Monday, 13 May 2013

The 10 Most Unique Prog Metal Bands

One thing I have always noticed is that in the progressive metal genre a lot of bands seem to sound similar to one and other, which seems extremely contradictory to the idea of the music being called progressive when it's not really progressing all that much. I decided to go through every prog metal band I have on my computer and create a list of the 10 most unique prog metal bands to this date, that I am aware of.
One thing I will ask right off the bat is that if you don't see a band on this list you think should be on here, say so in the comments. Chances are I either had my reasons or I was not aware of that band, either way speak up because it may make me take a second look at the list and maybe discover some great bands.

So, without further adieu, here is number 10... Dream Theater

I know there are a lot of people that will argue with this decision because Dream Theater has a lot of die-hard fans that think that they are gods, which is great for them. Looking at the band, they made the list because when they started they were fairly original and not many bands came close to sounding like them at the time. The reason they are in the lowest spot on the list is that, despite being original when they started, there are more Dream Theater clones out there than there are anything else in the genre. In the end they really were the ones that broke through out of the early prog metal bands, but they are not the most unique sounding band today and, honestly, they did not create the genre nor were they the most unique prog metal band when they started (that honor goes to a couple of bands that are higher up on the list).

Number 9 has been described as the offspring of Opeth and Tool, but are so much more... Riverside

With their debut album, this Polish band really showed their versatility and all of their releases sound a little different from the last. They may sound like Opeth meets Tool but there is something else there... something about the atmosphere of each song (which is the most evident in their second full-length Second Life Syndrome) that makes this band unique. Because they do sound like a few other bands, they are not very high on this list but they certainly made the list because there aren't many bands that can produce unique music in this day and age. The song Second Life Syndrome basically sums them up perfectly, one part is more mellow and soft, one is heavier and one is instrumental.

The 8th most unique prog metal band is one of the pioneering bands of the genre... Fates Warning

Like Dream Theater, Fates Warning made the list because when they started they were a very unique sounding band (ignoring the debut/demo Night On Broken) that helped to pioneer the genre. In this case they are lower on the list because many of their albums are not very unique sounding, even when considering the time periods. I love Fates Warning, they are by far my favorite band, but the albums that they created that are unique are really just Spectre Within, Awaken The Guardian, Perfect Symmetry and Inside Out. Though, parts of Perfect Symmetry and Spectre Within sound similar to what other bands were playing. Now the reason that Fates Warning is higher than Dream Theater (because lets face it, some people may still be stuck on that fact) is simply Awaken The Guardian: it was/is one of the most unique albums in music period, and it was one of the earlier prog metal albums predating Operation Mindcrime by 2 years and being released while Dream Theater was only around for about 2 years (I don't remember if they were still Majesty at that point). It is impossible to ignore the significance of this band, but ultimately a fair portion of their albums are not unique enough to propel them higher on this list.

For those expecting another pioneer of the genre, you'll have to wait a bit. Number 7 is a newer band... Appearance of Nothing

With 2 full-lengths under their belt and another one coming this band has quickly impressed me. I actually decided upon this band over To-Mera for this list because I felt the unique approach to the compositions and instrumentation along with the combination of growls and clean vocals made them a better choice (To-Mera would be listed as number 11 or 12 if this list was longer). They may be less popular than the other bands on this list, but with music like this that may change... and hopefully soon.

It had to happen eventually, number 6 is... Mastodon

There really aren't many bands like Mastodon, they combine many different sounds and they have reached a respectable amount of popularity with some quality releases. I actually caught them with Opeth on the Heritage/Hunter tour and my only complaint was that they didn't take a break between songs to interact with the audience, but that probably saved enough time for an extra song or 2. The reason they are not higher is a matter of timing... as a relatively newer band in the genre, they came in after many (and I mean many) paths were taken in regards to prog in general. In 10 to 20 years who knows, maybe they will have a bigger impact on the genre and will deserve to jump up higher on this list. For now we'll say they are number 6 and climbing (number 7 is in the same boat to, but these guys will probably climb faster).

Number 5 once said the difference between themselves and Dream Theater was that they met on the road and not in a college... Psychotic Waltz

Who could forget the great underground progressive hippie metal band from San Diego. From their earliest demos to Bleeding (and hopefully soon a new album), they have created some very memorable and odd prog metal. They are up here because I can't think of how to describe that style of playing/composing other than to say it's in the style of Psychotic Waltz, not to mention how unique the singing was at the time.

I mentioned them a little earlier in this list and here is number 4... Opeth

There was no way they wouldn't make the top 5 at least. They took death metal / deathcore and added clean vocal passages, intricate acoustic passages, complex electric parts, eventually some great keyboard parts and the songs still flow beautifully. Each album always sounds different from the last and, whether good or bad, they still always sound like Opeth.

Getting into the top 3 will undoubtedly create some conflict (if I haven't already) between the opinions of you all and me. Number 3 is... Pain of Savation

This is a band that has produced concept album after concept album after concept album, and have taken the less traveled road in the genre and the record from a few years ago reminded me of the blues a bit. Despite all the uniqueness to each album/song, the band have always written music (and lyrics) that have genuine emotion in them. I always point out The Perfect Element pt. 1 to prove that point the first 3 songs are all filled with emotion but still have great music and that's not something that happens everyday.

Number 2 is... Cynic

There was no way I'd ignore this band, they may only have 2 full-lengths but they are both phenomenal. The first release in 1993 (I think) I can only describe as completely different and groundbreaking for the time and no less then that today. I'm not kidding when I say that this and number 1 are two bands I shouldn't have to justify at all, I feel they are clear decisions for obvious reasons.

Now, number 1 takes the top spot because they were a flagship band for the genre, forming a couple years before fellow pioneers Fates Warning and Dream Theater and still sounding as unique now as they did years ago... Watchtower

They were one of the earliest bands in prog metal and took an approach that was truly progressive, and that's all that really needs to be said.

I will be doing a lot with prog metal in the future so you can look forward to that (or look forward to telling me I'm wrong).

1 comment:

  1. I know I didn't mention Shadow Gallery, they would have made a top 15 list if I'd done that.