22 of the best progressive metal bands of all time

best progressive metal bands of all time

Progressive metal is a subgenre of heavy metal that combines elements of progressive rock and metal. It has produced many influential and famous bands over the years. Which bands are the best progressive metal bands of all time?

1. Dream Theater – Progressive metal band

Dream Theater is an iconic progressive metal band. It was formed in 1985.

Dream Theater’s music is characterized by virtuoso instrumentals. Each member of the band showcases their immense talent: John Petrucci with his lightning-fast guitar solos, Jordan Rudess with his dazzling keyboard skills, John Myung with his thunderous bass lines, Mike Mangini with his precise drumming, and James LaBrie with his versatile and powerful vocals.

Their discography is filled with concept albums, epics, and thought-provoking lyrics that explore a wide range of themes, including personal struggles, societal issues, and philosophical concepts. Albums like “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory” and “Images and Words” are hailed as classics within the genre, showcasing Dream Theater’s ability to seamlessly blend heavy riffs, melodic passages, and progressive intricacies.

Albums that Dream Theater released so far:

  • When Dream and Day Unite (1989)
  • Images and Words (1992)
  • Awake (1994)
  • Falling into Infinity (1997)
  • Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory (1999)
  • Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (2002)
  • Train of Thought (2003)
  • Octavarium (2005)
  • Systematic Chaos (2007)
  • Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009)
  • A Dramatic Turn of Events (2011)
  • Dream Theater (2013)
  • The Astonishing (2016)
  • Distance over Time (2019)
  • A View from the Top of the World (2021)
Dream Theater
Dream Theater

2. Tool – Post-metal, progressive rock, progressive metal, and heavy metal

Tool is a groundbreaking and enigmatic band that has left an indelible mark on the music industry.

Led by the enigmatic and introspective Maynard James Keenan, Tool’s lyrics deal with introspection, personal struggles, spirituality, and social commentary. Keenan’s haunting and evocative vocals add another layer of depth to their music, drawing the listener into a world of introspection and self-reflection.

Albums that Tool has released so far:

  • Undertow (1993)
  • Ænima (1996)
  • Lateralus (2001)
  • 10,000 Days (2006)
  • Fear Inoculum (2019)

Tool sharing video for upcoming and new album

Meshuggah – Progressive metal

Meshuggah is a Swedish extreme metal band that formed in 1987. They are often considered pioneers of the subgenre known as “djent,” which is characterized by complex, syncopated rhythms, polyrhythms, and low-tuned guitars.


Meshugga`s albums: 

  • Contradictions Collapse (1991)
  • Destroy Erase Improve (1995)
  • Chaosphere (1998)
  • Nothing (2002)
  • Catch Thirtythree (2005)
  • obZen (2008)
  • Koloss (2012)
  • The Violent Sleep of Reason (2016)
  • Immutable (2022)
best progressive metal bands of all time
Creative Commons – Meshuggah

Savatage – Progressive metal, heavy metal, power metal

Savatage is an iconic heavy metal band that has made a lasting impact on the rock music scene. Formed in 1979, they’ve evolved their sound over the years while always delivering powerful and emotionally charged music.

Led by the talented brothers Jon Oliva and the late Criss Oliva, Savatage’s songwriting is fueled by a genuine passion for crafting music that connects on a profound level. Their lyrics touch on personal struggles, social issues, and philosophical musings, resonating with fans who appreciate their depth and sincerity.

  • Sirens (1983)
  • Power of the Night (1985)
  • Fight for the Rock (1986)
  • Hall of the Mountain King (1987)
  • Gutter Ballet (1989)
  • Streets: A Rock Opera (1991)
  • Edge of Thorns (1993)
  • Handful of Rain (1994)
  • Dead Winter Dead (1995)
  • The Wake of Magellan (1997)
  • Poets and Madmen (2001)
  • Curtain Call (2024)
File: Savatage – Wacken Open Air 2015 00.jpg” by F. Schwichtenberg is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Opeth – Progressive metal

Opeth is a Swedish progressive metal band, formed in 1990.

Opeth’s discography includes albums such as “Blackwater Park” (2001), “Ghost Reveries” (2005), and “Watershed” (2008), which are regarded as some of their most influential and acclaimed works.

Here are the albums by Opeth:

  • “Orchid” (1995)
  • “Morningrise” (1996)
  • “My Arms, Your Hearse” (1998)
  • “Still Life” (1999)
  • “Blackwater Park” (2001)
  • “Deliverance” (2002)
  • “Damnation” (2003)
  • “Ghost Reveries” (2005)
  • “Watershed” (2008)
  • “Heritage” (2011)
  • “Pale Communion” (2014)
  • “Sorceress” (2016)
  • “In Cauda Venenum” (2019)
File:Metal band Opeth live at Tuska (Finland) 2006
File: Metal band Opeth live at Tuska (Finland) 2006.jpg” by Jarkko Iso-Heiko is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5.

