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HEAVY PROG

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Heavy Prog definition

Heavy Prog defines progressive rock music that draws as much influence from hard rock as it does from classic progressive rock. In simple terms, it is a marriage of the guitar-based heavy blues of the late 1960s and 1970s - artists such as Cream, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath - and the progressive/symphonic movement represented by King Crimson, Yes and Genesis.

The electric guitar, amplified to produce distortion (or 'overdrive') is a crucial element, providing the 'heavy' tone required for this aggressive style, and later for the British and North American heavy metal of the late 1970s and 80s. The primary rock format of drums, bass and guitar with keys and/or vocals on top is represented strongly in heavy prog. The presence of the Hammond organ with its deep, intense rumble was also common among harder progressive groups such as ATOMIC ROOSTER. Although certain other acts, such as King Crimson and Jethro Tull, utilize a heavy guitar, bass and keyboard sound, the bulk of their work over the years puts them in a different category.

Bands that represent Heavy Prog would include RUSH, PORCUPINE TREE, THE MARS VOLTA, URIAH HEEP, TEMPEST, BLACK WIDOW, DR. Z,ATOMIC ROOSTER, WARHORSE, BIRTH CONTROL, TILES.

- written bt Atavachron (David)

Current Team as of 12/24/14

Louis (rdtprog)
Thanos (aapatsos)
Frank (infocat)

Heavy Prog Top Albums


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

4.39 | 2639 ratings
MOVING PICTURES
Rush
4.36 | 2236 ratings
HEMISPHERES
Rush
4.32 | 2073 ratings
A FAREWELL TO KINGS
Rush
4.29 | 1912 ratings
PERMANENT WAVES
Rush
4.25 | 2408 ratings
FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET
Porcupine Tree
4.24 | 2364 ratings
IN ABSENTIA
Porcupine Tree
4.19 | 1160 ratings
DE-LOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
Mars Volta, The
4.15 | 1044 ratings
THE MOUNTAIN
Haken
4.17 | 732 ratings
SALISBURY
Uriah Heep
4.11 | 1964 ratings
2112
Rush
4.12 | 995 ratings
VISIONS
Haken
4.10 | 1904 ratings
DEADWING
Porcupine Tree
4.12 | 648 ratings
LOOK AT YOURSELF
Uriah Heep
4.12 | 601 ratings
UNTIL ALL THE GHOSTS ARE GONE
Anekdoten
4.08 | 984 ratings
AQUARIUS
Haken
4.06 | 1256 ratings
THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS
Porcupine Tree
4.06 | 857 ratings
FRANCES THE MUTE
Mars Volta, The
4.06 | 713 ratings
DEMONS AND WIZARDS
Uriah Heep
4.10 | 403 ratings
FROM WITHIN
Anekdoten
4.03 | 1413 ratings
LIGHTBULB SUN
Porcupine Tree

Heavy Prog overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

A.F.T.
Automatic Fine Tuning
HIGH TIDE
High Tide
MMOIRES INCUBUSSIENNES
ExCubus
SKELETON IN ARMOUR
Fusion Orchestra

Latest Heavy Prog Music Reviews


 Early Light by AFTER THE FALL album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.80 | 26 ratings

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Early Light
After The Fall Heavy Prog

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Errors and Omissions Team

4 stars Heavy, venturing into Crossover Prog (or if you wanna talk categories, maybe Neo) and not shying away from jazzy harmonies, melodies and whatnot (though on the light side of Jazz). Strongly melodic first track, more experimental on the rest of albums.

I was a bit concerned about those 5 albums the band released so far because of low ratings, but although it's my first album by this band. Not bad, really enjoyable listen is this one.

Favourite tracks: 1)Eartly Light 4)The Weaver, Watcher and the Cutter. The rest is quite a good too. The track I didn't like is second one, McCoy for some reason I can't explain.

