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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 are: (7/1/2022)
Kevin (Necroncommander)
Cristi
Sebastian (Kempokid)
Nick (nick_h_nz)
Brendan (Necrotica)

Progressive Metal Top Albums


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

4.30 | 3095 ratings
IMAGES AND WORDS
Dream Theater
4.30 | 3155 ratings
METROPOLIS PART 2 - SCENES FROM A MEMORY
Dream Theater
4.24 | 1809 ratings
SECOND LIFE SYNDROME
Riverside
4.24 | 1172 ratings
OPERATION: MINDCRIME
Queensrÿche
4.23 | 1257 ratings
REMEDY LANE
Pain Of Salvation
4.23 | 1314 ratings
THE PERFECT ELEMENT - PART 1
Pain Of Salvation
4.21 | 1374 ratings
ANNO DOMINI HIGH DEFINITION
Riverside
4.20 | 1226 ratings
THE HUMAN EQUATION
Ayreon
4.19 | 1252 ratings
OUT OF MYSELF
Riverside
4.16 | 2249 ratings
AWAKE
Dream Theater
4.16 | 2114 ratings
SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE
Dream Theater
4.45 | 67 ratings
STRANGERS
Scardust
4.14 | 772 ratings
V - THE NEW MYTHOLOGY SUITE
Symphony X
4.14 | 802 ratings
INTO THE ELECTRIC CASTLE
Ayreon
4.16 | 438 ratings
A PLEASANT SHADE OF GRAY
Fates Warning
4.28 | 120 ratings
THE TOWERS OF AVARICE
Zero Hour
4.15 | 410 ratings
THE ART OF NAVIGATING BY THE STARS
Sieges Even
4.13 | 630 ratings
THE DIVINE WINGS OF TRAGEDY
Symphony X
4.15 | 321 ratings
THE FULLNESS OF TIME
Redemption
4.13 | 451 ratings
PERFECT SYMMETRY
Fates Warning

Progressive Metal overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

PRINCIPLES OF TRANSFORMATION
Super String Theory
THE BUTCHER'S BALLROOM
Diablo Swing Orchestra
MANIFESTO FOR FUTURISM
Dali's Dilemma
DELUSIONS
To-Mera

Latest Progressive Metal Music Reviews


 Prodigal by AVANDRA album cover Studio Album, 2022
2.08 | 3 ratings

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Prodigal
Avandra Progressive Metal

Review by lukretio

2 stars Hailing from Puerto Rico, prog metallers Avandra released their 4th full-length Prodigal earlier this month, a timely concept album about the physical and psychological harm of war. The album is released via Dutch label Layered Reality Productions, which specializes in progressive rock and metal and includes in its rooster acts like Aeon Zen, Iris Divine and Threads of Fate. Avandra fit nicely among these bands as a purveyor of a modern expression of prog metal music, taking on board a wide range of influences from djent-infused prog (Haken) to classic progressive metal (Dream Theater), from extreme metal (Opeth) to languid post-rock (Anathema).

The extensive musical palette used in the songwriting is one of Prodigal's major strengths. The album feels fresh and varied, constantly shifting gear and alternating moments of fury and aggression with calmer, melodic soundscapes. There is also a good variation in form, with longer, multi-part epics interchanged with shorter, more compact tunes. Mastermind Christian Ayala, who here takes charge of guitars, synths and vocals, impresses with his articulate playing, shifting between atmospheric arpeggios, angular riffs and melodic leads, and using both cleans and growls throughout the album. Adrián Arroyo's performance is also noteworthy: his technical, busy drumming carries the music as much as Ayala's guitar and synth work. Meanwhile, Vikram Shankar (Redemption, Silent Skies) guests with a handful of synth solos, and so does singer David Fremberg (Andromeda) on the long-form epic "A Trace of Home".