Cynic – Progressive metal 

Cynic is an American progressive metal band that emerged in the late 1980s. Known for its unique fusion of progressive rock, jazz fusion, and technical death metal, Cynic has established itself as one of the pioneers and innovators of the progressive metal genre.

Cynic`s albums:

  • Focus (1993)
  • Traced in Air (2008)
  • Kindly Bent to Free Us (2014)
  • Ascension Codes (2021)
  • Ascension Codes (Instrumentals) (2022)

Cynic split up following Sean Malone’s departure in 1994. With the short-lived project Portal, the three remaining members first ventured away from technical death metal and introduced singer Aruna Abrams to lead vocal duties. The only-used-as-a-demo recordings weren’t formally released as The Portal Tapes under the name Cynic until 2012.

best progressive metal bands of all time

Porcupine Tree – progressive rock and metal

Originally a solo project by Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree evolved into a full band. Their music is characterized by a blend of progressive rock and metal elements.

The band has released 10 albums:

  • “On the Sunday of Life…” (1992)
  • “Up the Downstairs” (1993)
  • “The Sky Moves Sideways” (1995)
  • “Signify” (1996)
  • “Stupid Dream” (1999)
  • “Lightbulb Sun” (2000)
  • “In Absentia” (2002)
  • “Deadwing” (2005)
  • “Fear of a Blank Planet” (2007)
  • “The Incident” (2009)
best progressive metal bands of all time
Trains (Porcupine Tree)” by Grzegorz Chorus is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Voivod – Progressive metal, thrash metal, technical thrash metal, alternative metal

Voivod is a Canadian progressive metal band with a unique and influential sound. Lyrically, Voivod explores science fiction, dystopian themes, and cosmic concepts.

Here are the albums by Voivod:

  • “War and Pain” (1984)
  • “Rrröööaaarrr” (1986)
  • “Killing Technology” (1987)
  • “Dimension Hatröss” (1988)
  • “Nothingface” (1989)
  • “Angel Rat” (1991)
  • “The Outer Limits” (1993)
  • “Negatron” (1995)
  • “Phobos” (1997)
  • “Voivod” (2003)
  • “Katorz” (2006)
  • “Infini” (2009)
  • “Target Earth” (2013)
  • “The Wake” (2018)
best progressive metal bands of all time
Image: mercuryeastpresents

Symphony X – Progressive metal, power metal, and neoclassical metal

Symphony X is an American progressive metal band. It was formed in 1994.

The band’s members, including guitarist Michael Romeo, vocalist Russell Allen, and keyboardist Michael Pinnella, are highly skilled musicians who bring technical precision and emotional depth to their performances. Their instrumental prowess and the intricate interplay between the various instruments contribute to Symphony X’s distinct sound

  • “Symphony X” (1994)
  • “The Damnation Game” (1995)
  • “The Divine Wings of Tragedy” (1997)
  • “Twilight in Olympus” (1998)
  • “V: The New Mythology Suite” (2000)
  • “The Odyssey” (2002)
  • “Paradise Lost” (2007)
  • “Iconoclast” (2011)
  • “Underworld” (2015)
  • “Iconoclast: Volume 2 – The War of the Worlds” (2021)
best progressive metal bands of all time
Symphony X

Enslaved – Viking Metal, Progressive Metal

Enslaved is a metal group from Bergen, Norway. They started as an old-school black metal/Viking metal band, but they currently play a little more avant-garde, experimental kind of black metal with influences from progressive music from the 1970s.

In 1991, Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson founded the band Enslaved. They recorded their first demo in the summer of 1992 with drummer Trym Torsson. An English call interrupted the initial full-length project, leading to the creation of the two iconic microalbums Hordanes Land and Emperor in 1993. The “Emperor/Hordanes Land” split record included these two mini-albums. Tragically, Enslaved’s debut album Vikingligr Veldi, was never released.

Here are the albums by Enslaved:

  1. “Vikingligr Veldi” (1994)
  2. “Frost” (1994)
  3. “Eld” (1997)
  4. “Blodhemn” (1998)
  5. “Mardraum: Beyond the Within” (2000)
  6. “Monumension” (2001)
  7. “Below the Lights” (2003)
  8. “Isa” (2004)
  9. “Ruun” (2006)
  10. “Vertebrae” (2008)
  11. “Axioma Ethica Odini” (2010)
  12. “RIITIIR” (2012)
  13. “In Times” (2015)
  14. “E” (2017)
  15. “Utgard” (2020)
best progressive metal bands of all time

Fates Warning – Progressive metal movement

Fates Warning is considered one of the pioneering bands of progressive metal. They helped define the genre with their early albums, which blended progressive rock with heavy metal.