 Up The Downstair by PORCUPINE TREE album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.90 | 928 ratings

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Up The Downstair
Porcupine Tree Heavy Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

5 stars "Up the Downstair" is the 2nd official studio full LP release from Porcupine Tree, or in reality, it was mostly all Steven Wilson. It is a vast improvement from the debut album "On the Sunday of Life" because that album was a culmination of prior tracks from demo sessions and the like. This one is so much better produced and the songs are so much more mature.

This album was originally supposed to be a double album which was to include "Voyage 34", a psychedelic mostly instrumental track which was to take up the entire 2nd disc. It was decided to leave that track off, however, it was released separately after. In my opinion, adding that disc-long track would have taken away from this album. The album has been re- mastered a few times. In 2004, the electronic drums from the original recordings were removed and Gavin Harris, who would later become the full time drummer for the band, completely redid the drums, and this improved the overall sound immensely.

As I said earlier, Steven Wilson performed almost all of the instruments on this release. The only exceptions are on "Always Never" where the bass is performed by future member Colin Edwin and the electronics on "Up the Downstair" which is performed by future member Richard Barbieri. Also, if you get the 2004 edition, which I suggest, then Gavin Harris performs all of the drums. Alan Duffy, who worked with Wilson several times before this album, also co-wrote several of the tracks.

After the short psychedelic introduction of "What You Are Listening To?" you immediately hear the great improvement on "Synesthesia". Wilson's vocals have improved and so has the overall sound in this upbeat track which is somewhat similar to a Pink Floyd vibe. You will hear that influence, along with some Ozric Tentacles influence throughout this album. There is a lot of keyboard and electronics, but there is also a lot more excellent guitar solos on this album. It also retains a lot of the psychedelic feel of the debut album, but it sounds so much better and current. Another short transition track follows and then we get the excellent "Always Never" which continues with this excellent music and features another great guitar solo.

"Up the Downstair" is a 10 minute instrumental. You hear shades of that psychedelic sound that you hear in "Voyage 34" and "The Sky Moves Sideways", but in a much more condensed form, and this track also moves along at a much better pace. The guitar riffs in this, which interrupt the floating keyboard passages a few times, are simply awesome. This is an excellent track reminiscent of Ozric Tentacles with a little Rush mixed in. This is one of the best rock instrumentals ever.

"Not Beautiful Anymore" is a shorter track which features a field recording of a female talking about feelings of ecstasy, then a heavy riff kicks in. Again, we get another driving instrumental driven by guitar with layers of dreamy electronics. You also get that space rock feel from this one like the last track. This flows into a very short psychedelic track called "Siren", which in turn takes us into "Small Fish", a slower and atmospheric track with Wilson's layered vocals which have the feel of psychedelic folk. This one is probably more like the songs on the previous album, but, again, so much better and a beautiful Floydian guitar solo. We then segue into "Burning Sky", another long 11+ minute instrumental track that starts off with eerie keyboards for a while and then a fast, repeating guitar riff kicks in joined later by spacey keyboards, again somewhere between PF, Hawkwind and Ozric Tentacles. Great guitar work mixed with electronics with some heavier sections. Around 4:30, things quiet down to a ticking clock, breathing and ambient and atmospheric instruments. Just after 7 minutes, things suddenly kick back into high gear again with the repeating riff returning. A minute later, things go to a mid tempo melodic guitar solo, then it's back to the heavy section again, this time intensity increases until it climaxes into a few power chords and percussion and then goes ambient again until the end.

This all fades into the last track appropriately titled "Fadeaway" which starts with atmospheric keyboards, the a slow rhythm and strummed guitar chords. It floats along until another guitar solo takes over, and then Wilson's vocals start again.

This is an excellent album, very much improved over the previous album, and completely reminiscent of space rock and psychedelia of the 70s, but with a crisp and clear production that makes it all sound up to date. It's hard to believe most of the music is performed by Wilson on this album as it sounds so well done. Of course, the band would form not long after this, and many of these tracks were always current in Porcupine Tree's concert set list. Even though this one fell between their lesser debut album and "Voyage 34", it is a much better album than either one of them. It is definitely an essential album in the Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson discography and in any progressive library. While it's true it is not as heavy as their later albums, it is still very space rock oriented with influences from the bands I have mentioned before. When Wilson put these songs together, he said he didn't care how close to his influences he sounded, he just knew it sounded good. And it does. This is definitely an exceptional 5 star album.

