2016 has been an amazing year for prog music and artists. We at World Prog-Nation decided to compile a list of all the great prog albums released in 2016. Since we are 5 admins with different tastes and different interests, we decided to rank the albums in the following way: each of us picked an album that would be album of the year, so the list will start with each of our #1 album, the one that we think tops all of them (a very hard choice). all of the other albums will be listed in no particular order. So let’s start:
World Prog Nation’s choices for 2016’s Top Albums are:
Yarin: Prog Album Of The Year: HAKEN- Affinity:
this was a really hard choice, with so many great albums released this year. There were 3 albums competing for this spot for me: Affinity, The Dear Hunter- Hymns With The Devil In Confessional and The Neal Morse Band- The Similitude Of A Dream. To me, no one is the clear winner and each of these albums have their strengths so i decided to name Haken’s Affinity as Album Of The Year for me. The Neal Morse band has given us one of the strongest concept albums I’ve ever heard, that’s pretty mind blowing too. The Dear Hunter, released an album that will probably be in my Top 10 albums ever for years to come. The music style, and the plot itself is unbelievable. Still Haken is a band that continue to amaze me with every musical direction that they make. I truly believe they are going to redefine the whole genre with their unique style and writing approach so i decided to give them the honors. Amazing album, can’t wait for the next one!
Alfredo: Best Prog Album Of The Year: Marillion- F.E.A.R
Marillion released its 18th studio album in September 2016 to worldwide critical acclaim. FEAR (F*** Everyone And Run) is a excellent album, both musically and lyrically that, in my opinion, continues the tradition of equally excellent releases going back to at least 1994’s Brave (and probably from even before then). FEAR is the result of a three-year songwriting period that resulted from countless jams where the band chose the best musical moments, and where singer Steve Hogarth composed very relevant lyrics that fit in quite appropriately with recent world events. Keyboardist Mark Kelly and guitarist Steve Rothery shine throughout the album with their wall of textured sound augmented by the ever solid rhythm section of drummer Ian Mosley and bassist Pete Trewavas. Steve Hogarth delivers another tour de force performance with his rich, soulful vocal delivery. FEAR is made up of five main suites. Highlights include “El Dorado” (5 sections) and “The New Kings” (4 sections), which the band has included in their live shows. Once songs from FEAR have been witnessed in a concert setting, they take on a different dimension, which enhances the listening experience. This is not an album of Pop singles, and is better appreciated by being listened to in its entirety. FEAR is easily my choice for top Prog album of 2016.
Tim: Best Prog Album Of The Year: Dream Theater- The Astonishing
This is Dream Theater’s 13th release and it’s probably their most ambitious to date. Drawing on fantasy epics like Game of Thrones and Star Wars, Guitarist John Petrucci crafted an epic (co-written with keyboardist Jordan Rudess) that would span two CD’s and prove a massive undertaking to listen to. This is not a bad thing as music, especially prog, is meant not only to be enjoyed but analyzed. To summarize, the concept is about a future time in which a rouge militia attempts to combat the empire under which they live with the power of music. How, you ask? Well you’ll just have to listen! But for our benefit, the band also created a web page to further explain the concept. (see below)
As for the music, this is clearly their most unusual album. It lacks epics and drawn out solos, but personally I love this. More in style with Pink Floyd’s The Wall album, they keep us guessing and make us listen many times to grasp everything happening. This album has been out since January and I still am finding new moments…..to me that’s a sign of a classic!
But to be fair, this album isn’t for everyone. I’ll be honest, the first time I heard it, it was just too much. A massive undertaking that I felt I just didn’t have time for. But as time had gone on, more and more moments hit me and I felt we really do have something special. It’s also been said that this is James LaBrie’s finest vocal moment and I completely agree. John Petrucci commented that there was a plan to bring in multiple singers for the parts but James wanted to give it a shot on his own. The success is immeasurable and I think he knocks it out of the park here. There is one big drawback tho….am I alone in feeling John Myung is totally overshadowed here? He’s amazing, but I’d love to hear more from him. Thanks for reading!
