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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)
Louis (rdtprog)


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 | 2897 ratings
METROPOLIS PART 2 - SCENES FROM A MEMORY
Dream Theater
4.28 | 2836 ratings
IMAGES AND WORDS
Dream Theater
4.26 | 1678 ratings
SECOND LIFE SYNDROME
Riverside
4.23 | 1214 ratings
THE PERFECT ELEMENT - PART 1
Pain Of Salvation
4.23 | 1146 ratings
REMEDY LANE
Pain Of Salvation
4.23 | 1064 ratings
OPERATION: MINDCRIME
Queensr˙che
4.21 | 1152 ratings
OUT OF MYSELF
Riverside
4.20 | 1275 ratings
ANNO DOMINI HIGH DEFINITION
Riverside
4.19 | 1150 ratings
THE HUMAN EQUATION
Ayreon
4.20 | 380 ratings
THE ART OF NAVIGATING BY THE STARS
Sieges Even
4.12 | 2060 ratings
AWAKE
Dream Theater
4.12 | 1932 ratings
SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE
Dream Theater
4.17 | 388 ratings
A PLEASANT SHADE OF GRAY
Fates Warning
4.14 | 745 ratings
INTO THE ELECTRIC CASTLE
Ayreon
4.13 | 709 ratings
V - THE NEW MYTHOLOGY SUITE
Symphony X
4.15 | 404 ratings
PERFECT SYMMETRY
Fates Warning
4.16 | 299 ratings
THE FULLNESS OF TIME
Redemption
4.12 | 539 ratings
ENTROPIA
Pain Of Salvation
4.21 | 145 ratings
PARADOX
Royal Hunt
4.11 | 565 ratings
THE DIVINE WINGS OF TRAGEDY
Symphony X

Progressive Metal overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

THE GREAT DIVIDE
Ice Age
BEYOND THE STARS
Ivory Tower
THE GOD THING
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FROM WITHIN
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Latest Progressive Metal Music Reviews


 Entropia by PAIN OF SALVATION album cover Studio Album, 1997
4.12 | 539 ratings

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Entropia
Pain Of Salvation Progressive Metal

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

5 stars The roots of PAIN OF SALVATION actually date back to 1984 when founder Daniel Gildenlöw was only 11 years old and started his first band Reality when he met another future member guitarist Daniel Magdic who would play until after the debut album. In short, Reality won a Swedish talent contest with Gildenlöw scoring the best vocalist award. In 1990 he met drummer Johan Langell and bassist Gustaf Hielm and the following year changed the band name Reality to the more familiar PAIN OF SALVATION which would find international success with its innovative string of progressive metal albums. The band spent many years practicing before Hielm left the band and was replaced by Daniel's brother Kristoffer Gildenlöw. The fifth member Fredrik Hermansson came into the picture of hearing the band's demo "Hereafter" and scored the position as keyboardist. The band was perched to unleash its debut album ENTROPIA in 1997.

PAIN OF SALVATION hit the ground running with its debut that featured a fully developed concept about a family surviving and coping during a war. With emotional and heartfelt lyrics, the band made a name for itself not only for highly emotive storylines brought to life by the complex vocal harmonies reminiscent of The Beatles and Queen but made even more dramatic by lead singer Daniel Gildenlöw's broad vocal range and sense of charisma. Added to that the music was on fire. Loosely based on the Dream Theater sound that emerged in the early 90s, PAIN OF SALVATION was a bit more diverse in its scope as it covered the spectrum of influences ranging from the pop rock of The Beatles, The Moody Blues and Lou Reed to jazz, classical, ethnic music, hip hop, soul and funk not to mention heavy metal from bands like Faith No More and other technically infused bands like Fates Warning and Queensryche.

Noted for the dramatic swings from calm to heavy passages and back all fortified with heavy syncopation and polyrhythms and unpredictable mood shifts between disparate genre styles, PAIN OF SALVATION quickly stood out from the pack and ENTROPIA, a name that is a fusion of the words "entropy" and "utopia," clearly displays the band's knack for creating a fully functional collage effect that displayed a completely unique style. This theatrical concept album is carved up into three chapters with each act offering a creative breath of fresh air in a genre that was quickly filling up with Dream Theater clones. With moments of straight on metal, others of technical jazz-fusion wizardry with warm and tender softer ballads reminiscent of modern progressive rock, ENTROPIA hits many notes with each track exuding a charm all its own with stellar instrumental interplay that offers an infinite supply of variations that find the instrumentation morphing into new creative displays of harmonic interplay.