 The Bedlam In Goliath by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.51 | 494 ratings

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The Bedlam In Goliath
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Kempokid

5 stars This album can be summed up in very few words, energetic, chaotic, and abrasive. Every element of the band has been kicked up another few notches in terms of pace and the extreme nature of it, with Cedric maintaining his falsetto for much longer portions of songs, Thomas Pridgen playing the drums like and absolute madman, and even the production and mix accentuating the loud nature of the album even further. Despite the extreme nature of the album as a whole, I do appreciate that after Amputechture, an album filled to the brim with excess in songwriting (which to be fair, I loved), the songwriting and structure for the most part has been cleaned up, with less sections dedicated to atmosphere and jamming, and more time bombarding the listener with noise, along with keeping the songs shorter, with only 3 of the 12 going above 8 minutes, creating an album that feels more concise, despite it being approximately the same length as Amputechture and Frances the Mute.

There is a great variety of songs on this album, ranging from somewhat accessible songs, to complex compositions that feel incredibly difficult to wrap your head around. The album starts off with a bang, with the intro to Aberinkula genuinely scaring me the first time hearing it, simply due to how suddenly it began. This song is essentially showing what's to come, being one of the more abrasive songs on the album, thanks to Cedric's vocals in the chorus being absurdly high, before the second half breaks into a dissonant saxophone jam that is reminiscent of Van Der Graaf Generator's White Hammer (albeit nowhere near as harrowing). Metatron continues directly from where Aberinkula left off, but further ups the energy, along with including the first of many choruses on the album that are insanely catchy. This song's structure is really interesting, going off on tangents constantly, making the song very unpredictable, but always going back to the chorus, which is fairly simple and fun, creating a wonderful contrast. After this, there are what are probably the 3 most accessible tracks on the album, Ilyena, Wax Simulacra, and Goliath. Ilyena is undoubtedly the grooviest, most purely enjoyable Mars Volta song ever created, with such a perfect beat to complement the melody, making it almost impossible for me to not grin any time I hear it. Wax Simulacra is another great song, particularly when the vocal layering and harmonisations come in, which creates a really great effect. Goliath is one of my personal favourites on the album, perfectly displaying both aspects of this album perfectly, that of relentless intensity that almost reaches the point of aural exhaustion, and that of some of the most incredibly catchy hooks I've heard. I love how after an extremely groovy first half, with a standard structure, the second half (which somewhat reminds me of King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man in terms of the bassline) goes completely nuts, with Cedric screaming gibberish and wailing while the sounds in the background produce a wall of noise that adds to the overall chaos, climaxing in the last 30 seconds in a way that never fails to blow me away.

After this, the second, much more strange, experimental side of the album begins with Tourniquet Man, a pleasant song that devolves into somewhat obnoxious noise, and while it only lasts for a minute, I do feel like this second half of the song is the first misstep on the album, although I do really appreciate the first half, especially since it serves as a short break from all the hyperactivity, and the second half definitely fits in nicely with the album as a whole, so I don't mind it all that much. Cavalettas is the longest song on the album, and definitely one that took a lot of time to grow on me , due to the way it is written being incredibly odd. While I really love the first couple of minutes of this song, along with many of the riffs throughout, I do find the way it constantly fades out to be a strange choice, that I sometimes love, and other times find it to hinder my enjoyment, depending on my mood, although once again, I really do feel like that's part of the charm of the album, having those moments that are almost frustrating to listen to, but it resolving itself nicely, which this song excels at, as it feels almost disjointed from itself at points, yet constantly returns to particular motifs in order to maintain its identity. Agadez is by far my favourite song on the album, with 3 distinct sections that get progressively better throughout. The first section is a fairly slow paced song with a fairly powerful chorus, displaying quite a lot of restraint compared to the rest of the album, before exploding into a beat that reminds me of Drunkship of Lanterns, which when combined with the amazing bassline, creates an absolute powerhouse of a song. The final section manages to further improve upon this by becoming much heavier and introducing a killer riff. Askepios is the only time on the album in which I feel like there is a true misstep, as I find this song to be genuinely bad, with fade outs that last too long, no direction to it, and nothing to make it all that interesting. Ouroborous returns to the purely fast paced nature of earlier songs from the album, while also including some of the best drum and vocal work on the album, another definite highlight. Soothsayer is an interesting song, as it is very atmospheric and eerie, with a much slower pace, very little variation, and some exquisite use of vocal distortion, an oddity, but a great song nonetheless. While Conjugal Burns is one of the less memorable tracks on the album, I definitely find the outro to be the absolute perfect way to end the album, with a loud, unpleasant mess of screaming, distortion and white noise all coming together and then just completely cutting out for one last refrain.

