As we’ve reached the halfway point of 2017 it seems to us at Metal Wani to be a good time to reflect over what albums have come out so far this year. This list is focusing on the Top 5 Prog Metal Albums released so far. I’ll admit that this year has been pretty hit and miss as far as the prog scene is concerned, but there have still been some great releases. As I’ve done in the past while compiling lists of this sort I’ll only be choosing albums that we’ve reviewed on Metal Wani, so some worthy material has been omitted for that reason alone.
1. Pain of Salvation ‘The Passing Light of Day’:
It marks the triumphant return of Pain of Salvation to their prog metal roots. When I reviewed this album back in December, I said it was the first prog metal masterpiece of 2017. Seven months later, nothing has changed in my opinion of this album. It still stands as the best metal album I’ve heard this year, and I don’t foresee anything coming down the pike that is going to be dethroning it anytime soon. A concept album focusing on singer/guitarist/mastermind Daniel Gildenlöw’s near death illness, it is the best thing the band has done since 2001’s ‘Remedy Lane’. Look for this album in this same spot come year’s end.
2. Soen ‘Lykaia’:
One of the downsides to constantly working on reviewing new albums is that often once you’re done with an album it can be a long time before you have the time to go back and listen to it again for fun. That happened with me, until it came time to make this list and I looked back at all the prog albums we’ve reviewed over the past 6 months and I remembered this one. Rather embarrassing really, because this is a tremendous album of solid, emotional progressive metal. Not as flashy as some others, but excellent song writing, and tight intricate playing. It’s fun to “rediscover” something you really enjoyed, but I suggest you skip that step, and simply listen to and enjoy this album now. And like many great albums, it just gets better the more you play it.[metalwani_content_ad]
3. Anathema ‘The Optimist’:
Although the genre is known as progressive, and “progress” makes up the first part of the word, the fact is a lot of bands in the genre very rarely actually do so, and even fewer try and reinvent themselves. Anathema, however, have always done this, and this year’s ‘The Optimist’ finds them doing it yet again. While still retaining a healthy dose of the brand of prog that they’ve become known for in recent years, this album switches gears and becomes a very moody electronic based album. It serves as a sequel to the 2001 album ‘A Fine Day To Exit’ but most certainly stands on its own. While this is the lightest album on the list, the subject matter of a man coming to grips with his own escape is certainly heavy enough, and this is just a brilliantly paced and written album. Anathema have again shown why they’re such a respected, and beloved band in the genre. I don’t think it’s possible to recommend this album enough.
4. Arcadea ‘Arcadea’:
On rare occasion a side project provides a more memorable album than the band that the primary member is a part of. Such is the case with this progressive/electronic side project by Brann Dailor (drums/vocals) of Mastodon (who we’ll hear more from in a moment). He formed Arcadea with Core Atoms (Zrua, Gaylord) and Raheem Amlani (Withered, Scarab), both of whom play keyboards and provide some vocals. The only live instrument on the album is Dailor’s phenomenal drumming which, quite frankly, are some of his best in quite a while. Although the music is almost entirely electronic, it is nonetheless a very heavy album and quite experimental in nature as well. This is really one of the freshest mainstream albums I’ve heard in years, and is essential for anyone interested in exciting, forward-thinking music that takes the rulebook about what it means to make a heavy album and tosses it out the window. I sincerely hope this is not a one off project, and these guys come back with another in a few years because it’s one of the most interesting (and fun) albums of the year.[metalwani_content_ad]
5. Mastodon ‘Emperor of Sand’:
I’ll probably get some grief for leaving this very good album for the number five spot. And perhaps a bit more for putting it below the side project of Brann. But these ratings are entirely subjective and given to the author’s individual preferences and tastes. Regardless, Mastodon have put out a monster of an album with ‘Emperor of Sand’ which is easily their best, most emotional, and certainly most progressive album since 2009’s ‘Crack the Skye’. Emotionally heavy, dealing with the inevitable nature of death (done conceptually which borderlines on allegory) specifically one dealing with cancer, and is the direct result of the experiences the band has gone through over the past two years. Musically it is heavy and classic Mastodon who I think have made a return of sorts after the last two albums which were very straightforward in nature. In any case, it’s an excellent album, the heaviest on this list (for those who care about such things), and is more than worthy of the attention of any metal fan.
Here endeth Metal Wani’s list of top five prog metal albums of the year (so far). Despite a few duds along the way the year has proven to be fruitful for the scene on a whole. And there are some things coming soon which we’re certainly excited to hear. With that in mind, we’ll see you again in 6 months for the rest of the list. Till then, happy listening. Share your opinion & your favorite prog releases of 2017 in the comments below