A Progressive Rock Sub-genre

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Prog Related definition

No musical genre exists in a vacuum. Not all of the bands that have been a part of the history and development of progressive rock are necessarily progressive rock bands themselves. This is why progarchives has included a genre called prog-related, so we could include all the bands that complete the history of progressive rock, whether or not they were considered full-fledged progressive rock bands themselves.

There are many criteria that the prog-related evaluation team considers when deciding which bands are considered prog-related. Very few bands will meet all of this criteria, but this list will give an idea as to some of the things that help evaluate whether an artists is prog-related or not.

1) Influence on progressive rock - The groundbreaking work of artists like Led Zepplin and David Bowie affected many genres of rock, including at times progressive rock. Although both of these artists created rock music in a dizzying array of genres, both contributed to the ongoing history of progressive rock several times within the span of their careers.

2) Location - Progressive rock did not develop at the same time all over the world. It may surprise some people that as late as the mid-70s the US had very few original progressive rock bands that did not sound like exact copies of British bands. Journey was one of the first US bands to present a uniquely American brand of prog-rock before they eventually became a mainstream rock band. We have collaborators from all over the world who tell us which bands helped the progressive rock scene develop in their corner of the globe, even if those bands were like Journey and were known more for being mainstream rock bands.

3) Members of important progressive rock bands - Although most of the recorded solo output of artists like Greg Lake and David Gilmour falls more in a mainstream rock style, their contributions to progressive rock in their respective bands insures them a place in our prog-related genre.

4) Timeliness - Like many genres, prog-rock has had its ups and downs. In the late 70s and early 80s prog-rock was barely a blip on the radar. During this time artists such as David Bowie and Metallica released albums that captured key elements of the spirit of prog rock and did so while contributing their own original modern elements to the mix.

5) Integral part of the prog-rock scene - Sometimes you just had to be a part of the scene during a certain time period to understand how some bands fit with the prog rock scene of their time. Although Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Wishbone Ash may seem like mere hard rock bands, in their time they stood apart from other hard rockers with their more serious lyrical content and more developed compositions. Put simply, in the early 70s every prog-rock record collector usually had full collections of all three of these artists. These three bands were very much part of the prog-rock scene without being total prog-rock bands them selves.

6) Influenced by progressive rock - From the late 60s till about 1976 the progressive tendency was in full effect in almost all genres of music. Once again, as we enter the second decade of the 21st century a melting pot of prog-metal, math-rock, progressive electronics and post-rock influences have once again made a progressive tendency in rock music almost more a norm than a difference. Yet in other periods of musical history receiving influence from progressive rock could really set a band apart and make them worthy of our prog-related category.
Being influenced by progressive rock is hardly the only factor we look at, and in some periods of musical history it is almost meaningless, but still, it is almost a given that most of the artists listed in prog-related were influenced by the development of progressive rock.

7) Common sense - Nitpicking over the above listed criteria is not necessarily the correct way to evaluate a band for prog-related. Sometimes you just have to use some common sense and look at the big picture.
A very good way to describe prog-related would be to imagine an exhaustive book that covered the history of progressive rock. Would such a book include references to led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven', David Bowie's 'The Man Who Sold the World' or Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody'? Probably so.
- Easy Money

Prog Related Top Albums

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

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4.02 | 573 ratings
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Latest Prog Related Music Reviews

 Nowomowa: Wasted Lands (soundtrack) by MANZANERA, PHIL album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.00 | 2 ratings

Nowomowa: Wasted Lands (soundtrack)
Phil Manzanera Prog Related

Review by admireArt
Collaborator PSIKE Team

3 stars Jazz oriented, epic symphonic like compositions and movie focus format restraint Phil Manzanera's usual "latin" urges, and as I noticed again, for good!

Surprisingly this PHIL MANZANERA "Nowomowa: Wasted Lands", which as the press ad release notes; "This was recorded as the theme movie music to "The Wasted Lands". It was first released in 1988 by Coda as the band Nowomowa . It was re-issued by Expression in 1999 as a Phil Manzanera album.", deals more with Paul William's piano than Phil's electric accomplice.

Rich in moods and arrangements, its music direction is in fact quiet visual as good soundtrack music tends to be.

Expecting a Phil Manzanera release as such will decieve Phil's fans, but will surely catch prog Jazz/Fusion followers' attention.

Well composed, great unexpected highlights and a restricted but highly creative guitar (with "latin" flavor) which serves all kind of purposes and in turn outstands in every appearance by not being "main" instrument all the time.