While reviewing this, I was originally going to rate it three stars, as I felt as if many moments just didn't quite reach the heights of previous albums, and the abrasive nature got in the way of me fully enjoying it, as well as it always being listened to much less than the previous three albums.. Despite this, once I listened through, I felt as if I was missing something, and felt compelled to give it a re-listen, in which case I could pick apart more of the subtle elements to it, such as the bassline in Ouroborous adding a much needed bit of melody to such a chaotic song. I put reviewing this album off for a week or two due to how conflicted my thoughts on it were, but in the end, this has genuinely become my favourite Mars Volta album. It doesn't feel right to give out a 4th 5 star rating to a band, but I genuinely believe that this album is also deserving of it, despite Askepios bringing it down slightly. This is an acquired taste for sure, and a definite grower, for those who hate loud music, don't listen to this, as there will be nothing you will enjoy from it at all, apart from possibly Soothsayer. Despite my seemingly generous scoring, I do understand the significance of a 5 star rating, and simply find this album another Mars Volta album deserving of it, unlike their next 2 albums, which I guarantee will not be even close to 5 stars.

Best songs: Goliath, Agadez, Ouroborous

Worst songs: Askepios

Verdict: Recommended to anyone who has enjoyed previous Mars Volta work and can deal with almost unbearable levels of noise at times. Incredible album that takes much of what I love about TMV, and then accentuates them by an obscene amount.

 Uriah Heep by URIAH HEEP album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.54 | 197 ratings

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Uriah Heep
Uriah Heep Heavy Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Released in 1970, this is the debut album by Uriah Heep. Formed from members from a band called "Spice", this band has been around ever since, and is still performing after all these years, but has also changed its line up several times through the years with Mick Box being the only person that has been with the band since the beginning and is on every album ever released from the band. This album was named "Very 'eavy, Very 'umble" in the UK and simply titled "Uriah Heep" in the US and had different cover art in both countries.

David Byron was the original lead singer, and would be the lead singer through 10 studio albums. It was while he was the lead singer that the band was at it's most popular and also released its best albums, including "Demon and Wizards" and "The Magician's Birthday". Is voice is a little operatic, and sometimes could be over the top, but he usually used restraint (not all the time, but usually). Ken Hensley was the keyboardist but also did some of the special guitar work for about the same length of time. Mick Box was mentioned previously and is the only member still with the band. He is the lead guitarist and also does vocals. Paul Newton was bassist and played on the Heep's first 3 albums. The original drummer was Alex Napier and performed on most of the tracks here, but he was replaced with Nigel Olsen during the recording of this album. Nigel has been in and out of the band ever since, but he has also been Elton John's main drummer.

Uriah Heep's sound has been mostly inspired or similar to that of Deep Purple and that sound is very apparent on this first album. "Gypsy" is probably the best track on the album and most progressive, It features a long organ solo and is wholly driven by the organ backed up by a guitar riff. "Come Away Melinda" is a mellotron-drenched ballad.

