Monday, August 31, 2015

Heavy Metal Monday: The March of Progress

Cover art for Threshold's album March of Progress.

Progressive Metal has nothing to do with political progressivism. More often than not, Progressive Metal bands are anything but politically progressive. The "Progressive" in Progressive Metal is referring to the fusing of the Heavy Metal with experimental and even avant garde instrumentation. Progressive Metal often incorporates elements of classical music and even jazz.

Progressive Metal was one of the earliest sub-genres of Heavy Metal music, originating in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s when Progressive Rock bands such as King Crimson, Uriah Heep and High Tide incorporated elements of Heavy Metal into their music. Heavy Metal band Crimson Glory did the opposite in 1979 and incorporated Progressive Rock into Heavy Metal. Queensrÿche and Fates Warning formed in 1982 and Dream Theater followed three years later. By 1986, these bands became the Prog-Metal equivalent to Thrash Metal's "Big Four."

Much like the instrumentation, the lyrical themes of Progressive Metal tend to be more complex, requiring and encouraging thought, and many Prog-Metal bands produce concept albums. Because of this, most Prog-Metal bands tend to favor clear and even tenor vocalists.

The Big Four

Crimson Glory

Crimson Glory was the first Progressive Metal band. Formed in 1979, the band did not release their first album until 1986, but. Despite this, they set the standard and brought the other three major bands to fame. The band has disbanded and reformed multiple times over the past 30 years.

Dream Theater

Dream Theater is the band most people think of when they hear "Progressive Metal," and a band that many Heavy Metal bands -- even non-progressive metallers -- cite as an influence. Where Crimson Glory set the standard, Dream Theater became the influence, both lyrically and instrumentally. The band formed in 1982 under the name Majesty, but another band by the same name threatened to sue in 1986 and they changed their name to Dream Theater.

Fates Warning

Fates Warning did not originally start out as a Progressive Metal band. They start out by adopting the sound from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and Power Metal, but changed to Progressive Metal in 1986 with the album Awaken the Guardian, after a lineup change. Of the Big Four, Fates Warning has the lowest profile and the most varied in its style.




Queensrÿche is almost as iconic as Dream Theater. The band formed in 1982 in Bellvue Washington and became famous for the concept album Operation Mindcrime, a concept album about a recovering drug addict who becomes fed up with the corruption around him and is manipulated into becoming an assassin for a political group. The band has split into two groups with the same name, one of them with vocalist Geoff Tate.

Other Bands 


Threshold is a British Progressive Metal band that was formed in 1988 as a cover band, playing songs by Ratt and Testament. Gradually they began to produce their own songs and in 1993 released Wounded Land. Even by Prog-Metal standards, this band is deeply intellectual, singing some of the most thought provoking lyrics of any type of music.

Symphony X

Symphony X was formed in 1994. The band has had -- until the past three albums -- a strong classical element. More recently they have trended toward a speedy, even lightly thrashy sound, but the most recent album, Underworld, re-incorporates some of their earlier sound. Most Symphony X albums have songs joined by theme, but are not always full suites (stories) like most other concept albums.


  1. Hey SOL :-). How you doing?

    Hope all is well or at least as good as as it can be.


    1. Hi Irish :)

      I am doing okay. I have been meaning to get back to blogging. I was going to follow this one up with one on NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) since Iron Maiden released a new album recently, and I have a lot of my music library dedicated to Saxon (My favorite NWOBHM band). But I just did not find the motivation at the time. I will still do a NWOBHM post, and I have other things I want to post now. Thanks :)

    2. Good to hear that youre ok. I understand about the "motivation" thing.. it ain't easy sometimes.

      There is more to life than the blogs :)