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Posted on Sunday, July 11 2010 @ 20:13:10 CDT by Duncan Glenday
Progressive Rock


• Porcupine Tree : In Absentia – One of the most diverse albums I've ever heard (I wrote an analysis paper on it in college). It will always be PT's masterpiece, combining King Crimson heaviness with incredible songwriting and dynamics. "Collapse the Light…" is a magnificent track and "Heartattack in a Layby" brings me to tears. It's pure genius and PT is, overall, my favorite band.

• Opeth : Still Life & Damnation – My two favorites, easily. Damnation was my introduction, and its forty minutes of perfected melodies and Camel-influenced music prove how beautiful music can be. Still Life is the crowning achievement of progressive death metal. Its story is of Shakespearean quality and it just flows wonderfully. Every second is memorable and the band themselves cite it as their most complex release. Stunning.

• Devin Townsend : Synchestra – As clichιd as it sounds, this album changed my life. It changed how I listened, understood and analyzed music. It moves like one giant journey into the mind of an eccentric musical genius. So many different styles and ideas, and Devin's "wall of sound" production is amazing. Townsend is the new Zappa : a visionary who creates for the sake of his art. I love all his stuff, but this will always be my favorite.

• Spock's Beard : Snow – Essentially the band's Lamb Lies Down, I actually prefer this work to the conceptual prog albums of the first tier bands. The band is at the top of their game with an emotionally crushing story (albeit a bit too religious for my tastes), incredible musicianship and affective songwriting. The Gentle Giant vocal layering at the end of "Devil's Got My Throat" is among my favorite musical moments ever.

• Anathema : We're Here Because We're Here – Although it's only been around a few months, this album is already one of my favorites of all time. Be it the production of Steven Wilson or just better ... everything, this is a masterpiece. Anathema has essentially welcomed us to Heaven with beautiful melodies and harmonies, a bit of orchestral production and poignant lyrics. It has become a gift to my life. Just read my review for more praise!

• Ayreon : The Human Equation & 01011001 – Arjen Lucassen's two more recent prog rock operas are his best. While The Human Equation is probably superior overall, 01011001 just has too many great moments. They are both magnum opuses. Lucassen is the new Allan Parsons, assembling famous prog singers and musicians to tell his wonderful tales. Not a day goes by these albums aren't playing in my head, and I can't wait to interview him soon.

• Jethro Tull : Thick as a Brick & A Passion Play – Contrary to popular opinion, I think A Passion Play is the better piece. Both albums instigated my passion for Progressive Rock, and they still astound me with their genius a decade later. Anderson and Co. have included the plots of poetic hoax and existential purgatory into approximately 45 minutes of incredible music and melody. They're pretentious and ridiculous but oh so magnificent. Hell, I even like "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles."

• Mastodon : Crack the Skye – I'd never heard the band before, but one drunken night in College, my friend put this on and I instantly loved it. It's one of those albums I listened to endlessly the week after, and for which I couldn't wait to write a review. Mastodon included more Middle Eastern, prog and psychedelic influences while toning down the screaming and double bass drums. It was a formula for greatness.

• Echolyn : Mei – One of the best Neo-prog bands gives us their most accomplished work. It does justice to the influence of Jethro Tull's album long pieces, flowing smoothly and majestically. It's an album that instantly cheers me up when I'm down and is the musical version of a utopia.

• Genesis : The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway – As influential as it was odd, Genesis' masterpiece before Gabriel departed is my favorite album by my favorite 70s prog band. Honestly, the story makes no sense, but the uniqueness of the music (thanks in part to Brian Eno) and the involving lyrics make it great. "Hairless Heart" is beauty in its simplest form.

• Camel : The Snow Goose – I've actually never listened to any other Camel album because I always want to listen to this one. It was my first exposure and pretty much prevents all others (but I'm sure I'll hear more as time goes on). It's a great thrill to hear where some of Opeth's sound comes from, and Camel's mellow approach to prog focuses on melodic instrumentals instead of technical wizardry. A pure delight.

• Dream Theater : Scenes From A Memory – I honestly don't see how anyone can prefer any other DT album over this one (though I love Dream Theater, don't get me wrong). Its story is brilliant (and, contrary to most, totally understandable) and the music never sacrifices melody and meaning for complexity and "showing off" (which isn't true for latter Dream Theater). The songwriting (which I never thought was one of DT's strong elements) is fantastic and very emotional. It's a masterpiece and the way it recalls parts of Metropolis from Images and Words is awesome.

• Pain of Salvation : The Perfect Element Pt. 1 – Pain of Salvation's best album and definitely superior to its sequel (Scarsick). Pain of Salvation is a much simpler and less unique band now, but they began as a truly original act, clearly a different beast than most Prog Metal acts (who only emulate Dream Theater). Pain of Salvation were always masterful songwriters, interweaving different melodies, and they never did it better than on their third album. I love it.

• Riverside : The Reality Dream trilogy – If forced to choose, Second Life Syndrome is probably my favorite, but all three are phenomenal and the trilogy deserves to be treated as a whole piece. While Riverside clearly draw influence from Porcupine Tree (too clearly at times), they venture into more complex instrumental passages and have gradually developed their own sound. While they don't change timbres very often (the guitarist plays almost the same solo each time), they are perfect for the emotions Riverside want to express. These albums just won't get out of my psyche.

Hits: 3448

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