In the US, the track "Bird of Prey" replaced the track "Lucy Blues" on the UK version (track number 4). The "Birds of Prey" track is quite awful with high pitched background singing and is quite over the top with tackiness, where "Lucy Blues" is much better and, as the title hints, very bluesy and much more tasteful.

The other tracks not mentioned above are pretty much standard hard rock that sounds pretty standard for that time, a lot of organ and guitar, slightly dark, and heavy with some mellow sections, but quite blues oriented. If you are familiar with the sound of Deep Purple from the same era, then you will know what this album sounds like, except more amateur-ish. You can't really blame them since it was their first album, but, other than a few good albums, the band never really got past that amateur feel before the original line up started getting played around with. Through the years, UH has been more of a hard rock band which leaned heavily towards pop music and ventured into the hair metal arena and now rests in a lite Hard Progressive sound. They have never really done anything groundbreaking, but some of their albums are definitely enjoyable, they are just too few and far between considering how long they have been around and how many albums they have released.

 Reflections In The Hourglass by SONIQ CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.64 | 29 ratings

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Reflections In The Hourglass
Soniq Circus Heavy Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Swedish band Soniq Circus is little known prog act, but they released so far 2 albums their second one from 2011 named Reflections in the hourglass being the best from the two, but aswell the debut is pretty much more then ok. What Soniq Circus delivering here is a solid heavy prog album with good doses of neo prog and symphonic prog touches but all melted with prog metal accents, it sounding like a metalized neo prog in the end. So, what was fun to listen and are damn catchy are the keybords arrangements, there are rich momnts of this instrument and in combination with guitars the result is excellent. There are plenty of bombastic passages, intelligent arrangements and a pleasent voice from start to finish. The rhythm section gives the music a metal vibe and the keyboards give the music that symphonic - neo-prog touch something like Spock's Beard meeting dutch prog band Splinter, the old and new in prog is well combined on every tune. Pieces like Formula or By The Heartshaped Lake with lots of tempo changes, melodic lines, nice vocal parts, a truly inspired moments. Aswell the rest of the pieces are in same manner, all is done with good taste and intresting arrangements. I really do not know why Soniq Circus is so unknow in prog circles, what they offer here is more then good release, towards excellent in parts. To me a nice listen and for that reson 4 stars for sure.

 also spielt... by ZARATHUSTRA album cover Studio Album, 1982
2.00 | 2 ratings

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also spielt...
Zarathustra Heavy Prog

Review by dion

2 stars Be aware that this is a total different band than the one from the '70s, with different members and style of music. This one it's more like in the vein of the1980 pop rock mainstream. The members on this 1980 Zarathustra avatar band consists of: Vocals- Florian Mair, Bass - Thomas F. Weigel, Guitar / Synth. - Thomas Caunhardt, Keys - Mathias Kumm, Drums - Andreas Kupfer and Michael Dilt. Weird enough, the graphic cover of this album, by similarities with the plain black pen drawing of the 1972 Zarathustra album, would make you think again that this may be the same group reinvented. Don't get confused, it's not. I would not consider this album / band as progressive at all.
 Blurring The Lines ... A Democracy  Manifest by OVRFWRD album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.33 | 46 ratings

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Blurring The Lines ... A Democracy Manifest
Ovrfwrd Heavy Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

4 stars I can't stand it any longer. At first, quite obvious, this fairly unspeakable band name strikes, puzzles every time, me at least. Just something like 'Overforward' maybe? Anyhow, come what may, as announced lately, the US quartet are offering a new manifest due to this album. Where they are blurring the lines between diverse genres again with ease. While being completely instrumental lyrics aren't available in consequence. The very nice cover illustration at least will express some touch with nature. And so, if there is any concept intended behind that ever, at least it may be managing another balancing act. Which would be to deliver new music that is unpredictable and accessible at once.

