Brendan Recommends #1: Prog Metal

Welcome to the first installment of “Brendan Recommends!”

Just to get a sense of what this is all about, for the next few weeks I’ll be posting weekly articles recommending you all bands/artists I enjoy from a multitude of genres. Now, if you’ve followed the music section of Power Cords at all, you know I’m the resident metal nerd ’round these parts. So of course, the majority of stuff I post will be concerning extreme music in some way.

But fear not! I have several non-metal/hardcore themed posts coming as well, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. However, the whole reason I’m doing these is to give you a jumping off point to discover new music. Everything I post here has my 100% stamp of approval — these are my favorite bands of their respective genres, and I want to share them with you.

So without further ado, let’s get started with my prog metal recommendations!

1. Gojira — Full disclosure, I’m still getting familiar with this band. I’ve only recently begun to really delve into the discography of this fantastic French quartet, and I’m blown away by the music they produce.

Gojira are somewhat of an enigma. They play highly progressive and experimental death metal about saving the environment — not necessarily a common formula for success in any genre of extreme music. And yet, they’ve gained immense popularity and garnered near-universal praise from critics. Why? Because the music they make is not only unique, it’s damn good. I highly recommend jumping on board with Gojira.

Check them out here, and be on watch for their new album due out June 26, via Roadrunner Records.

2. Between the Buried and Me — For a long, long time, BTBAM were my absolute favorite band. In many ways they still are — I know every song note by note, and every time I spin Colors I’m hit by a flood of nostalgic memories. But at the same time, in my opinion, BTBAM haven’t produced anything quite as spectacular as Colors and Colors Live. Now, I don’t want to sell the band short — nearly every album they’ve released easily makes my favorite albums of all time list, but they have yet to out-doColors. While the sound may not change much between releases, BTBAM are still leauges above their peers in terms of musicianship and songwriting.

BTBAM have a new album in the works, and you can find out more on them here. They’ll be on tour with a boatload of awesome bands this summer, co-headlining Summer Slaughter with death metal legends Cannibal Corpse.

3. Isis — One of the most influential post-metal bands ever, Isis were in a league all their own. Isis wrote beautiful music that combined the passion of hardcore punk with the creativity and complexity of prog rock. They were heavily influenced by Neurosis, creating a similar massive sonic atmosphere that could be felt at even their quietest moments.

Unfortunately, Isis broke up in 2010. While the members of the band still play in several other post-metal and prog projects — often with each other — nothing quite captures the atmosphere of Isis. Their catalogue stands as some of the most influential music in the metal scene.

Check out the band here. And while they may be done, the group are still releasing posthumous live albums, as well as a rumored album of unreleased material spanning the band’s career that may soon surface.

4. Mastodon — Often grouped into the southern sludge metal scene, Mastodon always had a more progressive tone about them than bands they were compared to. And ever since 2009’s Crack the Skye, Mastodon set themselves apart from the pack. After the release of Crack the Skye, Mastodon have been regarded not only as one of the best prog metal bands around, but also as one of the hardest working bands period. After non-stop touring, and finally releasing their fifth studio album The Hunter last year, Mastodon have become a household name. But don’t let all that fame and recognition fool you — these guys are just as good as they used to be, if not better.

Check out Mastodon here.

5. Protest the Hero — Coming from a strong punk rock and hardcore background, Protest the Hero approach their brand of Prog metal differently than most of the bands on this list. Protest the Hero pump out riffs and licks, writing spastic and fast music that’s still catchy and fun to listen to. Instead of writing long, instrumental passages to show off each musician’s skill, they display their talents seamlessly, each member playing alongside one another. They condense the notoriously long prog metal song into 3 to 5 minutes, widening their appeal past progressive music fans, into other genres of metal and punk. Highly energetic and extremely fun live, Protest the Hero prove that Prog doesn’t have to be longwinded or “boring.”

For more Protest, go here.

6. Periphery — Similar to Protest the Hero, Periphery write music that is easy to take in and still marvel at the ability of the musicians. Periphery are probably the band most responsible for bringing “djent” to a new generation. Not only that, but they took that Meshuggah-crafted sound and instead of continuing down the path of percussive, abrasive music, took a different path towards melody and catchy riffs. Again, this doesn’t mean they don’t have chops or can’t write complex songs — far from it in fact. They just know how to write songs that are fun to listen to and crazy technical.

Check ’em out here. They, too, have new maetrial in the works, and you can catch them alongside Between the Buried and Me on this year’s Summer Slaughter tour.

7. The Dillinger Escape Plan — And here we are at the final band on the list. some could say I saved the best for last, and I’d be lying if I said otherwise. It’s hard to put the music of DEP into words, so bare with me. Playing, fast, spastic, complex, schizophrenia-inducing music known as “mathcore,” DEP know how to fuck with your head. At times, they combine this insanity with electronic and and industrial music, and even break out into funk and rock ballads. It’s truly fascinating music, and it always sounds as if it comes naturally to them.

Beyond that, their live show is notoriously ferocious and high energy, and must be seen to be believed.

Of all the new records currently being worked on, DEP’s is the one I’m most excited for. It might be jarring or at times near-unlistenable upon first listen, but stick with it and you’ll find their music to be some of the most addicting and powerful tunes to have ever graced ruptured your ear drums. More Dillinger here.

That’s all for now folks, hope you enjoyed it! It certanly doesn’t cover the entirety of the genre, nor all my favorites, but I feel it’s a good list to get started with. I’ll be back next week with more recommendations. Feel free to suggest genres you’d like to see me cover, as well as offer your own recommendations in the comments!

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