prog

Beardfish is one of those prog bands that has gotten loads of priase during the course of their career, and again upon the release of their previous album, "The Void". While they are critically acclaimed as one of the leading purveyors of modern prog, I was less than enthused by that album. When I reviewed "The Void", I found it a needlessly dark and uninviting listen, the kind of album that does little to pursuade the listener to keep listening. Compared to what had been a strong crop of other prog albums, Beardfish was low on my totem pole of modern prog.

Coming off the greatest year I can ever recall, where he put out the epic masterpiece “Kaleidoscope” with Transatlantic, a brilliant solo album in “Songs From November”, and another great Flying Colors album, there was the inevitable question of what was to come next for Neal Morse.  The last five years or so, he has been on such an incredible roll that it's hard to fathom the amount of amazing music he has been responsible for.  My shelves are filling with his albums, as it seems everything Neal touches turns to gold.

As the resident prog guy here, there are certain things I am remiss to admit. One of them, germane to this review, is that I have never given much attention to Pain Of Salvation, despite their status as one of the bigger names in modern progressive metal. I can't say why that is, because I don't have a good answer. I have known about them for quite some time, but the most connection I have had with them is the fact that band leader Daniel Gildenlow is the (sometimes) uncredited fifth member of my favorite prog band, Transatlantic.

It’s not all that often that I go deep-ending into prog records, and even less often that I’m interested in three-song re-mastered demos from seven years ago.  But it probably says something about Haken’s “Restoration” that we’re even here having this discussion.

 

Every so often, there comes along a record that reminds us that music is more than a mere commodity, that it can stand for something and make a real difference in people's lives. That usually takes the form of social commentary, or deeply emotional songs that buttress people in their darkest moments, but there's a small collection of music out there that has been made for the purposes of giving back. These are the sorts of things we should celebrate more often, instead of the latest veteran band going through the motions simply to prime the money pumps.

The world of progressive metal is pretty insular, so when a band makes a splash, it's hard not to hear about it. Vangough was able to do that with their first two albums, the acclaimed “Manikin Parade” and “Kingdom Of Ruin”, albums I must say I never got around to checking out as fully as I should have. I heard the praise coming from all corners, but for whatever reason, I never managed to hear more than a song or two at a time. Album number three is now upon us, once again attracting a flurry of critical adulation, and this time I'm not going to let the band pass me by again.

Rare is the occasion when a 'supergroup' lives up to the hype. Most of the time, they wind up being a collection of pieces that don't really fit together, cobbling together music that can be very good, but never matches the expectations we have built up. Transatlantic is one of those supergroups that obliterates the doubts I have over such projects. After a debut that showed promise, but was a band obviously finding their way, they released back-to-back modern classics in the form of “Bridge Across Forever” (my favorite prog album of all time), and the immense “The Whirlwind”.

As the resident prog guy here, it's a bit surprising that this is my first experience immersing myself in a full Ayreon album. Arjen Anthony Lucassen's project has sprawled through a series of double albums, amassing some of the greatest talent in the rock and metal world, and giving him standing as one of the biggest figures in all of progressive music. This time around, after the ending of the original storyline and a hiatus for other projects, Ayreon returns with a new story, and a new focus.

Dream Theater's new album is one that I can't help but judge with unrealistic expectations. Their previous album, "A Dramatic Turn Of Events", was not just an amazing album, or the best album in the band's storied history, it was so much the perfect encapsulation of what I think progressive metal to be that it has risen to the point where I call it my favorite progressive metal album of all time. It's high praise, to be sure, but every time I listen to that record, I'm amazed by how the band can take such technically demanding material and mix it with some truly glorious vocal melodies.

The bedrock of progressive metal as we know it is built upon two bands; Dream Theater and Fates Warning. With apologies to fans of Queensryche, it's the truth. No bands have been more instrumental in the development, propagation, and flourishing of progressive metal than those two standard-bearers. While Dream Theater has been earning accolades, and racking up bigger sales and a higher profile through the years, Fates Warning has faded into the background. After their landmark “A Pleasant Shade Of Grey”, Fates Warning has been the forgotten legend of progressive metal.