ENTROPIA may be PAIN OF SALVATION's heaviest album at least consistently so although there is plenty of softer passages that allow lighter less bombastic movements to muster lush motifs. The opening "! (Forward)" displays a ferocious metal introduction with jagged riff driven rhythms, intricate melodic interplays and the operatic vocal style of Daniel G. The contrast between heavy metal and soft piano balladries is seamless as are the harsh vocal outbursts with the clean sung vocal harmonics that zigzag around seemingly random yet all ties together perfectly! The beauty of PAIN OF SALVATION in general is completely represented in full form on ENTROPIA. While tackling extreme progressive technicalities, the music never strays from the vital emotional connection that links the sounds to the dramatic storyline which narrates the conceptual story that is something right out of the neo-prog playbook from the likes of Arena, IQ and Pendragon.

All of the musicians on board are on fire. Daniel Gildenlöw and Daniel Magdic's twin guitar attacks are highly symbiotic and the drums and keys exhibit advanced progginess as well. The flirtations with funk and trip hop at key moments offer unforeseen elements that pop up now and again and overall the album is chock full of a youthful energy that delivers the album with a fiery passion absent in so many bands who fail to ignite a level of excitement that PAIN OF SALVATION generates. While not as lauded as the band's following "The Perfect Element I" or "Remedy Lane," personally i find this debut to be one of the best progressive metal albums around and just as compelling as those two. A masterful debut that showed not only the top notch musicianship but a keen sense of songwriting skills that allowed a wealth of styles and sounds to come to life. Outstanding debut!

 Place Du Martyr by TIMECODE ALPHA album cover Studio Album, 2019
2.05 | 2 ratings

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Place Du Martyr
Timecode Alpha Progressive Metal

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

2 stars Timecode Alpha is a Progressive Metal band from Sweden that was formed around 2008 by Peter Lazar (keyboards, guitar, vocals, programming), who has also been involved with several other Swedish bands. Lazar soon recruited Mads Clausen (vocals) and Ken Sandin (bass) to help out and they released their debut album "Freakshow" in 2009.

Now, after 10 years and some issues with labels, the band has finally released their 2nd album "Place Du Martyr", released in November of 2019. This album has the same core line-up as their debut, but also features a few guests to help out on this album. It is made up of a whopping 17 tracks and has a run time of 65 minutes.

With the somewhat hesitant and surprisingly AOR sound that begins the album, "Scapegoat" doesn't provide the attention grabbing sound that you might hope for. You also find out right away what Clausen's vocals are like, and it is apparent that they may take some getting used to. He has a rough, gruff sound to his vocals, but he still has the range to go with it. There is a bit more complexity to the music than what you normally hear, but it never really seems to come together very well. "Gospel of Mankind" starts mysteriously with layers of keys, then the band comes in with guitar-led riffs followed by vocals. I can't help but think though, that the music is more of a crossover sound than it is progressive metal. Even then, the music is okay, but it just seems to be off a little bit and the band just doesn't seem to be that tight, the songs sounding like they could easily just fall apart.

"Grey Pt. Pain" is a bit more interesting with it's vocal layering and contrasting vocal ideas, the music also takes on a harder edge, but is still only on the edge of metal, and stance is solidified with a sax solo. The guest vocals almost reach a growling quality, and the overall track tends to lean more towards a progressive style, things are looking a bit more promising here, but there is still that lack of a feeling of unity in the band. "Grey Ptii Broken Truth" is pretty much as confusing as the title, as it wavers between crossover and metal, not really sure where it wants to be. It all attempts to be progressive, but ends up sounding messy with Clausen's madcap vocals sung against music which seems to be too light and symphonic at times and random growls that come out of nowhere. It all just seems unorganized and messy.

After a short instrumental, "Don't Let My Heart Be Broken" follows, along with more confusion of just where this band wants to be. The track is very AOR sounding, and the lyrics back that up since they are co-written by Alannah Miles (remember "Black Velvet"?). Anyone with interest in wanting to hear a Progressive Metal album will be sorely disappointed by this track, if they haven't been already. Again, the album only supports the crossover feel of the music. Unfortunately, the vocals are not that great, and the music continues to feel disjointed. It ends up sounding schmaltzy.