***3.5 PA stars.

 Blackfield by BLACKFIELD album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.79 | 325 ratings

Blackfield Prog Related

Review by Necrotica

4 stars Something that's very impressive about Steven Wilson is that, despite the musical variety of his different bands and projects, his work usually keeps a consistent tone about it nonetheless. His albums always maintain that penchant for moody, melancholic rock combined with many progressive elements. Even in a band like Porcupine Tree whose newer material is heavier and generally more intense, that dark and murky mindset continues to lurk beneath those sonic assaults. So when Wilson's project Blackfield (in which he partnered up with Israeli musician Aviv Geffen) was announced back in 2001, the question was: in what musical direction was Steven Wilson going to carry that melancholic mindset? Well, Blackfield offers a more mellow, alternative sound reminiscent of Porcupine Tree's 2000 album Lightbulb Sun, as shown on the 2004 self-titled debut (and future releases as well).

This album's sound is usually described as a more stripped-down version of Porcupine Tree's music, focusing less on instrumentation and more on simpler songwriting and emotional weight, as well as lots of musical "layers." Since this is a collaboration between both Steven Wilson and Aviv Geffen, you basically get the best of both worlds. There's the progressive, melancholic side of Wilson as well as the poppier side of Geffen. Stylistically, the album is a grab bag of sorts; for instance, "Open Mind" has lots of Pink Floyd influence in the acoustic guitar work and lush vocal harmonies that begin it, "The Hole in Me" and "Scars" sport multiple tempo and time signature changes, and "Scars" has a King Crimson-esque string backdrop to support the chorus. In other words, the album maintains a lot of diversity. Luckily things never get too cluttered songwriting-wise, so time's always being used wisely. The best part of this album, however, is its atmosphere.

Similar to Porcupine Tree's work, Wilson makes sure to coat much of the music in multiple layers of instrumentation; this is particularly effective for atmosphere in certain songs' climaxes. A great example is the end of "Cloudy Now"; for the most part, the song is a very somber ballad. Out of nowhere, the song just explodes near its conclusion; distorted vocals come in to chant that "we are a f*cked up generation." Meanwhile, a giant wall of sound is backing the vocals as the guitars and drums collide. As mentioned before though, it doesn't get out of hand; the band know when enough is enough. Another instance of heavy musical layering is with the aforementioned "The Hole in Me." The chorus in this song is absolutely gorgeous; there are soaring vocal harmonies, guitar chords that compliment the vocal melodies perfectly, the works. The chorus wouldn't be nearly as effective or crushingly melancholic without the heavily multitracked vocal work or the thick layers of vivid musical imagery in its instrumentation.

As I said before, there's also a very stripped-down side to all of this. "Lullaby," "Summer," "Glow," "Cloudy Now," and the title track all have many moments of isolation at varying degrees. Whether it be the simple yet effective C Major piano line of "Lullaby," the moody acoustic strums of the nostalgic "Summer," or the completely depressing synth-and-string combination that makes up most of "Glow," there are many ways in which the band express different forms of musical simplicity. That kind of stuff is what makes this album work; the album is so fueled on emotion that it's pretty fascinating. The lyricism follows suit, going for themes of love, depression, happiness, and other broad emotional topics. The big downside to things is that the music does start to run together a bit after a while. The stripped-down aspect gets slightly old and you'll sometimes be waiting for climaxes to get more, well, climactic. Also, the lyricism can get a bit too simple; the band rarely leave the topics mentioned above, so there's not much variety there.

Other than those minor flaws, this album is pretty damn great. The emotion and elegant songwriting are really what pull this album through. While some may consider this a second-rate Porcupine Tree record, it's certainly much more than that. It shows what two completely different musicians can really do when coming together as one cohesive force. This is definitely recommended, especially for fans of early 2000s Porcupine Tree and alternative/pop rock.

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

 ... And Justice for All by METALLICA album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.94 | 462 ratings

... And Justice for All
Metallica Prog Related

Review by Necrotica

4 stars Back when the name "Metallica" actually meant something to the metal community, there was a quadrilogy... a "tetrology" if you will... the four great champion albums of Metallica's otherwise polarizing body of work. Kill 'Em All was the raw attempt to kick the listeners' asses in a full-throttle riff fest; Ride the Lightning was the symbol of maturity, mixing aforementioned rawness with the air of progression; Master of Puppets is the magnum opus fans beheld as the climax, the absolute peak of the 80's metal movement. And where was ...And Justice For All in all of this excitement? In the annals of thrash history as their black sheep? for the 80's, anyway (don't even get me started on St. Anger or their more recent years).

While Master of Puppets presented a cleaner and more "developed" approach for the Metallica bandwagon, no one could have predicted the sudden change of pace their next album would bring. Even longer songs? Nearly nonexistent bass? An even more progressive approach to songwriting? Indeed, the album was an interesting departure from previous works, and despite the high sales of 8 million copies, many were poised to dislike it because of its oddities. In hindsight, however, this proved to be essential for the thrash band, harboring some of their best songs to date.