Thus, while listening, and considering the album title, who really will be up to doubt, that this is based on a democratic foundation? Without exception the musicianship is flawless over the course. Instrumental impact and compositional aspect obviously enjoy equal rights regarding all members. Not long ago they released the live in the studio session 'Occupations Of Uninhabited Space', retrospective and looking ahead both, as they also have put some forward-looking teaser on that album. Mother Tongue appears to be one exemplar, but provided in a new outfit on this occasion, yeah! And now, of course, the unavoidable question ... which is the better one, heh? Can't say, don't know, sorry, pragmatically seen I should prefer the more extended one, hah!

Whatever, the fabulous jamming middle part features a symbiosis of jazz/fusion and space rock attitude, marks an album highlight in any case. This is a quite eclectic one hour show, comes with creativity, definitely running against prog mainstream boredom. Equipped with a bunch of twists and turns it's really hard to analyze and describe. One track title, mentioning a trappers daughter, once provoked me to wonder if they ever have thought about recording a song or two with a singer anyway. Probably a new further challenge, who knows. Not an easy task in the end, because this music is of a complex nature, regularly contradictive to harmonies, choruses, refrains aso.

I rather should avoid to highlight any band member, but Chris Malmgren's enchanting piano lines are remarkable all over the course, exemplarily to mention on the fantastic opener Wretch. There's some fine symphonic bombast feel given within Another Afterthought. Furthermore the mysterious Cosmic Pillow extends the guitar range with a sitar and some King Crimson reminiscence. If you should be longing for a proper comparisn, the band Djam Karet will come into mind occasionally. 'Blurring The Lines' is absolutely recommended, prog purists should pay attention, so much to explore. 4.5 stars as for the rating so far.

 Progressively Dark (A Concert For A Group & String Orchestra) by SL THEORY album cover Live, 2018
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Progressively Dark (A Concert For A Group & String Orchestra)
SL Theory Heavy Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars The three studio albums by SL Theory are all the work of one man, multi-instrumentalist Sotiris Lagonikas. But on this release he has restricted himself to just one instrument, drums, and is part of six-man band, to which he has added an additional four singers on top of lead singer Mike Karasoulis, and a string orchestra. Recorded live on March 3rd 2017, the band can be seen to be surrounding the ten-piece string section (conducted by Yiannis Antonopoulos), and with 21 people on the stage it must have been quite some spectacle.

The vast majority of the material is taken from the three albums, but there were also a few new pieces written which were performed that night. The strings are playing live what was layered keyboards before, adding an additional lightness and quality. Karasoulis has an emotional voice, and here he is able to work either completely solo, duetting, or to pitch himself in as part of the harmonies. There is a real confidence and sense of aplomb and achievement with this release, with the band and strings working fully together as one. Obviously this is not the first time this has been tried, but here it really works as the style of progressive rock/metal definitely fits in well. When the band want to crunch then they go for it, but when they want to be acoustic and gentle then the string overlay is quite sublime.

Heavy, symphonic, majestic, bombastic, this may be a dark album in many ways, but there are plenty of contrasts and delights over this two disc, 20 song, 104 minute long set. 'Progressively Dark: A Concert For Group & String Orchestra' is a great introduction to the music of Sotiris Lagonikas, and it will be fascinating to see what comes next. Well worth investigating for all progheads into the heavier side.

 Signify by PORCUPINE TREE album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.83 | 1127 ratings

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Signify
Porcupine Tree Heavy Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars PORCUPINE TREE's fourth album SIGNIFY displayed the perfect title upon its release for it really did declare that the project that had begun as a joke and had developed into a bona fide solo project of Steven Wilson that continued to gain steam and popularity and to his surprise an amazingly successful career. With a three album run of twisting and teasing Pink Floyd inspired psychedelic space rock and electronic experiments that culminated with the extraordinary "The Sky Moves Sideways," it became apparent that the next step was to incorporate the session musicians who performed on these albums and turn the project into a bona fide band that delivers a distinct band sound that would be supported by touring and audience interaction.

