Yeah, 2013 has been a pretty amazing year for progressive metal from all over the world. This year has seen a range of great albums in all kinds of styles so it’s been pretty darn hard to cull our list down to just 50 but we’ve given it our best shot. Our apologies if your favorite album isn’t here but we think we’ve chosen a great list and hopefully you’ll find some new bands to check out. We’ve also got sound clips via Amazon.com and some of our albums have full streaming from the band’s own BandCamp sites.
We hope you enjoy our selection and look forward to an equally amazing year in 2014!
PROG METAL ZONE – 2013 TOP 50 ALBUM LIST (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)
1. Aeon Zen – Enigma
(United Kingdom – Progressive Metal) Fantastic third album by Rich Hinks’ band that expands upon the scope of the band’s previous work and is a very cohesive, thematic album where every song flows perfectly right into the next one. It’s heavy, thoughtful and extremely powerful music that deserves all of the acclaim it’s received. (You can read our full review HERE.)
2. Alessandro Bertoni – Keystone
(Italy – Progressive Instrumental Metal Fusion) Awesome album of heavy keyboard-led progressive fusion by Italian newcomer Bertoni. He’s now a Los Angeles based keyboardist and this debut album features the incredible lineup of bassist Ric Fierabracci, guitarist Brett Garsed and uber-drummer Virgil Donati. Additionally, the album was produced by Derek Sherinian. Killer production, stellar playing and a definitive must have for fans of instrumental metal bands like Planet X. (You can read our full review HERE.)
3. Anciients – Heart Of Oak
(Canada – Progressive Extreme Metal) Fantastic debut by this Canadian band that combines crushing, heavy grooves and powerful riffs with a gentler and contemplative sound. Great band that takes inspiration from Mastodon, Intronaut, Opeth and High On Fire.
4. Artaius – The Fifth Season
(Italy – Progressive Folk Metal) We love this unique and highly engaging album by this new Italian band that takes inspiration from not only folk metal but also the famed and fertile, keyboard-heavy progressive rock style from Italy in the 1970’s. A very beautiful album that also has a very natural spirituality and strong Irish music influence with the addition of Celtic whistle, violin and a powerful female singer. One of our favorite “unknown” bands from 2014. (You can read our full review HERE as well as our interview with the band HERE.)
5. Ascension – Shaping Structure
(Australia – Progressive Melodic Death Metal) Amazing technical death metal with tons of crazy rhythms and epic heaviness. Could be Australia’s answer to Between The Buried Me.
6. Ayreon – The Theory of Everything
(Netherlands – Progressive Rock/Metal) The long awaited new album from Dutch impresario Arjen Lucassen. This amazingly melodic and powerful double CD concept album features metal singers Christina Scabbia and Tommy Karevik plus prog rock luminaries John Wetton, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Steve Hackett and Jordan Rudess. A truly monumental work of art.
7. Caligula’s Horse – The Tide, the Thief, and River’s End
(Australia – Progressive Rock/Metal) Stunning new album by this great Aussie band. Fantastic melodies, a great blend of hard-edged melodicism and soft beauty with a bit of “djent” at times to give the album a very modern sound.
8. Circle Of Illusion – Jeremias-Foreshadow of Forgotten Realms
(Austria – Progressive Symphonic Rock/Metal) Epic and highly cinematic debut by this new Generation Prog Records band. Powerful and beautiful melodic progressive music with both male and female vocals that combines elements of rock/metal with jazz, funk and many other influences that in these capable hands work incredible well together.
9. Constantine – Resign Due
(Finland – Progressive Metal) Phenomenal sophomore album from this great Finnish band. These guys have it all – great melodies, tons of crunch and some seriously beautiful songwriting and acoustic playing. Resign Due is just fantastic from the first note to the last and is one of those rare albums that keeps getting better the more you listen and get to know it really well beyond just a few superficial listens. (You can read our full review HERE.)