If there's one thing that was always commendable about 80's Metallica, or even in other Metallica records, it is the integration of honest emotional depth in their songwriting, and it shines in the best possible way here. Band staple "One" is perhaps the best example, combining building dynamics with extremely heartfelt lyrics about a soldier fighting in World War I (based on a book, mind you). The song has a real tendency to bring me to tears because of its subject matter and the emotional speed metal climax to close it off. Then there's "To Live is to Die," which barely uses any lyrics, but rather combines its interweaving guitar harmonies with multiple dynamic contrasts (mainly in the middle section in which Kirk's guitar sound resembles two harmonizing violins) to get its point across. James Hetfield recites a poem near the end, symbolizing the loss of their previous bassist Cliff Burton and their mourning for him. This is a great example of what music is supposed to do; it should be able to tap into a listener's feelings as if it's an old friend that you can come back to anytime to share memories, whether happy or sad; it's what makes us who we are today.

As if that wasn't enough, the metal numbers are fantastic all the same. Songs like "Blackened" and "Dyers Eve" are the "Battery" and "Damage Inc." of this record, ripping through your face as if it were tissue but still with fresh song structures and the occasional tempo change to boot. More variety is implemented as well, with "Harvester of Sorrow" having a slower groove than the usual thrash tune and "Eye of the Beholder" utilizing a strange mid-tempo atonal riff. Sure, "Blackened" used similar notation in its riff, but it was faster and much less noticeable. Just when you thought things were getting too conventional, the song slows down for a 12/8 section (once again tying in with that progressive style) and Hetfield starts singing in a more off-beat, syncopated fashion. It works, though, and keeps you wondering throughout.

Sadly, though, the lack of then-newcomer Jason Newsted in the bass department is quite disappointing. Supposedly, the band turned his bass volume all the way down so he wouldn't overshadow Cliff's playing, quite a controversial move on their part. While Newsted would get his big chance and succeed on The Black Album a few years later, the lack of bass here is disappointing, especially given the complexity of the record. Also, a few songs (especially the title track) have a tendency to drag a bit, occasionally creating a dull or repetitive moment where a solo or more varied section could have been added.

If that's all that is wrong with this, though, that's not saying a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. ?And Justice For All is a true masterpiece in the thrash world (hell, even the metal world in general) and deserves the increasing praise it's garnered in recent times. While it does have its clunky moments and flaws, the moments that are good are just flat-out triumphs. Honestly, those triumphs are exactly what makes this record work.

The good:

-Precise instrumentation -Good emotional depth -Well-composed riffs -Great soloing -Surprisingly solid drumming

The bad:

-Almost no audible bass -Occasionally bloated

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

 Look Into The Future by JOURNEY album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.00 | 73 ratings

Look Into The Future
Journey Prog Related

Review by Necrotica

4 stars It seems very interesting that a jazz rock band like Journey to go so low as to bring Steve Perry into to the fold and screw things up. This music was actually quite good when Gregg Rolie was in early Journey as depicted here in Look Into the Future. In case there's a need of a recap, Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie used to be from Santana, and they showcased much of their creative talent with Carlos Santana. They show a lot of the same creative force here, too, but in more of a prog/jazz light. The change from prog to pop also happened in numerous bands, like Styx, Genesis, etc. So that's the story up until this album.

The album starts out with a more accessible selection, On a Saturday Night, that takes a lot more from blues-flavored rock reminiscent of a night out or a party of some sort. In any case, this band depicts the theme well and crafts a good opener for a great album. After this, It's All Too Much comes up. It starts out with more of a jazzy riff that this band's early stage is known for. This one emphasizes Neal Schon's guitar harmonies more than anything else. It also makes great use of Gregg's keyboards, keeping the rhythm in line. The guitar solo is really not too special, just an average jazz-rock solo and a bit of flair, which of course Neal Schon is commonly known for in Journey, even now. This is definitely a good track.

Next comes one of early-era Journey's best ballads, Anyway. This song can evoke more emotion than most of the albums tracks and, of course, still keeps its jazz roots intact for the solos and interesting time signatures of the song. It can get a bit boring in the middle, and admittedly there's the fact that Gregg Rolie is not as good at heartful ballads as Steve Perry, but this is still a good solid track that showcases weirder beats and Gregg Rolie's singing. Next is She Makes Me(Feel Alright). This is bar none the heaviest song on the album. It is the ultamite song for Neal Schon to show off his guitar skills and present his talent. This song is a great combination of accessibility and talent, so fans of common music will enjoy this, as well as jazz and prog fans. It should also be noted that this is the shortest tune on the album, clocking in at 3:12. It'd be cool if Steve Perry actually made a remake of this song with the other members when he was still in Journey, because the band was definitely on to something in arena rock music with this song.