The album continues along this same pattern, songs that can't decide if the want to be completely AOR and trying to still have a progressive and metal edge, but they end up not really landing anywhere, and it all ends up just feeling disjointed and messy. The vocals are not that great, the music is okay, but only lands in mediocre territory. The band tries to give this image of being a Swedish metal band, but the sound is much too light to support that, so what we end up with here is music that is 10 percent metal, 10 percent progressive, 30 percent AOR and 50 percent uninteresting. Even the short, synth-laden intermediary tracks don't tie anything together, and end up just being meandering and pointless. Not a great album by any means.

 Rain Of A Thousand Flames by RHAPSODY (OF FIRE) album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.70 | 82 ratings

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Rain Of A Thousand Flames
Rhapsody (of Fire) Progressive Metal

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

5 stars For the 4th installment of "The Emerald Sword Saga," RHAPSODY continued its epic fantastical medieval themed soundtrack metal (as they call it) and started a new more progressive phase in its compositional style. RAIN OF A THOUSAND FLAMES differs from its three predecessors in that it recounts a parallel episode in the tale which took place shortly after "Dawn Of Victory" where while the Warrior of Ice is away, Akron ravages the lands with the coveted Emerald Sword. The album is rightfully conveys a sadder tone with more contemplative passages and tales of loss.

RAIN OF A THOUSAND FLAMES also engages in longer classical meanderings with massive choirs that convey emotional tones and colors before the main vocals of Fabio Lione triumphantly narrate the saga at hand. RAIN OF A THOUSAND FLAMES also utilizes themes from other bands' works such as the near 14 minute epic sounding "Queen Of The Dark Horizons" based on the main theme from Italian prog soundtracks superstars Goblin's main theme from the horror picture soundtrack "Phenomena." Likewise "The Wizard's Last Rhymes" is based on "New World Symphony" composed by Antonín Dvořák.

While the album is considered somewhat of a side story, it still approaches the 42 minute mark and primarily is composed of two main tracks: "Queen Of The Dark Horizons" and the four part "Rhymes of a Tragic Poem - The Gothic Saga" which consists of the four tracks: Tears of a Dying Angel" (6:22), "Elnor's Magic Valley" (1:40), "The Poem's Evil Page" (4:04) and "The Wizard's Last Rhymes" (10:37)" but together are almost 23 minutes in duration. The album is a lot more progressive with more varying themes and stylistics changes. While certain styles had been used for individual tracks in the past, RHAPSODY successfully infuses sprawling choral sections, classical compositional melodies, power metal heft and medieval folk flavors seamlessly into massive sprawlers.

While the symphonic power metal is still the dominant species on this album, RAIN OF A THOUSAND FLAMES is more similar to the band's debut "Legendary Tales" where there are more deviations from the neoclassical speed and pure folk jubilees although pure folk can still be found especially in "Einor's Magic Valley" which is based on an Irish traditional jig called "Cooley's Reel" which is simply a section of the "Rhymes of a Tragic Poem - The Gothic Saga," the most sophisticated and intricately designed epic complex on the album. Throughout the four suites, many new avenues are explored such as new vocal styles, more cinematic soundtrack themes and incessant stylistic shifts including a passionate spoken narrations that reminds me of films like "Lord Of The Rings."

Perhaps one of the most ambitious RHAPSODY albums, RAIN OF A THOUSAND FLAMES truly takes on the cinematic soundtrack metal characteristics that the band has always been associated with. Everything on this one is on steroids and the dramatic themes lend to great subject matter that allows the musical deliveries to take on myriad heavy-handed roles that are constructed to convey the story in more fascinating constructs than the previous albums. This is obviously music that will hit you as cheesy from the getgo or dynamic and drama driven with epic tomes that recount the greatest medieval themes that are so popular these days. While nothing new under the sun, RHAPSODY nevertheless adds a passionate take on these themes with some of the most stunningly precise musical performances that bring life to these tales. Personally i think this one is generally under appreciated in relation to surrounding albums.

4.5 rounded up

 Dawn Of Victory by RHAPSODY (OF FIRE) album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.78 | 107 ratings

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Dawn Of Victory
Rhapsody (of Fire) Progressive Metal

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

4 stars RHAPSODY continued its five volume album series that thematically covered an overarching tale called "The Emerald Sword Saga" which exemplified a classic good-vs-evil tale that narrated fantastical lands of myth and monsters. DAWN OF VICTORY is the third installment in this universe and once again crafted by the powerhouse compositional team of Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli. While it may seem the early RHAPSODY albums sound very much alike, it might be helpful to remember that the five chapter series that composes five separate releases could in reality be considered a single massive project that is broken down simply for the sake of marketing and not overwhelming the fanbase.

DAWN OF VICTORY continues the classic symphonic power metal prowess that not only displays the epic fantasy themes but also showcases the extraordinary musicianship that is unleashed. Turilli once again delivers an incessant display of guitar virtuosity complemented with lightning fast neoclassical wizardry and Starpoli exemplifies the same fiery passion on keyboards. The music is once again a mix of not only symphonic power metal but also features many brushes with pure European folk music most obvious on tracks like "The Village Of Dwarves" and while not quite as metallic as, say, Ensiferum or Korpiklaani, still packs a power metal punch at key moments but are heavily dependent on violin and flute sounds.

For the most part, RHAPSODY heeded the criticism of the band's debut when it allowed sprawling symphonic parts to carry on with no metal bombast. DAWN OF VICTORY continues this correction that was achieved on "Symphony Of Enchantment" and continues to keep an extremely fast power metal guitar rampage throughout most of the album with only the lesser folk focused tracks deviating from the formula. While it's not obvious, DAWN OF VICTORY also saw the debut of Alex Holzwarth as the new drummer but the style is so similar and in line with the musical deliveries that there are really no idiosyncratically stylistic changes that will give him away as a newbie as his percussive precision is as top notch as all of the other musicians involved in this fascinating project.

I can understand why this style of metal is considered too cheesy and over-the-top for some however the classical underpinnings keep this a highly melodic adventure with the metal emphasis keeping it in the head banging zone. Fabio Lione's vocals are absolutely perfect for this operatic tale of fantasy worlds and the mix of keyboards and guitars ensures an interesting mix of metal bombast and atmospheric emotional tugs. While most tracks hover around the four to six minute range, the finale "The Mighty Ride Of The Firelord" charges its way up past the nine minute mark and offers one of the most progressive and diverse tracks as it narrates the final chapter in this musical tome of the series. The track is also probably the most successful at summing up the many stylistic shifts of the album as it displays both the symphonic power metal and folk aspects in tandem.

While not substantially different from the previous albums, RHAPSODY does a good job at mixing things up just enough to sounds like its retreading previous musical explorations. For example there are always new approaches to riffs which are mostly crafted through time signatures, riffing styles and dynamic shifts otherwise the folk, classical and power metal elements remain staunchly in place. With music this beautifully designed it's hard not to love the hell out of it and when thought of as merely phase 3 in the 5 part series, it would be a disservice to deviate too far too fast from the formulaic approach. RHAPSODY is one of the most consistent bands in power metal and the third album DAWN OF VICTORY does not disappoint in that regard one little bit.

 Colours In The Sun by VOYAGER album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.24 | 6 ratings

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Colours In The Sun
Voyager Progressive Metal

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

3 stars Voyager is a Progressive Metal band from Australia that was founded in 1999. The band has released 7 albums since that time, however only Daniel Estrin (vocals, keyboards) remains from the original line up. "Colours in the Sun", released in November of 2019, is the 7th full studio release from the band, that now consists of Estrin along with Simone Dow (guitars), Alex Canion (bass, backing vocals), Scott Kay (guitars), and Ashley Doodkorte (drums). This album contains 10 tracks and has a total run time of over 42 minutes.

The music is described by the band as "epic electro progressive power pop metal". This pretty much sums up the music as the first track "Colours" as it comes barreling in full force with driving guitar and synths with a ear-catching melody and solid powerhouse vocals. The voice is smooth and clear with great tone and the sound is heavy and appealing. "Severomance" slows things to a moderate tempo, but goes for a brighter and poppier sound. Again, guitar hooks keep things on the heavy side while the vocal sections give a more lush sound. The vocals remind me somewhat of "Tears for Fears" Roland Orzabal, but the music itself is louder and more guitar-hook laden, yet bright and almost arena-like, however the heaviness at times can reach extreme sensibilities, but remain hook-based. "Brightstar" continues with this same attractive and rousing sound.

