Prog Rock 101 – Intro to Prog

Gather ’round, students of rock. There’s no doubt you’ve been exposed to classic metal like AC/DC and the pop rock stylings of bands like Incubus, but have you gone down the prog rock rabbit hole? Maybe you’re familiar with Tool. Maybe you know King Crimson, or Rush. Ha! Amateur stuff. Those are great bands, but let’s get you into some more modern prog that, unless you’re a psychopath for the obscure like me, you probably haven’t heard of.

Without further ado, let’s get into the list and try to find you some epic prog rock that you’re gonna like.

1. Porcupine Tree
Porcupine Tree was a British band that was active from 1987 to 2010. Despite their incredibly weird name, they’re known for haunting vocals, crisp melodies and clean shifts from hard rock to soulful, melodic ballads.

Their best album, hands down, is In Absentia, released in 2002, but the rest of their catalog is no slouch.

2. And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
This band, let’s just call it Trail of Dead for short, got some amount of mainstream popularity with their song Early Morning Stoner. You probably heard it on the radio. Unfortunately, as so often happens with radio friendly unit shifters, it sounds nothing like the rest of their music which is a mix of high octane metal with a heavy dose of grunge influence.

Check out their 2011 album, Tao of the Dead.

3. Haken
Haken is another British prog band, formed in 2007. Their singer, Ross Jennings, is an expert at hitting long, clean notes, resting on top of hard-hitting, crunchy power chords. There’s a lot of Dream Theater DNA in this band, but it’s hard to compare them directly. Haken is a bold and experimental band that’s full of musical surprises.

Their newest album, Affinity, released last August, and it’s a great place to start.

4. Coheed and Cambria
Coheed and Cambria is near and dear to my heart. It’s a very nerdy, very cool prog band and it’s the only prog band where the singer looks like a tough dive bar bouncer but sings with a higher pitched voice than Geddy Lee. Not only is their music great, for most of the lifetime of the band, their lyrics followed the story beats of the indie sci-fi comic they were also putting out. They also wrote the song In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, which is pretty much the prog equivalent of Stairway to Heaven.

The album is listen to for them is In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, which contains the titular song embedded above.

5. Opeth
What kind of list would this be without Opeth? They are legendary. Full disclosure, there are two different kinds of Opeth songs, and I only like one. They have their artistic, melodic, haunting songs, and then also their death metal growl-fests. The former is epic and amazing. The second, eh, not my style, and sounds like an entirely different band.

My personal favorite album is Damnation from 2003, but their newest album, Sorceress, released in 2016 isn’t half bad either.

Ryan is a writer from Los Angeles, California. Follow him on Twitter here, and be sure to buy his new book, Gods of the American Wild.

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