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WHAT DOES “PROGRESSIVE METAL” MEAN?

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Progressive Metal

This is always a fun conversation, and it’s one that’s worth revisiting every couple of years as the meaning continues to shift: how do we define “progressive” metal?

What does it mean to be progressive? Do we stick to the dictionary definition of the word — as in, moving forward — or does it describe a particular aesthetic / sonic template? What, if any, relationship does the stuff we call “progressive” today bear similarity to early “prog” bands like Yes and King Crimson? Heavy Blog is Heavy writer “Uncle Muscles” took a stab at defining “progressive” today in a must-read editorial.

Mr. Muscles boils it all down to seven attributes that most bands we intuitively call progressive possess in varying degrees: progress, unorthodox song structure, long songs, musical variety, technicality, use of non-standard time-signatures and en emphasis on music over image. For the most part I think that’s a pretty good summary, although of course it doesn’t encompass everything; there are always going to be counter-examples. One commenter suggests “progressive” only be used as a modifier, i.e. “progressive doom,” “progressive black metal,” etc.

What do you think? What makes music progressive? Kindly leave your “let’s stop trying to pigeonhole everything into genres, brah, it’s too restricting!!!” posts at the door; been there, done that, argued lots. Chime in below.

-VN

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