Top 10 Best Progressive Metal Bands

Some progressive metal bands might blow you away with their technical wizardry, effortlessly weaving complex time signatures and mind-bending guitar solos into their music. Others might transport you to fantastical worlds with their conceptual storytelling and theatrical live shows. And then there are those that simply create an irresistible groove that gets your head banging and your feet moving.

Prog metal isn't just about musical complexity, though. It's a genre that encourages experimentation, blending elements of heavy metal, rock, jazz, and even classical music. This spirit of adventure has led to some truly unique and unforgettable sounds, from the ethereal atmospheres of Opeth to the djent-infused riffs of TesseracT.

So, what are the best progressive metal bands? Ultimately, it comes down to your personal taste and what you value most in music. But by exploring the vast landscape of prog metal and listening to the opinions of fellow fans, you're sure to discover some amazing bands that will leave a lasting impression on you.
The Top Ten
1 Dream Theater Dream Theater is an American progressive metal band from Boston, Massachusetts. The band was formed in 1985 under the name of "Majesty", only to change its name to Dream Theater later... read more

True masters of their craft and innovators when it comes to their instruments. When hearing the phrase "progressive metal," DT is the only pure form of it that comes to mind. With a great focus on progressive forms and intricate musical composition, no other band creates the familiar sounds of a relatively obscure genre that requires a deep understanding of music and instrumental work, as well as mixes in new sounds without ruining either the "progressive" or "metal" aspects of their field.

There is no limit to what the band can release, from extremely difficult-to-follow solos to 20+ minute songs, to even beautiful compositions that are film score worthy. Although not the first to make such a splash in the genre, they have nonetheless extracted the essence of it and have continuously worked on it with every record they release. Ambitious, stylistic, and creative, they are worthy of taking the number 1 spot.

2 Opeth Opeth is a Swedish progressive death metal band from Stockholm, formed in 1990 by David Isberg, who invited Mikael Akerfeldt into the band as a bassist. Isberg ended up leaving the band, which lead to Mikael becoming the band's vocalist, guitarist, principal songwriter, and driving force. Along with... read more

True masters of their craft, Opeth combines soft rock and death metal, polar opposite genres, yet ones that go together oh so well. Opeth are true innovators of music and have pushed their sound to the absolute limit. No metal band has been this consistently creative.

Opeth have, as of late, unfortunately, stripped away the death metal sound in favor of worshipping '70s progressive rock groups like King Crimson and Yes. As a result, they've lost their own sound and spend time imitating rather than innovating. However, this doesn't scar their legacy and the true perfection of their vast discography.

3 Tool Tool is an American alternative metal/progressive metal band, that was formed in 1990.

The band is set together between Maynard James Keenan (Vocals), Danny Carey (Drums), Adam Jones (Guitar) and since 1995 Justin Chancellor (Bass).

The band is known for their influences from electronic... read more

Okay, so I've tried listening to Opeth, and they're pretty good. But Dream Theater, how are they number one? The voice of the vocalist is also an instrument, but they don't even have a singer. I think Tool is the best because their bass is amazing. Maynard James Keenan has to be one of the best vocalists in the world. Maynard has a way of making any song sound good. I mean, I have not heard one song by Tool that I disliked.

All of Tool's songs are smart, have lots of meaning, and make you think. Now, I will say this: they only have about six albums out, but in my opinion, that is smart because that will make people crave them more. Tool's sound can also vary, so they can twist and turn with their music. Tool is the definition of talent and is superior to all bands. I will say Korn is also another band worth checking out, but they are nu metal.

4 Symphony X Symphony X is an American progressive metal band from Middletown, New Jersey. Founded in 1994, the band consists of guitarist Michael Romeo, keyboardist Michael Pinnella, drummer Jason Rullo, lead vocalist Russell Allen and bassist Michael Lepond.

Music is purely subjective. I respect other people's likes. Symphony X is my ultimate favorite, though. I appreciate how the vocals have a melody composition as strong as the rest of the music. I like how the lyrics are often negative but aren't too real or anything that you can strongly relate to, so they don't bring you down.

For a contrasting example, I love Dream Theater, but their lyrics are very powerful and very real. Too much listening makes me start to feel miserable. Symphony X doesn't do that despite also having a lot of negative lyrics.

5 Mastodon Mastodon is an American heavy metal band from Atlanta, Georgia, formed in early 2000 and composed of bassist Troy Sanders, guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher and drummer Brann Dailor.

