10 Prog Albums Celebrating Their 10th Anniversary in 2018

10 Prog Albums Celebrating Their 10th Anniversary in 2018

With 2018 being just around the corner, it’s time to focus on what it brings, and in the first in the series of articles we look at the Prog albums that were released in 2008 — albums that celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Beardfish – Sleeping in Traffic (Part Two)

Although progressive rock’s popularity peaked in the ’70s, it continued to enjoy a cult following in the 21st century — and one of the noteworthy prog rock bands that came out of Europe in the 2000s was Sweden’s Beardfish, who had no problem balancing intellect and emotion on their fourth album, Sleeping in Traffic, Pt. 2. The material on this 74-minute CD has plenty of complexity; tracks like “The Hunter,” “As the Sun Sets,” “South of the Border,” and “Sunrise Again” have all kinds of twists and turns, and none of them adhere to a simple verse/chorus/verse/chorus format. But complexity never comes at the expense of feeling on Sleeping in Traffic, Pt. 2, nor does it come at the expense of humor. Granted, “humor” isn’t a word that one often hears in connection with progressive rock — which has often been accused of taking itself too seriously — but it’s a word that is definitely applicable on parts of this album, and some of Beardfish‘s sense of humor comes from having a healthy appreciation of the late Frank ZappaGentle GiantYesGenesis, and Camel have all been cited as major influences on Beardfish, but the Scandinavians have learned some things from Zappa as well. Zappa had no problem being cerebral and goofy at the same time, and his oddball sense of humor is a positive influence on Sleeping in Traffic, Pt. 2. This album is a consistently appealing demonstration of what prog rock has (had) to offer in the 21st century.

Cynic – Traced in Air

It is safe to say Traced in Air is a unique album in the world of both metal and rock music, and one crafted with such love and fondness it would be a wonder if they don’t continue on to write more material (but they will). Its short length means you don’t get burned out on the riffs or Masvidal’s airy singing, or annoyed at the slapped-on growls (which aren’t bad, but just aren’t necessary anymore). Traced in Air is one of the most impressive records in last ten years, and one in which one can mindlessly headbang to a riff one minute, and then sit back mouth agape the next minute at an extended jazzy guitar solo with nothing lost in translation.

Gojira – The Way of All Flesh

When The Way of All Flesh was released, it came out at a time in which the band genuinely had something to prove. From Mars to Sirius was the band’s first album that really bubbled up on the metal world’s collective radar, garnering critical acclaim and essentially being their breakthrough record. Luckily, in a very logical progression, Gojira managed to utilize a much darker and more melancholic sound on The Way of All Flesh; it’s also very different from a production standpoint, abandoning the sludgy and murky feel of From Mars to Sirius for something a bit more mechanical and cold. That may almost sound like an insult, but it works perfectly with the overall atmosphere. It also gives heavier songs like “Toxic Garbage Island” and “All the Tears” a lot of punch, especially in regards to Mario Duplantier‘s drumming. But the melodies are more prominently featured here (something that would apply to their subsequent albums as well), and while some older Gojira fans may be turned off by this, I believe it was the right move for the quartet.

Karmakanic – Who’s the Boss in the Factory?

Album no. 3 in Karmakanic‘s discography marked no real departure from the previous two albums or from the sound of leader Jonas Reingold‘s main engagement the Flower Kings. In fact, fans of the mighty Swedish prog rock battalion have felt right at home with Who’s the Boss in the Factory? The Flower Kings‘ bassist can carry the band’s torch as high and bright as Roine Stolt or Tomas Bodin, and — in the case of this particular album — with less inclination to push things in a different direction. “Send a Message from the Heart” and “Two Blocks from the Edge” could easily have been recorded by Reingold‘s headlining band, and they would have figured well, although the 20-minute “Send a Message from the Heart” plays the “positive vibrations” card a bit too strongly.

Lunatic Soul – Lunatic Soul

Musically, the debut solo album by Riverside‘s Mariusz Duda, feels honest and has quite a few interesting moments which are demonstrated immediately with the short intro giving a taste of some of the dreary elements that encompass the rest of the album. Most of the compositions focus on the use of percussive instruments, acoustic guitars, vocal layering and keyboards for the majority of the music. With the bass guitar, flute, guzheng and additional instruments being used to accentuate the main foundation of each song. This works well on a lot of the tracks including “The New Beginning” and “Summerland,” and indeed a few songs have that ‘oriental’ feel that Mariusz was hoping to embody. As a result the songs exude a certain freshness that keeps them interesting. The vibe throughout is usually pretty relaxed, but is intensified in some songs with the aid of the drum and bass work, such as in songs like the title track. The vocal work is what you’d expect from Mariusz with good emotion and frailty that fits the music well, especially the lyric-less vocals with multiple harmonies. Most of those are just fantastic like on “Summerland” — magnifique.

