2017 is over. This year was filled with incredible new albums, bands and performances. One of the reasons we love this Progressive genre so much is because it keeps evolving, and changing over the years, making it diverse, interesting, deep and intense. This is a review of the whole year, and all the different albums we got to hear, that you should definitely check out! Since we are 6 admins with different opinions and tastes we wrote this list in the following way: The admins each picked ONE album they consider to be the best of the year as well as some honorable mentions and many other albums that made this year so great. Note that the honorable mentions are listed in NO particular order. Enjoy and tell us what you think!
Yarin: Prog Album of The Year: Ayreon – The Source
This is such a hard choice for me. This year featured so many AMAZING albums, that I still listen to on a regular basis. So, picking the best one out of so many great ones was really hard. the top 3 were competing for number 1 and it’s really hard for me to decide which one I like best. The 3 albums competing for this spot were: Ayreon – The Source, Sons Of Apollo – Psychotic Symphony, and of course, Leprous – Malina. These releases are really different, but all of them showed unbelievable creativity and writing skills. It was really hard for me to make the choice, so I finally decided to name Ayreon- The Source as album of the year for me. Arjen wrote a beautifully detailed album and story, and his concept albums are some of my favorites of all time. This album is no exception. It features so many great singers, instrumentalists, and of course- one mastermind. I think that this album features some of his most creative songs ever, and that he did a wonderful job keeping this album really interesting. The alien saga goes back to the very beginning with this album, and I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this album. The Concept, the music, the casting- everything’s pretty much perfect. Arjen did an amazing job and his latest effort certainly deserves to be on the top prog albums of 2017.
Sons of Apollo – Psychotic Symphony: You can’t talk about major releases from 2017 without talking about Sons Of Apollo. This is an amazing debut from one of the coolest combination of different artists. Each one of the players has a unique and iconic sound and putting them all together in a band (and not just a project, thankfully) definitely brought us one of the best albums of the year, if not the best one. The combination of Prog with classic metal is something that we haven’t seen in a while, and it’s hard to find anything like it in style. I really hope I’ll get to see these guys perform live.
Leprous – Malina: Leprous reinvented themselves with this release. It’s unbelievable. It’s really hard to choose but right now it’s probably my favorite Leprous album. It’s so diverse and interesting. Leprous are not afraid to mix things up every once in a while, and that’s probably the biggest challenge for a prog band these days- To take their original sound, and take it to whole new levels. There are very few bands today that are able to do this and Leprous probably does it best. I already can’t wait to see where they’ll go next. The elements they chose to bring to the prog world with each of their releases are really cool and unique. one of the top bands in the prog scene today for sure.
Pain Of Salvation – In The Passing Light Of Day: This was THE release to start 2017 with. Pain Of Salvation haven’t released a new album for 6 years, so the anticipation was unbelievable, and I think that the band definitely lived up to the expectations. This is definitely a major release in the band’s history, probably in my top 3 of the band ever. They took the unique sound of Road Salt I and II and combined it with their trademark, heavier sound from previous albums, so it really has everything. This album takes risks bringing new elements to their writing and their sound, and It definitely works. It’s a very emotional album and feels very personal to me.
Others By No One – Book I: Dr Breacher: WOW. This album definitely blew my mind. Bands like this one and Native Construct shows me how a single band can reinvent the whole PROG genre. A very unique mixture of prog, metal, jazz and more. These guys definitely deserve more exposure and their debut album definitely deserves a listen! can’t wait to see where they’ll take us next. The album does so much in just 3 songs, and it’s my biggest discovery of the year. Check them out, you won’t regret it.
The Dear Hunter – All Is As All Should Be: This EP was release last month and I can’t seem to stop listening to it. It’s a very strong release by The Dear Hunter. I consider The Dear Hunter to be one of my favorite bands ever. This EP running for only 24 minutes is really unbelievable good. Every song stands out and even though this EP was only released last month it got in my best albums list for 2017 very quickly
Soen – Lykaia: this is one of the coolest albums to come out this year. It’s a very strong release. The style of the band keeps evolving, bringing new things to the table and this album deserves you listening to it. Check it out!