The following track is probably my favorite song, You're on your Own. This has got to be the most progressive song on the album, as well as the most creative one here. This is where all the members show their talents and creativity on the album. Of course Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie still take the cake here in terms of writing and talent, but Ross Valory and Ansley Dunbar definitely help here too. Ansley has accomplished a lot in his drumming career, even with Frank Zappa, and it shows here. He can keep the rhythm in place, and yet he can also do so much more with the drums. He truly makes a mark here. As with the song, it starts out with a 6/8 beat and alternates a lot and generally changes tempos frequently. There are also great keyboard and guitar solos. After this is the awesome title track. What a great epic ballad! This one is the other side of the debate of which on the album is my favorite. Anyway, it starts out with a good soft riff with the guitar. It soon is a very good jazz-rock ballad that was very overlooked.

Now we get to a track called Midnight Dreamer. This is yet another highlight in the album. the first 2 mins. is occupied by a straightforward rocker. It is a very atmospheric song. Soon it turns into an improv piece with lots of keyboard playing. Neal Schon does some good guitar work here, too, but it's mainly Gregg Rolie's spotlight. The last track is I'm Gonna Leave You. Listen for the shared riff that Kansas took from this song on Carry on Wayward Son. This song is on of the more progressive songs on the album, some of them even quite tough to identify. Overall, this is a great closer to the album and a satisfying prog rock song.

This album is very professional and more people need to notice it, so that's why I wrote the review. This is a solid album that incorporated many jazz themes. This is how it is distinctly different from most accessible albums. Overall, this is a great album.

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

 A Kind Of Magic by QUEEN album cover Studio Album, 1986
2.98 | 289 ratings

A Kind Of Magic
Queen Prog Related

Review by Necrotica

3 stars After some of the disappointment caused by 1982's dance-influenced Hot Space and 1984's bland rehash The Works, Queen needed an album that would bring them back into the spotlight. While 1986's A Kind of Magic was mostly a return to form in retrospect, people weren't really convinced back then to buy it. The album only managed to go Gold in the U.S. (and for such a popular band like Queen, that was unheard of back then) and was widely considered another disappointment. So looking back on the record, did it really deserve these distinctions? Definitely not.

While A Kind of Magic is pretty inconsistent in spots, there's also some fantastic music going on here. Stylistically, Queen decided to take the "rehash formula" of The Works and expand upon it, also adding much more hard rock that was reminiscent of their 70s heyday. More importantly, it feels as though Queen sounded more fresh and inspired when it came to the songwriting and arrangements. Along with maintaining a nice array of varied riffs and more textural arrangements, there's some really heartfelt and beautiful stuff to offer as well. Essentially, this record represents the first step in pulling Queen out of the quicksand they put themselves in musically.

The album takes most of its lyrical inspiration from Highlander, giving many of the heavier tracks a more "epic" feel. This is mostly represented with songs such as the string-laden hard rock opener "One Vision," the slower and more distorted "Gimme the Prize," and album highlight "Princes of the Universe." The latter is particularly notable for featuring more of a heavy metal influence than the other songs, Brian May laying down some hard- hitting rhythm guitar work. The harmonized vocals are as fresh now as they were back then, providing those traditional bombastic arrangements we all know and love. "One Vision," while still rooted in 70s hard rock, begins drenched in lavish strings provided by a synthesizer played by Brian May. This gives a great backdrop for the rest of the song to build from, and the musicianship in the hard rock section that follows is as tight as ever.

The ballads can be hit-and-miss, but some are pretty great. I could go on for hours and hours about how good "Who Wants to Live Forever" is, for example. Beginning with a quiet, emotional verse sung by Brian May over a Yamaha keyboard, Freddie Mercury takes over on the next verse as the song builds steam. There's a really melancholic undertone to the piece, but once the chorus kicks in, sadness is all but forgotten. This is one of the great choruses in the history of rock music, combining beautiful harmonized vocal work from Freddie with a nicely orchestrated backdrop for said vocal melodies to follow. Once Brian May sings the final verse, "Who waits forever anyway," the song ends with food for thought for the listener and represents closure for a perfect piece of music. The other ballads can be good, but definitely don't reach the same level. "Pain Is So Close to Pleasure" and "Friends Will Be Friends" are your typical Queen affairs, and "One Year of Love" is just way too sappy at times, but the songs are at least serviceable ballads.

Unfortunately, the album is indeed very flawed. The ballads, as I said, are just kind of decent with one great exception, but two songs almost kill the album unless you're willing to look past them: the title track and "Don't Lose Your Head." The former is an extremely boring mid-tempo number that brings almost nothing to the table; it really feels like a B-side to The Works. The stretch from the middle to the end is particularly painful, with a bunch of melodies and vocal harmonies going absolutely nowhere while John Deacon just sits in the back and plays his bassline aimlessly. "Don't Lose Your Head" is also annoying, being an entirely forgettable dance number forged out of Hot Space's songwriting template. The vocals are a bit bland compared to Freddie's typical singing quality, and the programmed drum track just makes you wish for Roger Taylor to return to the kit as quickly as possible.