Enslaved – Vertebrae

Proving to be one of Norway’s most proficient and consistent long-running metal bands around, Enslaved continued marching to the fore-front of the extreme metal genre with Vertebrae in 2008, an epic, crushing, progressive metal record that found the band extracting their black metal roots momentarily in favor for the spacey progressive rock roots of Pink Floyd. Enslaved once played intense Viking themed black metal in the early nineties garnering a huge fan base in the process. As years started passing by with the black metal scene starting to decline immensely, Enslaved had started to lose interest with their current situation and began to incorporate new musical styles while staying true to their black metal roots. The album, Isa, showed the future of where Enslaved could be heading with the band’s new found experimentation of clean singing and melodic passages. Needless to say, the diehard Enslaved fans were more than upset by this radical new shift and cried sellout. More often than not however, the band received plenty of positive support as well as critical acclaim with Isa managing to snatch up a Grammy. The next album RUUN followed it’s predecessor and explored the progressive rock spectrum further more than Isa accomplished so if anybody was paying attention to these last two albums it wouldn’t be a surprise for how much farther Enslaved have shifted away from pure black metal.

Amaseffer – Slaves for Life

Slaves For Life was originally conceived as the first part of a trilogy about the history of the people of Israel as portrayed in the old testament. The lyrics and the concept of the album are two important points, of course, but the music is probably the thing which attracts the most. Here Amaseffer offers some kind of Epic Progressive Metal with a lot of Oriental folk sonorities. This is beautiful, deep and so epic that it sounds a bit like the music of a movie. The songs are long, complex with a lot of different passages with speeches, and the performances of Mats Leven and Kobi Farhi are just amazing.

Ayreon - 01011001

01011001 was definitely a good experiment in modern metal of epic proportions for Arjen Lucassen, but it also showed that it definitely is not for everyone. 01011001 featured Anneke Van Giersbergen (ex-the Gathering), Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), Floor Jansen (After Forever, Nightwish), Tom Englund (Evergrey), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Simone Simons (Epica), Ty Tabor (King’s X), and Daniel Gildenlow (Pain of Salvation), among many others. These singers are the focal points of their bands, but in Ayreon, they’re merely characters in Lucassen‘s rock operas. Ray gun synths, operatic vocals, fake and real strings, and even Celtic melodies adorn this sonic mansion.

Steven Wilson – Insurgentes

It caused a stir when it was announced back in 2008: Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree and No-Man fame) was to release his first-ever full-length solo album. The first question to pop up was: why? After a couple decades of activity under his belt, and two handfuls of bands and projects past and present (including several solo outfits, like Bass Communion), why would he release an album under his own name, and what would that album be like? Well, as it turned out, Insurgentes is basically a Porcupine Tree album in which Wilson wrote all the songs and made all the decisions, including the one to not include all current members of Porcupine Tree in the project. Insurgentes is an excellent slab of progressive-tinged alternative rock, and a logical next step from Fear of a Blank PlanetPorcupine Tree‘s last album at that point. The songwriting is sharp and punchy in the short tracks, and atmospheric and contrasted in the longer ones (the wall-of-guitar entry in “No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun”), with maybe a tad bit more input from Wilson‘s experimental project Bass Communion filtering through in the textures department.

Opeth – Watershed

After album (or “observation,” as the band likes to call them) number eight — Ghost Reveries — Opeth could have very easily coasted, merely rehashing their sound. Instead, they opted to challenge themselves and their listeners, creating an album that could — at times — expose its true nature and scope slowly and — at other times be jarring, as if it were turning itself inside out. Opeth take chances that many bands in the same situation would be too scared to have a go at. It’s hard to say if the membership changes affected bandleader Mikael Åkerfeldt‘s writing and production here, or if he was enjoying his trip down classic rock lane. For whatever reason, Watershed was a new benchmark for Opeth. The tricky part is pointing out that while Watershed IS a fantastic record, one that takes chances while remaining totally metal, it feels less like a complete statement than a preview for something even greater. After the pastoral introduction of “Coil,” Opeth move into pummeling mode with “Heir Apparent.” It’s one of the few tracks here to feature growling death metal vocals. But it is track three where Opeth really take the listener by the ear and twist. There’s a gently humming prologue, then “The Lotus Eater” becomes a slab of blastbeats iced with clean vocals that — as with many Opeth tunes — takes a “break” two-thirds of the way through, only to take one hell of a left turn out of nowhere. The tune doesn’t just go back to heavy riffage, but explores a prog metal, psychedelic organ quasi-freakout that touches on pure jazz. “Burden,” arguably the strongest of the classicist tunes on Watershed (closely followed by “Hessian Peel”), is lush and grandiose. It’s the moment on this collection where the listener realizes how incredibly talented this band is (was). And if the songs themselves aren’t enough, the structures and fade-outs on some of them are. An example: “Burden”‘s gentle guitar outro is deconstructed by someone manually detuning Åkerfeldt‘s guitar as he plays. Another: “Lotus Eater”‘s Dark Side of the Moon-esque ”voices in your head” send-off. These add more depth to an album that surprises continually, even after repeated listens. A perfect blend of the death metal of Still LifeBlackwater Park, and My Arms, Your Hearse, the monolithic riffage of Deliverance and Ghost Reveries, and the prog/classicism of Damnation combined with classic Deep PurplePink Floyd, and ScorpionsWatershed opened a new chapter for Opeth, one that promised infinitely more than its predecessors.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: