I’ve been asked several times since last year’s 2010-2019 feature whether or not I would jump back another decade. It’s a big job, but revisiting some of these albums has been nostalgic, to say the least. I would note that this list, like the previous one, does not include film scores or other soundtracks. If so, I would have removed around 20 albums from this list to make room. Maybe I’ll do a list devoted to movie and video game soundtracks, who knows? You will notice, though, that this list is not entirely “prog”, as there is no possible way I could make an honest list that way. I hope you find something new to try, prog or not.
– Psychosolstice (2009)
Pinkroom have never gotten the recognition they deserve. This Polish band has the melancholy and darkness that one would expect, and also the Porcupine Tree influence. This debut isn’t the most original record in the world, but it has guts.
99. Crossfade – Crossfade (2004)
I know I know, this is “jock rock”, as I’ve heard it called. I don’t care. This Crossfade debut has great melodies, emotional choruses, and even the odd experiment or two. I still love it.
98. OSI – Blood (2009)
I’m surprised that this record isn’t celebrated more than it is. I mean, combining the talents of Jim Matheos and Kevin Moore with guests Gavin Harrison, Mikael Åkerfeldt, and Tim Bowness? What a lineup! And the results aren’t the typical supergroup bullshit. This album is moody, atmospheric, and lyrically on fire. My appreciation grows every time I hear it, and I am reminded what a great artist and writer Kevin Moore really is.
97. Goo Goo Dolls –
Once upon a time, I considered the Goo Goo Dolls to be my favorite band. When Gutterflower dropped, I was taken immediately. This album still has some of their best choruses and most interesting tracks.
– In Here We Fall (2000)
Ah, yes, this album reminds me of Titan A.E., a highly underrated animated film from 2000. Anyways, the song “Cosmic Castaway” was on that soundtrack, and it got me interested in Electrasy. Years later, I actually bought the album and realized that it is rather good, and it gets addictive, even though this punk/alternative rock flavor isn’t my normal thing. My favorite song is “Morning Afterglow”, though, and I still add it to playlists often.
95. Vayden –
Children of our Mistakes (2008)
I remember finding Vayden through the new defunct Silent Majority Group record label. These guys were alternative metal with personality and passion, and every single song seemed to ooze this. Fantastic drums and outstanding vocals were the icing on the cake. The guys started experimenting more later on before becoming inactive, but this debut remains as a promise for what could have been.
– Children of Chaos (2007)
Something drew me to this album in Hot Topic one day, so I gave it a shot. Soulidium were obsessed with vampires and sex, and the music is suitably sensual. Still, this alternative metal album is also structured in interesting ways, and the lyrics are strangely inviting. Sometimes bombastic and other times emotional, this album is something I revisit often.
93. White Willow
– Sacrament (2000)
I’ve liked most of the albums I’ve heard from White Willow, a progressive folk band of substantial standing. However, I always go back to Sacrament. It is a mystical, ritualistic, almost unnerving album, one full of fog and harmony. I like this original cover better than the remaster from a few years ago, too.
92. Course of Nature
– Superkala (2002)
I’m not really sure how Course of Nature failed to get a foothold into the alternative rock scene. Every single song on this debut is catchy, attractive, and interesting. I love the vocals and lyrics, and also the little twists in some of the deeper cuts. I have no idea why rock fans failed to notice.
91. Circus Maximus
– The 1st Chapter (2005)
This debut from Circus Maximus is something of a love/hate item for me. It is objectively good, and I like all of the glorious progressive metal tracks therein. However, I feel like it doesn’t hold up super well, and the Dream Theater influence is ridiculously high. I think the band agrees, judging by their recent direction. Still, no one can deny how good the album is, and I listened to it quite often.
90. Fuel – Natural Selection (2003)
I love Fuel. Always have. Their Something Like Human album is a masterpiece of pop/rock for me. Natural Selection, however, is right on its heels. This album was a bit more mature and focused more on their heavier side, which I guess is why it wasn’t as successful. Yet, I would daresay some of their best songs are here, and definitely some of their catchiest.
89. Opeth – Damnation (2003)
I’ve never been a big Opeth fan. I’m not sure why. But I love this album. Produced by Steven Wilson, this is obviously a departure from their death metal sound, instead presenting clean vox and modern progressive rock goodness. Honestly, most of the album has a ballad slant to it, and that’s probably why I like it.
88. Pacifier – Pacifier (2002)
I actually just learned more about this album recently. Pacifier was the new name for Shihad, a band from New Zealand. When they tried to grab some of the USA’s market share, they changed their name. This album is a radio rock affair, and it does exactly that: rocks. I love every single song without exception. The band doesn’t seem to like it, seeing it as a departure from who they are, but I still like it.
87. Guilt Machine
– On this Perfect Day (2009)
Without a doubt, this is the best thing Arjen Anthony Lucassen has ever done, in my opinion. Shedding the cheese and metal of his other projects, he brought in Jasper Steverlinck of the Belgian band Arid to provide vocals for this melodic and highly progressive rock event. The final track, especially, is perfect, which is appropriate because it is called “Perfection?” I want more of this project, but it probably won’t happen.