10. Cult Of Luna – Vertikal
(Sweden – Atmospheric Sludge/Progressive Metal/Post-Hardcore) Vertikal is a concept album based on the famed 1926 German expressionist film Metropolis. An incredible album filled with long and brilliantly stark passages and the album highlight for us is the almost 19 minute slowly building intensity of Vicarious Redemption. A very challenging and extremely influential band.
11. Cynthesis – ReEvolution
(United States – Progressive Metal) The eagerly anticipated second album in a dystopian trilogy by this stellar band led by the Tipton brothers, Jason and Troy, from the astonishing, highly angular technical metal band Zero Hour along with early Zero Hour vocalist, Erik Rosvald. Melodic, technically inventive and filled with an eerie, thoughtful dark beauty.
12. Dimaeon – Collapse of the Anthropocene
(Netherlands – Progressive Death Metal) Debut full-length album from this wildly talented Dutch band that incorporates elements from 70’s progressive rock and jazz fusion into their very intelligent brand of progressive melodic death metal.
13. Disperse – Living Mirrors
(Poland – Progressive Metal) Fantastic sophomore album by Disperse that adds a strong, heavy “djent” base to their very sophisticated melodic and jazz fusion inspired metal. Guitarist Jakub Żytecki is a real star and has a very strong Allan Holdsworth influenced sound. Easily one of the best albums of the year. (You can read our full review HERE.)
14. Dream Theater – Dream Theater
(United States – Progressive Metal) The new album by the biggest progressive metal band in the world doesn’t disappoint. Filled with signature Dream Theater super-fast technicality, powerful rock anthem ballads and is capped by the amazing and powerful 20-minute epic Illumination Theory.
15. Dyed In Grey – Dyed In Grey
(United States – Progressive Extreme Metal) Exciting debut by this new Brooklyn NY band. Heavy and intricate with a real focus on melody and harmony. The album also features ex-Periphery drummer Travis Orbin. Very deep and compelling music that could make these guys the next big thing in modern metal. (You can read our full review HERE as well as our interview with guitarist/band founder Adam Edgemont HERE.)
16. Ephel Duath – Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness
(Italy/U.S. – Progressive Extreme Metal) A very intriguing and intense album by this ever-changing band led by extreme metal master, Italian guitarist Davide Tiso. Gone are the overt jazz trappings of earlier albums. Instead Tiso is now working with his wife, the amazing and powerfully harsh vocals of Karyn Crisis (formerly of her own band, Crisis). Hemmed By Light is a very intricate aural assault that has an almost math rock feel to it in its complex structure but, when combined with the lyrics and evocative vocals from Crisis (who has to be the best extreme female singer we’ve ever heard), it all comes together extremely well. Not an easy listen but well worth getting to know.
17. Epysode – Fantasmagoria
(Belgium/International – Progressive Melodic Metal) Fantastic follow-up to 2011’s debut Obsessions. Epysode is the brainchild of guitarist Samuel Arkan and this full-on conceptual album features an amazing cast of stellar musicians and both male and female vocalists. The album is heavy, melodic and epic and comes with a 20-page booklet detailing the album story. A truly great album that gets better with each listen.
18. Exivious – Liminal
(Netherlands – Progressive Metal Fusion) Long awaited second album by this seminal instrumental jazz metal band featuring the very Allan Holdsworth influenced guitar of Tymon Kruidenier. As with the self-titled album from 2009, this album will knock the socks off of anyone who loves the sophistication of the best of jazz fusion combined with the intricacy and power of metal. The album was also funded by a very successful Kickstarter campaign which makes it one of the great success stories of 2013.
19. Fates Warning – Darkness in a Different Light
(United States – Progressive Metal) Fantastic new album by the legendary Fates Warning. Powerful, epic and utterly heavy songs by this great, seminal progressive metal band. First album since 2004’s FWX and it’s at least as good as anything the band has done since A Pleasant Shade Of Gray (still my personal favorite FW album). The Tool vibe on I Am shows just how modern and relevant this band can be.
