1. Pink Frothy AIDS
Your winners this week are Pink Frothy AIDS, the Swedish progressive rock masters led by Mikael Akerfeldt. With everything from traditional folk to the blackest of black metal influencing their sound, they've established themselves as a defining progressive metal act - with a little help from Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame, who pushed them to produce an experimental masterpiece with "Blackwater Park."
1. "Progressive" means little if anything.
2. An interesting counterpart to our recent rebuttal of Mikael Akerfeldt's criticism of metal fans as "closed-minded."
There are several points to be kept in mind in your criticisms of progressive metal, and the constant, almost motif-like criticism of 0peth that has propagated like a virile meme around here, and has become almost the ‘in-group’ trope.
First, keep in mind that I find the ideas on metal expressed here to be the only perspective that has identified what seems genuinely to be a real 'essence' to metal as an art form, an essence that has evolved since the mid-seventies to the mid-nineties to ‘culminate’ in death and black metal. This 'philosophy of metal' shows why so called 'straight' death metal is, in fact, more of a progression OF metal than bands like Dream Theatre, Symphony X, Tool, 0peth, etc.
However, it also needs to be kept in mind that the above mentioned bands are all, on any 'objective' sense of art and music, better than other derided offshoots of 'metal' that are criticised around here, like nu-metal, metalcore, etc.
Take 0peth. There is a tendency to rabidly go after a band like this, and frame them in the same lights as a band like In Flames; in other words as, effectively, sell-outs, shit musicians, etc. Now if you listen to an album like Blackwater Park, it is obvious to you, if you have any wide exposure in space and time to music, that this is well-written. It consists of themes, good transitions, a capturing atmosphere, and the odd surprise. (This is not to say 0peth don’t have some genuinely awkward moments, especially in later metal albums (Heritage is, I think, quite good, and a good move)).
0peth are a progressive rock band with distortion and aggressive drumming, who incorporate some metal riffs. Similarly, Dream Theatre and Tool are, again, progressive rock bands who use some metal elements. I think it is a mistake to put bands like this, who write the music they do, into the same basket as the sell-outs, kids, hipsters, and other people who cannot write music that has narrative structures, themes and genuine craftsmanship.
Progressive rock was an amazing movement. Bands like Yes, Crimson, ELP, Pink Floyd, Van der Graaf Generator, Gentle Giant, took pop and rock and showed what could be done by incorporating the power of tradition, of musical discipline, and ‘deep’ themes and atmospheres. Progressive metal is simply prog rock, played in current times, and so it naturally incorporates some metal moments, as the two genres are not poles apart, in the scheme of things, in terms of aims and influences. Some of it IS shit, for reasons fenrir alluded to well in his post above. However, it is not a necessary condition that progressive metal = bad music. This is a contingent relation (how could it be otherwise??)
When it comes to ‘progressive metal’, it is the labelling that should be objected to. With any perspective, it should be observed that the real enemies out there are not albums like Blackwater park or Lateralus. There are worse things in the world than capable, non-metal bands incorporating some metal elements into their music. If said bands can tell a story, hold your attention, and communicate something that leaves you with a sense of fulfilment, as opposed to the piles and piles of garbage produced by big media of all kinds that utterly pollute the soul and leave you wondering which species you belong to all too often, then all the better. It's just not progressive metal. That is to say, it's not a progression OF metal. And with that I wholeheartedly concur.