86. Kevin Martin and the Hiwatts –
The Possibility of Being (2003)
After one of my favorite bands, Candlebox, broke up to get out of a label agreement, singer Kevin Martin remained antsy. He produced some other albums for other bands, but also made this fantastic one-off with The HiWatts. I would have loved to see them tour, which they did for a bit before Candlebox reunited in 2006. This is illustrious, emotional, and raw alternative rock with great choruses, meaningful lyrics, and a grounded maturity that Candlebox lacked in the 90s. I would love to hear Kevin sing “Thoughtless Innuendos” live someday.
85. Kamelot – Karma (2001)
Kamelot has a ridiculous amount of great albums in the 2000s. Karma is a great album with some of their best tracks, like the twisty “The Spell” or the “Elizabeth” suite. I do feel like it ends in anti-climactic fashion, but the ride is something I love to take often.
– The Reason (2003)
I like this album more than I ever thought I would. Hoobastank was third-rate alternative rock in my eyes at the time, and then all of a sudden they released this monster of an album with several high profile singles and moments that just scream for the band to expand and experiment with the ideas at hand. Still, I love this album, each and every song.
83. Status Minor – Dialog (2009)
I haven’t kept up with Finland’s Status Minor as much as I should have. Their debut is still a great offering, though, with dark progressive metal ideas and a second half that is stunning. The final epic is personal and raw in ways I did not expect.
– The Human Condition (2009)
For some reason, I’ve never been able to get into Saga, with the exception of this one album that features a singer who only appears on this particular offering. In some ways, it is an album from a different band altogether. The music here is rich, winding, and intensely memorable. This is one to sing along to in the car with the windows down.
– Winterthrough (2008)
Winterthrough is the second part of the Seasoncycle Suite from Hostsonaten. My favorite happens to be Summereve from a few years later, but this one is a close second. It has a sense of quiet regality that I really enjoy, and its hushed tones and cold embrace are simply beautiful.
80. Liquid Gang – Sunshine (2000)
To this day, I don’t know much about Liquid Gang. They launched in the mid-90s with some songs and EPs, and they released their full-length debut in 2000. They even toured with Sevendust and Staind. But after that, I have no idea what happened to them. This debut is gritty, heavy, and pretty unique, though a bit cheesy and overly rhyming in the lyrical department. Still, I feel this album in my bones and it holds up today.
79. Myrath – Hope (2007)
I still remember the moment I discovered Tunisia’s Myrath. It was this album, actually, and I was blown away by the sheer musicality and also technical prowess. Most would rate their next album, Desert Call, more highly, but there is something about the raw and rambunctious debut that I love to this day.
78. Sloth – Dead Generation (2003)
I used to love finding alternative rock bands that flew under the radar. Sloth was a great band: full of grit, social commentary, gloomy songs, and some interesting arrangements. Sure, they resembled a few other bands of the era, but they had an energy and an independent attitude that drew me to them. Nowadays, you can hear the drummer in the band Lord Helmet, which I recommend you do.
77. The Sammus Theory –
See (it) Through (2007)
The Sammus Theory is an interesting group. They started out as a dark, vicious, and heavy band with post-hardcore tendencies. Their songs were psychedelic, even, and dreamy. Their debut and this album See (it) Through were very attractive to me, and I still listen to them often. This album specifically has incredibly raw emotions, yet also fantastic choruses. The combination of harsh and clean vox works really well for them, though that may have hurt their radio-friendliness. Maybe that’s why they moved away from that sound later.
76. Indukti – S.U.S.A.R. (2005)
I am amazed that this debut from Poland’s Indukti is still relatively unknown to some degree. Mariusz Duda of Riverside sings on about half the tracks, and the music is definitely reminiscent of the cold melancholy that we have come to expect from bands from this country. The band moved on from this sound with their next album, and so this debut remains a one-off artifact in some ways.
75. Audiovent –
Dirty Sexy Knights in Paris (2002)
Brandon Boyd (Incubus) has always been talented, but his brother Jason is equally so. Though they sound similar in some respects, Jason’s voice has a bit more character to it, I believe, and this Audiovent debut proved the band’s ability to craft exciting, flowing, and bold music. There isn’t a bad song on the album. I was happy to see the band reunite recently for a few shows. Wish I could have gone.
74. Abigail’s Ghost
– Selling Insincerity (2007)
I know that many people pegged this album as a Porcupine Tree knock-off. That is absolutely true to a certain extent. However, I still love it in all its moody, stylish glory. I specifically love the song “Monochrome”, which feels like the most original song here, especially the phenomenal guitars in the second half. It is definitely worth your time.
73. Jupiter Society –
First Contact//Last Warning (2008)
I’d be the first to admit that this is an odd album. Of course it is, since Carl Westholm of Carptree is the mastermind here. The album has an undeniable sense of groove, urgency, and story, though; and I love the riff style used for this sci-fi prog metal. This is an underrated record, in my estimation, even by myself sometimes.
72. Korn – Untouchables (2002)
With Korn, I usually love or hate their albums. This is one I love, and is probably my favorite from them overall. I love the raw lyrics and the sense of scale in their sound. Many of their other albums do not have that, or the sense of experimentation I notice here, too. This is definitely the album I put on when I’m in a bad mood.
