Roie Avin is the mastermind behind The Prog Report website as well Royal Avenue Media, where he's been working closely with label Inside Out Music for a number of years. Essential Modern Progressive Rock Albums: 1990-2016 is his brand new book which takes a look at some of the mandatory albums from the modern wave of progressive rock, which roughly started back in 1990. This book really is a first of its kind, seeing as there have been plenty of tomes released on the classic days of prog in the '70s, as well as some that have dipped into the '80s scene a bit, but none that have strictly focused on the last 25+ years.
Starting with Queensryche's Empire in 1990, Avin takes the reader through a host of essential albums that helped bring prog back into the spotlight, or, at least 'back from the dead' as some might say. Empire, Dream Theater's Images and Words, Fates Warning's Parallels, and King's X Faith Hope Love all kicked off the '90s and were each hugely successful or at least moderately so, pushing so many young bands who were kicking around the idea of moving from metal (in an age where grunge/alternative was becoming huge) to prog, or combining the two. Following in their footsteps, bands such as Enchant, The Flower Kings, Spock's Beard, Opeth, Pain of Salvation, Devon Townsend, Porcupine Tree, Ayreon, Riverside, and Haken, became quite popular, as well as supergroups such as Transatlantic, Liquid Tension Experiment, The Tangent, and Flying Colors also emerged, making plenty of waves as they generally featured members of many of these 'modern' prog acts. The author gives a summary of each album featured, along with some interview snippets with members of the bands discussing these releases, and plenty of color photographs. Old stalwarts from the '80s such as Marillion & IQ are given some love as well for notable '90s releases, though curiously no mention of Pendragon or Pallas at all, each of whom have had some very strong releases in the last 20 plus years.
Right there begins my one criticism of Essential Modern Progressive Rock Albums: 1990-2016; there are a lot of artists represented here multiple times, and many very popular & influential albums released in this time period that either are completely overlooked or given the briefest of mention. I will say that relegating Anglagard's Hybris and Echolyn's As the World to 'back of the book honorable mention paragraph' is a real miss, as both of those releases for many rank right up there alongside Spock's Beard's The Light and any of those early Dream Theater, The Flower Kings, and Enchant albums as a real 'kick in the pants' which helped restart the prog movement. Perhaps this was due to an inability to secure interview content? I don't know. Glass Hammer and Symphony X are also treated as somewhat of an afterthought. No mentions of Magellan, Shadow Gallery, Threshold, After Crying, Ozric Tentacles, Discipline, Iluvatar, and Arena, all of whom are arguably more important to the resurgence of progressive rock than acts such as Karnivool, Thank You Scientist, and The Dear Hunter. I get that Steven Wilson, Roine Stolt, Neal Morse, and Mike Portnoy have been involved in many drop dead classic prog releases in the last few decades, there's no argument there, but at times it feels like this book focuses on a select few artists over and over again, when other equally well deserving bands who have also released some stellar & influential albums might have been included to give this a more 'well rounded' picture of the last 27 years.
That being said, this is a gorgeously put together and well written book, one that you'll find a very easy and enjoyable read as well as one you'll want to show off to your friends and instigate some discussion. Roie Avin is clearly a huge fan of the genre and it shows in every sentence, and who better to put something together like this than a person who obviously has great passion for the music.
If you are a long time listener of legends such as Yes, King Crimson, ELP, Rush, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, and the like, and have never taken the plunge into some of the newer acts that have grabbed the reins of prog over the last 25+ years, read on and discover a whole new world of musical delights.