Tohider– Good: AMAZING release. The mastermind behind this project is Mike Mills, and he is one of the most talented people in the prog scene today. He is a multi instrumentalist and his vocal abilities are unbelievable. He was featured in Ayreon’s latest album “The Source”, and the one before it, “The Theory Of Everything”. But he’s not just a talented player and singer, he also writes really cool albums. If you want to check out something that’s different, and unique check out this album.
Alfredo: Prog Album of The Year: Nova Collective – The Further Side
Nova Collective is a group of established players – bassist Dan Briggs (Between The Buried And Me, Trioscapes), guitarist Richard Henshall (Haken), keyboardist Pete Jones (ex-Haken) and drummer Matt Lynch (Trioscapes, Cynic). Given their proven instrumental skills, I was kind of expecting The Further Side to be a shred-fest. I was pleasantly surprised when instead, I found very strong and captivating songs where the displays of virtuosity (they are there!) are used sparingly, effectively, and for the strength of the composition. Nova Collective continues the rich tradition of Jazz/Rock/Prog Fusion, like The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever before them, while updating the genre with a very contemporary sound. I hope Nova Collective continues to release albums and tour for many years to come.
Djam Karet – Sonic Celluloid: If I could have co-top album of the year, it would be Sonic Celluloid. This instrumental album has pretty much all the ingredients that take the listener on a musical journey that is never dull, and where he/she wishes it could go on longer.
Kafod – Pasos: Kafod’s sound is rooted in the beloved tried and true classic Prog, and their unique infusion of South American folk. Led by the husband and wife team of Carlos Cruz (bass, lead vocals) and Paula Demarco (keyboards, harmony vocals) and joined at times by their 8-year old drum prodigy son Juan Salvador, Pasos is an excellent effort that goes a long way to cement Kafod as one of South America’s most important proponents of the genre.
Herd Of Instinct – Drone Priest: The band’s fourth release features the talents of Warr Guitar wizard Mark Cook. This well-crafted, lush soundscape is augmented by honorary member Gayle Ellett (Djam Karet) and special guests Marco Machera (EchoTest) on bass and Adam Holzman (Steven Wilson) on keyboards.
Godsticks – Faced With Rage: This Welsh band is led by guitarist/singer Darran Charles, whom you may have seen playing with The Pineapple Thief during their latest tour. This is an album for fans of heavy, melodic music. Darran, and the rest of the band deliver an excellent album with solid, memorable songs featuring their high level of musicianship.
Marco Minnemann – Borrego: Best known as a world-class drummer, Marco Minnemann is more than that. He is a multi-instrumentalist and musical visionary. Borrego is an excellent album that displays Marco’s composing and playing skills. Inspired by the landscape of Southern California’s desert town Borrego Springs, this concept double album is masterfully executed and features Marco playing and singing mostly everything, plus special guests Joe Satriani and Alex Lifeson. A long, but rewarding listen.
Tim: Prog Album of The Year: Yes – Topographic Drama – Live Across America, 2017
There are a lot of new albums to pick for this year’s “Prog-Album of the year” but I went with the Yes album, “Topographic Drama- Live Across America.” To start with a disclaimer, I’m not one of those individuals that base whether Yes is Jon Anderson or not. To me, it’s always ONLY ever been about the music and that’s what this review will present….the performance, NOT who’s in the band. So if you’re one of those people obsessed with Jon Anderson then this is probably not for you. Lineup: Jon Davison: Vocals, guitars, percussion Steve Howe: Guitars, vocals Billy Sherwood: Bass guitar, vocals, Harmonica Geoff Downes: Keyboards Alan White: Drums, Percussion Jay Shellen: Drums, Percussion.
To start, this album is a documentation of the continuing album series tours pioneered by Steve Howe. While previous live albums played all of Close to the Edge, Fragile, The Yes Album, and Going for the One, this features blistering live performances of the 1980 album Drama and much of 1973’s Tales From Topographic Oceans. The Drama performance is absolutely wonderful. I’ve always been a fan of this album as it had a more hard edge sound that previous Yes albums save for maybe Relayer. Machine Messiah, which kicks off the album, is as heavy as ever and vocalist Jon Davison provides a voice pretty much in the middle of the road between Trevor Horn and Jon Anderson and it works! I really enjoy his singing on this album. Does It Really Happen and Into the lens are superb live performances as well.