Prodigal contains plenty of enthralling moments that made my ears perk ? be it an emotive solo, a hypnotic piano arpeggio, or a sudden, brutal sonic assault. However, Avandra struggle somewhat to ensure that these interesting snippets coalesce into compositions that stay compelling from start to finish. It's easy to lose focus as one goes through the album's 64 minutes. The songwriting is complex and the songs eschew verse/chorus structure and easy melodies that one could use as signposts during the listening experience. Instead, the soundscape is constantly changing, the melodies keep mutating, and there is a permanent sense of floating through the music, which is fascinating but at the same time also taxing. Even after multiple listens, I struggle to tell songs apart or to remember which cool snippet appeared in which track. Very few things stick and I systematically tend to like better the more compact pieces ("The Downpour", "In Träumen", "Facing an Armored Dreadnaught"), simply because I can more easily make sense of them.

My sense of disorientation is further aggrieved by the muddy production. All the instruments seem to emerge out of a sonic fog, sounding distant and hazy. The vocals (especially the cleans) suffer from the same problem. It feel likes everything has been crammed into a narrow sound space, to the detriment of clarity and detail. This is unfortunate because the complexity of the songwriting would need a "big" production, with plenty of nuance and punch, which is exactly the opposite of what we are given here. The weak production really holds the album back and contributes massively to the listening fatigue I experienced going through the LP.

Overall, it's hard for me not to feel mildly disappointed by Prodigal. Despite my best intentions (I am a big prog fan after all) and even if I invested quite a bit of time to listen to this album multiple times, I am walking away from this record with mixed feelings and a nagging sense of a band with a lot of talent that however has not yet been channeled into a fully satisfying product.

[Originally written for The Metal Archives]

 Screamnasium by O.R.K. album cover Studio Album, 2022
3.45 | 11 ratings

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Screamnasium
O.R.K. Progressive Metal

Review by alainPP

3 stars O.R.K. est une collaboration entre le chanteur LEF, le bassiste de PORCUPINE TREE, le guitariste de MART SUI TUBI et le batteur de KING CRIMSON. Ils ont pris comme référence le 'Thrak' proposant une fusion entre metal alternatif, math rock, un peu de pop psychédélique. Un super-groupe avec une voix typée, un 4e album inclassable, fort, avec un peu de PAIN OF SALVATION, PORCUPINE TREE, DEVIN TOWNSEND, SYSTEM OF A DOWN et SOUNDGARDEN et KING CRIMSON bien entendu pour le son spontané, intense, tonitruant plus près d'un rock alternatif que d'un rock prog de fait.

« As I Leave » voix haute et groove avant un déferlement grandiloquent, la batterie enfonçant le clou et le riff puis une nappe de synthés donnent un son très gras et inventif à la frontière métal prog et rock alternatif; voix à la SOUNDGARDEN ça c'est dit. « Unspoken Words » sur un air plus déjanté encore, folie PEARL JAM; les instruments montrent un entrain inédit, lourd, fort et prenant, bien rock. « Consequence » pour la mélodie avec Elisa en duo avec Lef où l'osmose suinte d'émotion, elle ayant donné sa voix pour le 'Django Unchained' de MORRICONE; la montée finale somptueuse, tout d'un hymne, d'une comptine chaude et envoûtante. « I Feel Wrong » toujours sur un rock endiablé avec cette fois un pied de nez sur l'oeuvre de Jeff BUCKLEY, je pense aussi à SOUNDGARDEN que j'écoutais durant les 90's lorsque le prog semblait disparaître à jamais. « Don`t Call Me A Joke » avec une structure des ALICE IN CHAINS pour le refrain, les ch?urs coupant l'air permettent d'insuffler une débauche d'énergie supplémentaire; bon pour l'instant on est quand même loin du prog métallique.