20. Gorguts – Colored Sands
(Canada – Progressive Death Metal) The return of the legendary, seminal and massively influential Canadian technical death metal band Gorguts now features a whole new lineup save for their leader and original band member, Luc Lemay. Now the band includes some of the best musicians in extreme metal including the great Colin Marston (Dysrhythmia and Behold The Arctopus) and have put out Colored Sands, their first album in 12 years. And what an album it is – a monumental achievement in dissonant textures, rhythmic complexity and total intensity. Colored Sands has been getting all kinds of well-deserved acclaim from all over the metal press and will definitely become a classic of extreme metal if it isn’t already there.
21. Haken – The Mountain
(United Kingdom – Progressive Metal) Third album from Haken firmly establishes them as one of the top-tier bands in the genre. While their earlier albums displayed a ton of intricate and highly sophisticated melodic metal chops, The Mountain takes it a further step in terms of depth and is one of the most beautiful and powerful albums of the year. (You can read our full review HERE. The puppet video for the very Gentle Giant inspired song The Cockroach King is a must-see – check it out HERE if you haven’t seen it yet.)
22. Hidden Timbre – Triangulation
(Germany – Progressive Rock/Metal) Another great band that we haven’t heard of until this year but Hidden Timbre‘s been around since the early 90’s and have now released their third album, Triangulation (yeah, this band is just not very prolific). The album is a killer slice of inventive, hard-driving prog metal with elements of progressive rock, art rock and pop blended smoothly within massive metal structures. A truly great find for us this year.
23. Ihsahn – Das Seelenbrechen
(Norway – Extreme Progressive Metal) Further explorations from the Emperor main man. This time he gets even further out with electronics, keyboards and a ton of avant-garde dissonance but always keeping it interesting and musical. Seriously amazing and inventive music from one of the great auteurs in modern metal.
24. Illuminati – The Core
(Romania – Progressive Death Metal/Jazz Fusion) Where the hell did these guys come from??? Astonishing and very modern fusion-inspired extreme metal featuring an incredible array of guest vocalists including Patrick Mamili (Pestilence), Daniel Mongrain (Martyr, Voivod), Kelly Shaefer (Atheist), Tymon Kruidenier (Exivious & Cynic), Luc Lemay (Gorguts) and Mike Browning (Nocturnus, Incubus). We love all of the acoustic and jazz elements mixed in so effortlessly with the heavily technicality.
25. Intronaut – Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words with Tones)
(United States – Progressive Sludge Metal) New album by the best U.S. band in the prog sludge genre. Intronaut combines psychedelic brutality, great hooks and killer rhythmic grooves. On this new album, the melodies are excellent throughout and there is almost all clean singing. A great album and a further refinement of this great band’s sound.
26. Karnya – Coverin’ Thoughts
(Italy – Progressive Rock/Metal) Exciting debut of this band that’s influenced by classic 70’s-era progressive rock as well as by modern prog metal. The 15-minute song A Paraphreniac Menticide is one of the best epic songs of the year. Keyboardist, Dario Di Pasquale used to be in the band Zen who, in the mid-90’s produced one of the classic prog metal albums of the decade, Gaze Into The Light and apparently Karnya reformed from the ashes of that band. Hopefully we won’t have to wait 16 years for another album!
27. Kingcrow – In Crescendo
(Italy – Progressive Metal) Phenomenal fourth album by this long-running Italian band that has added more darker prog rock elements (think Porcupine Tree or Anathema) to their heavy progressive metal sound. In addition to the great, heavy prog metal these guys can pull off some of the most beautiful songs we’ve heard all year. A truly stellar band and definitely one of the best of the current Italian progressive bands.
28. Leprous- Coal
(Norway – Progressive Metal) Wonderful third album by this masterful group. Great melodies, beautiful playing, a subtle moody darkness and the great plaintive vocals of keyboardist Einar Solberg who sounds a lot like Curt Smith (from Tears For Fears). Easily the best album yet by this fantastic band that also doubles as Ihsahn‘s touring group.
