Pain of Salvation: The Perfect Element, Be - Daniel Gildenlöw & co.
have created too many masterpieces to list here, but these two albums have
always struck me as Pain of Salvation's finest achievements. The Perfect Element
(my all-time favorite album) is one of the most beautiful prog metal opuses out
there, and Be's symphonic prog-rock sound moves me even more with each new
listen. If there were an emergency on this "desert island" and I could only keep
2 albums from my list, it's these for sure.
Edge of Sanity: Crimson
- What's better than a 40 minute progressive death metal concept epic?
Apparently not much. This concept album from Sweden's Edge of Sanity stands as
Dan Swanö's finest achievement in his long and illustrious career, as well as
one of my all-time favorites.
Genesis: Foxtrot, Selling England By the
Pound, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway - The early period of Genesis
dominated my listening habits when I first got into progressive rock. I've heard
all of these albums countless times since I was around 10-11 years old, and none
of them have ever lost their luster on me. I'd even go a step further to say
that these classic masterpieces are still growing on me with every new spin...
and that's what defines "essential" for me.
Death: Symbolic, Human
- Before the legendary Chuck Schuldiner unfortunately lost his battle with brain
cancer, his band Death had pumped out some of the most essential extreme metal
masterpieces ever released. Human and Symbolic have always been my two
favorites, and still stand as some of my all-time favorite albums. Progressive
death metal doesn't get much better than this!
Burzum: Hvis Lyset Tar
Oss - Truly one of the most haunting black metal albums ever recorded, Varg
Vikernes' 1994 masterpiece still stands as one of the finest black metal/dark
ambient releases out there. Although certainly not a "pleasant" listen, Hvis
Lyset Tar Oss is one of my favorite albums to pull out on a cold, snowy day!
Yes: Close to the Edge - Yes' 1972 masterpiece stands as one of prog
rock's seminal statements, and an essential classic that every fan of the genre
has at least heard once. This one is also my favorite Yes album - the title
track alone makes it an easy 5 star album in my book!
Closing Chronicles - Swedish legend Dan Swanö is mainly known for his work
with Edge of Sanity and Bloodbath, but this obscure side-project really hit it
big with this 1996 effort. The goth-tinged neo-prog of this album still stands
as a highly unique and compositionally flawless masterwork.
Beatles: Abbey Road - Although I love most Beatles albums, 1969's Abbey Road
has always been my favorites from these legendary British rockers. Partially due
to sentimental reasons (this was one of the first albums I had the pleasure of
experiencing), but also because of its sheer genuineness and soul. There's a
good reason why this album is heralded as one of music's finest statements...
because it truly is!
Opeth: Still Life - In addition to being my
introduction to these Swedish progressive metal juggernauts, Still Life was also
the first extreme metal album I'd ever heard. Mikael Akerfeldt's powerful
growled vocals and angelic singing voice stuck with me, and the album almost
immediately struck me as a masterpiece. Despite hearing literally hundreds more
death metal albums since I first experienced this, Still Life still remains as
one of the best the genre has to offer. This is a timeless masterpiece that
hasn't even once lost its luster on me.
Dream Theater: Images and
Words, Scenes From a Memory - I love most Dream Theater albums dearly, but
Images & Words and Scenes From a Memory have largely remained unsurpassed in the
band's discography. Both are essential prog metal albums that I've listened to
countless times, and their historical significance is also undisputed. People
new to prog metal are very much advised to start with these classics!
Marillion: Script For a Jester's Tear, Misplaced Childhood, Clutching at Straws,
Brave - I'm one of those crazy guys who happens to adore both the Fish and
Hogarth-eras of Marillion, and I think both have crafted their fair share of
essential masterworks. I could've picked a wide variety of Marillion of albums
to fit this list (I can think of quite a few 5-star albums in their
discography), but these four are my personal favorites. The neo-prog classic
SFAJT, the pop-tinged Misplaced Childhood, the lyrically profound Clutching at
Straws, and the beautifully haunting Brave are all dear favorites of mine that I
couldn't live without.
Faith No More: Angel Dust - After the
(surprising) commercial success of The Real Thing, Faith No More returned with
one of their most unconventional and experimental albums in the form of Angel
Dust. This is a shocking, at-times disturbing, and flat-out weird rock album
that still remains as one of my all-time favorites.
- Arjen Lucassen has created some of modern prog's finest rock operas, and
01011001 is probably my favorite in his large catalog. Featuring a terrific
vocal cast, captivating concept, and some of his finest compositions to date,
this stands as one of prog metal's best offerings.
(A Rock Opera) - This epic heavy metal concept album is my favorite effort
from these American legends, as well as one of heavy metal's finest statements.
The tale of DT Jesus is stunning, to say the least, and executed wonderfully
through some of the most moving songs ever written.
Operation Mindcrime - Before Queensryche descended in mediocrity, they were
one of America's finest metal acts, and 1988's Operation: Mindcrime was their
defining statement. An ambitious concept album that opened the doors for the
coming wave of American progressive metal bands, this still stands as one of the
best rock operas in the prog metal genre.
Frank Zappa: Over-Nite
Sensation, We're Only In It For the Money, Absolutely Free - The late, great
Frank Zappa is one of rock music's most innovative and creative musicians, and
has created numerous masterpieces throughout his long and winding career.
Ranging from progressive rock to avant-garde, jazz fusion, classical, blues
rock, funk, psychedelic, and just about everything in-between, a few Frank Zappa
albums are mandatory on my Desert Island list.
Evergrey: In Search of
Truth - Sweden's Evergrey is one of the country's finest exports, and In
Search of Truth is often hailed as their magnum opus. Whether or not that is
true depends on the listener, but this tends to be my favorite album from the
band, as well as one of the greatest progressive power metal albums ever.
Neal Morse: Sola Scriptura, Testimony - I honestly could have put any
of Morse's solo albums on this list and still felt satisfied, but these two epic
concept albums are possibly his finest achievements thus far. The heavy-edged
Sola Scriptura and highly eclectic Testimony both fit the bill of "modern prog
Spock's Beard: Snow, V - Spock's Beard is one of
America's finest prog rock exports, and their last two releases before Neal
Morse's departure are probably my favorites. Snow's epic concept and V's pop/prog
prowess are both essential staples in my collection.
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son - Despite a catalog filled with classic
masterpieces, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son has always has been my favorite from
these British heavy metal legends. Filled with heavy riffs and irresistible rock
anthems, yet still maintaining a progressive and melodic edge, this 1988
masterpiece is one of the NWoBHM's finest achievements.
Thick as a Brick - This 1972 classic is well-known as "the mother of all
concept albums" - and rightfully so. As a double side-long epic containing
multiple time signature shifts and mood changes, Thick as a Brick is one of the
most quintessential prog rock albums of the 70's. It's also one of my personal
favorites, and an album I could spin constantly and never get tired of.
Pendragon: The Masquerade Overture - 1996's The Masquerade Overture is
Pendragon's crowning achievement in my opinion, serving as one of the greatest
albums spawned by the British neo-prog movement. Clive Nolan's lush keyboards
backed by expertly-crafted compositions make this album an excellent example of
what neo-prog sounds like when done right!