Written on January 1, 2010
King Crimson released the first true progressive rock album in 1969 with “In the Court of the Crimson King.” After this seminal progressive rock album, the scene exploded with progressive rock bands like Yes, ELP, Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, and Van Der Graff Generator, and many of these bands actually topped the charts, meaning that progressive rock was actually popular, which seems unfathomable today. This all peaked around 1972-1973. After this peak period, these bands continued to release great progressive rock albums, and new prog rock bands continued to emerge on the scene like Rush and Kansas. However, once the first decade of progressive rock ended, the genre really slowed down. Many of these bands were still around and making great music, but for the most part, it wasn’t progressive rock. In the 1980’s, there was a new (but small) prog movement called neo-prog. This movement was lead by bands like IQ, Marillion, and Pendragon. I like a lot of neo-prog music, but it didn’t have nearly the impact that the early progressive rock pioneers had on the music scene. So, all in all, prog was almost dead by the end of the 80’s.
For progressive rock to survive in the 1990’s, it not only needed a new sound, but it also needed a new fan base. Here’s where Dream Theater came in. They played a brand of progressive rock that was infused with hard-hitting heavy metal. Many heavy metal fans had already been somewhat exposed to complex song arrangements from bands like Metallica and Megadeth. So, the metal fan base was a perfect fit for progressive rock, they just needed their prog to be injected with metal, and Dream Theater provided that injection. With the new sound and fan base for progressive rock in place, Dream Theater really took off as the leaders of the new progressive rock movement, and I really think that if Dream Theater had not emerged on the scene, we would not be having the resurgence of progressive rock that we are having right now (2011), and I will say that Dream Theater has done more for progressive rock in the last 20 years than any other progressive rock band did during this period. They not only kicked off the whole progressive metal movement, but because of their influence on the scene, they opened the door for a countless number of other sub-genres of prog, and they re-invigorated the original prog genre (which is now referred to as symphonic prog).
Styles and Genres
Progressive metal, progressive rock
Main Band Line-Up
James LaBrie – Lead vocals
John Petrucci – Guitar, backing vocals
John Myung – Bass guitar
Jordan Rudess – Keyboards
Mike Portnoy – Drums, backing vocals
Current Band Line-Up
James LaBrie – lead vocals
John Petrucci – guitars, backing vocals
Jordan Rudess – keyboards, Continuum
John Myung – bass
Mike Mangini – drums, percussion
Before closing out this review, I have to mention Fates Warning. Although Dream Theater is often credited as the founders of progressive metal, Fates Warning was cranking out progressive metal albums as early as the mid-80’s, and Mike Portnoy even credits Fates Warning as the original progressive metal band. Nonetheless, it is Dream Theater that truly waived the flag for the genre.
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