« Hope For The Ordinary » rend compte de la folie de ce groupe dès la première minute; break, voix chaude, froide, oxymore musical avec une mélodie western dégoulinante qui fait fondre; le break part enfin dans l'espace prog et fait penser à un titre bien plus long qu'il n'y paraît. « Deadly Bite » intro clavier, rythme syncopé latent; la voix de Lef se veut douce et criarde, ici sur Jeff BUCKLEY, le synthé se met en ciment musical jusqu'à la montée et ça devient crescendo rock métallique endiablé, pas prog mais progressiste, fort, nerveux. « Something Broke » avec une intro acoustique innovante laissant l'air bariolé dans la lignée d'un KING CRIMSON seconde génération; rythmé et inventif, dansant, bien foutu avec un groove percutant; break avec Pat qui tape pour une accalmie et ça repart, refrain fort tout en montée et un soli guitare trop rapide. « Lonely Crowd » intro mystérieuse piano cristallin et synthé planant; mélodie douce où Lef montre l'étendue de sa voix; ça monte d'un coup sur un titre langoureux et percutant, un peu de THE CULT pour l'air, la rythmique et l'intensité; AUDIOSLAVE en sourdine pour la voix et l'air. « Someone Waits » avec le violoncelle de Jo QUAIL pour le titre de 5 minutes, oui c'est court; Lef tire sa voix sur un air éloquent et dramatique; titre bourré de suavité jusqu'à la déclive progressive, enfin, avec mélange des voix, instruments et un malmstrom où le violoncelle tire la vedette jusqu'au final.

O.R.K. a sorti un très bon album de rock alternatif déjanté, mélange éclectique entre l'ombre et la lumière, un antidote contre le destin sinistre de notre monde avec des touches d'espoir. Un album progressiste avec le son d'aujourd'hui et de demain?, un son complexe, dansant et tapant dans la fourmilière prog, c'est déjà ça. J'ai lu post-prog, post-grunge, je dirai simplement O.R.K. avec de la belle musique sans tiroir, actuelle. Pour info l'artwork provient en partie du guitariste de TOOL proposant une mise en abyme de la mort sur la mort, comme une renaissance pour lutter contre cette folie de covid? Album dépuratif à vous de vous faire une idée mais vous ne resterez pas insensibles. (3.5)

 Be by PAIN OF SALVATION album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.09 | 931 ratings

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Be
Pain Of Salvation Progressive Metal

Review by Dapper~Blueberries

4 stars After a little break, I am back on my reviewing tendencies. So within my musical ventures I have found myself getting quite involved with the Progressive Metal scene, especially with newer bands out there, but never fully, head to toes, diving into more "classic" bands. Well I have decided to express my joys and wonder to such classic Prog Metal bands, like Voivod, Opeth, and maybe even a little bit of Symphony X. I think, though, there is no other band from the starting periods of Prog Metal like Pain Of Salvation. This Swedish band of merry misfits took me a while to get into, but after I did I have been really loving their very varied sound with albums like The Perfect Element Part 1 and In The Passing Light Of Day. But, while each album they try something new, on their 2004 release of Be, the band would get a lot more verbose in their ways and create an album filled with songs ranging from folk, jazz, musicals, and gospel.

I find myself seeing this as the band's turning point away from their harder structures as they venture to new, unseen territories here, and with it comes a mixed grab bag of some really solid material. What I most enjoy about this album is the huge cinematic focus the music brings. This album most particularly reminds me of Frances The Mute or The Clockwork Fable with each song having tiny moments in between giving leadway into this grand narrative. This album, in fact, feels like a big movie in some way, with the whole reality bending concept, and with it comes a new enjoyment for me as a whole. Each song feels like a new scene in this cinematic journey through god complexes, greed, religion, sex, and loss, resulting in a work that can be seen as a modern day Greek tragedy.

Musically, this is a very wide ranged sounding album, to both its benefits and its troubles. For its pleasures, I think the lack of any cohesive sound really makes this release way more interesting, and fun. You do not know what you might get on this record, and each song has something new to give and bring. I found myself loving the more musical ebb and flows like on Dea Pecuniae and Martius/Nauticus II. It really gives this a rewarding and expertly crafted experience for me since each song really does give you way more than you would expect.

