By Squiggly Meyers – Edited by Bossman
As the Nineties grew, whole new branches on the Tree of Rock were formed. Most metal bands were left scratching their heads as to what to do now. Just like in the Eighties, the music production machine began pumping out a new product to exploit. Thus, Progressive Rock/Metal took a back seat yet again. This, however, was short lived and prog bands fine-tuned their craft. One of the bands under the radar at the time was Thrash Metal newcomers Tourniquet. Formed in 1990 in L.A., the band was founded by Ted Kirkpatrick (Drums), Guy Ritter (Vocals), and Gary Lenaire (Guitar/Vocals); later rounded out by Bassist Victor Macias, and Lead Guitarist Erik Mendez. Their flare for Thrash, Prog and Neoclassical made them a formidable force of nature.
Alongside their peers the likes of Dream Theater and Queensrÿche came a foursome with the tenacity of metals and with the harmonic style of The Beatles. Galactic Cowboys was formed in 1989 in Houston, Texas by bassist Monty Colvin and drummer Alan Doss along with singer Ben Huggins and guitarist Dane Sonnier. Releasing their debut self-titled album in 1991. Despite some favorable criticism, the band was ignored by the label thanks in part to the success of Nirvana‘s “Nevermind”. The album struggled and after touring, the band returned to the studio to record their sophomore album, “Space In Your Face”. This album gave them the success they were looking for as it broke them into the mainstream giving them regular airplay on MTV. They’ve released 8 albums, the most notable, 1998’s “At the End of the Day”. Though the band broke up twice during their career, they’ve managed to regroup and record new material releasing, “Long Way Back to the Moon” in 2017.
Now as I stated before, there are many branches on the Rock Tree, and many subgenres to make for a broad canopy. This being the case, there are some bands you’d be surprised to find among the Prog Rock/Metal branch. For example, Voivod, who got their start in the early Eighties. Their musical style has changed several times since the band’s origin in the early 1980s. Starting out as a speed metal band, Voivod have added a mix of progressive metal and thrash metal to create their own unique metal style.
Hailing from, Saguenay, Quebec, Canada. Their unique sound makes them a prime example of this topic. So much so that they are credited as being one of the “big four” Canadian thrash metal bands of their time. Voivod’s 1989 album “Nothingface” was the only one to enter Billboards 200. The band has been awarded the “Visionary” award at the 2017 Progressive Music Awards, presented by the British magazine, “Prog”. In 2019, they won an Award for Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year for their fourteenth studio album, “The Wake”. Voivod’s most recent studio album, “Synchro Anarchy”, was released in February of this year.
Now per our definition, Progressive rock is varied and is based on fusions of styles, approaches and genres, tapping into broader cultural resonances that connect to avant-garde art, classical music and folk music.
We come to our next band, Rage Against The Machine. Formed in 1991 Los Angeles, Rage brought a fresh sound to the post grunge arena ushering in the Nu-Metal subgenre. Along with other bands of the genre, they were a lot like the protest musicians of the 60’s and 70’s. Bringing awareness to issues that plague the populous of the 90’s and 2000’s. Tom Morello’s unique guitar style borderlines guitarist/DJ, getting unique and strange sounds to emulate from it. After disbanding in early 2000’s, members of Rage, including Morello joined with Soundgarden’s former front man the late Chris Cornell (R.I.P.) to form the band Audioslave. Rage has since reunited and is scheduled to tour the world at large in 2022.
Now this brings us into the new millennium and to a new crop of bands, like Mastodon, Opeth, THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS and our subject of interest, Mudvayne. Formed in 1996 in Peoria, Illinois, Mudvayne took the world by storm with their sonic experimentation, face and body paint, masks, and uniforms. Highly influenced by the Progressive bands of the Seventies like King Crimson, Genesis, and Rush. As well as contemporaries like Slayer, Pantera, Tool, and Carcass, not to mention the late great Miles Davis (that’s not a misprint, mind you).
Our final entry for this trek through Prog Rock/Metal history hails from Glendale, California. This Armenian-American heavy metal band known as System Of A Down was formed in 1992 under the name Soil until 1994-95 when the band would rearrange members and acquire a new drummer. Then they would take on the new name from a poem written by guitarist Daron Malakian, called, “Victims of a Down” later changed to System because they wanted to appeal to a larger audience. In 1998, System of a Down released their debut album, “System of a Down”. Their songs “Sugar” and “Spiders” would receive regular radio play.
Influenced by Middle Eastern music, as well as, bands like Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Morbid Angel, Slayer, N.W.A., and Run DMC to name a few. Their eclectic choice of time signatures and their lyrical tapestries, helped propel them through the 2000’s. In late 2001, unreleased tracks from the Toxicity sessions made their way onto the internet. The group released a statement that the tracks were unfinished material. They released the final versions of the songs as their third album titled “Steal This Album!” in 2002. “Steal This Album!” resembled a burnable CD that was marked with a felt-tip marker. About 50,000 special copies of the album with different CD designs were also released, each designed by a different member of the band.
We hope you enjoyed our walk down the branch of Progressive Rock history! Note that many un-mentioned bands helped build this subgenre from the ground up and we don’t have the time to list all of them. List your favorite Progressive Rock bands down in the comments and as always, rock on music lovers!