Such a great progressive metal band. They have both emotion and energy in their music, which is pretty cool. Brent, Bill, Troy, Brann - they look like they live in U-Haul trailers, but they are four solid songwriters, contributing equally to both lyrics and music. They have three singers (Brent, Brann, and Troy) with cool, distinct voices.

Brent is an epic lead guitarist with an epic southern accent. Bill is the riff crafter. Brann is one of the best metal drummers of our time and has the higher, more clean voice. And Troy is a unique bassist with an epic, louder, deeper voice. If there was a competition for riff writing between bands, Mastodon would obviously be among the last few standing, along with Opeth.

Listen to the riff at 8:18 in the song "The Last Baron" - glorious! Their album "Crack the Skye" is a masterpiece. If you want to get more versed in progressive metal, especially if you're a musician, Mastodon is a must. Try also Opeth, Tool, Dream Theater, and Symphony X.

6 Gojira Gojira is a progressive metal band from Bayonne, France. The band was known as Godzilla until 2001. Gojira is composed of Joe Duplantier on vocals and rhythm guitar, his brother Mario Duplantier on drums, Christian Andreu on lead guitar, and Jean-Michel Labadie on bass.

They are considered a progressive metal band but are also a technical death metal and groove metal band as well. Masters of work like Flying Whales and Stranded really set the standard for them. Plus, I love how there are two members of the band that are actually brothers.

Beautifully criticizing society, a journey to save the world through flying across space to find another planet to live on since our planet was destroyed by, presumably, global warming, and a soul-crushing goodbye to Joe and Mario Duplantier's mother.

7 Queensryche Queensrÿche is an American progressive heavy metal band formed in 1982 in Bellevue, Washington, out of the local band the Mob. They released their self titled EP in 1984, but didn’t gain notoriety until the release of their critically acclaimed album Operation: Mindcrime in 1988. As of now, they... read more

Oh, come on! Queensryche practically invented the genre of progressive metal, and Operation: Mindcrime is inarguably one of the best concept albums in all of metal, let alone in progressive. They deserve to be Number 1.

With albums such as Operation: Mindcrime, Empire, Rage for Order, and The Warning, Queensryche are definitely one of the best progressive metal bands out there. For me, they're number one in this genre.

I can speak only for myself, but Queensryche is easily in my top 5. When non-metal people ask me to describe progressive metal and give an example they might have heard of, I lead off with Queensryche.

8 Meshuggah Meshuggah is a Swedish progressive metal band from Umeå, formed in 1987. They are often considered the fathers or founders of the djent metal sub genre due to their use of downtuned guitars. They are also known for their song “Bleed”, which is known for its extremely complicated instrumentation,... read more

People often view this band as more extreme metal, which is understandable, but they do everything that makes Progressive Metal progressive, just in their own way. Their compositions may never be as long as maybe Dream Theater or Opeth (except for I and Catch 33), but each individual riff progresses, as the polymetric guitar floats over the drums, before snapping back into 4/4 for a single bar before blasting off into another bout of syncopated madness.

They are very underrated among mainstream metal listeners.

9 Porcupine Tree Porcupine Tree are an English progressive rock band formed by musician Steven Wilson in 1987. The band began essentially as a solo project for Wilson, who created all of the band's music.

This band's underrated. These guys are well respected among the prog rock community, but they fail to get mainstream attention unlike, say, Tool, for example, which is another band that I personally love. Porcupine Tree can be dreamy, psychedelic, really complex and proggy, heavy, or just really emotional.

Also, Gavin Harrison's drumming is incredible.

Porcupine Tree is an atmospheric, often melancholic, prog rock band that doesn't spend their time noodling around. In Absentia is probably their most popular album, Deadwing is just flat-out nostalgic, and Fear of a Blank Planet is probably the greatest album I've ever owned, musically and lyrically speaking.

Be prepared for some depressing rock anthems.

10 Between the Buried and Me Between the Buried and Me is an American progressive metal band from Raleigh, North Carolina. Formed in 2000, the band consists of Tommy Giles Rogers, Jr.

Fantastic musicians incorporate many musical influences, such as bluegrass and even circus music, into metal. They have long epic songs that will have you headbanging or just sitting in awe. The album "Colors" is a one-hour-long song broken into smaller pieces. It is truly a masterpiece of complex musical theory and emotions all the way through.

If you like metal at all, you have to give it a listen. My two favorite songs on "Colors" are the epic finale "White Walls," and my favorite song of all time, "Ants of the Sky."