29. Liquorworks – Muscle Explosion
(Finland – Progressive Technical Experimental Instrumental Metal) Another great, fairly unknown band. Amazing complex technical metal with a strong dose of progressive jazz fusion. We think they’re a lot like the zany Swedish legends Mats/Morgan but with a strong dose of modern “djent'” metal thrown in for good measure. Definitely one of the great unknown bands in the genre that deserve much wider attention. (You can read our full review HERE.)
30. Miserium – Return To Grace
(Hungary – Progressive Metal) Exciting young band of academy trained musicians that has a wonderfully diverse style of progressive metal. Miserium has top-notch musicianship, dark, dramatic soundscapes mixed excellently with exquisite melodic passages as well as funk, baroque and even some reggae influences. One of the best debuts of 2013.
31. My Soliloquy – The Interpreter
(United Kingdom – Progressive Rock/Metal) debut album led by new Threshold guitarist/vocalist Pete Morten. With his My Soliloquy project, Morten has definitely a prog metal album in many aspects, but the roots of the sound are very much influenced by the melodic inventiveness and accessibility of the neo-progressive movement of the 80’s primarily exemplified by the U.K. bands Marillion and I.Q. Like a lot of truly great albums, The Interpreter gets better with each listen and reveals new subtleties every time you hear it – a keyboard texture, a short acoustic section or a great juxtaposition of vocal parts featuring all of the many facets of Morten’s highly expressive vocals. (You can read our full album review HERE as well as our interview with Pete HERE.)
33. Omb – Swinesong
(Israel – Progressive Avant-Garde Metal) More great music from Israel (we’ve got three albums from this country on our top list for the year!) and it’s an incredibly inventive and captivating brew of all manner of acoustic and heavy sounds that is highly accessible yet simultaneously very challenging and experimental. Features band members from the new Israeli symphonic prog metal band Reign Of The Architect.
34. Orphaned Land – All Is One
(Israel – Progressive Middle Eastern Folk Metal) Fantastic new album by one of the leading bands in the genre and certainly the best group to combine middle eastern music with metal. All Is One is a tour-de-force album that brings the band’s powerful message of peace that “People should be judged by their hearts and inner sincerity, not their religious beliefs.”
35. Pomegranate Tiger – Entities
(Canada – Progressive Experimental Instrumental Metal) one of the best heavy instrumental bands we’ve heard in a long time. Exciting and inventive modern metal that is right up there with the likes of Animals As Leaders and Scale The Summit. One of the best instrumental albums of the year.
36. Prospekt – The Colourless Sunrise
(United Kingdom – Progressive Metal) eagerly awaited debut by this exciting new British band, Prospekt has a great blend of brutal riffs, odd time-signatures, and very majestic melodies. The band seamlessly also fuses a heavy progressive approach with fantastic vocal melodies and harmonies. Very powerful and accessible without sacrificing any heaviness or sophistication. Prospekt could easily become one of the genre’s biggest bands very soon.
37. Protest The Hero – Volition
(Canada – Progressive Metalcore) another great slab of crazily fun and sickly technical metal from this extremely talented Canadian band. A unique band to say the least and Volition may be their most mature album to date. The jazzy harmonies are just perfect amidst all of the punkish-chaos. Volition was also self-funded and is another great band crowdfunding campaign success story.
38. Reign Of The Architect – Rise
(Israel/Greece – Progressive Metal) One of the best concept albums of the year (a sci-fi space opera) Reign Of The Architect was founded by Mexican drummer Mauricio Bustamante and Amaseffer guitarist Yuval Kramer, the album features a huge cast of musicians including Symphony X bassist Mike LePond, Dutch keyboardist Joost Van Den Broek (Ayreon, After Forever) and a ton of great male and female vocalists to tell the story. A captivating and brilliant album that has created a ton of buzz in the metal world.
