The 10 Best Prog-Metal Bands

Dream Theater
Dream Theater

Progressive metal, unlike other subgenres, borrows heavily from hard rock, classical rock, and early heavy-metal influences. Although several of the bands on this list might not technically be considered metal, we group hard rock and metal under the same umbrella for the sake of clarity. Progressive metal (prog metal, for short) is less about brutality and speed, as is the case with extreme metal or thrash. And the focus is not so much on evil or satanic themes, like black metal. Instead, listeners can hear everything from classical music, symphonic metal, speed metal, power metal, and traditional heavy metal in many prog-metal bands. The focus in this subgenre has always been on the proficiency of the musicians, epic songwriting, and sounds that aren't neatly categorized into only one type of metal. As this list will show, even extreme-metal bands can lean more toward the prog side. We now present our list of the 10 Best Progressive Metal/Hard Rock bands. See also: Ten Metal Albums to Hear Before You Die

10. X Japan

Although they remain something of a cult band in America, X Japan are one of the most successful metal/hard-rock bands to emerge from Japan, and have sold millions of records worldwide, mostly in Asia, Europe, and South America, after the success of their second album,

Blue Blood

(1989). The band formed three decades ago, and initially were a power-/speed-metal outfit with a sound heavily based on the New Wave of British heavy-metal bands. But eventually more influences of glam, classical music, symphonic metal, hard rock, and prog rock were added, as well as more ballads. Most of the band's lyrics are in Japanese, but over the years some English has been added. The band is still going strong today, touring and making records. X Japan were also featured in the documentary

Global Metal

, and have been praised in interviews by former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman.

9. Cynic

Although Cynic come from the late-'80s Florida death metal scene, they stood apart from bands like Cannibal Corpse and Malevolent Creation. More thrash than death at first, the band later evolved to create a more avant-garde/progressive style of extreme metal. Founded in 1987 in Miami, the band currently features guitarist/vocalist Paul Masvidal, drummer Sean Reinert, and bass player Sean Malone. The band's first album,


(1993), is considered to be a staple in the genre of progressive death metal, and showed that Cynic were well ahead of their time. Following a lengthy hiatus, from 1994 to roughly 2006, the band decided to make a comeback and record two full albums,

Traced in Air

(2008) and, most recently,

Kindly Bent to Free Us

, from earlier this year. The band's unconventional mix of jazz fusion, experimental noise, hard rock, and extreme metal has paved the way for such bands as Intronaut, Between the Buried and Me, Ghost, Gojira, and many more.

>8. Symphony X

Hailing from New Jersey, Symphony X formed in 1994, the band employing heavy doses of Iron Maiden along with symphonic elements, classical music, and progressive rock. With an epic, dense sound layered with hard-rock percussion, keyboards and piano, and walls of bass and melodic, distorted guitar riffs, the band has recorded nine studio albums and continues to work on new music and tour to this day.

7. Opeth

When Opeth formed in 1990, they were in the middle of a black-metal scene devoted to satanism, church burnings, and violence. They were dark, but were more interested in the sounds of King Crimson, Deep Purple, and guitarist Uli Jon Roth than that of Venom, Bathory, or Mayhem. Guitarist/vocalist and songwriter Mikael Akerfeldt is known for having one of the most deep, brutal, and guttural death metal vocal styles, but Opeth's music also contrasts this with clean, melodic singing and slow, dreamy parts.

6. Mastodon

With a sound that has been consistently heavy since they formed 14 years ago in Atlanta, Mastodon have managed to produce some of the most experimental and abstract music known to modern metal. The band features bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders, guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher, and drummer Brann Dailor, who all contribute vocals. Imagine a sound that blends psychedelic, sludgy stoner rock, extreme metal, jazz, and experimental noise in what can be best described as the Mars Volta meets the Melvins meets Neurosis. In fact, Scott Kelly, guitarist/vocalist for Neurosis, appears as a guest on each Mastodon record, except the band's first and most extreme album,



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