Celso: Gojira- Magma
The guys in Gojira keep on surprising us with their new ideas and experimentation in their albums. Unlike the previous albums, Magma’s focus is not to be an album full of Metal, but on being more expressive. Joe Duplantier demonstrated what he can do with his clean voice in songs like “Low Lands” and “The Shooting Star”. We can tell that the boys focused on channeling their feelings at the time (during the album’s recording process had to be put on hold due to the death of the Duplantier brothers’ mother – this was the key point that made this album such an emotional one both lyrically and musically). Magma has received critical acclaim from many important publications as “Album of the Year”. As a World Prog-Nation editor, I pick Magma as “Album of the Year” as well because of its incredible compositions that make the album deserving of the title. It took the band a little over two years to write the songs, and they gave us one of their best.
Christina: Opeth- Sorceress
Sorceress is the latest release by Swedish progressive metal band Opeth. Released on September 30th, 2016, it marks the twelfth studio release, the first on their new imprint Moderbolaget, and the first with their new record label Nuclear Blast. A wonderful, all-encompassing piece in their new direction. Full of the melodic clean vocals Mikael Akerfeldt has stuck with since Heritage, it glides nicely across the senses. Heavier tracks like the title song “Sorceress” and “The Wilde Flowers” will delight the fans of the heavier feelings of Ghost Reveries and Watershed. While other tracks like “Will ‘O’ The Wisp” (inspired by a Jethro Tull album Mikael has said in an interview) and the epic eight minute track “Strange Brew” are sure to win over more fans to their new direction. The entire album’s theme on the darker sides of romance, perhaps through the eyes of the Sorceress character, have graced my earbuds and speakers over and over since the release. A fantastic album from cover to cover, and well worth the deluxe edition with extra tracks “The Ward” and “Spring MCMLXXIV” as well as three live songs with The Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra “Cusp of Eternity”, “The Drapery Falls”, and “Voice of Treason”. Sorceress is quite easily my number one pick for the best progressive album of 2016.
Jeff: Fates Warning- Theories Of Flight
I have been a huge fan of Fates Warning ever since I first heard Prelude to Ruin on a Metal Blade compilation tape. I immediately raced out and bought Spectre Within and Awaken the Guardian. I can honestly say I love both John Arch and Ray Alder. While A Pleasant Shade of Gray remains my favorite ‘Alder era’ Fates, Theories of Flight is fantastic. I tend to gravitate towards dark atmospheric prog music. This does not disappoint in that department. It also has some real fist pumping tracks. Jim Matheos is brilliant, and weaves superb and intricate guitar-work throughout. Ray’s voice has a warm, almost smoky quality that conveys emotion almost better than anyone else. Joey Vera, Bobby Jarzombek and Frank Aresti of course are stellar. Listen with headphones, as the instrumental interplay can be hypnotic.
these are our picks for 2016’s Best Prog Album. Here are the rest of the albums that made 2016 one of the best year for prog. They’re presented in NO particular order. these are very strong releases that keep shaping the genre and the style. check them out!
7. The Neal Morse Band- The Similitude Of A Dream
8. The Dear Hunter- Act V: Hymns With The Devil In Confessional
9. Redemption- The Art Of Loss
10. The Mute Gods- Do Nothing till You Hear from Me
11. Iamthemorning- Lighthouse
12. Meshuggah- The Violent Sleep of Reason
13. Plini- HandMade Cities
14. Frost*-Falling Satellites
15. Riverside- Eye of the Soundscape
16. Evergrey- The Storm Within
17. Thank You Scientist- Stranger Heads Prevail
18. Anderson/Stolt-invention of knowledge
19. Circus Maximus-Havoc
20. Katatonia- The Fall of Hearts
21. Periphery III- Select Difficulty
22. Levin Minnemann Rudess- From The Law Offices Of
23. Animals As Leaders- The Madness Of Many
24. Big Big Train- Folklore
25. John Wesley- A Way You’ll Never Be
26. The Pineapple Thief- Your Wilderness
27. Devin Townsend- Transcendence
28. Steven Wilson- 4 1/2
what’s your choice for The best prog album of 2016? let us know in the comments.