With the official band member status of Richard Barbieri (piano, synth, tapes, sequencers), Colin Edwin (bass) and Chris Mailand (drums, percussion), main man STEVEN WILSON found a new wellspring of creativity which allowed the band to expand beyond the simply tagged psychedelic space rock that dictated the feel of the first trilogy of albums. SIGNIFY is the transition album that didn't jettison what came before but rather married it with a larger palette of musical ideas. The compositions first and foremost became more cohesive with more traditional song structures that were obviously designed to sound more commercial than the free for all psychedelic meandering of the past although certain tracks on SIGNIFY do allow for the same experimentation as those albums.

Perhaps the most startling contrast are the more rock oriented guitar hooks which comes into full prominence on the introductory title track which is a more heavy rock rendition of the Neu! track "Hallgallo" from their 1972 Krautrock classic debut. While the title track rocks out and points to the future, the second track "Sleep Of No Dreaming" seems to get cold feet and point back to the past with a more sedated chilled out feel however it simultaneously shows another direction in conjunct with the heavy rockers. It finds Wilson creating a more lyric centric form of songwriting which displays his tender carefully uttered vocals with the fullest implementation of production value allowed by law. The addition of softer passages that utilize acoustic guitar and dream atmospheric background sweeps would be another major deviation from the psychedelic space rock years.

Many of the tracks on SIGNIFY were actually demos for previous albums but were sitting idle in the backroom and dusted off and rebranded for the new PORCUPINE TREE. Wilson explained that the bass and percussion parts were re-recorded by the now permanent members and they were given liberties to add their personal touches which allowed the full band effect to come to fruition. Colin Edwin contributed many interesting bass lines as well as a stellar double bass run on "Sleep Of No Dreaming." While the albums would continue to get more into the rock scheme of things on SIGNIFY, there are still experimental electronic ambient sections such as "Waiting Phase One" which display the nebulous sound squigglies as heard on the earliest of albums but "Waiting Phase Two" clearly demonstrates the new PORCUPINE TREE with gently strummed acoustic guitars, a soulful Steven Wilson singing his heart out with softened percussion and interesting verse / chorus changes.

Much of the psychedelic holdover was due to the fact that the band recorded this album during the tour of "The Sky Moves Sideways" and the process of switching gears sounds like it was happening organically rather than a forced escapade into the harder rocking world. One could say that these are cleverly crafted pop songs in prog clothing as the basic song structures are actually quite simple but Wilson has always had a gift for milking the potential out of any three chord strum along with outstanding production ingenuity and his unique stamps such as his guitar solos and counterpoints. Tribal rhythms are implemented at times which offer an interesting contrast to traditional rock drumming norms.

Despite not being a solo album, SIGNIFY was recorded as such. Wilson recorded much of the album as a solo project the way he envisioned it and then let the other band members re-record their respective parts separately which basically saw a finished product shift gears one instrumental part at a time until the final product emerged. Even after the album had been released Wilson was never happy and remastered all the original albums to create an even crisper and clearer listening experience. While SIGNIFY is dominated by many sing along type songs, there are plenty of simple zone out moments when the pop rock cedes into space rock and the vocals take a breather and let the instrumental and electronic sections cast their mesmerizing spells.

SIGNIFY is in effect project #1 of the Phase Two era of PORCUPINE TREE which would include the following "Stupid Dream" and "Lightbulb Sun," a trilogy of albums that equally merged the hard rock potential of the future with the earliest psychedelic space rock sensibilities. PORCUPINE TREE has been nothing but consistent in their output over their career and SIGNIFY is no exception. An excellent slice of Mr. Wilson's unique progressive rock outlook with strong catchy hooks that evolve into solid compositions that implemented lyrics concerned about late 90s issues and the addition of those atmospheric emotional tugs and interesting sound effects that allowed the perfect chilled out progressive rock experience. While i find this style would peak on "Lightbulb Sun," SIGNIFY is quite the solid release with tracks like "Sever" providing catchy ear worms and a throw back to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" to boot.