Albums by Fates Warning:

  1. “Night on Bröcken” (1984)
  2. “The Spectre Within” (1985)
  3. “Awaken the Guardian” (1986)
  4. “No Exit” (1988)
  5. “Perfect Symmetry” (1989)
  6. “Parallels” (1991)
  7. “Inside Out” (1994)
  8. “A Pleasant Shade of Gray” (1997)
  9. “Disconnected” (2000)
  10. “FWX” (2004)
  11. “Darkness in a Different Light” (2013)
  12. “Theories of Flight” (2016)

These albums represent Fates Warning’s discography, spanning several decades. Each release showcases the band’s evolution, from their early progressive metal sound to their exploration of more atmospheric and experimental elements. Fates Warning has continually pushed boundaries and established itself as one of the pioneering bands in the progressive metal genre.

best progressive metal bands of all time
“Fates Warning à Aarau 2017” by Isabelle + Stéphane Gallay is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Ayreon – Progressive rock, progressive metal, and power metal

Ayreon, being a project rather than a traditional band, features a rotating lineup of talented musicians.

The members of Ayreon vary from album to album, with each release featuring a different combination of musicians. Some of the renowned artists who have contributed to Ayreon’s albums include vocalists such as James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Devin Townsend, Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Russell Allen (Symphony X), and many more.

Here are the albums by Ayreon, along with their release dates:

  • “The Final Experiment” (1995)
  • “Actual Fantasy” (1996)
  • “Into the Electric Castle” (1998)
  • “Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer” (2000)
  • “Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight of the Migrator” (2000)
  • “The Human Equation” (2004)
  • “01011001” (2008)
  • “The Theory of Everything” (2013)
  • “The Source” (2017)
  • “Transitus” (2020)

best progressive metal bands of all time

Haken – Progressive metal

Haken is an English progressive metal band known for their intricate compositions, technical prowess, and diverse musical influences.

Lyrically, Haken explores a diverse range of themes, from introspective and philosophical concepts to storytelling and social commentary. Their albums often feature conceptual storylines or thematic connections between songs, adding depth and coherence to their musical journey.

Haken has released 6 albums:

  • “Aquarius” (2010)
  • “Visions” (2011)
  • “The Mountain” (2013)
  • “Affinity” (2016)
  • “Vector” (2018)
  • “Virus” (2020)

best progressive metal bands of all time

King Crimson

One of the most significant musical groups in history is King Crimson. It established a brand-new musical genre and has consistently made musical advances. Every one of King Crimson’s musical inventions has had a profound impact on a variety of bands and musicians.

King Crimson`s albums:

King Crimson - Le Canal Auditif

Coheed and Cambria – Alternative Rock, Post Hardcore, Metal and Prog

Musically, Coheed and Cambria are renowned for their intricate guitar work, catchy hooks, and dynamic song structures. Their sound seamlessly blends heavy riffs, melodic passages, and soaring choruses, creating a distinct and memorable sound that sets them apart.

From their debut album, “The Second Stage Turbine Blade,” to their later releases like “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3” and “Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness,” the band’s evolution is evident. They’ve continuously pushed boundaries, experimenting with different styles and incorporating diverse influences.

Here are the albums by Coheed and Cambria, along with their release dates:

  • “The Second Stage Turbine Blade” (2002)
  • “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3” (2003)
  • “Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness” (2005)
  • “No World for Tomorrow” (2007)
  • “Year of the Black Rainbow” (2010)
  • “The Afterman: Ascension” (2012)
  • “The Afterman: Descension” (2013)
  • “The Color Before the Sun” (2015)
  • “Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures” (2018)
Coheed and Cambria
Image: thefoxoakland

Queensrÿche – Progressive metal

Queensrÿche’s early albums, such as “Operation: Mindcrime,” are considered landmarks in progressive metal. They blend melodic hooks with progressive and metal elements, creating a unique sound.

Queensrÿche`s albums:

  • “The Warning” (1984)
  • “Rage for Order” (1986)
  • “Operation: Mindcrime” (1988)
  • “Empire” (1990)
  • “Promised Land” (1994)
  • “Hear in the Now Frontier” (1997)
  • “Q2K” (1999)
  • “Tribe” (2003)
  • “Operation: Mindcrime II” (2006)
  • “American Soldier” (2009)
  • “Dedicated to Chaos” (2011)
  • “Queensrÿche” (2013)
  • “Condition Hüman” (2015)
  • “The Verdict” (2019)

Queensryche's 'Empire' Turns 30 – Billboard

Diablo Swing Orchestra – Avant-garde metal, progressive rock and symphonic metal

Diablo Swing Orchestra is a Swedish avant-garde metal band known for its distinctive fusion of genres such as swing, metal, classical, and jazz.

One of the notable members of the band is Daniel Håkansson, who serves as the main songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist. His creative vision and unconventional song structures contribute to the band’s distinct sound.