71. Arcane – Ashes (2007)
Australia’s Arcane, the original vehicle for Jim of Caligula’s Horse, is better known for their Chronicles of the Waking Dream and Known/Learned. However, I find myself drawn to their debut because of its crazy lyrics and chaotic musical style. The biting social commentary is a plus, too. Jim is fervent in all his sweaty glory on this one, and I enjoy that raw, less polished side of his talent.
70. Porcupine Tree –
Fear of a Blank Planet (2007)
Most would consider this a near-perfect album, and even though I’m not the biggest fan of PT, I would have to agree. Obviously, PT had multiple genre-defining albums in the 2000s, but this is one that has the mood, the structure, and the songs I enjoy the most. The second half is especially good.
69. Stabbing Westward –
Stabbing Westward (2001)
I’ve been a big fan of Stabbing Westward for a long time. I know that even fans seem to dislike this self-titled release that spelled the doom of the band until they reformed again recently. But I don’t care. This album is fantastic. It has some of the best writing and best vocal melodies on any of their records. It may lack some of the angst of their 90s output, but it makes up for that with Gothic and melancholy tendencies, not to mention strong choruses.
68. Rishloo – Feathergun (2009)
I remember thinking that Rishloo was a copy of A Perfect Circle, and their sounds do overlap quite a bit. However, as I’ve explored their music more, they definitely have their own thing going. This album is vibrant and viscous at times, with sharp social commentary, explosive vocal lines, and a sense of quirk that sets them apart from other bands.
67. Seal – System (2007)
Every Seal album is amazing, but this one has become one of my favorites. On this record, he explores the electronic side of his sound, but never misses on the soul and melody of his songs. I particularly like the longer remix of “The Right Life”, but all of the songs are excellent.
– Half Way Home (2008)
DeeExpus doesn’t get their due praise. This project has some of the most interesting, melodic progressive rock ideas I’ve ever heard, falling somewhere between pastoral and subtle and modern and heavy. They also have some of the clearest vocals, most amazing drums, and catchiest choruses I’ve heard. This album showcases all of those things with galloping and soothing precision.
65. The Exies – Inertia (2003)
Nostalgia plays a big part in my love for this album. I really like The Exies, and I remember when they were going to be the next big thing. But then rock became unpopular for a spell, and they faded. This is their second album, and it is equal parts heavy and gravy. I love the use of multiple vocalists, both of them having great but very different voices, and the band seems to like to experiment with song structures and textures. I really liked their next two albums, as well, but this is the one I put on when I think of them.
64. Seventh Wonder
– Waiting in the Wings (2006)
Seventh Wonder has this knack for taking a cheesy, 80s inspired prog metal sound, and turning it into something vivid and amazing. All of their albums are like that. But this is the one I like the most in the 00s. Waiting in the Wings has such theater and such groovy style that it is no wonder that vocalist Tommy Karevik was chosen to take the place of Roy Khan in Kamelot. Tommy has one of the best voices in the business, but I think his best work can be found with Seventh Wonder.
– Lost and Found (2005)
I’ve seen Mudvayne labelled as “progressive metal” many times, which surprised me at first. But then I remembered why I liked them so much back in the day. Their first few offerings were less accessible and seriously complicated at times, but I think the band found their sound here most of all. This album is catchy, but also experimental, razor-edged, and uncompromising. I find it a perfect balance.
62. Mister Kite – Box of Fear (2004)
Ah, Mister Kite. They are difficult to Google because of The Beatles, obviously, and their two albums never made much of a splash. But I love them both. The first one, All in Time, was a “proggier” prog metal that didn’t sound all that “metal”, honestly. I liked parts of it better than this one. However, Box of Fear is the better overall album. It is slightly heavier than the debut, and sounds quite American, though they were a Swedish band. They have simple riffs and uncomplicated songs, but they are good ones, if a bit repetitive at times. Regardless, I find myself singing them all the time.
61. 3 Doors Down
– The Better Life (2000)
I think 3 Doors Down gets a bad rap. They know how to write good songs, plain and simple. I remember this debut hitting really hard with multiple huge hit songs, and they deserved every bit of it. This album had some heavier songs, too, though, which still surprises me. You could hear some of the songs on the pop stations, and some of the songs on the rock stations. They, of course, ended up going the pop rock route, but this debut is still nearly flawless. Even the deeper cuts are fantastic. I enjoy every minute of this album.
60. Kamelot – Ghost Opera (2007)
I’ve actually been listening to this album quite a bit recently. Compared to their other works, it can sometimes get lost in the shuffle, simply due to the band’s quality. This album is superb, though, with some major fan favorite tracks, a nice and heavy sound, and one of my all-time favorite Kamelot songs, “Eden Echo”.
59. Darkwater –
Calling the Earth to Witness (2007)
The band’s subsequent albums had less of a Dream Theater sound to them, and so I lean towards those substantially. The Darkwater debut holds up still, however, with a great theatrical presentation, excellent vocal melodies, and “The Play, I and II”, one of their greatest songs. I usually forget how amazing it is until I throw it on again.