"Saccharine Dream" is a bit more dynamic in it's tempo changes, starting off a bit slower, but reaching hard driving, break neck speeds at times, with a more progressive style than previous tracks and a nice complex guitar solo. This is the longest track on the album at 5 and a half minutes, but takes time to explore different textures. "Entropy" features the vocals of guest Einar Solberg from "Leprous" who sings parts on the chorus with a wilder abandon. The instrumental break gives a reflective break from the straight-ahead power pop style of the overall feel of the album. "Reconnected" starts with a treated fast-piano riff which quickly gets overpowered by a djent-like guitar and drum explosion before settling into a chunky, tricky riff and more of the pop-sounding vocals. However, there is a much louder edge to this one, again bringing in progressive sensibilities in the bridge.

"Now or Never" is a short track that sounds very much like the alternative sound of the late 80s, vocals and all, you almost bet you are listening to Tears for Fears here. But it's over quickly and moves into another thick synth, hard pop track "Sign of the Times". AT this point, it has become obvious that the band is not deviating much from the anthemic-arena style heavy modern rock/pop sound. The sameness of the album is really showing itself, and continues to do so with "Water Over the Bridge" and the final track "Runaway", always just adding enough progressiveness however, to keep it all edgy.

What this perfectly-polished album lacks is more variety, as all of the tracks are hard-hitting, hook-laden, arena-style rockers. This music will be quite attractive to the masses, but only gives enough progressiveness to it all to keep it a bit above the standard heavy metal pop sound. There is definitely a lot more guitar than synth here, but the overall sound becomes too similar between the tracks. With a few listens, the music will definitely be stuck in your head with these infectious melodies and riffs, but the more simple pop approach to the songwriting here will probably make these songs wear out their welcome quickly. On the first listen, the music is very appealing with it's overall uplifting and exciting sound. After a few listens, it does tend to get a bit too much the same however, and the appeal loses it's impact. But those that love riff-driven, heavy rock/pop anthems will love this album. For me, it's a bit above average, but not enough to be considered excellent, just entertaining and appealing. The band's own description that I quoted at the beginning of this review does really explain the music, but it's a bit too much on the poppy side with not enough to be challenging.

 Tokyo Tales by BLIND GUARDIAN album cover Live, 1993
3.47 | 33 ratings

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Tokyo Tales
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by martindavey87

2 stars Released in 1993, 'Tokyo Tales' is the first official live album by German power metal legends Blind Guardian. Having been a long-time fan of the band, I've always swayed more towards their later, more progressive and 'epic' albums, whilst finding their earlier, speed metal days a little too repetitive for my liking.

Recorded whilst touring for 1992's 'Somewhere Far Beyond', it was at this point that the band would begin to incorporate a wider range of influences in their music and focus on concept albums, more ambitious arrangements and lavish orchestrations. However, while 'Tokyo Tales' covers pretty much all the best songs those early albums have to offer, it's still a bit too samey for my tastes.

With songs like 'Banish from Sanctuary', 'Majesty', 'Welcome to Dying' and 'Lost in the Twilight Hall', the set list is pretty good. The sound is great, and is pretty similar to the studio albums, and the audience is truly alive and loving every minute of it. But ultimately this comes down to taste. I'd rather listen to the studio counterparts of these tracks, and even then, I think I'd prefer to listen to 'Nightfall in Middle Earth' or 'A Twist in the Myth' than anything from those early albums.

 Life ...And All It Entails by ENOCHIAN THEORY album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.65 | 35 ratings

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Life ...And All It Entails
Enochian Theory Progressive Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Life... And All It Entails" is the 2nd full-length studio album by UK, Portsmouth based progressive rock/metal act Enochian Theory. The album was released through Mascot Records in February 2012. Enochian Theory toured extensively in 2009 and 2010 in support of their debut full-length studio album "Creatio Ex Nihilio (2009)" (among others with Spock´s Beard), but home from touring and full of inspiration from acquiring new skills on the road, main composer Ben Harris-Hayes (vocals, guitars, keyboards) starting writing the material for "Life... And All It Entails". Once the core compositions where finished drummer Sam Street and bassist Shaun Rayment worked on their parts, before the band entered Aubitt Studios in Southampton, UK with engineer/mixer, Rob Aubrey to record the album. Aubrey is known for his work with IQ, Tony Levin, and Transatlantic.

