Progressive Metal - A Walkthrough

Ein Artikel von gargantouas vom 17.01.2003 (6306 mal gelesen)
Year: 1986. Season: Fall. Place: Berkley University. Mission: The invention of a new metal genre. Status: The beginning of a glorious band that would change the trembling waters of heavy metal.
We will come back later to the process of this mission. For now we are going to travel back in time to see how and why this mission was set.

Back on the start and mid 60’s, many Rock bands decided to make a turn and change the current way songs were written. Let us not forget that this was the “kids of the flowers” season. Many “herbs” had a lot of “influences” to almost every rock band. The first one that pops out from my head, is Deep Purple. Even from their first album, the songs were somehow strange. They weren’t of the type, intro-main-rhythm-chorus-solo-end, if I may say. Their work didn’t follow the basic rules that had been established by previous artists. Songs were enhanced with long solos by the talented Ritchie Blackmore and John Lord.

Around this time, another band came to the surface of the rock scene. They were Led Zeppelin. The band of the mastermind Jimmy Page, took rock, the way Deep Purple defined it, a little bit further. Strange rhythms, long songs, extensive solos and generally new things to the rock scene. However, still, things weren’t very different from the current rock situation.

Other bands, like Rush, Queen, Kansas, ELO, Yes and many more came to contribute to this new genre. Most of these bands, along with the two mentioned above, met a big success. Maybe because of the time, maybe because people and fans wanted rock to walk a little bit further. Either way, the whole try was a success.

In the 80’s the big breakthrough for metal began. Iron Maiden, Metallica, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath are the most known names. They gave a big boost to the music we all love and listen to. New bands started making their appearance to the scene with big success. However, the road that was led by Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin hasn’t been followed. Yet.

Let us go back to our mission. Around 1986, two friends, while studying at Berkley University, thought of starting up a band that would input all their love for heavy metal, and their favorite artists from Rock. Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Rush etc. These two friends were John Petrucci and John Myung. While walking on the corridors of Berkley, they heard strange noises from a rehearsing room. The drums were played by Mike Portnoy. This was the start of Majesty - later known as Dream Theater.

Few years before, Queensryche released an album that few people could understand. It was “Rage For Order”, and critics simply didn’t understand it. Not that the people were wrong, it was just that Queensryche were a few years ahead of the rest of the world. Probably the metal scene wasn’t ready for that.

So, Majesty, by stabilizing their line-up with Kevin Moore on the keyboards and Charlie Dominicci on the vocals, finally were able to record “When Day and Dream Unite”, having changed their name to Dream Theater. However, it seemed that people weren’t ready for this yet. This was the first album for progressive metal the way we know it today. Some songs were natural; some songs were really long and didn’t even follow the basic rules of harmony. The band wasn’t able to find success with this release. This release was made in 1989.

Almost 9 years before that, Mike Baker, Carl Cadden-James, Ron Evans, and John Coonie played in the well respected Lehigh Valley band, "SORCERER". This was the start for another heavy metal band, called Shadow Gallery. After a lot of changes on the line-up of the band, finally Shadow Gallery were formed. Mike Baker, Carl Cadden-James, Chris Ingles and Brendt Allman, after a long period of “demoing”, were able to release their first self-titled album in the summer of 1992. The record didn’t have any particular success but it was the start of a very big band, not in terms of commercial success but musically. Their first album did have all the elements mentioned above. Contrasting them to the first Dream Theater’s release, “Shadow Gallery” was way better. The melodies were flowing from each second of every song, and the album contained a 19 minute track called “The Queen of the City of Ice”, which is simply amazing. Success did not come again.

In New Jersey, a guitarist called Michael Romeo, was praised by many for his self-produced album called “The Dark Chapter”. It was around the start of 1990. This was the beginning of the third most important band for progressive metal. In Autumn of 1994, after line-up changes, the band released the first self-title album. It was “Symphony X”. Although good, it didn’t made the success many would have thought of. However, it made the impact it should have.

However, the big breakthrough for progressive metal was made in 1992. After taking a lot of shit, Dream Theater were able to sign to ATCO Atlantic, and bring a new member to the band, the former Winter Rose singer, James LaBrie. “Images And Words” was released and the world just bowed to the musical talent of the five youngsters from USA. No limits were set for this record. The band met a major success and toured extensively throughout the world. MTV supported them, and to be quite frank, Dream Theater were quite lucky to release this album when the breakthrough of hard and glam rock on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean was big. For them, a big carrier started and the sky was the limit. “Images And Words” is simply a masterpiece, made with love for the music and much of appetite for creation.

And progressive metal has begun. The release of “Images And Words” set the standards for all the future releases for all the progressive metal bands throughout the world. It was the start and not the end. The record was responsible for warming-up the ears of the metal fans for something completely new that was going to burst out like a firework.

On July of 1995, Shadow Gallery released “Carved In Stone”, which also set standards for progressive metal. All the fans around the world, welcomed them and having the ground straighten from Dream Theater, Shadow Gallery made their well-worth success with a record that followed the rules set by Dream Theater, but approaching a more rock and operatic side of progressive. “Carved In Stone” cannot be characterized a metal album. It would limit it. The album is just amazing, and many people came to say that Shadow Gallery are the true leaders of the progressive metal scene.

On August of 1995, the third band, Symphony X, released “The Damnation Game”. Following “Images And Words”, the band wasn’t able to produce something new. The album was met with success, but the band’s lack of personal sound didn’t lead them to success. It wasn’t their time yet.

Dream Theater kept the spirit of progressive alive with “Awake” somewhere in 1994 and a lot of progressive metal bands popped-out from nowhere over the world. Dream Theater were “doomed” to lead the progressive metal scene and influencing with new ideas many new bands. However the last blow to the progressive metal scene has not yet been done.

Towards the end of 1996, Symphony X worked and released their third album “The Divine Wings Of Tragedy”. The album is simply a masterpiece and was hailed throughout the world as a fine mixture of Metallica and Dream Theater. But it was something more than that. The album led the way for all the progressive metal groups to follow a more heavy approach to their music. Some say it is their best album, some say that it is simply the best progressive metal album ever. I say that we should leave that to people that want to find out what this album is about. If you haven’t heard it, I think you should.

With the three leading bands on the front line, numerous metal bands started their carriers all over the world. Some of them followed Dream Theater’s road, some of them Shadow Gallery’s road, some of them Symphony X’s road. Of course there were not only these bands that set some standards, but surely they have set the basic rules. Other bands like Fates Warning, Galactic Cowboys or even Conception and Ayreon from Europe gave a lot to the scene. As for other bands, search for them. There are numerous good bands that released masterpieces.

Unfortunately, progressive metal was taken advantage by “many”, as someone could have imagined, and every band was named progressive. I don’t have anything bad to say to people that try to create, but there is a limit to things. At the end of 2002 and the start of 2003, progressive metal is equal in size to all the other sub-genres of heavy metal, like power or black metal (although I hate labeling).

The reason I choose these three bands to tell the history of progressive metal, is purely subjective and nothing more. I love those three bands and I thought it was the best way of telling the story. You may want to search on the internet, or your local big or small record store to discover “smaller” bands. The fact is that these three bands keep their music alive and their latest releases (“6 Degrees…” from Dream Theater, “Legacy” from Shadow Gallery and “The Odyssey” from Symphony X) show me that they are the three most important bands for this kind of music, and they will always be there for giving us masterpieces.

Progressive is something new, as the word states. These three bands, with every release give something new. If you haven’t discovered yet this wonderful and magical world of progressive, I invite all of you to start by these three bands and move downwards. The maze of music is indeed a miracle.


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