The best progressive metal bands you’ve never heard of…

I was listening to some Fates Warning and I realized that there are a ton of bands (including the previously mentioned one) that are packed with amazing musicians and compositional talent and yet most people have never heard of them. I decided to make a list of ten of them, including a recommended song to snag and a link to the lyrics for said song.

Hope you enjoy…

  1. Fates Warning – Monument
    Fates Warning are old school progressive metal, no doubt about it, but despite that, they have some of the most thought provoking lyrics of any band and some of the best drumming you are ever going to hear in any context. Some of thier songs are somewhat sterile, but if you can get past that, there is still a lot of depth to be found.
  2. Pain of Salvation – Scarsick
    Pain of Salvation rocks. Since they are a swedish progressive metal band, the lead singer’s accent can be a little annoying, but if you can get past that, you’ll find very well arranged, heartfelt, thought provoking progressive metal. I just hate it took me so long to find them.
  3. Powermad – Nice Dreams
    Powermad is a Minnesota based thrash metal band that had some small measure of success in the 90’s, right before the grunge fallout. They are back together and touring now, but I have yet to see thier new album. If it is anything like this song, it is going to rock. This one song has done more to gather them a cult following than anything else, and has been in constant rotation in my ever changing stereo setup for over 10 years now.
  4. Opeth – Deliverance
    Opeth is probably the best progressive death metal band to ever pick up detuned guitars. Excellent, seamless blending of acoustical jazz elements with really hard core melodic death metal. Cookie monster growls fade to angelic singing and go back again. Guitars riffs pound you into submission then relax and lead you to tranquility, only to hit you again without warning later. And behind it all, Martin Lopez on the drums with his masterful blending of subtlety with in-your-face blast beats. This is death metal for people with brains.
  5. Ayreon – Day 3: Pain
    Ayreon is the brianchild of Arjen Lucassen, a prolific composer, songwriter, and all-around musician. Arjen writes albums and then hires or invites various musicians (including Devin Townsend and James LaBrie) to record the music. The two-CD album this song is from, The Human Equation, is a masterpiece of a concept album, second in my mind only to Operation Mindcrime. This song, however is a standout even on this great of an album.
  6. Devin Townsend – Earth Day
    OK, let me begin by saying that the lyrics for this song are either brilliant or idiotic, depending on what Devin was going for. I say this because, when I first heard it, I tried to figure out what he was saying without reading the lyrics, and came up with an impression that the song was really deep. Then I read the lyrics, and immediately began laughing. I would suggest you try the same experiement. One way ot the other though, this song is full of interesting rhythms and catchy hooks. A great song by one of the most under-appreciated musicians of our era.
  7. Spock’s Beard – Strange World
    Not really metal, but definitely progressive rock, Spock’s Beard is without a doubt one of the oddest bands I’ve listened to in a while. I have listened to most of thier stuff, and I honestly don’t like all that much of it, but they are definitely talented. Some of thier harmonies and alternating vocal lines are mind blowing, and the drumming is generally very good. This is with out a doubt thier best song. It also has awesome lyrics.
  8. Wolverine – And She Slowly Dies
    Wolverine is a Swedish progressive metal band I just picked up recently, and I am still on the fence about them as a whole, but they definitely have thier moments. This song is a great example: Excellent musicianship, good arrangement, good lyrics, but something is just missing….until the chorus. At the chorus, I am hooked HARD. I love the melody and rhythm of the chorus. Strange and yet soulful and heartfelt. That pretty much sums up both this song and Wolverine.
  9. Chroma Key – America the Video
    Chroma Key is the solo project of ex-Dream Theater keybardist Kevin Moore. As with his stuff with DT, it is pretty recognizable due to the pretty constant use of sampled dialog interspersed through the song, a technique I have grown quite fond of since I first heard “Space Dye Vest” by DT. Over all, I think Chroma Key’s stuff, though lower key and more thoughtful than DT, is top notch.
  10. Planet X – Alien Hip Hop
    The only instrumental song and instrumental band included in this list, Planet X is absolutely worth a listen for any musician. With Virgil Donati on drums, Tony McAlpine on guitar, Derek Sherinian on keys, and various kickass bassists, the lineup is all-star. However, these guys pull out all the stops on this song, with very odd rhythms and time signatures reigning over a core of catchy rhythmic hooks.

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