– Global Drama (2008)
This is Cloudscape’s greatest record, for sure. The band was on fire here, belting out humongous choruses and constructing perfect riffs. The whole affair feels larger than life, and the flow of amazing songs just doesn’t seem to stop, and neither does the bombast.
57. Red Circuit
– Trance State (2006)
Red Circuit has three albums, and all of them are good or great. This debut is my favorite, though Homeland is right on its heels. Anyways, this is prog metal, and that’s all there is to be said about the sound. It’s harmless and doesn’t push the envelope, but it is excellently written, addictively sung, and very comforting. It won’t challenge your brain, per se, but you will want to listen to it all the time.
– Places for Breathing (2003)
Oh, Revis, what could have been! This debut from these alternative rockers has one of the most explosive, monolithic sounds I’ve heard from any band in any genre. They had a tendency to heavy and climactic moments, sometimes right at the start of the song. They could feel unrelenting in that way, but in stunning fashion. Like many bands of this era, label and legal issues forced them to break up, and they never made another album, even though one was set to be released back in 2012. I would have loved to hear their progression in sound.
55. Incubus –
A Crow Left of the Murder (2004)
Incubus had several good albums in the late 90s and 00s. When I mentally inventory them, this album almost always comes up as my least favorite. But for some reason, when I look at the track lists, all my favorite songs are on this one. At the time, people seemed to notice that the band was experimenting here, maybe even crossing into the “progressive” fold somewhat. But it is the purity of Brandon’s voice here that really wins me over, and I love how different and diverse the songs are.
54. Driveblind – Driveblind (2006)
Terry McDermott has won himself some fame after being runner up on The Voice. Yet, his bands before that point really deserve more attention. Driveblind’s debut is harmonious, interesting, and simply beautiful. Their subsequent EP, called The Future You Were Promised, was even better and complex. I can’t seem to find that EP for sale anywhere any more, which is sad. Anyways, this debut has a lot going for it, and I’m sad that it took a pop culture show for people to take notice. I did get to see him sing with another band of his, Lotus Crush (featured members of Candlebox), in Cleveland once. His voice was outstanding.
53. Dominici –
O3 – A Trilogy – Part 3 (2008)
This is more of guilty pleasure than anything else. Dominici is fronted by the original singer for Dream Theater, Charlie Dominici. This album has bombast, guts, and fiery riffs that stay with me. I love the melodic ballads, too, and I find myself listening to it more often that you’d think. I wasn’t a big fan of the first two parts, but this particular album really grabs me.
52. Deadsoul Tribe
– The Dead Word (2005)
I mourn Deadsoul Tribe to this day, since their breakup in 2009. All of their albums are haunting and unsettling. Singer Devon Graves sounds immaculate here, and I love the variety inherent in the album, and the sweat and grit, too. It feels like every song has a memorable quality, and so I revisit this album often.
51. Tantric – Tantric (2001)
It’s difficult to believe that this isn’t a 90s albums. The debut from Tantric, a spin off of the band Days of the New, sounds very much like the alternative and post-grunge rock of the late 90s, but I’ve always admired it specifically for its sense of melody and vulnerability. I love every song on this album.
– Anoraknophobia (2001)
I’ve never been a big Marillion fan, especially of their 80s output. I do prefer Steve Hogarth’s vocals, and I’ve always loved Rothery’s guitars. Anyways, this album is my favorite from the band. I find it to have a heightened sense of emotion, especially on songs like “When I Meet God”. The album is relatable and beautifully composed to a tee.
– Sunless Skies (2009)
This is one of the first albums I recommend when someone is trying to get into progressive metal. Pathosray flies under the radar for the most part, but the quality of their compositions, the technical level at which they play, and the overall cinema of this record are all top tier. I especially love the emotive and Floydian closing tracks.
– A Natural Disaster (2003)
This is Anathema still clinging to the last vestiges of their doom sound, but still embracing the light and glory of their new direction. So, while the lyrics are sad and the kinetic feeling of this record is undeniable, there is still this innate and burgeoning sense of hope and beauty to be found. It’s quite an experience.
– Enter the 5th Dimension (2008)
Is this cheating? I’m sure I’ll cheat again later. This is the original Haken demo, and for my money it is one of their best albums. I still remember when the band was young, they offered to send out a burned copy for free to anyone who asked. I still have that small care package they sent. The music here is significantly more reserved, slow-burning, and even folksy than even their debut album (my favorite). This version of Haken was subtle in surprising ways, especially the shadowy imagery of “Snow”, one of their best songs. They would remake these songs for their 2014 EP Restoration, but they “Dream Theatered” the sound to make it epic and “proggy”. I much prefer this quieter, nuanced version.
46. Portal – Element (2005)
Canada’s Portal is truly an underrated gem of a band. As far as I know, they are broken up now, though the singer appears on social media from time to time to give hope about a new album. Anyways, this record is one of their best, and it presents their strengths rather well: influence from Porcupine Tree and Tool mixed with highly intelligent lyrics, all wrapped up in social commentary and maybe a little snark. I love the live tracks at the end, too, simply because they are amazing performances of said songs.