 Amputechture by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.86 | 546 ratings

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Amputechture
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Kempokid

5 stars The Mars Volta's Amputechture takes all of the more bizarre, experimental elements from the previous two album, Deloused in the Comatorium and Frances the Mute, and has them take centre stage as the main attraction while also ditching the concept album formula in favour of crafting a group of tightly written songs. Each song has different qualities to it that make it unique, and while the seemingly intentional overblown, chaotic and dissonant nature of the album will scare some people off, I personally find this to be the crowning achievement of the band. Despite essentially throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks, this kitchen sink approach to songwriting has worked surprisingly well in the favour of the band, creating diverse music that ranges from atmospheric jams, jazz, and even occasionally some world music thrown in, along with many other interesting moments with very little filler.

Vicarious Atonement starts things off slowly, with incredible atmosphere and great guitar work, with Cedric's vocals further accentuating the somewhat creepy, yet also despondent tone. This is a slow burner for sure, with a lot of use of space and ambience within the track, perfectly setting the listener up for the aural bombardment that is Tetragrammaton. The moment this song kicks in, the familiarity to previous works is somewhat found, with the standard sort of chaotic instrumentation that is a staple of the band. This is my second Mars Volta song for sure, managing to create a 16 minute song without a single second of filler, with the semi spoken word section bridging into the next two verses to be one of my favourite musical moments, constantly escalating while creating an extremely fun groove, all exploding into a near cacophonous chorus. The next noteworthy track is Meccamputechture, which acts as the centrepiece to the album in more ways than just placement, as it perfectly incorporates elements from other songs on the album, predominantly the riff from Tetragrammaton and some bongos that will be later used in Day of the Baphomets. Along with this, the saxophone on this track is simply amazing, along with the intro and outro both being absolutely top notch as well, especially the borderline acapella in the intro. The final incredibly noteworthy song is Day of the Baphomets, which is not only my favourite Mars Volta song, but my favourite song of all time, with a perfect blend of technicality with tone and even being fun in the process. The intro comes in and instantly feels like some sort of twisted, tribal chant, before leading in to some harrowing vocal work, causing the song to have a tone not too unlike a panic attack of sorts. This pace continues throughout the the entirety of the song, all climaxing in one of the most off kilter percussion solos I've heard.

The song VIscera Eyes, Vermicide and Asilos Magdalena are all incredibly good songs and act as breaks between the 3 massive epics, with Vermicide being a fairly straightforward song with a good chorus and good use of distortion and Asilos Magdalena being sung entirely in Spanish and being the most pleasant moment on the album, to the point of being downright relaxing, even if in typical TMV fashion, it slowly descends further and further into madness, until it essentially becomes noise. Viscera Eyes, while being a long song, is also a surprisingly straightforward one, having an extremely defined, groovy riff backed up with an extremely tasteful brass section, making for a song that is't all that difficult to listen to while still being adequately interesting, especially once the change of pace occurs.

The single weaker moment on this album comes from the final song, El Ciervo Vulerado, which while quite psychedelic and atmospheric in nature, is also somewhat drawn out and ends in an unsatisfying manner. Despite this, I still feel as if it is an all around decent song that simply doesn't live up to the soaring heights of anything else from TMV's first three albums.

While this album took quite a while to grow on me due to the extremely abrasive nature that it could have at times along with the general insanity presented, once it did grow, it became my favourite thing this band has ever done, with 3 epics that all represent the Mars Volta at their peak of songwriting, along with many other songs that can also stand very strongly. Cedric's vocals here are even more high pitched and absurd than before, with a falsetto that can be described in no other way than ridiculous. The instrumentation, particularly Jon Theodore's drumming is incredible here as well, with very little time spent doing pointless stuff for the sake of complexity, as each section of a song feels like it is an integral part of it. What really sets this album apart for me however, is the sense of fun that it has while still maintaining a mostly serious, occasionally terrifying tone, creating a difficult, yet highly enjoyable listen.

Best Tracks - Tetragrammaton, Day of the Baphomets, Meccamputechture

Weakest Tracks - El Ciervo Vulnerado

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