The Contenders
11 Nevermore Nevermore is an American progressive metal band from Seattle, Washington. Formed in 1991, they are known to incorporate elements from various styles such as power metal, modern hard rock, classic heavy metal and technical thrash metal. The band has been on hiatus since 2011, due to personal issues between... read more

Nevermore is fronted by Warrel Dane, one of the most amazing singers in the progressive metal genre, with plenty of formal training. Jeff Loomis, the band's lead guitar player, can barely be matched by many. They mix elements of complex time signatures, classical arrangements, and execute such synthesis with amazing precision.

While quite a bit harder than some other progressive metal bands, Nevermore also has a brilliant clarity both live and in the studio.

This band not being in ProgArchives is probably the only elitist non-inclusion of that site I know, as opposed to the multitude of gatekeeping on Encyclopedia Metallum.

12 Fates Warning Fates Warning is an American progressive metal band, formed in 1982 by vocalist John Arch, guitarists Jim Matheos and Victor Arduini, bassist Joe DiBiase, and drummer Steve Zimmerman in Hartford, Connecticut.

I would argue that this was the first progressive metal band. Sure, Queensryche was around first, but they were making heavy/power metal with a few slightly odd time signatures. Crimson Glory had yet to write any original material. The moment where progressive metal truly started was when Fates Warning released their second album, The Spectre Within.

But they perfected it with their third album, Awaken The Guardian, which was where they shed their Iron Maiden roots in favor of a progressive/power metal sound. Perfect Symmetry is arguably the first progressive metal album that couldn't be placed under any other sub-genre (Crimson Glory was prog/power, Dream Theater's debut had power metal influences as well). Awaken The Guardian is my all-time favorite album.

13 Pain of Salvation Pain of Salvation is a Swedish progressive rock band led by Daniel Gildenlöw, who is the band's main songwriter, lyricist, guitarist, and vocalist.

Every album is conceptual and dramatically different. Masters of their craft. One of the few bands where the musicians could play whatever music style they wanted and still make it their own. Daniel is certainly a genius and an amazing songwriter. Easily one of the best prog bands to have ever risen during the '90s.

Just recently discovered PoS and absolutely fell in love with them. Truly progressive metal, they do crazy things that most bands wouldn't dream of attempting.

My vote put them at 12th, leaving Fates Warning behind. I think they should be at least in the 10th spot though.

14 Liquid Tension Experiment Liquid Tension Experiment was an instrumental progressive metal band founded by Mike Portnoy, then Dream Theater's drummer, in 1997. The band has released two albums through Magna Carta Records.

A side project by the members of Dream Theater, except for the bassist and the vocalist. Check out "Acid Rain", "Universal Mind", and "Paradigm Shift" from the Liquid Tension Experiment albums among the prominent ones, and then try to say, "I hate Dream Theater".

A great side project from Dream Theater, although it is not as good as the band itself. It gives us an inside look at the heavy technical side of Dream Theater.

Dream Theater without a singer is a dream come true.

15 Ayreon Ayreon is a musical project by Dutch songwriter, singer, multi-instrumentalist musician and record producer Arjen Anthony Lucassen. Ayreon's music is described as progressive rock, progressive metal and power metal sometimes combined with genres such as folk, electronica, experimental and classical... read more

Take some of the biggest and best vocalists and musicians to grace the world of prog rock, along with many various forms of metal. Put them in a great big melting pot. Stir with care, and you get Ayreon.

Heck, the current top 2 on this list (DT and Opeth) both had their respective vocalists taking huge roles on the same Ayreon album.

Ayreon is a concept that has been masterfully carried out by Arjen Lucassen in order to present some of the world's greatest album line-ups, presenting some of the world's greatest music.

You have your prog, folk, metal, neo-classical, symphonic, and God knows what else when you listen to Ayreon. Each album is a concept album, some of which have the best stories and characterization to ever grace the world of music.

As you can tell from my endless raving, there is a lot to be said about why Ayreon is as special as it is. It is an awe-inspiring musical project that deserves every bit of attention it gets.

16 Periphery Periphery is an American progressive metal band based in Washington, D.C., formed in 2005. They are known for their heavy, progressive sound which employs poly-rhythmic patterns and soaring melodies. They are credited with popularizing the modern djent scene. Over time they have progressed from djent... read more

These guys are quite unique... they should definitely be higher up. I love bands like Symphony X, but in some cases, they just sound like Dream Theater but with a better vocalist. Periphery has very interesting and awesome guitars, bass, and vocals, and their drummer is just something else.

Usually, with metal bands, the drummer just hits a ton of double bass and uses basic rudiments, but Halpern takes creativity to another level for a metal band. He may not be as fast as Mangini, but at least he doesn't sound like a robot half the time.