However, to the album's detriment, with such a big narrative and a big idea, there are moments here that feel very fillery, and even some songs on here never quite hit the same mark as others. I find the more gospel and folk songs, while good in their own right, never get the same oomph for me as say Deus Nova or Nihil Morari. I can absolutely appreciate a very complex and varied album, but I think what makes Pain Of Salvation's sound so good is their energy and expression. That rough, dirty, and almost poisonous sound has always been a Pain Of Salvation staple, so with some tracks loosening the grip on that ideology, it makes this album feel very disjointed in presentation.

I think the best way to try and counteract this is probably to listen to the songs in the perspectives of the characters singing them, whether it is the lustful Mr Money, or the godly Animae. With the varying perspectives, it could help the odd effect this album brings.

I think though, this album is stronger than not. It reminds me of equally strong but wild rock operas, but there are so many out there that it's a little hard to say. I guess you gotta pick and choose then.

While not my favorite release these guys made, it does contain some of my favorite songs the band has released. It is big, grand, really different from anything they've released, and an album that, while in some cases disjointed, still feels really tightly knit in its presentation. Highly recommend giving this a listen, but only if you are into the more prestigious pose of more wild rock operas like The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway or Frances The Mute. A solid effort from a great Prog Metal band.

 Inmazes by VOLA album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.93 | 26 ratings

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Inmazes
Vola Progressive Metal

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Who says djent isn't prog? I STRONGLY disagree. Denmark's Vola demonstrates a refreshing album of progressive rock music by melding the keyboard techno-wizardry of the 1980s with an outstanding rhythm section of djenters who absolutely refuse to play anything in a straight time. Think TEARS FOR FEARS or DEPECHE MODE teaming with MESHUGGAH, TOOL, or PROGHMA-C and you'll have a pretty good image for the aural soundscapes these guys paint on Inmazes. The album starts out much more heavily, more djenty, and then starts to show more of the band's 80s synth-pop roots in the second half.

1. "The Same War" (5:19) opens with some truly abrasive industrial djent sound before opening up into a full-on TOOL-like onslaught. When the vocals of guitarist Asger Mygind enter I am immediately struck by the similarity of his tone and sense of melody to that of David Gahan of the 1980s New Wave band, DEPECHE MODE. I need to point out that throughout the album the work of the bass, drums, and djent guitar play is absolutely top notch and amazing. I love the unpredictable syncopated and multi-octave guitar melody at the four minute mark. (9/10)

2. "Stray the Skies" (4:13) opens rather melodically, hooking the listener in with the album's most haunting melody, before sliding into a very heavy, very djenty, almost abrasive A Section. The Chorus returns us to the opening melody and synth chords, but then the following section becomes even more sparsely djenty. Back and forth the music goes, start to finish. Awesome contrast! (9/10)

3. "Starburn" (6:05) opens with some spacey atmospherics joined by an electronic tuned percussion arpeggio before the djent crew brings down the wrecking ball. This one even incorporates some vocal growls/screams. The shift at 1:55 into the melodic and harmonic realm of 1980s New Wave is a bit incongruous and perhaps denotes the weakest moment/transition of the album--the only place where the djent-New Wave partnership might not work. The prolonged guitar djent chord play that plays out over the second half of the song is interesting but never really goes anywhere new or fresh. Unfortunately, this is the album's low point. The good news is: it is virtually its only one! (7/10)

4. "Owls" (5:51) opens with a prolonged TOOL-like drum, bass and guitar section. When the vocalist joins in the band once again tries to marry the melodic, almost syrupy New Wave vocals with the abrasive, syncopated and less-than predictable staccato of its djent rhythm section. Here it works pretty well. Early SIMPLE MINDS on steroids. (8/10)

5. "Your Mind as Helpless Dreamer" (5:21) opens with perhaps the most high energy, ambitious rhythms and pace. Fast-paced midi-ed keyboard chords join in (in a NEW ORDER kind of way) while the vocals are presented with a much heavier, more aggressive fashion--very similar to the wonderful sound and work of Australia's KARNIVOOL. This song is working and barreling along on all cylinders! (10/10)

6. The delicate and techno-edgy "Emily" (3:01) plays out like a very emotional Roland Orzabel (TEARS FOR FEARS) masterpiece--though it has strong DEPECHE MODE leanings, too. Beautiful song. (10/10)

7. "Gutter Moon" (3:55) opens with a treated (compressed) keyboard riff before spilling out with some rather restrained djenty-yet-fuzzy bass and guitars. The B section takes on more of a DREAM ACADEMY/PREFAB SPROUT feel and synth pop sound. Then the djent rhythm section comes out in almost full force as the melody, vocals and synth keys sustain their 1980s sound and feel. Nice, interesting song. (9/10)

8. "A Stare Without Eyes" (4:58) opens heavily, though compressed, before settling into a melody sounding very much like a DEPECHE MODE song, just heavier. The lead vocal starts out heavily treated before coming somewhat forward for the first chorus. By the second A Section all holds have been taken off of the vocal, the song remains heavy but still retains this familiar DEPECHE MODE feel to it--as if the Mode merely upped their angst and aggression and let it show in the treatments of their instruments. Not quite as catchy with melodies here, but a good song. (8/10)

9. "Feed the Creatures" (5:37) opens heavily before letting all abrasive sounds drop away in lieu of sustained organ chords and computer-pop noises acting as percussives to support the delicate Jonas Bjerre (MEW)-like vocals. The heavy chorus at the three minute mark followed by the delicate piano chords and gorgeous soft vocal over the heavier TEARS FOR FEARS-like electro-rhythms is brilliant! Amazing! Great song. GReat blend of sounds and technology of the 80s, 90s and 21st Century. (9/10)

10. "Inmazes" opens with an odd keyboard pulsing between two chords in a straight time before it is joined by fairly straightforward electric guitar playing a fairly dissonant and discordant arpeggio. The tension is enhanced when the full band joins in with its full heaviness and PORCUPINE TREE-like sound (think "Blackest Eyes") and odd time signature playing over the still audible, still pulsing odd keyboard of the opening. The vocals that ensue are very much in the vein of those of DEPECHE MODE's David Gahan or even NEW ORDER's Bernard Sumner. I like the long, even outro, too. Great song! (9/10)

A wonderfully refreshing album from a group of young Danes who are attempting something quite ambitious in their blend of New Wave techno-synth pop with TOOL/MESHUGGAH djent. The point is: They succeed! Wonderfully!

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

 Digital Noise Alliance by QUEENSRYCHE album cover Studio Album, 2022
3.53 | 18 ratings

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Digital Noise Alliance
Queensrÿche Progressive Metal

Review by alainPP

3 stars QUEENSR?CHE, who would have thought that I would chronicle them one day? Founded in 1981, 86 and an avant-garde 'Rage For Order', 88 and the ultimate metal-prog concept before its time; MAIDEN and FLOYD reunited with Geoff TATE and his operatic voice and name taken from their original hit-anthem 'Queen of the Reich'. Keyboards to denote basic heavy-metal, a more complex composition that will propel them to the face of the world. A separation from the singer, the soul of the group, procrastinated albums bringing nothing new and drowning fans in repetition; in short what about this 17th opus, the 4th with Todd with vocals speaking of the alliance against digital noise, having apparently a more marked progressive expression?