45. Redemption –
The Fullness of Time (2005)
The 2000s were especially good for Redemption. All of their best work is there, so much so that it is difficult to choose between them. The Fullness of Time gets my vote over The Origins of Ruin for no real reason, honestly. They are neck and neck, but I didn’t want to put both on this list. With wicked guitars, Ray Alder’s legendary voice, and one of the best suites I’ve ever heard, this album is stunning from start to finish.
44. Introitus – Fantasy (2007)
Introitus doesn’t get the love they deserve. This progressive rock band has a heavier side that is addictive, while also sporting amazing vocals and some of the best keys I’ve ever heard. This debut album is emotional, epic, and abstract all at once, and some of the most arresting moments are the subtle ones.
43. A Perfect Circle
– Mer de Noms (2000)
I’m listening to a song from this album as I write this. Strange. There honestly isn’t much to say about APC’s debut that hasn’t been said already. I know most people go for the heavier fare, like “Judith”, but I prefer the deeper songs, like “The Hollow”, “Breña”, and “3 Libras”. I absolutely love Maynard’s voice on these tracks.
42. Riverside –
Anno Domini High Definition (2009)
I have fond memories of this album. It was the first Riverside album I was able to preorder after discovering them in 2007-2008. It was the album that won my wife over to their sound, too. I listened to this every single day for at least a year. With five tracks and 45 minutes of runtime, it really made time fly by quickly. Add to that the heavier sound they explored, the psychedelic “Hybrid Times” (my favorite), and an overall excellence of composition, this album holds up without hesitation.
– Apocalyptica (2005)
This is my favorite Apocalyptica album by a nose. While other albums attempted to appeal to the US market, this album was pureblooded, heavy, and poetic. “Bittersweet” is still one of their best songs, too.
40. Sybreed – Antares (2007)
My brother-in-law let me borrow this album one day when we were trying to find common musical ground. He was more of a metalcore guy, and I was not. Sybreed, far from being metalcore, invented their own genre, which they called “death wave”. It’s a sound that is becoming popular now, but I think Sybreed was one of the first bands to pull off sci-fi driven, New Wave influenced death metal. This album is nearly perfect with incredible drumming, out-of-this-world harsh and clean vox, and one of their best songs, “Ethernity”. I can listen to this, no matter my mood.
39. Pendragon – Believe (2005)
I could talk about Pendragon all day long. Believe is, perhaps, one of their most underrated albums. This was a transitional record between their lighter, more melodic fare and the heavier sound they espoused in the late 00s. Looking at the track list right now, there isn’t a bad or even average song in the bunch. Songs like “Wisdom of Solomon”, “Edge of the World”, and “Learning Curve” are all amazing and memorable. Of course, the main draw is the four-part suite “The Wishing Well”, which is one of their best.
38. Army of Anyone
– Army of Anyone (2006)
I remember well when this album released. I had been a fan of Filter for years, and this album paired Richard Patrick with members of the Stone Temple Pilots. It’s a pity that only one album resulted. The melodies were strong, the songs were catchy, and the lyrics were on point. Ray Luzier’s drums, too, are some of the best I’ve ever heard, with amazing fills and perfect precision. This album is as strong as anything Filter or STP ever did, maybe stronger.
37. Seal – IV (2003)
This Seal album has special significance for me. Aside from the fact that the album is jazzy, bluesy goodness, and the fact that I feel it is structured flawlessly, the song “Touch” is a major highlight because it released around the time my mother passed away. My father was comforted by this song, and so I have come to love that song, and the whole album, as well. Seal is simply amazing.
36. Ra – Duality (2005)
RA are one of my favorite alternative rock bands ever. I loved their debut, but this sophomore offering was even better. I think this is because it is more mature and has a heightened sense of melody. Songs like “Superman” and “Undertaken” are exactly why I love this band so much.
35. Sun Caged – Artemisia (2007)
Let me tell you a secret: I’ve never heard the Sun Caged debut. That album had a different vocalist, and Artemisia was the debut of Paul Adrian Villarreal on vocals, one of the best singers I’ve ever heard. I have no desire to hear a version of Sun Caged without him, so I’ve never bothered with the first record. This, too, was the debut of Roel van Helden on drums, who happens to be one of my favorite drummers, too. This album has whimsy and ritual in its blood, and the mystical side it hides is why I like it so much.
34. Vex Red – Start with a Strong
and Persistent Desire (2002)
I still think Vex Red was a casualty of Linkin Park. Don’t get me wrong: I like LP. But Vex Red had more grit (if you can imagine that), deeper lyrics, more experimental ideas, and utter rawness. And even though they don’t sound like LP to my ears, I think this debut was just similar enough to be overshadowed. That’s a shame because songs like “Can’t Smile”, “Cause and Solution”, and “Vert” are all masterworks in my eyes. I am glad that they reunited within the last couple years, and their 2019 EP Give Me the Dark was fantastic on all fronts.
33. Colin Masson
– Isle of Eight (2001)
Ah, Colin. Masson is the guitarist for the prog folk band The Morrigan (which I’ve never heard), and this 2001 epic is as seafaring, guitar-heavy, and melodic as you can imagine. I love Colin’s guitar style, similar to Oldfield to my ears, and he utilizes both acoustic and electric to outstanding results. This album only has three songs, but they are long ones, and vocals are sparse. It’s all about the rhythms, solos, and licks here, and the album is better for it.
