Due to the many amazing instrumental albums releasing this year, I started waxing nostalgic about my favorite instrumental prog albums. I feel like I’m forgetting some here, but this is a list of at least what immediately comes to mind. I consider an album to be instrumental if it is not technically a soundtrack of any type, and also if it has very little in the way of vocals or simply uses vocals as a harmonization technique; so a couple of these albums do have a track or two that have some vocals, but the spirit of these albums is still to tell a story or convey emotions through instrumental music. I also did try to keep this to one album per artist.
Also, check out my reviews this year for On the Raw, YSMA, Only Echoes Remain, The Vikram Shankar Orchestra, Josh Kay, The Fierce & the Dead, Richard Barbieri, and Protodream to discover the many amazing instrumental prog albums that have been released in 2017.
10. Pink Floyd – “The Endless River”
This final Pink Floyd album gets flack for supposedly not living up to the classics, but I myself consider it to be a delicate and beautiful swan song for the band and for Richard Wright. It consists mainly of material from “The Division Bell” era that was crafted into an instrumental album of some truly mesmerizing ambient musings from the band. I personally love this album.
9. Riverside – “Eye of the Soundscape”
After the passing of guitarist Piotr Grudziński, my favorite band decided to release a compilation of their ambient efforts, along with some new songs. The music is delicate and electronic, but retains that signature Riverside sound. The results are haunting and emotional, and honestly quite heart-rending.
8. Teeth of the Sea – “Master”
Teeth of the Sea’s “Master” is progressive electronic to the core. It features elongated structures, lots of creepy noises, and looping saxophone. I love the pulsating grooves and the climactic moments.
7. Colin Masson – “Isle of Eight”
I’ve been a fan of Colin Masson for a long time, it seems. His intricate Oldfield style guitar work is so sublime to me, and his spacey themes add so much personality. This particular album also features some seafaring tones that I love, and I still am in awe of his excellent licks and tone setting.
6. Hostsonaten – “Summereve”
Fabio Zuffanti is the genius behind many Rock Progressivo Italiano (RPI) masterworks, and this is my favorite of his Season Cycle albums. The music feels very much like the cover looks: like the setting of the sun in all its glory and the waning of summer. The music is colorful, keyboard and violin driven, and completely majestic. Check out all the Season Cycle albums, though.
5. Bushwhack – “Bushwhack”
I hope all of you are familiar with Earthside by now. Bushwhack was their original name or incarnation. I stumbled upon this album at a local CD exchange, and I bought it because of the instruments listed in the booklet. The music is highly conceptual with lots of world music influences and also what I would call heavy prog. It’s not as metal as Earthside’s recent debut, but it is complex and absolutely stunning at times with loads of personality.
4. Javier Sepúlveda – “Pulse of Nature”
I reviewed Javier’s album last year, and it still impresses me every time I hear it. He kindly provided a physical copy for me, and it definitely gets a workout. The music celebrates Javier’s home country of Chile and the beautiful landscapes found there. You can feel the love and passion he has for his home country through his deft guitar work, awesome riffs, and massive movements of sound.
3. Lunatic Soul – “Impressions”
Mariusz Duda’s side project Lunatic Soul has produced some of my all-time favorite albums. His third album was a look back at the first two albums, only in impressionist form. “Impressions” visits the haunting pain and visceral emotions found in this tragic story, and the album features one of my favorite instrumental tracks ever, “Impression VI”. This track has one of the most emotional, heartbreaking climaxes ever; and it should definitely be heard on a great stereo system.
2. Joseph Magazine – “Night of the Red Sky”
I fell in love with this one and only album from Joseph Magazine years ago. Hailing from Poland, the band technically plays progressive metal, but with the melodic darkness and potent emotions of their Polish brethren. The music is ambient and subtle with lots of punchy segments and near perfect melodies. The philosophical musings here don’t always line up with my beliefs, but the depth of the longing here is what absolutely floors me. The album does end with a song featuring vocals, and it serves to provide a momentary voice to the yearning on this album.
1. Mike Oldfield – “The Songs of Distant Earth”
Speaking of yearning, Mike Oldfield has many amazing instrumental albums, but “The Songs of Distant Earth” is the one that feels very much part of who I am. The longing for a place of peace beyond this evil place is intensified by the path this spiritual album takes. Instead of just wanting an escape, this album seeks to reveal who we truly are and the change that can take place when we embrace that. “Ascension” is probably my favorite instrumental track ever written. This album is based on a book of the same name written by Arthur C. Clarke.
What are your favorite instrumental prog albums?