I was never a huge fan of Run Through the light but I really love the version presented here! Kinda dark and sad, it is refreshing to hear it performed live for the first time. The Topographic Oceans set is amazing as well. To be honest I have a lot of misgivings for the original album, feeling it’s overly long and padded. But the performances here totally prove me wrong. There’s a TON of energy! The moment that really caught my eye is the “Leaves Of Green” section of the Ancient. It’s absolutely beautiful and showcases guitarist Steve Howe and his trusty acoustic in one of the more soaring moments of the album. Another highlight is the roaring version of Heart Of the Sunrise. Bassist Billy Sherwood respects the legendary Chris Squire bassline and performs them flawlessly. I’ve become a huge Sherwood fan over the years and this performance elevates that respect to ever higher levels. If anything, Squire’s hand-picked replacement is another wonderful element added to the live-Yes performance. The only issue I really have is we don’t know who’s performing drums on which tracks.
It’s no secret that long-time drummer Alan White was off for most of the tour after back surgery and that Conspiracy drummer Jay Shellen was filling in for him (and did a marvelous job). So the problem I have is who played on what? I’m guessing more details will come out in time. There’s a ton of live material here to enjoy. If you aren’t bogged down in the politics of who is what to this band, you’ll love this album. It’s extremely well-produced AND provides a setlist that’s pretty rare. As a post-script, I’m very happy Yes-music continues to be performed live heading into 2018. Thanks for reading!
Celso: Prog Album of The Year: Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
After a long week, I came to a decision. It was hard to pick just one album but I made an effort to only choose one. If someone asked me what are the essential listens of 2017, I would say three albums: Pain of Salvation’s In The Passing Light of Day, The Contortionist’s Clairvoyant and Caligula’s Horse’s In Contact. Now you see how hard is to pick only one album between these incredible albums! But I made my choice and it’s Caligula’s Horse’s In Contact.
I wasn’t into this band before. I was aware of them but nothing more, so some weeks before the release I received the album for reviewing purposes and on the first listen I was hooked instantly because, honestly speaking, a powerful song like “Dream The Dead” catches you instantly! After that you have an even more powerful song “Will’s Song (Let The Colours Run)”, and after that a way catchier song (and my personal favorite of the album) “The Hands Are The Hardest”. I think this album is the best because it has everything that makes for an overall good listen; you will be headbanging, you will feel the lyrics of the songs (because of course it’s a conceptual album and some of you will identify with the concept). I’d like to add that Jim Grey’s voice on this album is one of the best that I heard in recent times. My guess is that the music translates even better live, and those guitars licks made by Sam Vallen are so sick! In Contact is definitely an album that you should listen before the year’s end. But if you want a simple song that will hook you to this album, listen to “Graves” (the final track). This is the song that you should be hearing now, because that’s songs like this one is what represents the new wave of prog epics.
Christina: Prog Album of The Year: Mastodon – Emperor of Sand
Mastodon’s latest album “Emperor of Sand” is my top album of 2017. It is perhaps the most listened to out of the score of albums (in the progressive genre) that were released this year. It’s a mainstay in my car, during those early morning shifts at work when I need to drown out the worst of the 90s and early 00s pop music, and when I just need something heavy to listen to. The loose concept behind the album itself is fantastic. Lost in a desert, cursed, praying to whatever deity you can think of just for some water to survive. Below the surface, it’s a very emotional album about fighting one of the world’s worst illnesses: cancer. Two of the members of Mastodon were touched by it during the making of the album, and are well known for pouring their thoughts and selves into an album to find healing (see: “Crack the Skye”). This album is the album that got me into Mastodon. Yes, I am very much late to the game, but who cares. These four gentlemen from Atlanta, Georgia have won the coveted spot of album, and artist, of the year from me. On top of it all, I was able to hear a good portion of the album live this year in Knoxville, Tennessee. My favourite tracks from this album? “Steambreather”, “Show Yourself”, “Ancient Kingdom”, “Clandestiny”, and “Andromeda”.
