2017 has been a great year for the genres of Progressive Rock and Metal, featuring exciting albums both from bands that have been around for decades, such as Enslaved and Anathema, and from exciting new ones, such as Others by No One and Nova Collective. This list is compiled by Jonathon Rose & Prathamesh Hoshing. Here are our Top 10 Prog releases of 2017:
1. Pain of Salvation: ‘In The Passing Light of Day’
Back when I reviewed this album in late December of last year I called it the first masterpiece of 2017. It’s now a year later, and I haven’t changed my mind, indeed I think it is THE masterpiece of the year. A return to their prog metal roots, and an emotional tour de force; no album has come close to it for me this year. I said at the end of June when I made the Top 5 mid year list to expect to see this album in this same spot at the end of the year. And here it is.
2. The Contortionist: ‘Clairvoyant’
When I first heard Clairvoyant for the first time a few months back, I was thoroughly impressed, but I would never have guessed that it would appear on #2 of this list. Ultimately it is a record with an exquisite display of emotion through wonderful instrumentation and stellar production – all which contribute greatly to its limitless replay value. Adding post and psychedelic elements to the inherent progressive ones, the album completely justifies an all-clean vocal approach, despite the derision of a part of the fan base. And, “Return to Earth” is the best thing I’ve heard all year.
3. Enslaved: ‘E’
The latest release by these prog black metal masters, ‘E’ is a near perfect example of everything extreme prog metal can be. Densely written, with phenomenal musicianship, and emotional songwriting and singing. Mixing unrestrained creativity and experimentation, with solid melodies this is what prog metal is all about. Enslaved will long continue to be trend setters rather than followers.
4. Ne Obliviscaris: ‘Urn’
Ne Obliviscaris cannot go wrong, can they? The third album Urn, is great representation of elements that made the previous albums popular while introducing more melodic sections, primarily using the violin – as seen in the haunting track of “Eyrie”. The instrumentation is top notch – Robin Zielhorst is a very able temporary replacement. The vocals – both clean and harsh – have progressed massively over the years and complement each other to perfection.
5. Soen: ‘Lykaia’
While they’re not as flashy as some of the other bands on this list, Soen more than makes up for it with stellar songwriting. It’s not an album that bowls one over, and lengthy pieces of time can go without me reaching for it. But whenever I do I’m immediately reminded how good it is, and what a joy it is to listen to. For that reason alone it deserves to be on this list.
6. Anathema: ‘The Optimist’
I’m a longtime fan of Anathema so this was a hotly anticipated album for me. Few prog bands bother to progress, or change their sound once success has been attained. But Anathema has done it more than once, first from doom to more alternative, and then towards prog. And now the addition of more electronic elements they have recreated themselves once again. A perfectly paced, and solidly written album that gets better with each reason.
7. Elder: ‘Reflections of a Floating World’
This record was at the top of my mid-year list and makes it to the third position finally. Elder is primarily known for its heavy and satisfying psychedelic riffs. The new album has plenty off them and, with the aid of excellent production, showcases them with wonderful texture. It also features an addictive experimental track, Sonntag, which dabbles in the post-rock genre.
8. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: ‘Polygondwanaland’
These Aussie relative newcomers are known for their psychedelic music mixed with an experimental outlook. And for their bulk album-producing approach: This is the fourth album of the year, and there’s one yet to come out! Polygondwanaland is the odd-polythythm, Gentle Giant vocals and 80s synth combination in an album you never realised you wanted.
9. Subterranean Masquerade: ‘Vagabond’
The number nine spot was by far the hardest for me to fill. It was a tossup for me between this, and the upcoming Diablo Swing Orchestra album; but as that album is more avant-garde than prog, I chose this. Subterranean Masquerade play a hybrid of prog metal, jazz, death metal, and Middle Eastern themes and instruments. Hailing for Israel (with members from as far away as Norway), they are one of the most original, unique, and little known bands out there, and that’s a huge shame. An intense, and engaging concept album about finding one’s way, and battling the conflicting natures in oneself, this is an album any prog fan needs to hear.
10. Persefone: ‘Aathma’
Aathma is an perfect showcase of Persefone’s new spiritual influence in their original technical death metal playing style. The album is extremely coherent, balancing complex riffage, harsh and clean vocals (which has improved significantly over previous releases) and beautiful piano pieces. It also has an brilliant cameo by Paul Masvidal with a solo and his signature Cynic vocals in one of the album highlights, Living Waves.