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What Is Progressive Metal?

By

Dream Theater

Dream Theater

Roadrunner Records
Progressive metal has its roots in the progressive rock movement of the '70s. In the mid 1980s, bands began to take the basics of progressive rock and add in a heavy metal sound to the equation, forming a new style of progressive music.

Progressive metal became huge in the early '90s, with Queensrÿche and Dream Theater having several hit singles that were played regularly on MTV. Since that time, the genre has expanded to include death metal, jazz, and classical elements. Bands have forged their own identities mixing these new elements with what the early pioneers of the genre brought to the table.

Musical Style:

Progressive metal is heavy on technically-sound guitar playing, frequent use of keyboards and complex signature time changes, especially in the drumming department. Bands tend to create a balance between melody and pure aggression. Many bands in the genre play longer songs, some extending over the half-hour mark.

Vocal Style:

Vocals are high-pitched and clearly recognizable. Falsettos, high notes, and operatic/theatrical singing are the norm. However, some bands, like Opeth and Cynic, use growls and screams, in the style of death metal.

Progressive Metal Pioneers:

Dream Theater
Dream Theater hit it big with 1992’s Images and Words, behind the single “Pull Me Under.” The band was highly skilled with their instruments, even in the early stages of their career, and their songwriting was top-notch. Fans enjoyed their modern twist on the classic progressive rock sound. Dream Theater would build up a large fan base and continue to grow off the success of Images and Words.

Fates Warning
The heaviest of the three pioneers of the genre, Fates Warning took a heavier approach to progressive rock, stripping it down to the bare essentials. 1988’s No Exit would be the album that showcased the band at their most progressive, with the 20-minute epic “The Ivory Gates Of Dreams” being the band’s magnum opus at the time of its release.

Queensrÿche
Queensrÿche’s third album, 1988’s Operation: Mindcrime, is considered one of the finest concept albums in progressive metal. Leaning towards the progressive side, Queensrÿche’s songs were catchy and upbeat, yet had an edge to them that gave them the extra kick to please fans of the metal side of the genre.

Recommended Progressive Metal CDs:

Dream Theater - Awake
Queensrÿche - Operation: Mindcrime
Fates Warning - No Exit
Opeth - Blackwater Park
Pain Of Salvation - Entropia
King’s X - Faith, Hope, Love
Symphony X - The Divine Wings Of Tragedy
Spock’s Beard - V
Tiamat - Wildhoney
Between the Buried and Me - Colors
Ocean Machine - Biotech

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