Hey everybody! My name’s Shjon Thomas, and I play guitar in a Boston-based progressive metal band called The Deadstation. The awesome guys here at Heavy Blog is Heavy let me write a guest article on whatever I wanted… so I chose to share what I consider to be the ten most essential albums of “old-school progressive metal”!
Since the newer school of prog-metal is so popular with the readers here (Animals As Leaders, Periphery, etc…), I thought it would be cool to share some great albums that follow from the original style of the genre that was popular in the 1990s and 2000s. These albums have also been a large influence on my own music, so if you like something here, you might also like The Deadstation! (You can download our free EP “Episode 01” here)
My hope is that you guys find some enjoyable stuff here that you hadn’t heard before! Cheers!
10. Fates Warning – Disconnected (2000)
At #10, we have Fates Warning’s 2000 album Disconnected. Most fans of this band can be divided into two categories: fans of their early work with vocalist John Arch, and fans of their later work with Ray Alder. Disconnected, in my opinion, is one of the crowning achievements of the later Ray Alder period, along with their 1997 album A Pleasant Shade of Gray. These albums feature a much more moody and unique sound than their previous efforts, which sounded a bit more like Queensryche.
Any fans of guitarist Jim Matheos’ current project OSI, will notice that Disconnected features a very similar style, to the point where it almost feels like a Fates Warning / OSI hybrid. Keyboards were handled by future OSI bandmate Kevin Moore (Chroma Key, Ex- Dream Theater), so the comparisons are only natural. Also, the now-signature Matheos rhythm guitar sound made its first appearance on this album… massive and razor-sharp. You can check out anything he has put out since 2000 (pretty much) to hear the sound I’m talking about. On a side note, fans of progressive rock band Rush might find something else special about this album: it was co-produced by Terry Brown, who worked on classics like Moving Pictures and 2112.
Key song: ‘Pieces of Me’
9. Riverside – Anno Domini High Definition (2009)
Anno Domini High Definition is a rather short 44-minute album that deals with technology and how it influences modern life negatively. Guitar-wise, this album is the heaviest in Riverside’s catalog, and it features a number of amazing riff-fests that should appeal to metal guitarists of all ages. In my opinion though, the shining star is keyboardist Michał Łapaj. He is not an insane technical player, but he uses some of the most interesting keyboard sounds you’ll find in this genre. As existing fans already know, one of the things Riverside has mastered is “mood”, and Łapaj’s keyboards are a key element, along with Piotr Grudziński’s frequent use of Pink Floyd-esque guitar tones. (They even covered a section of Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond‘ on the special edition of their 2007 album Rapid Eye Movement.)
Key Song: ‘Hybrid Times’