– World of Silence (2008)
I have a special place in my heart for power metal band Borealis. I love all of their albums, and this debut, as low production and young as it may sound, is one of my favorites. I love the phrasing that singer Matt Marinelli uses, reminding me of greats like Steve Perry. I love the imagery, the odd riffs, and the winding choruses. The band re-recorded this a few years back, but I much prefer the nuance and idiosyncrasies of the original.
– In Search of Truth (2001)
It’s difficult to imagine a masterpiece like In Search of Truth sitting at this spot in the list. It is a flawless album full of emotion, rich language, and inner turmoil. The abuse and torment the main character experiences may seem alien, but it is very real, and thus the album is haunting, as well. “Different Worlds” is my favorite song on the album, being one of the greatest ballads Evergrey has made. This happens to be the first album I heard from them, and they are my favorite metal band ever thanks to that.
30. Candlebox – Into the Sun (2008)
After being broken up for several years, Candlebox came roaring back after the release of their “best of” compilation. They came back with Silent Majority Group, and they came back with a maturity, soulfulness, and expertise that was only a promise back in the 90s. This album is emotional, it is bluesy, and it is fierce. The singles were good, but it is “Breathe Me In”, “Lover, Come Back to Me”, and “Consider Us” that represent the depth and tranquility that this album gives me.
29. Sixx A.M. – The Heroin Diaries
Back when I listened to the radio, I remember hearing this instantly addictive song called “Life is Beautiful”. I had to know who sang it. Turns out, it was the lead single from Nikki Sixx’s “soundtrack” to his book about life, death, drugs, and fame. This is emphasized through James Michael’s extraordinary vocal performance, the concept album structure of the record, and song after song of perfect choruses. There are dark and raw moments and ones that overflow with life and hope. This is a record that still brings me to tears. It is a shame that they were never able to make another album as good.
– Every Six Seconds (2001)
I remember when I first discovered “prog”, I was in the cage stage and I thought I needed to discard all the “normal” bands I liked. I even labelled Saliva as a “guilty pleasure”. Now I am loud and proud of my love for this album. Saliva was my favorite band in high school, and this was the first album I ever purchased myself. I still love it for its incredibly heavy guitars, brash attitude, quirky lyrical style, and miscellaneous other reasons attributable to singer Josey Scott. He left the band after 7 albums (some good, some not so good), and the band continued without him. For me, Saliva *is* Josey Scott, and the proposed reunion tour with the band in 2020 did excite me. Seems like it has been canned now.
27. Subsignal –
Beautiful & Monstrous (2009)
Fans loved Sieges Even, but I have to admit that I never liked them very much. That isn’t the case for Subsignal, the spiritual successor from Arno Menses. This debut is evocative and thoughtful, full of splendid visuals, gorgeous vocals, and rich textures. This is probably my second favorite album from them.
26. Filter – The Amalgamut (2002)
What can be said about this album? Filter was firing on all cylinders with Title of Record, even breaking into the pop scene with “Take a Picture”. In fact, I remember my cousin bought that record expecting similar songs, only to hear something heavy, raw, and progressive. This follow up is almost as good as that landmark album. The Amalgamut has some of the band’s best songs, like “You Walk Away” and “Where Do We Go from Here”, not to mention a midsection of brash, expletive-laden tracks that captures the essence of why I love the band. Yet, the last part of the album is a melodic affair with odd song structures and graceful vocals. It is a fantastic album from any perspective.
25. Fair to Midland
– Fables from a Mayfly (2007)
Fair to Midland is a well known sad story. This band has more charisma and craziness than the vast majority of other bands out there, and yet they are so talented, too: brilliant, even. This album was their third, though it was their first major release. It has some of the most innocent, beautiful melodies you will ever hear, but also fantastic instrumentation, inventive tunes, and bonkers hiding just below the surface. I think their crazies came out a bit more on the next album, though. Anyways, the band couldn’t beat the financial strain and debt of existing, and so it seems we may never see another album.
– Bushwhack (2007)
Back in 2007-2008, I was at a local record exchange. I found this CD with a captivating cover that seemed to reach out to me, and so I bought it. Turns out, it was an instrumental record full of brilliant concepts, refreshing song structures, and thematic and emotional compositions. I started to follow them on a fledging Facebook pages, back when bands still uploaded songs you could download for free. As time progressed and I communicated back and forth with them, I could tell they were a special group. Soon enough, they changed their name to Earthside and released one of the best debuts ever, A Dream in Static. I still love this debut (and the subsequent EP), though, which shows the band more in progressive rock territory than prog metal, and some of the most gorgeous moments of their career are here. I still hope to hear them play “Introspection” live someday.
23. Symphony X
– Paradise Lost (2007)
Symphony X have been legendary for a long time, and so there isn’t much I can add to the discussion about this album. In short, it is a masterpiece of poetry, myth, and ballad. It leans heavy, but also features some of the best ballads I’ve ever heard in the title track and “The Sacrifice”. The final “Revelation” is a magnificent work, as well, with expert control of melody and song structure. I never tire of this album.
