DESERT ISLAND CDS :
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.
: 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.