17 Orphaned Land

Orphaned Land at 123? Yeah, sure, there are a lot of other prog metal bands that may be better than Orphaned Land. But seriously, this band has quite a unique sound, and many of their songs hold very important messages and themes.

18 Death Death was an American death metal band formed in 1983 by Chuck Schuldiner. Death is considered to be one of the most influential bands in heavy metal and a pioneering force in death metal. Its debut album, Scream Bloody Gore, has been widely regarded as the first death metal record, while the band's... read more

The last four albums are prog death, Opeth is prog death as well. I love both, but Death should definitely be on 3 or 4 at least. I say 3 or 4 only because the first three albums are pure death. Anyway, they are the best death metal and the best band ever in my opinion.

Wow, Death is way too low on this list. I mean, sure their old school stuff is pure death metal. But their newer albums, specifically Symbolic and especially The Sound of Perseverance, are a mix of death and progressive metal. Rest in peace, Chuck.

Amazing band. Simply spectacular and one of my all-time favorites, but not progressive. One of the best death metal bands ever. Period.

19 Ne Obliviscaris Ne Obliviscaris (Latin for "forget not") are an extreme progressive metal band from Melbourne, Australia, formed in 2003.

I wish I could fathom the hype surrounding this band. They're undoubtedly proficient with their instruments. Yet, I don't think they've put out anything extraordinary or influential that justifies them being ranked among the greatest artists. Speaking from a general perspective, incorporating a violin doesn't add value to music when the focus is predominantly directed towards skill exhibition rather than complementing the soundscape.

Introducing many musical elements isn't more important than structuring them cohesively to give the music a more purposeful air. I'd suggest you listen to some early My Dying Bride albums if you have a little itch for violin work in metal. Check out the track 'For My Fallen Angel' from their album 'Like Gods of the Sun'. They're not extravagant in their approach, but the utilization is enough to move you.

20 Seventh Wonder Seventh Wonder is a progressive metal band from Stockholm, Sweden formed in 2000. They are currently working on their 5th studio album, which is planned for a 2017 release.

Seventh Wonder has one of the most amazing singers ever. I was afraid that Tommy Karevik would leave this band after joining Kamelot, which I think deserves second place, but that wasn't the case. Mind-blowing musicianship and heart-touching stories. Break the Silence and Tears for a Father are just unbelievably heartbreaking. Every time I listen to them, I end up crying.

Amazing in every way, and Mercy Falls is the second-best concept album ever! Plus, they aren't just another attempt to copy Dream Theater. Vote for them!

21 Enslaved Enslaved is a Norwegian extreme metal band formed in Haugesund in June 1991. They are currently based in Bergen, Norway.

Certainly the best prog black metal band and one of the best prog metal bands. Every album they've released is good or a masterpiece. The voice is one of the absolute best, and the compositions are magnificent.

I can't believe they're this low on the list. If you like prog and black combined, check them out.

This band deserves top 20 at least. It's the best progressive black metal band out there, in my opinion.

22 Insomnium Insomnium is a Finnish melodic death metal band from Joensuu, Finland. The sound and lyrical themes of their music portray darkness, sorrow, loss, pain, and nature.
23 Crimson Glory Crimson Glory is an American progressive metal band that formed in 1979 under the name Pierced Arrow.

I lived through this era. It was insane. There was a before Crimson Glory and after. They made all metal at the time seem obsolete. Then grunge really made metal obsolete, and Crimson Glory self-destructed. Worth a listen today, it's retro enough to sound fresh again, unlike some of their contemporaries.

Crimson Glory's first two albums are the two albums ALL Progressive Metal bands claim to have been inspired by. Period.

The originator with one of the most amazing haunting voices ever.

24 In Mourning In Mourning is a progressive melodic death metal band from Falun, Sweden. They are currently signed to Agonia Records.
25 Tesseract Tesseract are a British progressive metal band from Milton Keynes, England. The band, formed in 2003, consists of Daniel Tompkins, Alec "Acle" Kahney, James Monteith, Amos Williams, and Jay Postones. The band is currently signed to Kscope.

This is the complete journey into prog sound, from heavy, weird odd time changes rhythms, bouncing basslines like Tool, into the most atmospheric soundscape you could ever imagine! Powerful vocalist with pop melodic and turns into Tool, Deftone, Linkin Park style! Every MTV metalhead should listen to this! A must album for every beginner in progressive music!

Why so low? This band and Gojira are a new breath of prog metal (sorry for my English, I'm Brazilian).

Tesseract at 46? You've got to be kidding me. These guys are awesome. They should be in the top 20 at least.

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