22. Audioslave – Audioslave (2002)
Chris Cornell combined with Rage Against the Machine? I wasn’t sure what to expect back in the day, but now it seems perfectly obvious. Mixing the inventive grooves and novel song ideas of Rage with the legendary vocals from Chis, Audioslave could only be a masterful offering. And the debut is exactly that. With incredibly expressive songs, addictive guitar solos, fantastic lyrics, and nary even an average song in sight, this debut is an absolute success. I didn’t appreciate the following couple albums, unfortunately, and the band broke up for strange reasons. But I still look back to this album as one of Chris Cornell’s greatest hours. RIP Chris.
– Recreation Day (2003)
I consider Evergrey’s hot streak to have begun with their debut, lasting until, well, their latest. But some people consider the 2000s to be the band’s most successful era as far as quality is concerned, and it is easy to see why. Recreation Day was the follow up to In Search of Truth, and in my eyes it is even better. This album has some of the most vivid riffs the band has ever written, not to mention some of the most satisfying song structures and choruses. Fans tend to gravitate towards “The Great Deceiver”, “As I Lie Here Bleeding”, and “Blinded”, but my favorites are “Visions”, “Fragments”, “Madness Caught Another Victim”, and “Your Darkest Hour”. The entire album is one haunting, illustrious experience, though.
20. Frost – Milliontown (2006)
This is a legendary album. Frost burst onto the scene with 80s sensibilities but a modern, fresh execution. Fantastic solos, gorgeous keys, and a whole lotta attitude really sold the experience, too. I’m not sure they’ve ever bested this album, though the new one is pretty close.
19. Pain of Salvation
– Remedy Lane (2002)
Pain of Salvation are the kings of unsettling, overtly sexual concept albums. Remedy Lane is one of the saddest, most emotional albums I’ve ever heard, from broken relationships to miscarriage to (possible) suicide, this isn’t for the faint of heart, if you like to examine lyrics, that is. The music is, of course, inventive and incredibly personal and reactive to the story and to Daniel’s vocal performance. Sometimes, the well of feelings overflows, and you can feel every iota of pain and joy, despair and hope. What an album!
18. Andromeda – II = I (2003)
I like Andromeda, but I’ve never truly loved any of their albums except this one. And I love this one to death. II = I is a mind-bending, desperate experience. The inner turmoil of the lyrics combined with the angular and quirky style of progressive metal results in an album that pulses with life and color. This was the debut with the band for singer David Fremberg, and he sounded so good that the band proceeded to re-record their debut album with him next.
– Oblivious to the Obvious (2009)
This album is truly a diamond in the rough, and sometimes “the rough” is the album itself. Yes, some aspects of this album can seem rough around the edges and often just different from the norm in recording progressive metal. But the album still contains some of the most emotional, tender, and inspiring lyrics I’ve heard, and the music clunks and grooves along with satisfying fervor, including some phenomenal bass guitar. While it isn’t technically a concept album, it plays like one, and the journey from depression and self-hatred to realization and reconciliation is a fantastic one. Oh, yes, the album is around 2.5 hours long, so buckle up for a lengthy, yet worthy ride. The band hasn’t released anything since, though I hear an album is coming soon.
– Design Your Universe (2009)
Epica are one of the mothers of symphonic metal, so much so that countless clones have tried (and failed) to reproduce their sound. In this genre, it’s either have an original slant, or go home. Anyways, after several great albums, Epica released this stunning, concise, and spiritually inspiring album that just seems to get better with age. From the fiery “Unleashed” to the monstrous “Kingdom of Heaven” to the evocative and emotional “Tides of Time” and “White Waters”, this album cannot seem to miss. Kudos for getting “quantum physics” into a song in a way that works. The band hasn’t matched this work until this year’s Omega.
15. Memento – Beginnings (2003)
This is one of those albums that is much better than it might seem on paper. This is an alternative rock/metal album. The band only ever produced one. While there are some progressive-adjacent tracks, there are also more radio-friendly songs. This album, however, has one of the most intense, raw, and vicious tones I’ve ever heard. The story here is incredibly sad (a young girl raped and then persecuted by her religious family—to the point of suicide), and it happens to be a true story that affected the singer/lyricist directly. The result is an album full of religious, angry, and critical imagery: a brilliant, powerful, and searing indictment of fundamentalism. This is difficult to listen to once you know the meaning, but I engage with it often.
– The Pulse of Awakening (2009)
This album was initially one of my least favorites from these industrial/death wave masters. Over time, the off-kilter songs, epic conclusions, and gorgeous vocals won we over more and more. The final track, “From Zero to Nothing”, might be my favorite Sybreed song.
13. A Perfect Circle
– Thirteenth Step (2003)
I know many fans prefer the debut, but this here is my favorite APC album. The flowing, biting, and bold songs hit one after another, providing purity and serenity as much as food for thought. “The Noose”, specifically, is one of the best songs ever, and the rest of the record is right at its heels.