Arcadea – Arcadea – Do you like synthesizers? Do you like psychedelic space themed albums full of synthesizers and fantastic drumming? This is the album for you. Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor’s side project is the single most unique album I have heard all year. It makes the synthesizer and space lover in me so very happy. Progressive psychedelic space metal. This album was almost my number one pick for the year. I… truly have no other words besides go listen to it. Now. Favourite track(s)? “Neptune Moons” and “Through the Eye of Pisces”
Elder – Reflections of a Floating World” – This latest release is the true stoner/psychedelic/progressive sound I knew they could release, being a big fan of their previous album “Lore”. With hints of the doom metal from their past, delightfully fuzzy, and nothing short of perfection. Favourite track? “Sanctuary”
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers – A fantastic ambient progressive post-rock album that tops their previous releases. With sweeping soundscapes and a heady sound, it’s sure to please the senses and tell its own story without words. Favourite track? “Anthem For No State”
Mastodon – Cold Dark Place – Extras from the “Once More ‘Round the Sun” and “Emperor of Sand” album that sound wonderful together on this EP, and better than some artists full blown albums. Despite three of the songs being written in one era, and one from their latest album, they sound like they were part of one session alone. A few more extra tracks, and it could have probably been a full blown album. I’m still delighted with the EP, either way. Favourite track? “Blue Walsh”
Lunatic Soul – Fractured – Mariusz Duda has stolen my heart once more with another Lunatic Soul album. It is full of emotion. A cathartic release turned into a treat for the ears. With that darker sound that might even harken back to those sounds in the 80s. Favourite track? “Crumbling Teeth and the Owl Eyes”
The Vicious Head Society – Abject Tomorrow – Pure progressive metal. Forget Dream Theater, this is the album (the artist) you need in your life. A dystopian concept album formed around the world we are slowly putting ourselves into as we reject our humanity and embrace machinery. What isn’t there to love? Did I mention that this band is one gentleman? Graham Keane is a virtuoso. Favourite track? “Abject Tomorrow”
Afridi: Prog Album of The Year: Steven Wilson – To The Bone
Steven Wilson’s ‘To the Bone’ is my pick for Album of the Year. I keep this record close to my heart, primarily for the myriad sources of inspiration drawn from in its lyrics. For example, ‘Song of I’ had many in deep contemplation as to what it could be about. Was it, a man who had foregone all his wrongful habits solely to earn the affection of another? This, despite knowing that what she calls vices, to him are a means of coping with life. Or was he someone who took pride in himself for the man he had grown to become, having shed all his weaknesses but one – the need to be loved. ‘Detonation’ was a chilling glimpse into the workings of a serial killer’s mind, rationalizing to himself why his despising of God makes it acceptable to take the lives of innocents in His name. Right from the release of its very first single, it had successfully polarized his dedicated yet heavily opinionated fan community. An eclectic melange of musical styles were experimented with in this album, including a substantial influence of the dreaded “P-word” – Pop. This foray into a more upbeat atmosphere was a huge diversion from his usual palate – emotionally turbulent progressive rock played in the most dispiriting vein possible. It was a time when many of his long-time followers chose to disembark on this leg of his journey of self-discovery through the channels of music. He simply did not cater to their tastes anymore. Conversely, those who were willing to delve into something new, were exposed to the reality that tasteful music needn’t conform to a particular genre. It is for all these reasons that I consider it my personal favorite release of 2017. Christina listed To The Bone in her honorable mentions list. She comments: It’s an album of well done progressive pop, harkening back to the 80s with Tears For Fears, Peter Gabriel, and Kate Bush. An album that follows the wishes of its creator to never sound like another album from his back catalog. It is my feel good pop album of the year. An easy listen when I don’t want something heavy, but do want something with those progressive hints in it. Favourite track? “Nowhere Now”
We also include Additional Honorable Mentions we picked that made this year such a great year for PROG. This amazing year featured so many great albums and artists that deserve recognition:
The Contortionist – Clairvoyant
Persefone – Aathma
White Moth Black Butterfly – Atone
Threshold – Legends of The Shire
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Anathema – The Optimist
Steve Hackett – The Night Siren
Nordic Giants – Amplify Human Vibration
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
2018 – World Prog-Nation