39. Riverside – Shrine of New Generation Slaves
(Poland – Progressive Rock/Metal) new album by one of the BEST bands in the genre. Shrine adds a harder-edged, Tool vibe to their well-established moody prog rock/metal sound. This band deserves all of the acclaim they’ve received over the years.
40. Scale The Summit – The Migration
(United States – Progressive Technical Instrumental Metal) Any release by Scale The Summit is a must-have and The Migration continues their exploration of instrumental metal that, unlike their more technical brethren, focuses on melody and emotional depth as well as a fair dose of wild technicality when warranted. A must have for fans of heavy instrumental music.
41. Spring & Youth – Between The Irony
(Serbia – Progressive Experimental Metal) yet another amazing discovery for 2013. This very intelligent and somewhat quirky new Serbian band adds a ton of heaviness to their brand of modern Rock-In-Opposition (RIO) style of progressive music.
42. Subsignal – Paraiso
(Germany – Progressive Rock/Metal) Third album by this great melodic, progressive band that came out of the ashes of the late, great Sieges Even. Guitarist Markus Steffen and vocalist Arno Menses are just a lethal combination and Paraiso is their best album yet.
43. TesseracT – Altered State
(United Kingdom – Progressive Djent Metal) stunning second full-length album by this top-tier heavy prog band. Meshuggah-inspired complexity with great progressive atmospheric sections. Now with all ‘clean’ vocals. Altered State is getting well-deserved world-wide acclaim and it surely puts this band at the top of the heap.
44. The Ocean – Pelagial
(Germany – Progressive Atmospheric Post-Metal) modern, experimental, classically influenced progressive post-metal. Deep and powerful music by one of the best bands and most forward-thinking bands in the genre.
45. Thought Chamber – Psykerion
(United States – Progressive Metal) The long-awaited follow-up to Thought Chamber‘s fantastic debut (2007’s Angular Perceptions). Psykerion is a perfect combination of melody and heaviness and features guitarist/leader Michael Harris and the incredible vocals of Ted Leonard (Enchant, Spock’s Beard). A great album all around including the beautiful Light Year Time which is easily one of our favorite songs of the year.
46. Until Rain – Anthem To Creation
(Greece – Progressive Metal) second album by this fantastic melodic metal band that adds Greek folk elements to their very modern sound. Great for fans of the earlier albums of Circus Maximus.
47. Vangough – Between the Madness
(United States – Progressive Metal) seriously, has any prog metal fan not heard these guys yet? Vangough‘s vintage sound harkens back to the forebearers of progressive rock, giving them a slightly retro feel while retaining the freshness of a forward thinking contemporary band. Between The Madness is the band’s fourth full-length album and we feel it’s their best one yet. It has a much greater emphasis on groove and feeling than on their earlier albums and could be the one to put them into the top tier of modern progressive bands.
48. Voivod – Target Earth
(Canada – Progressive Extreme Metal) long-awaited album by progressive thrash pioneers and first full album without founder Denis “Piggy” D’Amour. “Chewy” from Martyr ain’t a bad replacement for a legend.
49. Withem – The Point Of You
(Norway – Progressive Metal) new Norwegian group that’s created a huge buzz in the genre even before their album was released! Great, melodic progressive metal that is focused on great, heavy riffs and memorable and dramatic melodies featuring the amazing vocals of Ole Aleksander Wagenius. Great for fans of early Circus Maximus and is easily one of the best albums of year. (You can read our full review HERE.)
50. Witherscape – The Inheritance
(Sweden – Progressive Atmospheric Death Metal) Stunning debut album by the duo of the legendary Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity, Nightingale and many other bands) and guitarist/bassist Ragnar Widerberg. We’ve been longing for a second solo album from Swanö since his incredible Moontower from 1999 and this is in that album’s style with its effortless blending of dark, heavy beauty and quiet acoustic sections. (You can read our full review HERE.)