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5 Iconic Progressive Metal Albums That Turned 35 Years Old In 2023!

Works of art!

Source // www.vinylarchiefharderwijk.nl

In hindsight, 1988 would prove to be one of the most important years in the development of progressive metal with established acts embracing ‘the prog’ and new blood channeling the fearless spirit of the genre!

Crimson Glory – Transcendence [USA]

Crimson Glory – Transcendence (1988, CD) - Discogs

Approaching progressive metal from a fast-paced, power metal angle, Crimson Glory‘s seminal second album is a full-on metal assault with its opening two tracks, Lady In Winter and Red Sharks, providing a welcome kick to the nuts.

So far, not so progressive we hear you cry!

Well, it’s true, Transcendence often smacks of straight-up American heavy metal but its progressive nature subtly reveals itself, the band enhancing progressive metal’s standing via lyrical concepts and rapid-fire tempo changes.

“In Dark Places”, the album highlight, is a progressive metal updating of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and “Burning Bridges” takes the slow burn approach to epic balladry; consummate musicianship backed up by vocalist Midnight’s powerful, classic metal delivery.

If released today, Transcendence‘s classic metal stylings and adventurous compositions would still turn heads, as it’s ability to stretch minds and bang heads proving as formidable as ever!

Fates Warning – No Exit [USA]

Fates Warning – No Exit (1988, CD) - Discogs

Similar in style to Crimson GloryFates Warning were another band to adopt a power/thrash approach to progressive metal.

No Exit thrashed hard, check out “Anarchy Divine”, while  incorporating progressive metal’s composite structures and Ray Alder’s intensly powerful vocals continued where his predecessor, John Arch, left off; vocals that may be an acquired taste but were to become a staple in late 80’s/early 90’s prog metal.

Formidable and frenetic, it’s the 22 minute epic,“The Ivory Gate of Dreams” which looms large over prog metal history; Fates Warning taking the genre by the scruff of the neck and dragging it kicking and screaming into mainstream acceptance.

No Exit is as surprisingly experimental now as it was in 1988, its rampant time changes and falsetto vocals proving as indelibly effective as ever.

Kings X – Out Of The Silent Planet [USA]

King's X – Out Of The Silent Planet (1988, Vinyl) - Discogs

Out of the Silent Planet was the debut album from Kings X and this most unique proposition instantly adhered themselves to those looking for complex arrangements and more than a little melody!

Kings X’s fearless experimentation and melding of styles on Out of the Silent Planet placed them firmly in the progressive metal camp, even if the ‘metal’ may not be as metallic as many of the bands in this feature. Quintessentialy a bands’ band, Kings X took the best bits of Pink FloydRush and The Beatles and added funk, soul and harmonies so rich that if it weren’t for Ty Tabor’s crunchy riffs scattered throughout, they could almost qualify as prog-pop.

Predating a grunge sound that Alice In Chains would build an entire career around, Kings X’s accomplished debut would prove to be highly influential and this astonishing album still sounds fresh and vital today.

Queensrÿche – Operation: Mindcrime (USA)

Queensrÿche – Operation: Mindcrime (1988, Vinyl) - Discogs

A landmark concept album, from a band who epitomised ‘progressive’ in the 1980’s, Queensrÿche‘s Operation:Mindcrime needs no introduction, with its place in progressive metal history so firmly set in stone that it practically holds together the entire foundation of the scene.

As concept albums go, it’s also a masterclass in world building, each track serving the narrative perfectly yet never forgetting that infectious melody and memorable riffs are equally as important as ushering metal into new directions; “Spreading The Disease” and “Revolution Calling” proving that ambitious concept albums can be fiercely intelligent and still rock hard!

Queensrÿche returned to their finest hour in 2006 with Operation: Mindcrime II and vocalist Geoff Tate eventually adopted the moniker after the band splintered in 2012; proof that this undisputed progressive metal classic is as important today as it ever was.

Sieges Even – Lifecycle [Germany]

Sieges Even – Life Cycle (1988, CD) - Discogs

Sieges Even may have gone on to become a more considered, melodic progressive metal act but their debut was a beast of technical/progressive thrash, powered by the almost falsetto delivery of Franz Herde.

Comparisons with Watchtower remain rife but to dismiss Lifecycle as a mere clone of Control And Resistance would be missing the point. This was an era of exploration and of pushing boundaries, which is exactly what Sieges Even were doing from the outset.

Sure, both bands were influenced by the prog giants of the 70’s – alongside the thrash boom led by Metallica – but Sieges Even took everything that much further, splicing the DNA of prog and thrash to create a new, extreme, version of both. The results were extraordinary, dazzling the mind with a series of labyrinthine structures that were brooding, malevolent and practically beyond judgment!

About Chris Jennings (1976 Articles)
I love metal. Always have. Always will. As editor of Worship Metal - a site dedicated to being as positive about metal and its myriad of sub-genres as possible - my aim is to 'worship' metal through honest reviews, current news and a wide variety of features; offering the same exposure to underground bands as we do to mainstream/well known acts. Our mantra; the bands are partners and we exist to serve the bands \m/

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