"In Extremis" his recognizable, voice à la IRON MAIDEN, yes Todd has this particularity while the original group precisely took up the compositions of the master group, singular; good rhythmic melodic metal, weighed with the prog tessitura, the sound, a bit of latency and the catchy guitar. "Chapters" Jackson on bass distills a heavy heavy rhythm with a chorus removed for stadium, just enough to regress a few decades; good and agreed with the solo which goes well in break. "Lost in Sorrow" wakes me up a bit; high voice and "Empire" sound, choppy, progressive, it's starting to interest me; the catchy guitar riff and 5 minutes that go by like a letter in the post, with no mail delay. "Sicdeth" more nervous, at least this album is not boring, which I feared; drawing inspiration from the sound of yesteryear and with that cool proggy metal touch; the sober break that arrives gives hope of a drift for a few moments, that's cool especially that "Behind the Walls" arrives as a chained title with this enjoyable, latent, almost symphonic intro; that's it, I feel like I'm diving back into "Operation" at this precise moment; his recent, more nervous, more 'Cadbury', my feet vibrate it's a good sign; it is especially that we are not dealing with an album mouth hole on the classic sounds; a synth in the background stamped prog metal smells good; variation of the voice, guitar excrescences, synth re-covering, the riff which holds in suspense and the final in crescendo with the crystalline guitars and this final synth which makes shiver, hop. "Nocturnal Light" tumbles and drives the point home: progressive latency by the voice, the rhythm, the architecture of the title built like a story; be careful, the station wagon is huge, everything is there to make you swoon; my speakers liked it, they even got me out of the dust of the 80s by pushing the volume.

"Out of the Black" for the 2nd side and an old-shool sound for a melodic title with a licked riff, voices and choirs as before and the solo which glides by itself; title à la MAIDEN à la PRIEST, à la LIZZY. "Forest" paf stop ballad; text on the pandemic, the loss of a loved one, melancholy harmony just right; warm, languorous voice and latent declination with a keyboard touch. "Realms" opening medieval riff, we wait for the horde of Huns coming with their swords; the guitar riff that squirts, the musical voice that follows the rhythm, all that I like or how to combine text and instruments; it goes up, it's nervous and melodic, epic and agreed all the same, you can't have very good all the time. "Hold On" goes on suddenly, jerky air, the drums raise the atmosphere; Todd comes in softly with Chris' vocals on the verse; it's 80's atmosphere on the other hand without much novelty we agree; the whirling break with this melodic, fruity guitar saves the title; boom sequence with "Tormentum" the title: intro hard riff speed à la SLAYER, sharp voice MAIDEN which sends; more choirs, the repetitive air and it starts very heavy, only the riff suggests that it will last; 3 minutes, a few thoughts, a voice-over, pads, an incisive guitar solo that searches for itself then leaves which of Mike and Michael will have the last word; the backing vocals return before Todd regains control aided by a decrescendo. "Rebel Yell (bonus track)" synths in front for Billy's limpid cover with guitars in the background, additional title for the pleasure of remembering, also a reminder that time flies too.

QUEENSR?CHE released a catchy, varied, dynamic and sometimes atmospheric album with metal fusion and advanced proggy; latent atmospheres are created and avoid falling into a redundant phase; an album that does not invent but brings up to date the progressive fusion of metal with the progressive current. Good quality album which could be more noticed if certain titles had explored these prog breaks more deeply.(3.5)

 Dividing Lines by THRESHOLD album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.03 | 23 ratings

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Dividing Lines
Threshold Progressive Metal

Review by lukretio

4 stars British prog metal masters Threshold are back with their 12th studio album Dividing Lines, released on November 18th via Nuclear Blast. This is their second LP after singer Glynn Morgan - who had already appeared on Threshold's sophomore album Psychedelicatessen in 1994 - made a return to the band's ranks, replacing Damian Wilson. The rest of the line-up is unchanged compared to the band's previous record Legends of the Shire. Karl Groom and Richard West lead the charge armed with guitar and keyboards, respectively. As usual, the pair penned much of the material included on the new record, although there are also notable contributions by Morgan, who injected fresh blood into the band's songwriting department (more on this later). The line-up is completed by Johanne James (drums) and Steve Anderson (bass), forming a time-tested rhythm section for nearly 20 years now.

The band presented Dividing Lines as the "darker, moodier brother" of Legends of the Shire and the description is quite accurate: while Legends was a sprawling, double-disc progressive rock tour-de-force, Dividing Lines marks a return to a heavier and more compact sound that has characterized much of the band's output in the new millenium. Prog rock aficionados need not worry, though: there is plenty of sophisticated progressive goodness running through the album's 64 minutes, including distinct references to the 1980s neo-prog sound of bands like Marillion and Arena. This is probably the aspect of Dividing Lines that I found most satisfying: the album is a masterwork of balance as heavy prog metal riffage and aggression are combined with lighter prog rock arrangements and soft, emotional melodies, masterfully interpreted by Morgan's expressive and resonant voice. The singer also contributed to the songwriting with a handful of tracks that hint towards modern metal influences (the faint growls emerging underneath the cleans in the chorus of "Let It Burn", the massive vocal hooks in "King of Nothing" and "Run"). These influences also emerge more generally in West's futuristic keyboard sound, in the crisp, vocal-driven production, and in the streamlined song structures that never stray far away from a simple verse-chorus form.

This was a surprise for me, as I tend to associate Threshold with a more traditionally progressive form of metal, in a similar camp as Ayreon / Star One, Queensrÿche or Fates Warning. To their credit, Threshold pull off this modernist spin majestically - and this comes from someone who is not a big fan of the modern metal fad in the first place. Threshold's secret weapon lies in the exceptional songwriting and arrangements. Simply put, Dividing Lines contains a handful of songs that can be considered career highlights for the band. "Hall of Echoes", "Let It Burn", "Run" and the long-form epic "Defence Condition" offer a mighty testament to Threshold's extraordinary ability to tread a fine line between complexity, heaviness, technical playing, and melodic accessibility. The hooks are absolutely exhilarating, but the songs also possess strong replay value thanks to the intelligent arrangements and interesting dynamics. I am particularly fond of the depth and subtlety in the arrangements, with keyboards and guitars playing off one another to create an ever-changing, multi-layered sonic background that ensures the music never feels monotonous or repetitive. The playing is also sublime, with strong solos by both Groom and West, plenty of powerful grooves by the rhythmic duo Anderson-James, and a superb performance by Glynn Morgan, who sounds like a man at the highest point in his career.

My only gripe with Dividing Lines is that the songwriting quality drops somewhat halfway through the album. The first four songs are excellent, but things start to fall through with the first long-form epic track included on the LP, "The Domino Effect": the melodies here feel slightly phoned-in and predictable, which makes the song seem longer than it actually is. The subsequent tracks "Complex" and "King of Nothing" also fail to leave a strong impression. Things start to look up again with "Lost Along the Way", although its very overt soft neo-prog influences are somewhat at odds with the more metallic nature of the rest of the album. Fortunately, Dividing Lines closes mightily strong with two of its best tracks, "Run" and "Defence Condition", whose magnificence makes me forget the somewhat pedestrian 25 minutes that preceded them.

Despite the slight mid-flight turbulence, Dividing Lines stands out as one of the best albums by the British progsters, as well as one of the most accomplished melodic prog metal releases of the year. The album may not break any new ground, but when the quality of the songwriting is as high as on some of the tracks included here, it would be foolish to complain. Album after album, Threshold continue to perfect their special blend of melodic power metal and progressive rock, and on Dividing Lines they have found a way of expression that is at times utterly breath-taking. The album is the sound of a band riding a creative peak at the height of their compositional powers: if you are a prog metal fan, you'd be a fool not to ride along.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

 Ominous by LAKE OF TEARS album cover Studio Album, 2021
2.33 | 8 ratings

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Ominous
Lake Of Tears Progressive Metal

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Now definitively transformed into a solo project, Daniel Brennare released this new album called "Ominous" under the name of Lake of Tears.

If the previous and disappointing "Illwill" delved into the more metal sounds of the project, "Ominous" turns out to be much darker, with numerous passages that delve into doom metal and gothic metal, leaving even more aside psychedelia and influences from the 70s that made famous records like "Forever Autumn" and "The Neonai".