"Creatio Ex Nihilio (2009)" featured a melacholic and dynamic progressive rock/metal style, which in some ways is similar to the sound and style of artists like Porcupine Tree, Riverside, and Anathema (at least those are the artists who to my ears come to mind most often), and that sound is more or less continued on "Life... And All It Entails". Ben Harris-Hayes strong voice and emotive delivery is a focal point in the music, but there are also instrumental sections, which are quite effectful featured on the album. It´s slow building and atmospheric music, and often mellow melancholic sections are followed by more massive layered and loud sections. Bass, guitars, drums, keyboards, strings, and vocals come together in epic style when the music reaches it´s climaxes.

It´s not the type of progressive rock/metal, which features longer instrumental parts with busy guitar/keyboard work, but instead the compositions are cleverly composed with layers of atmosphere enhancing sounds and effects. It´s quite sophisticated, and what I would characterize as "listening music". While the album does feature some heavy, metal oriented sections, it´s generally not a very metal oriented release. About half-way through the album the clean vocals begin to be complimented by blackened growls though, and those sections are naturally more in the metal mold (especially "For Your Glory, Great Deceiver" and "Singularites" are both quite heavy). Upon initial listens I was not convinced the growling vocals suited the music very well, but more spins have convinced me otherwise.

The quality of the material on the 13 track, 55:20 minutes long album is generally high, and the album features a good flow, where the tracks often seque into each other, to make the album feel like a concept release. I´m not 100% sure if it is though, but my guess would be that there is an overall concept through the album. "Life... And All It Entails" is a well produced album, featuring a warm, pleasant, and detailed sound production, which brings out the best in the material. So upon conclusion it´s a high quality release in most departments. When that is said the material could overall have been a bit more hook laden and prospered from it. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

 Poison Seed by LETHAL album cover Studio Album, 1996
2.91 | 3 ratings

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Poison Seed
Lethal Progressive Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Poison Seed" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Kentucky based progressive power metal act Lethal. The album was released through Massacre Records in 1996. Despite being formed as far back as 1982, Lethal´s output had been relatively sparse, and it took the band five years to release something new (the 1995 EP "Your Favorite God") after the release of their debut full-length studio album "Programmed" from 1990. "Poison Seed" being released only a year after "Your Favorite God (1995)" could have been a sign, that Lethal would increase their release cycle, but it ended up being the last studio recording by the band in their initial run.

"Programmed (1990)" was a high quality US power metal album with progressive leanings, and fans of artists like Queensr˙che, Fates Warning, Heir Apparent, and Crimson Glory should feel right at home with that one. "Your Favorite God (1995)" displayed a slightly more progressive contemporary heavy rock/metal sound, and that tendency is continued on "Poison Seed".

Although at the core the music on "Poison Seed" is still 80s oriented US power metal, Lethal have injected huge amounts of alternative heavy rock/metal elements to their sound, which ultimately makes it a bit of an odd combination of musical styles. Think what it would sound like if you combined the sound of Queensr˙che/Fates Warning with the sound of Soundgarden/Alice in Chains. It definitely could have been an interesting experiment, but it does end up sounding a bit directionless. It feels like the band are trying to hold on to their roots while adjusting to the contemporary musical climate, and in the end it sounds forced and calculated. Another issue here is that the songwriting is a bit uninspired and very few tracks stick after the album has finished playing.

...and it´s really too bad, because the elements for success are there in abundance. High level musicianship, a professional and detailed sound production, and musicians who are obviously capable of writing effectful music. They just hit the buttons wrong here. When that is said "Poison Seed" is still a quality release on many parameters and a 3 star (60%) rating may be in the low end if you take the positives into consideration, but the songwriting and the awkward mix of musical styles just don´t work and end up dragging the rating down.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

 Infinity Divine by PAGAN'S MIND album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.24 | 67 ratings

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Infinity Divine
Pagan's Mind Progressive Metal

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

4 stars Norway may have been the epicenter for the explosion of black metal in the 90s, but the small nation of only 5.3 million inhabitants has had more than its share of stellar progressive metal bands emerge from within its borders as well. Of course the biggest contenders are Enslaved, Arcturus, Ved Buens Ende and even Leprous but another band that formed in Skien was PAGAN'S MIND who followed in the footsteps of the American band Watchtower and crafted an interesting sound that added plenty of technical wizardry along with the more melodic elements of band's like Dream Theater, early Queensryche and even the power metal bombast of Helloween.