12. Mushroomhead – XIII (2003)
I’ve been a fan of Mushroomhead since this album released, my first with them. I’ve come to love their 90s output and even like some of their newer albums, too, but this album remains a monstrous success in my eyes. With such a wicked sense of melody and heaviness, the band found a perfect balance here. “Destroy the World Around Me”, to me, is the culmination of all of this, being one of my favorite songs from any band ever. The album simply doesn’t miss on any of its tracks.
11. Lunatic Soul
– Lunatic Soul (2008)
The original Lunatic Soul is still such a show-stopping record, and I am so glad that Mariusz Duda chose to share this side of himself. This one learns heavily into the void-like atmosphere with folk instrumentation and glorious climaxes. It progresses step by step, carefully and exquisitely; weighing every melody, every shadowy aura, and every vocal line. This one hangs with you for a long time.
10. Redemption –
Snowfall on Judgment Day (2009)
This is the pinnacle of everything Redemption has produced. Their previous albums only promised what this album does, and their subsequent albums have simply chased its glory. From the very first moment, this album is an intense, colorful, and emotional ride; full of perfect riffs, glorious keys, and memorable lyrics. This is probably something they will never be able to top.
9. Votum – Metafiction (2009)
Votum is one of my favorite Polish bands, and this was the first album I heard. It is still my favorite from them. It is a concise album, not overly showy or full of filler. The songs are precise, melodic, and beautiful. The fantastic “December 20th” closes the record perfectly and darkly. I love this record.
8. Fates Warning
– Disconnected (2000)
Fates Warning tends to make two different types of albums. Some of them are technical and epic. Some are dark, claustrophobic, and pensive. Disconnected is definitely the latter. This is a personal apocalypse settling on feelings of severance and distance. Some of the lyrics hit so close to home that I could have written them myself. And the mourning, unsettling sirens that start and end this masterpiece pierce your very soul. Thankfully, their latest record, Long Day Good Night, feel very much in this vein, and I loved it.
– Not of This World (2001)
Pendragon is one of my top three bands, and this album began my obsession. The imagery here mixes hope, caution, despair, and disquieted peace. It contains the expected melodies and outstanding guitars, but it has something more, too: humanity and a search for something untarnished by this existence.
6. Kamelot –
Epica/The Black Halo (2003-2005)
I told you that I’d be cheating again. Separating these two parts to the Faust story would be a crime, in my eyes, and so here they are together. Kamelot really found themselves here; bringing energy, theater, and perfect vocal melodies into an emotional and tight package. Songs like “Center of the Universe”, “III Ways to Epica”, “This Pain”, and “Abandoned” are exactly why I love this band so much.
5. Symphony X –
V: The New Mythology Suite (2000)
As much praise as I have for Paradise Lost, this album right here is my favorite from Symphony X. I’m not exactly sure why that is, though. The story is fantastical, being made of leftovers from Twilight in Olympus, but somehow besting that album. Part of it, I believe, is how visceral the guitars sound here—I don’t know if they’ve ever replicated it. And Russell’s vocals are second to none, especially on “Rediscovery”. This album is inspired, pure and simple.
4. IO Earth – IO Earth (2009)
I remember coming across the IO Earth debut. I forget where it was, but the description read that the band formed to create something completely new, something completely original and unique. For my money, they succeeded greatly. This sprawling record is like a celebration of this “infinite ocean earth”, including visits to many genres, from folk to prog rock to classical to tribal to Euro pop. This album has just as many gravy, pop-inspired choruses as it does epic guitar solos, and to hear all three singers perfectly execute stunning performances is still such a pleasure, especially hearing original lead vocalist Claire Malin (she would later leave the band for medical issues). As much as I love the band’s entire discography, this is the album that delivered on the promise of something entirely new, and I probably listen to it weekly, if not more often.
3. Pain of Salvation – BE (2004)
If I’m being honest, the top three albums on this list are a wash. They are all brilliant. Pain of Salvation’s BE can be described in so many different ways, from philosophical to primal, from sexual to ethereal, and from conceptual to spiritual. It is and always will be a work of genius, but also a work of high emotion, utter depth, and wild imagination.
– The Inner Circle (2004)
As good as that PoS album is, Evergrey’s The Inner Circle is maybe just a bit ahead of it in my eyes. This album is a ferocious, unyielding, and gorgeous critique of religion and what it does to the people we love. From the roaring guitars to the fantastic instrumentals, the album has its music down perfectly, but the extra oomph comes from voiceovers that show a pastor descending into madness, and possibly repentance. “In the Wake of the Weary” happens to be my favorite Evergrey song for many reasons, though I doubt I’ll ever get the chance to hear it live. And, of course, the album closer “When the Walls Go Down” is one of the most emotional songs ever. This album is perfect.
1. Riverside –
Reality Dream Trilogy (2003-2007)
Why not cheat one more time? Riverside is my favorite band, so you had to expect these albums to show up here. Out of Myself, Second Life Syndrome, and Rapid Eye Movement make up the Reality Dream Trilogy, and all three were life-changing for me. From the haunting atmospheres to the raging instrumentals to the evocative vocals, these albums were equal parts Pink Floyd, Dead Can Dance, and dark Polish melancholy. The sound inspired me, brought me to tears, and also gave hope. Even as sad as the lyrics may seem, these albums instilled a light into my life, and I am forever grateful for that.