The reason this still gets a 3.5, though, is because the music that works well works REALLY well. The rockers are fantastic, the ballads range from decent to fantastic, and the music sounds like Queen returning to their old 70s glories with an 80s coat of paint. Despite some songs that almost derail this experience, I'd still recommend it. It's worth trudging through the flaws to get to the good stuff... or in this case, the wonderful stuff.

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

 Queen II by QUEEN album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.35 | 634 ratings

Queen II
Queen Prog Related

Review by Necrotica

5 stars I like to see progressive rock epics and albums as rock's own answer to classical symphonies and suites... complex, multifaceted, and brimming with technical skill. With the help of bands like Kansas, Genesis, Yes, and whoever else gets categorized in so-called "symphonic prog," 70s prog was able to be played on heavy rotation by those who didn't want to listen to the more simplistic forms of rock at the time. However, 70s-era Queen were always of a different breed. Yes, their music was complex. Yes, it was multifaceted. Yes, it contained varying time signatures. But what was so different? What really stood out? The charisma and bombast.

Freddie Mercury and co. were one of the very few acts to marry the complexity of prog with the mainstream success and streamlined nature of pop almost perfectly, something even Supertramp couldn't fully pull off (but they tried their best, that's for sure). "Queen" is such a fitting name for a group who could pull off pomp and eccentricity with such elegance and taste... and of course, there's the eclectic genre-bending involved as well. The band tried ragtime, hard rock, classical, jazz, gospel, metal, you name it. Oh sure, it felt a bit forced and out- of-control on occasion, but you can't really blame a band who are trying to expand the normal confines of hard rock. But here's the craziest thing: the album that only began to develop Queen's signature sound also happened to be one of their very best... perhaps their best, in fact. That, my friends, is Queen II.

Make no mistake, this is a full-fledged progressive rock album. Multitracked vocal harmonies run rampant, time signatures change quite frequently, and the band's signature stylistic shifts are here in full-form. Right from the dark funeral-like guitar overdubs of "Procession," you know you're in for a pretty unusual record from the get go; even more unique is the way the band had set up this epic album. First is Brian May's "white" side of the album which focuses on more beautiful and light tunes, whereas Mercury's "black" side is absolutely warped, outrageously bombastic, and extremely dark. With that said, let's just say that you shouldn't expect a whole lotta camp from this one like in later Queen works. Most of the material here replaces the band's usual humor and lightheartedness with more dramatic lyricism, much of it focusing on fantasy-influenced storytelling. Expect a dark record through and through, basically.

Aside from that, though, the real draw is in how well everyone in the band works in tandem with each other. John Deacon's bass perfectly compliments Freddie's piano playing in the somber "Nevermore," just like how Brian May's heavy guitar riffing and Roger Taylor's hollow and rough drum sound are a great fit in a hard-hitting song like "The Loser in the End." There's a genuine chemistry between the band members, something that seemed so powerful even in this phase of their career. Also, this is the first album in which the group's layered vocal harmonies came into high prominence, and they couldn't feel more welcome with the grandiose arrangements. The slow buildup in "Ogre Battle" leads into an incredibly loud burst of vocal bombast that has to be heard to be believed, and "March of the Black Queen"'s use of counterpoint brings out many highlights of this nature as well. That's not to say there aren't poppier or more tightly packed arrangements on here as well, as "Seven Seas of Rhye" and "Funny How Love Is" can prove, and these are placed right at the end to bring an optimistic end to a beautifully dark journey.

If Queen's debut was their set of musical blueprints, this is the towering skyscraper they were arranged to construct... and indeed it towers over most of its contemporaries, progressive rock or otherwise. It's beautiful, brutal, dark, florid, complex, and everything in between. But above all, it's simply a masterpiece. The combination of instrumental prowess and emotional depth is breathtaking... and to think that this was only the band's second record! It was clear that Queen's future would be bright, but it's cool to know that they had already mastered their craft early on; in any case, get this. I don't care if you enjoy rock, pop, classical, jazz, whatever. Just get this.

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

 S & M by METALLICA album cover Live, 1999
3.49 | 144 ratings

S & M
Metallica Prog Related

Review by Wicket
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Behind Between The Buried And Me's "Parallax II: Future Sequence", "S&M" is one of the greatest metal albums that's ever graced my ears.

Not necessarily because of the music itself, but the way that it's approached.

Let's back up then: Cliff Burton, Metallica's bassist who passed away in 1986, always loved the possibility of combining classical music with heavy metal. After all, it makes sense. Just today I saw another article on a study showing that both classical and heavy metal listeners have almost identical personalities, with emotional release being the key feature in both genres. Always looking to do something like that, the group looked at Deep Purple's Concerto For Group And Orchestra from 1969 and decided, "hey, let's do something like that!".

