Kings X – Gretchen Goes To Nebraska (1989)
Describing themselves as ‘indescribable’, Kings X are a band who aptly fit that modus operandi but their fearless experimentation, and melding of styles on Gretchen Goes To Nebraska, tags 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 Floyd, Rush 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 equally accomplished debut, Out Of The Silent Planet, would prove to be highly influential and this astonishing album still sounds fresh and vital today.
Voivod – Nothingface (1989)
Nothingface is not only Voivod‘s most successful album, it’s also a critically worshipped progressive metal classic.
Home to Voivod‘s universally adored cover of Pink Floyd‘s “Astronomy Divine”, these unconventional Canadians wore their prog influences proudly on their sleeves and its testament to the quality of the album that the bulk of Nothingface maintains the credibility of Floyd‘s classic composition.
Voivod arguably never bettered Nothingface‘s distinct brand of prog thrash and tracks such as the confusingly obtuse “Pre-Ignition” and “Into My Hypercube” are as mesmerisingly alien as ever.
Voivod‘s exceptional 2014 album, Target Earth, marked a return to the complex rhythms of Nothingface, proving that this colossal album still resonates with not only the fans but also the band themselves.
Watchtower – Control And Resistance (1989)
Bands in the late 80’s seemed to tap into an inexhaustible well of experimentation and progressive attitudes and Watchtower were no exception.
Twisting thrash into to ever more contorted forms, Control And Resistance was the bastard son of Bay Area thrash and jazz-fusion (“The Eldritch” perfectly encapsulates their approach in just 3 concise minutes) and remains a confounding and technically astonishing slice of futuristic progressive metal.
Kudos to the astonishingly gifted Ron Jarzombek (Spastic Ink, Blotted Science) who’s incendiary guitar work is simply mind-blowing; his split-second time changes and elaborate solos were undoubtedly a massive influence on the still burgeoning technical djent scene.
So ahead of its time, Control And Resistance would shock and surprise in 2022, imagine how it sounded 33 years ago!
Anacrusis – Manic Impressions (1991)
Anacrusis‘ progression from technical thrashers, on their Suffering Hour debut, to the progressive metal majesty of Manic Impressions – and its equally accomplished follow-up Screams And Whispers – has seldom been matched and yet this most unique band rarely receive the recognition they deserve.
Manic Impressions, a study of mental anguish and deep depression counteracts it’s bleak subject matter with a unique sound both complex and dynamic and aggressive yet delicate. Gems such as “Something Real” and “Paint A Picture” paint an extremely vivid picture of the wealth of ideas Anacrusis seemed to hold in abundance. This album may sound clinically detached at times but its discordant riffs, schizophrenic vocals and intricate bass lines smother the listener in a dry, arid atmosphere unique to Anacrusis.
Strangely addictable, Manic Impressions has retained its unique charms 31 years on.