It's possible that being diagnosed with chronic leukemia influenced Brennare's mood at the time of writing the record and that's why it's so depressing, but what's clear is that it makes for difficult and oppressive listening. And this would not be bad, if it were not also very boring.

So I could only recommend this album to absolute fans of Daniel Brennare who can connect with the shadows cast by this "Ominous". Unfortunately, I haven't connected with this proposal, and I don't think I'll listen to this record again.

Best Tracks: At the Destination (recovers some of the style that made Lake of Tears famous) and Ominous One (the best song on the album, in the vein of what was "Illwill" and which partly recovers the rhythm and those good vocal melodies from the past)

My Rating: **

 The Final Experiment by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.40 | 347 ratings

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The Final Experiment
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by sgtpepper

3 stars I consider the debut album by Ayreon to be something of a breakthrough in the progressive metal category: The level of majesty, classical music inspiration married with tons of modern synths, great cast of vocals and last but not least, ambitious sci-fi concept topics. All this called - metal opera.

The debut album has a surprising name "The final experiment" which should however not be linked to the status of music on it.

The vocalists on this album aren't as top-rated as it would appear on further releases but that doesn't mean that vocal performance isn't one of the top elements to be heard. There is a variety of sounds, motives and moods with some excellent melodies. I don't care about anything beyond music so whatever lyrics or topics are addressed.

You may be blown away when it's your first Ayreon album; however future releases have better instrumental execution and better songwriting. As each modern rock opera, it is fascinating how many different styles can be melted together, we have for example a folky minstrel followed by an anthemic "Sail away to Avalon" where bass synths but also elaborate guitar arrangements with excellent female/male vocals please many fans.

I rate this album with 3.5 stars - it is a really mature debut album and its level of complexity, sound quality is above a common progressive metal album.

 Illwill by LAKE OF TEARS album cover Studio Album, 2011
2.28 | 19 ratings

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Illwill
Lake Of Tears Progressive Metal

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

2 stars After the drop in quality suffered in "Moons and Mushrooms" (despite being a good album), which still followed the progressive retro-gothic path of their four previous albums, Lake of Tears decided to turn their career around with this "Illwill ".

With the excellent guitarist Magnus Sahlgren unfortunately out of the band, Daniel Brennare decided to return to the purely heavy roots of his first albums, resulting in a truly monotonous record, which delves into gothic metal almost completely leaving aside the excellent keyboard arrangements and the psychedelic touches that suited his previous albums so well.

So, in my opinion this album was a step in the wrong direction that not only didn't win new fans for Lake of Tears, but alienated existing ones.

After this, it would take ten years to release a new album, which I still haven't heard. I hope it's better than this clearly failed "Illwill"!

Best Tracks: House of the Setting Sun (recovers the dark and melancholy tones of songs like To Blossom Blue), Behind the Green Door (now we're talking! The best track of "Illwill", and the only one which retrieves some of the lost magic from the past) and Out of Control ( a short and effective one. Good guitar riffs, and a great solo)

My Rating: **

 Headstones by LAKE OF TEARS album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.99 | 32 ratings

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Headstones
Lake Of Tears Progressive Metal

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

4 stars "Headstones" was a big step forward for Lake of Tears!

We still have a gothic rock with doom and stoner touches, but the psychedelic and progressive influences are increased with respect to the much more primitive "Greater Art", obtaining a sound much closer to the current Lake of Tears, but without reaching the level of mastery that would come with the later "A Crimson Cosmos".

However, it is a very enjoyable album, varied, with an excellent compositional level and that offers a perfect bridge between the most primitive stage of the group and its mature years.

Best Tracks: A Foreign Road (strong Black Sabbath influences), Headstones (intense and dramatic), Twilight (incredible keyboard interlude) and The Path of the Gods (second part of the song Upon the Highest Mountain from their first album, result in a 13 minute track which is definitely one of the reasons why this band is on ProgArchives under the progressive metal tag)

My Rating: ****

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