And honestly, I'm glad they did. I'm a fan of Metallica's music, but from an emotional perspective, it's never done much. Thrash metal really just doesn't in general (even though thrash metal fans will now chastise me for saying Metallica and "thrash metal" in the same sentence. Calm down, ladies, I'm trying to make a point). But the incorporation of, not just an orchestra backdrop, but music specifically COMPOSED to accompany these tracks is frankly, pure genius. The man behind the genius, Michael Kamen, wasn't known as a composer, rather a conductor for the San Fran symphony, but since he also did a similar thing with Roger Waters' performance of "The Wall" in Berlin roughly 8 months after the actual wall fell, this wasn't his first rodeo.

And frankly, it's just a stroke of emotional genius. Opening with Morricone's infamous "Ecstasy Of Gold" may be a bit cliche, but it all makes sense with "Call Of Ktulu". Immediately the orchestra presence is known, and adds a crucial extra dimension to what otherwise would've been a straightforward thrash instrumental. The big breakdown section before the main guitar theme reprises doesn't sound very epic in studio. With the orchestra, it sounds like god damn trailer music. The show has literally just started and I'm giddy like a little schoolgirl.

And then once "Master Of Puppets" starts, forget it, I've died and gone to heaven. It's a completely different song. The riffs might be the same, the lyrics are still the same, but the song is completely different. This isn't just an old school mugging in the back parking lot. This is now a battle for the fate of the universe waging high above the planet.

To briefly recap why adding orchestral backing to music is a good thing, let's just summarize to this. Basically, it adds depth to an otherwise stale product. I always use the analogy of adding condiments, lettuce , onions and pickles (orchestra) to a burger (metal). It doesn't mean one overpowers the other, but rather, done correctly, both are enhanced by feeding on each others' unique qualities. The orchestra sounds badass with with some grunt from the metal band, while the metal band feels like they're in an action movie and as a result, the music they make is going to be better.

Another interesting thing I love about this album is James Hetfield's both performance and just overall attitude. Luckily, on a special recording such as this, his voice is perfect, the sound quality is bang on, and the production couldn't be any better. Both the band and every single instrument in the orchestra can be heard, even the far away mallet percussion (go xylos!). Hetfield also just sounds like he's having fun. Considering the gigantic undertaking something like this, you'd expect a bit of pressure on the frontman. Well if there was, you certainly don't hear it. I personally love the "OH YEAH!'s and other little quips during the songs. It shows he's having fun, he's engaging with an audience that's clearly engaged. Both sides win, and no sides lose. It's a win-win, for everyone.

But really, the orchestra makes everything better. "Of Wolf And Man" on Metallica's self-titled sounds probably the grungiest thing on that album. On "S&M", it sounds like music you hear when that really hot chick gets brutally decapitated in that cliched horror movie. It's goddamn terrifying. That dissonance from the high-pitched strings instantly changes the tone and adds that extra element of emotion.

And the beauty is that the orchestra is flexible with each track. "Fuel" is action-movie soundtrack material, a meathead of a good time, as I call it, but it actually makes some of the post-90's Metallica actually sound good! "Until It Sleeps" has a nice interesting, Eastern-culture influence, while "Bleeding Me" and "Outlaw Torn" sound more like stories worthy of concept album status. Literally you could probably use every single song on this album as music for a movie trailer. It's that powerful.

The two original tracks premiered, "No Leaf Clover" and "-Human" were specifically composed for this occasion, and sound it. They're not the biggest production ever (I mean, apart from the use of a full-fledged orchestra), but these weren't written to prove that Metallica had sold out. No, these tracks were written because a) they could and b) they were special little treats that, frankly, wouldn't have sounded good in any other setting or environment.

In short, very few tracks are overlooked, and the ones that are just not very good songs in general (i.e. "Hero Of The Day"), but I do love the fact they ended with some big guns at the end. "Sad But True", "One", "Enter Sandman" and "Battery" makes for an epic close, especially "Battery". Of all the expectations that had been surpassed when listening to this album, I didn't think they could make "Battery" much more epic than the original version, but holy crap, Kamen and the SFO had one last surprise in store, and they did not disappoint.

VERDICT: I know, you're probably thinking "Well, just adding an orchestra doesn't necessarily make it prog". Prog, no. Progressive, yes. You see, adding orchestras makes everything better. It creates a spectacle. McCartney. Fleetwood Mac. Deep Purple. Pink Floyd. Every single one of their projects that involve full orchestras just sound amazing. It just adds that something special that some people just can't describe. To me, it adds texture, it intensifies emotion, heightens sensitivity. It almost seems like it adds on a second story to the one being heard through the lyrics of the original song. No, the timing wasn't always perfect between band and orchestra, but frankly, the music sounds so goddamn badass, it really didn't matter.

Yes, there are quite a few bands since that have incorporated orchestras significantly into their music (gothic bands like Nightwish, Epica and others, [Damnation Angels]), but for some reason, there still isn't as much drama, this much goofy spectacle, this much useless pomp and circumstance just for the sheer fun of it. This album is just awesome, fun and plain awesome.

I also understand that people don't like Metallica, but seriously, if not one song on this track turned up loud got you feeling good, then honestly, you need to see a doctor, because something's wrong with you. And if you disagree with me on this, well, you're wrong.

 Cold Reading by BRAM STOKER album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.76 | 16 ratings

Cold Reading
Bram Stoker Prog Related

Review by progbaby

4 stars Mr. Bronsdon is back in 2013 with the first album by Bram Stoker in over 40 years. I'm a big fan of their "Heavy Rock Spectacular" with it's hammond riffs and nice guitar work.

With just 3 members in this release (including Mr. Brondson on keys), I did not know what to expect. Is it just another attempt to resurrect something special 40 years ago resulting in a "dry run".

I would highly encourage anyone to go to youtube and search for Cold Reading Bram Stoker and listen to the Promo.

I can't explain why I like this album a lot. I just do. In addition to Mr. Brondson's meticulous keyboards (that delve into the early nostalgic sounds of the 1970's), the guitar work by Tony Lowe is nicely done, melodic and never "annoying". Very "Flower King"-y like (if I can make that phrase up). Lowe's guitar work is very enjoyable to listen to and Bronsdon does a wonderful job taking a backseat during Lowe's solos (but the hammond/keys are always present).

But Bronsdon has many moments to shine too. But at all times, it feels like a "team effort".

And then you have the other strength of the album. The vocals by Will Hack. Although sparse at times (some instrumental tunes), when the vocals come in, they're very pleasant and non-obstrusive. Reminds me a bit of Fruup's "Modern Masquerades" album with the vocals (and even some of the melodic passages).

This is not just a "failed reunion album" where a "once progressive"-group reforms again to do a bunch of forgettable modern pop songs and then disappears.

No, this album is just as progressive as the 1972 "Heavy Rock Spectacular" and the keyboards are just wonderful to listen to. Nice bass guitar passes too.

Nothing outstanding but no wasted tracks either. Just a good album from start to finish.

If you're curious, please go to youtube and search for "Bram Stoker 'Cold Reading'" and check out the 4 minute "Official promo" video. It's about 30 seconds per song. It will give you a great idea of what this album is about.

 A Light In The Black 1975-1984 by RAINBOW album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2015
4.00 | 2 ratings

A Light In The Black 1975-1984
Rainbow Prog Related

Review by GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer

4 stars After all these years there is finally a more than decent boxed compilation of Rainbow, one of the greatest hard rock bands ever to emerge in the latter half of the 70's. One could argue the progressiveness of the band as a whole but there is no denying the progressive elements found in the albums made between the years 1975-1978, aka the Dio-era. That is when the flamboyant, excentric and mysterious Blackmore lead the band (alongside Dio, I am sure) to a dimension where all the influences of the leader can be found. There is the far east, classical, folk and an abundance of hard rock. All this earns them the right to be labelled progressive or at the very least, which is the case, prog related. The progressive leanings may have declined in 1979 when Bonnet took over the microphone and finally vanished (more or less) in the Turner days.

For prog lovers I suppose the first two discs are the most interesting and for me, being a lifelong admirer of this band, it is great hearing different versions of classics in both live and studio settings. Rainbow always delivered live and they were a force to be reckoned with. For me they were the greatest live band of the 70's.

The Bonnet-era is a different ball game. I really love "Down to Earth", thinking it is a great transition album. Stuck somewhere between the Dio stuff and that of Turner, it merges the mystery and hardrock of yesterday and the radiofriendly material of Turner in the most splendid of fashions. It's fantastic to hear an early version of "Love's no friend of mine" in the shape of "Ain't A Lot Of Love In The Heart Of Me", alongside great live renditions showcasing the amazing vocal talents of Graham Bonnet.

The final discs, 4 and 5, are dedicated to the Joe Lynn Turner-era. This is the most commercial phase of Rainbow. While there were remnants of the past on "Down to Earth", also in part due to the powerful Bonnet vocals reminding of Dio, those Days are mostly gone by now. While not bad it holds very little, if any, interest to prog fans. There is a slicker tone to the music, also demonstrated by Turner's vocals, suiting the radiofriendly approach. Still, the music is great (in parts) and while not progressive offers the opportunity to re-visit the 1980's and well crafted pop-ish hard rock.

The DVD contains the performance made by the band in 1980 at the Monsters of Rock festival. This is great to behold and a testament to the band's extraordinary power in the live setting.

All things mentioned are great. I love this box but there are a few things that could have raised the rating from four stars to five. The fact that "A light in the black" is omitted is weird but that is, all things considered, OK but I miss that track deeply. It should have been included. The DVD should have more live clips than just the concert from 1980. There should have been clips from all eras, I think. Maybe the musical videos made in 1979-1984? Apart from that I do think that there should have been a mention and a few tracks from "Stranger in us all", the sort of comeback album from 1995. After all, that was a Rainbow album aswell.

So, who would benefit from this box set? The casual fan? Someone interested in the band? The already fans of Rainbow? I would say all three categories. This is a great box, packaged in a Beautiful way and contains most of what made this band great. If you are interested in hearing this band for the first time, you might be alright with one of the many compilations out there but you wouldn't go wrong with this box either.

Great box from one of the great bands from the past.

 Drones by MUSE album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.36 | 56 ratings

Muse Prog Related

Review by crashandridemusic

3 stars Muse is a band that is recommended to me constantly. I always hear 'Oh, you like the White Stripes? You'll like them.' Or possibly 'If you like Radiohead, you'll definitely love these guys.' I might have heard their more popular songs like 'Uprising' and 'Madness' on the radio, but have never made the connection. With their latest album 'Drones' released recently, I decided to let it be my first taste of them.

Muse consists of Matthew Bellamy on vocals/guitars/keys, Christopher Wolstenholme on bass guitar/vocals/keys, and Dominic Howard on drums. Upon listening to their music for the first time, I can hear the resemblance to Radiohead, being a harder and experimental sound with moments of progressive and space rock. To call this band a progressive rock band, though, is a little bit of a stretch, but I can understand where critics and listeners come up with such an opinion. I would say their sound is more closely related to a pop/alternative rock, consisting of heavily overdriven guitar riffs like the Foo Fighters/Queens of the Stone Age right aside piano ballads that remind me of Coldplay/30 Seconds to Mars. Their newest album 'Drones' basically throws all these names into a blender and presses the on button.

Much of this album follows the same tempo and flavor from start to finish. Each song has a catchy rhythm, mixed with weird sound effects, falsetto vocals a la Jeff Buckley, and fairly simple drum beats. Simply put, the album is straightforward. For being a progressive album, I actually was a little underwhelmed. There aren't too many highs and lows, and aren't too many highlighting moments for any band member. Dare I ask, is this my first negative review? Perhaps it doesn't catch my attention like most of the music I tend to listen to, but that doesn't mean this album is devoid of great material.

There are two songs in particular that stood out to me: 'The Handler' and 'The Globalist.' I believe these two songs are the two best on the album, and for different reasons. 'The Handler' starts with that overdriven guitar sound, but chimes in with deeps bass lines and drum beats that bring the song down a whole other level, one that isn't pursued too much in 'Drones.' Alongside these extremely deep and low tones is Bellamy's high-pitched vocals, drifting between sharp and flat notes that give a very eerie vibe in the song's chorus. Add in the sound effects over his vocals and the song becomes even creepier. A simple but nicely inserted solo using a phaser pedal extends the song into the four minute mark. Every time I play this song, I can't help but play it twice.

The other song, 'The Globalist,' runs over 10 minutes long. For that reason alone, I believed it was worth mentioning. Being the most progressive sounding track on 'Drones,' 'The Globalist' starts off with a country western-style whistling over clean guitar chords, a much slower pace than any other track on the album. This sound shifts towards slide guitar and military style snare drumming, which continues the concept present throughout the album, which I will mention shortly. This section actually reminds me a little of David Gilmour's solo material, which was a great change of pace. Sure enough, the track falls right back into the (by this point) slightly boring alternative rock sound and tempo half way through the song, which is where my attention shifts away. The song closes with a piano arrangement, followed by the a cappella title track.

Now for the other reason why most people suggest Muse to me: the lyrics. If you didn't know, I'm a sucker for conspiracy theories. Not that I necessarily believe in them, but I am fascinated by the research, explanations, and devotion that comes with the territory. Turns out Mr. Bellamy is the same way. As stated in several press interviews, 'Drones' follows a concept of indoctrination and defection as the main protagonist fights against the system. To me, this concept alone sparks my interest in the album. Unfortunately, much of the lyrics are uninspiring to me. I feel Muse really had the chance to make a much larger and profound statement with their lyrics considering the state of the world today, but just flat out missed it. I wanted to be caught up in their vigor with youthful aspirations and invoke the libertarian views in me, but I just didn't feel it in 'Drones.' The lyrics are a little boring, predictable, and even at times laughable. The chorus of 'Psycho' is a prime example:

'I'm going to make you, I'm going to break you, I'm going to make you / A f*cking psycho / Your ass belongs to me now'

Another example is the abusive instructions between a drill sergeant and a private inserted in this song. It's a little over the top and unnecessary. Maybe their next album will make me feel like standing up and fighting for what I believe in.

With all the positives and negatives I've mentioned, I'd still recommend 'Drones' to anyone on this blog. Sure, it isn't the perfect album, but it's still really catchy and interesting, perfect for driving and rocking out.

I give this 3 of 5 stars. At best.

Taken from Crash And Ride Music

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