Diablo Swing Orchestra`s albums:

  • “The Butcher’s Ballroom” (2006)
  • “Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious” (2009)
  • “Pandora’s Piñata” (2012)
  • “Pacifisticuffs” (2017)

Caligula’s Horse – Progressive metal

Caligula’s Horse is an Australian progressive metal band. It was formed in 2011. They are known for their unique blend of progressive metal, alternative rock, and progressive rock elements.

The band’s sound often features dynamic shifts, combining heavy and intense sections with softer, more atmospheric passages. The vocal performances of frontman Jim Grey are a notable highlight, showcasing a wide range from powerful and soaring to delicate and introspective.

  • “Moments from Ephemeral City” (2011)
  • “The Tide, the Thief & River’s End” (2013)
  • “Bloom” (2015)
  • “In Contact” (2017)
  • “Rise Radiant” (2020)
Caligula's Horse | Power of Prog
Caligula’s Horse

Riverside – Progressive rock

Riverside is a progressive rock band from Poland that was formed in 2001.

Lyrically, Riverside explores introspective themes, often dealing with personal struggles, the human condition, and existential concepts. Their albums often have conceptual or thematic threads running through them, creating a cohesive and immersive listening experience.

The band’s discography includes albums such as “Out of Myself” (2003), “Second Life Syndrome” (2005), “Anno Domini High Definition” (2009), and “Love, Fear, and the Time Machine” (2015). Their music showcases a combination of intricate song structures, atmospheric soundscapes, and memorable melodies

Here are the albums by Riverside, with their release dates:

  • “Out of Myself” (2003)
  • “Second Life Syndrome” (2005)
  • “Rapid Eye Movement” (2007)
  • “Anno Domini High Definition” (2009)
  • “Shrine of New Generation Slaves” (2013)
  • “Love, Fear and the Time Machine” (2015)
  • “Eye of the Soundscape” (2016) – This album consists of ambient and instrumental tracks.
  • “Wasteland” (2018)

best progressive metal bands of all time

Ihsahn – Heavy metal, black metal, and classical music

Ihsahn is a Norwegian musician and composer, primarily known for his work in the black metal genre. He is recognized as a prominent figure in the Norwegian extreme metal scene and has gained widespread acclaim as the founding member and frontman of the influential black metal band Emperor.

Ihsahn has released 9 albums so far:

  • “The Adversary” (2006)
  • “angL” (2008)
  • “After” (2010)
  • “Eremita” (2012)
  • “Das Seelenbrechen” (2013)
  • “Arktis.” (2016)
  • “Àmr” (2018)
  • “Telemark” (2020)
  • “Pharos” (2021)

Devin Townsend – Heavy metal, extreme metal, progressive metal

Devin Townsend is a prolific musician and producer known for his diverse discography. His solo work often combines progressive metal with elements of ambient music, industrial metal, and more.

Devin Garret Townsend is a Canadian musician, composer, and record producer who was born on May 5, 1972. He has had a long career as a solo artist in addition to being the founder, songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist of the extreme metal band Strapping Young Lad from 1994 until 2007.

In 2002 he formed the band Devin Townsend.

Devin Townsend`s solo albums:

  • Punky Brüster – Cooked on Phonics (1996)
  • Ocean Machine: Biomech (1997)
  • Infinity (1998)
  • Physicist (2000)
  • Terria (2001)
  • Devlab (2004)
  • The Hummer (2006)
  • Ziltoid the Omniscient (2007)
  • Z2: Dark Matters (2014)
  • Empath (2019)
  • The Puzzle (2021)
  • Snuggles (2021)
  • Lightwork (2022)
Devin Townsend Interview
Devin Townsend

Between The Buried And Me – Progressive metal

Between the Buried and Me is an American progressive metal band. Formed in 2000, the band has gained a reputation for its complex and ambitious compositions, intricate musicianship, and willingness to push the boundaries of musical conventions.

Throughout their discography, Between the Buried and Me has released several critically acclaimed albums, including “Colors” (2007), “The Great Misdirect” (2009), “Parallax II: Future Sequence” (2012), and “Coma Ecliptic” (2015).

Between the Buried and Me has released 10 albums so far:

  • “Between the Buried and Me” (2002)
  • “The Silent Circus” (2003)
  • “Alaska” (2005)
  • “Colors” (2007)
  • “The Great Misdirect” (2009)
  • “The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues” (2011)
  • “The Parallax II: Future Sequence” (2012)
  • “Coma Ecliptic” (2015)
  • “Automata I” (2018)
  • “Automata II” (2018)
  • “Colors II” (2021)
 best progressive metal bands of all time
Between the Buried and Me

Which are your favorite progressive metal bands? Have you ever been to a rock or metal concert? How did you feel? Let us know in the comments!

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