mellow and pleasant sounding release. Artists like Porcupine Tree and Gazpacho often come to mind, but by now Riverside have found their own sound within the world of slightly melancholic and atmospheric progressive rock. Mariusz Duda has a pleasant voice, which helps convey the message of the material well, but the band are generally well playing and deliver their parts with both passion and conviction. Interesting rhythms, melodic guitar/keyboards, and an organic sounding bass, are just some of the features which make up Riverside's sound.

The material on the 10 track, 60:38 minutes long album is well written and quite catchy. While all tracks feature vers/chorus sections, which are easy to hum/sing along to, the tracks contain more than just that. The track structures always go beyond the basic vers/chorus structure, and while I wouldn't characterize the material as complex, it's still relatively adventurous. Add to that a warm and well sounding production, which suits the material perfectly, and we have yet another high quality Riverside release on our hands. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

 The Astonishing by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.87 | 265 ratings

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The Astonishing
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by Zodijakyl

2 stars Long gone are the days when people marvel listening DT. More by design, arrangements and the approach than the accomplishment itself (and technical virtuosity). Gone is the time of "Learning to live", "Scarred" or "Beyond this life" not to mention "Change of Seasons" where each segment of each piece was a gem in itself. Since the departure of MP and even more today, this architecture / creativity gave way to the exhibition rather than writing. The arrival of Mangini only amplified even more this new direction! It is true that the man is a technical monster, so huge that his perfect control makes it completely mechanical play and as if it was out of a simulation via a soft kind EZ Drummer or Superior Drummer. His contribution is more in the mimic (to perfection) JP and JR madness than to give body and depth to music and sometimes play the role of bridge or lead (as did MP) between the different sections and even during the evolutions thereof. On the other hand, we dont hear Myung, who spawned "Learning to Live" "a trial of tears" and "Strange Deja vu". Disappeared, both in the presence and in the contribution. I'll avoid commenting LaBrie performance (overall and since long ago), freed from the oppression of the boss and that drove him to do anything other than sing cheesy ballads. Ultimately, and even apart from the above, the latter Opus has no interest except the format. In fact, the form has taken over the content, apart 2-3 titles here and there, that I can't describe as progressive music. The frenzied duets or hyper technical playing itself are not enough so that I may consider this album as progressive. The technical achievements are expected to intensify a complex writing, not cover it up.
 Iconoclast by SYMPHONY X album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.78 | 413 ratings

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Iconoclast
Symphony X Progressive Metal

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars "Peace Sells"-era Megadeth with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, everyone on steroids. A cyborg keyboard player whose voice is what he plays. That's my impression of this album.

My initial impression was not so warm. "V: The New Mythology Suite" was my introduction to Symphony X and I loved that album. So I had high expectations. The first comments I jotted down were not very flattering.

The first song, "Iconoclast", includes a choir and a symphony and it's a powerful, heavy, and great song with which to kick off the album. The music is heavier and far more intense than anything from "V".

The next five songs are all excellent metal tunes: fast, furious, brutal, and intense. Like an avalanche that can halt in an instant and become a bulldozer or a quick flourish or artillery assault and then back to an avalanche. The guitars are fast and change from charging riff to machine gun spray of notes to battering thunderous riff. The drums are incredible at abrupt rhythm changes, speed, and unanticipated restraint. The keyboards not as prominent as on "V" but when they are, they're very suitable with a mechanical sound and rarely pretty or delicate.

Russel Allen's vocals sound beefed up compared to ten years earlier and he manages some great Dio "Aahhh-ohh-oh" hollers.

But after five excellent metal tracks, the progressive and symphonic aspect seems to have been abandoned. "When All Is Lost" makes up for it by bringing back the real piano and acoustic guitar and the softer melodious side of the band while still being heavy. This one song is where the band really flex their symphonic muscle and shades of "V" flicker by, reminding us that this is the same band. More of this would have made a more symphonic progressive album, but I've really come to love the heavy side.

Of course I had to buy the double disc. I heard the record company wouldn't release the double album unless a single disc would also be released simultanneously, their logiic being that sales would be better if some members of the public were only willing to shell out for a single disc.

The second disc continues with what we've heard mostly so far: 6-minute fast and furious metal tracks. There are more excellent songs and to be clear each song has its own unique opening so that there's no confusing one for another. I just feel the overall atmosphere of brutally sharp and tight heavy metal remains unchanging. "Reign in Madness" is a longer track so once again there's more room to stretch out the song and add some acoustic guitar and piano. Nothing pretty like "When All Is Lost". The piano here is haunting and the guitar riff heavy. This part is a brief interlude in the otherwise intense track.

A few final words, Allen's vocals remind me also of Luke Easter of Torniquet. There's good melody in the tunes, so it's not just savage shouting or hoarse singing. The music is heavier and beefier with more weight than "V". Though a bit disappointing at first, I now enjoy the album. The sound is well produced; it's not dense and muddy like many heavy albums. Everything is pumped but clear. The guitars and drums work together to emphasize one another and add power to the riffs and playing.

As a metal album, I'd say this one really delivers. For a symphonic/progressive metal album, I think it could use a little more like the title track, "When All Is Lost", and "Reign In Madness". Not an excellent addition to any prog collection but an excellent album overall for those who want a lot of thunderous bang for their buck with very highly skilled musicians.

 The Tide, the Thief & River's End by CALIGULA'S HORSE album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.99 | 152 ratings

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The Tide, the Thief & River's End
Caligula's Horse Progressive Metal

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars CALIGULA'S HORSE are a Prog-Metal band out of Australia and this is their second release from 2013. They remind me of fellow Australians ARCANE with the way they contrast the heaviness with the mellow and also both bands have very emotive vocals. This is a concept album about isolation, exodus and the human spirit overcoming insurmountable odds.

"A Gift To Afterthought" opens with guitar that reminds me of IRON MAIDEN but then it turns heavy before that guitar line returns along with vocals and drums. Man these guys can change the tempo and mood so quickly and often over the course of a song. "Water's Edge" is a really enjoyable tune with it's laid back sound with vocals. Double tracked vocals before 4 minutes with acoustic guitar in this feel good section. Then it all hits the fan 5 1/2 minutes in without vocals at first with some killer guitar over top. It stays heavy to the end.

"Atlas" has a relaxed intro then it's the drum show as it all turns powerful with the vocals in tow. Contrasts continue. An okay tune. "Into The White" opens with piano before reserved vocals, bass, acoustic guitar and a beat take over. It's building 2 1/2 minutes in but not for long as a calm arrives as contrasts continue. I really like the pastoral sound after 5 minutes then it's heavy again a minute later.

"Old Cracks In New Earth" is intense to start, complex and heavy. It mellows out before 3 minutes then it's building after 5 minutes as the heaviness returns. "Dark Hair Down" is heavy with riffs to start, love the guitar solo that comes out of that. A calm follows before it kicks back in with vocals. Another calm but it's brief. A guitar solo lights it up around 4 1/2 minutes then back to the heaviness. Great ending to this one.

"Thief" is a short ballad-like tune with fragile vocals, atmosphere and acoustic guitar leading the way. "All Is Quiet By The Wall" has this heavy duty intro with some ripping guitar before we get a calm with reserved vocals. It picks up and the vocals continue only more passionate here. Excellent instrumental section 4 minutes in as they are shredding it up. This section ends with a scream but it continues heavy until another calm arrives as contrasts continue.

This just hasn't clicked with me but the instrumental work is outstanding.

 The Astonishing by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.87 | 265 ratings

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The Astonishing
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by Mebert78

5 stars If you're looking for a traditional Dream Theater album, it's not The Astonishing. No, this album is much, much more than that. In fact, I'd suggest that people not even view this album as an "album," per se. It's a musical. And fans who approach the two-disc conceptual rock opera expecting the band's usual formula of long songs and blistering instrumentals will likely be disappointed. Luckily, I'm not one of those fans. I truly adore everything about this unique dystopian masterpiece.

Now, before we go any further, I should disclose that I'm one of the band's biggest fanboys. For example, I've got a Dream Theater decal on my car and I attended the band's induction into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2010, to give you an idea of how hardcore I am. Despite my "fanboyness," I was still skeptical when I saw details about the album start to emerge in late 2015. Everything seemed lavish and over the top about The Astonishing -- from the elaborate map of a fictional kingdom to the flying noise machines that resembled something out of the 2013 science-fiction movie, "Oblivion." But I trust in the judgment of guitarist John Petrucci. The band has released a dozen studio albums since the late '80s, with Petrucci steadily guiding the band lyrically and musically. He always comes through. And in the case of The Astonishing, he's come through once again -- and with flying colors.

If you've seen any of the band's recent promotional interviews for The Astonishing, Petrucci has made it clear that he didn't set out to write typical Dream Theater songs for the album. Rather, he and keyboardist Jordan Rudess were writing music to accompany the futuristic story Petrucci had written -- a story about an oppressive world void of human music that is rescued by a "chosen one" named Gabriel, who has the "gift of music." There's some love mixed in too, I should note. For a band known for its instrumental prowess, this was a big risk and departure from their standard recipe. But let's be realistic. The band has given us three decades of great music and if they want to experiment for an album cycle I'm all for it. It's one of the reasons I respect this band so much. They're willing to challenge themselves.

I'll admit, my first reaction was that the album might be too Rudess-heavy and slow in spots. But then, I followed along with the booklet's character dialogue as well as the track-by-track descriptions of the plot and scene posted on the band's website and I found myself enjoying and appreciating it a whole lot more. The tunes are tailored to the tale's tone and chatter to the point where it created a "theater" in my mind. Fitting for a group named Dream Theater, I'd say. The illustrations posted in the booklet and on the website helped the visualizations as well. Overall, the song flow and music choices were more understandable in the story's context and it was a fun experience. I even felt my heart racing at the climactic moments.

Musically, there's a little bit of everything on The Astonishing. There are some conventional-sounding Dream Theater songs like "The Gift of Music" and "Moment of Betrayal," there are beautiful ballads like "When Your Time Has Come" and "Chosen," and there are others that jump all over the map like "A Tempting Offer" and "My Last Farewell." There are also some sound effects to bring the story to life as well as a full orchestra and choir. Oh, and vocalist James LaBrie plays the role of eight characters. In total, there are over two hours of music. And I must say that every time I listen to the album I find a new part that mesmerizes me.

My only criticism is Roadrunner Record's poor handling of the album's pre-order distribution. I didn't receive my copy in the mail by release day, so I had to spend my Friday night trying to find a store that still had it in stock. I totally refuse to listen to a new album on YouTube. I wanted the complete package in my hands to experience the album the way it was meant to be experienced. Oddly enough, I ended up enjoying it so much that I kept both copies -- one for home, and one for my car. It's safe to say I'll be listening to lots of The Astonishing.

All in all, The Astonishing is an incredibly ballsy album that shows us the progressive metal giant's creative spirit and innovative side continue to expand, evolve and explore new places -- even a whopping 30 years into their career. And I can't wait to see where they take us next.

- Michael R. Ebert (www.michaelrebert.net)

 The Astonishing by DREAM THEATER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.87 | 265 ratings

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The Astonishing
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by Arbiter

5 stars I can't understand why some are down on this album. Perhaps because it is more symphonic and less mechanical than some of DTs creations, but its melodic characteristics are what make this such a fine composition. I guess it depends what you're into - melody or rhythm. It is definitely a vast improvement over the last two outings.

Unlike other reviewers, I don't find this album disjointed at all. The story carries well and is punctuated smoothly by the music. Nor do I find it too long as some have suggested. It is a pleasant way to spend two hours IMO.

Not quite a masterpiece, I give it 4.5 stars.

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