Progressive metal (sometimes known as prog metal) is a subgenre of heavy metal, which blends the powerful, guitar-driven sound of metal with the complex compositional structures, odd time signatures, and intricate instrumental playing of progressive rock. Many progressive metal bands are also influenced by jazz fusion and classical music. Like progressive rock songs, progressive metal songs are typically much longer than standard metal songs, and are often thematically linked in concept albums.
The mixing of the progressive rock and heavy metal styles can be traced back to the late 1960s and early 1970s. One of England's heaviest progressive rock bands, High Tide, fused the elements of "metal progenitors such as Cream, Blue Cheer, and the Jeff Beck Group" into their sound. Other bands such as King Crimson and Rush were also incorporating metal into their music, as well as Uriah Heep, whose "by-the-books progressive heavy metal made the British band one of the most popular hard rock groups of the early '70s". Rush songs such as "Bastille Day", "Anthem", "By-Tor and Snow Dog", "2112", "The Fountain of Lamneth" and "Something for Nothing" have been cited as some of the earliest examples of progressive metal. Another early practitioner of progressive rock and heavy metal were Lucifer's Friend. However, progressive metal did not develop into a genre of its own until the mid-1980s. Bands such as Fates Warning, Queensrÿche and Dream Theater took elements of progressive rock groups (primarily the instrumentation and compositional structure of songs) and merged them with heavy metal styles associated with bands like Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. The result could be described as a progressive rock mentality with heavy metal sounds.
These three flagship bands for progressive metal at the time each had somewhat different sounds. Queensrÿche had the most melodic sound of the three and achieved, with Operation Mindcrime and Empire the genre's most immediate commercial success, which peaked with the crossover single "Silent Lucidity" reaching number nine on the Billboard Hot 100. Dream Theater drew more heavily upon traditional progressive rock and also built much of their earlier career on the band members' virtuoso instrumental skills, despite also achieving an early - and unexpected - MTV hit with the eight-minute "Pull Me Under" from 1992's Images and Words. Fates Warning were the most aggressive and heavy and arguably had the most in common with the thrash and extreme metal scenes of the time, which led them to be the least accessible of the three bands.
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