Formed by Nils K. Rue (vocals), Thorstein Aaby (guitars) and Stian Kristoffersen (drums) in the year 2000 from the ashes of Silverspoon, the trio successful scouted the cream of the crop Norwegian metal musicians lurking in those fjords and found J'rn Viggo Lofstad (guitars), Steinar Krokmo (bass) and Ronny Tegner (keyboards) and wasted no time releasing their debut album INFINITY DIVINE which came out in the same year. The album was a success commercially and critically but the band was unhappy with the results and thus a new version emerged in 2004 with certain tracks re-recorded, a new spruced up mixing job and even a couple bonus tracks including a new version of 'Embracing Fear' as well as a killer cover of King Diamond's classic 'At The Graves.'

I have to admit that i am unfamiliar with the original version as i own the 2004 re-release so all comments and my rating is based on that version. Basically PAGAN'S MIND delivers a more technical style of progressive power metal. On the power metal side of the equation, certain tracks clearly bring early Helloween to mind with those classic backbeat drumming techniques and power guitar riffs but some of the slower acoustic parts are more reminiscent of Crimson Glory as well as Nils Rue's powerful vocal performances. There are also moments where he sounds like Geoff Tate in the early US power metal phase of early Queensryche which places him in the top taken category for his wide power range that spans many octaves.

On the progressive metal side of the fence, PAGAN'S MIND clearly did their homework studying Watchtower's two landmark albums from the 80s and while not as angular and jittery, the band borrows some of the thrash riffs as well as some of the jazz-infused compositional elements that give it that advanced musician's feel. Add to that there are clear references to Dream Theater especially in the keyboard department with crazy lightning fast keyboard solos as well as spaced out atmospheric embellishments however even the riffing often reminds me of stylistic approaches on 'Awake.' With all the aforementioned styles, PAGAN'S MIND flawlessly delivers an incessant rampage of high quality prog power metal without missing a beat. The band also delivers a creative mix of riffing styles, drumming patterns and Rue's vocal prowess takes everything to a ridiculously high level of coolness as well as keeping things from stagnating with interesting guitar tones, creative uses of pauses and dynamics.

Not sure about the 2000 version of this but i can highly recommend the 2004 re-release as the production is warm and inviting and the musicianship is as good as it gets without sacrificing any creative juices from flowing. You can think of this as a more accessible form of Watchtower or a proggier mix of Helloween, Queensryche and Crimson Glory but no matter how you slice it, PAGAN'S MIND stands out as one of the more gifted bands in the legion of prog metal bands that emerged after the success of Dream Theater's 90s run. Another reason to hunt down the 2004 version is that the King Diamond cover 'At The Graves' is worth the price of admission alone as it matches and exceeds the fiery passion that the original delivered with extra technicalities introduced without sacrificing the emotional connection of the original. It's good enough to make the King himself bow down in humility. That good.

 A Light in The Dark by NEXT TO NONE album cover Studio Album, 2015
2.64 | 12 ratings

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A Light in The Dark
Next To None Progressive Metal

Review by Menswear
Prog Reviewer

1 stars Next to my recycling bin.

Remember when Tori Amos gave us an album done with her daughter and claimed it was her best one yet? No? Of course you don't remember, you didn't buy it. Remember when Sting toured with his son as his first act? No? Of course, nobody gave a rabbit's fart. Remember when Will Smith shoved us is son Jaden claiming he's the next big thing? No? Of course, you have better things to do than watch After Earth.

Well Mike Portnoy's son highjacked his father's kit from Awake, made a band and had Daddy produce it. You guessed it, it's not good. Soloing on and on and on does not make a song, screaming your tonsils out does not make singing and ripping off your dad's band ideas does not make an album. Everything you heard in here has been done 30 years ago, when it was innovative and fresh. It's not fresh anymore.

Boring and insipid, or maybe too inspired by daddy's work?

Don't pretend being Tom Hanks when you're Colin. People can see the diff'.

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