Top 10 Progressive Rock Bands

Script written by Jim Beviglia. This genre has captivated fans with its spirit of adventure and ambition, spawning countless concept albums and synthesizer solos. For this list, we’ve based our choices on the popularity and impact of bands that spent a large portion of their career recording albums that fit into a progressive rock and/or metal category. The acts must have released more than 1 album that can be classified under the genre, whether it’s through elaborate musical arrangements, concept records or lengthy suites. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 progressive rock bands. Special thanks to our users Kyle Redstine, Vearus, Lars Damen, blackwaterpark, Linktoon000, re453, Torkel Svenson, Stupidideathis47@gma, Yash Rastogi, Tom Miller-Cheevers, Jose Raul Miranda, Arthur Lavoie, PMc is the greatest, jdrosen36, Elgan Chia, alltheworldsastage, thereddragon17, Wiljac, Dragzer96, Luke Altman, Josh Fabrizio, Max Bunte and Jason Duran for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Jim Beviglia.

Top 10 Progressive Rock Bands


This genre has captivated fans with its spirit of adventure and ambition, spawning countless concept albums and synthesizer solos. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 progressive rock bands.

For this list, we’ve based our choices on the popularity and impact of bands that spent a large portion of their career recording albums that fit into a progressive rock and/or metal category. The acts must have released more than 1 album that can be classified under the genre, whether it’s through elaborate musical arrangements, concept records or lengthy suites.

#10: Jethro Tull

Formed in England in the late-‘60s, Jethro Tull’s career has been dominated by the presence of lead singer and songwriter Ian Anderson. His flute-playing often provided the unifying characteristic in the band’s music as its styles shifted between folky ramblings and harder-rocking ravers. Meanwhile, songs like “Aqualung”, “Thick as a Brick”, and “Locomotive Breath” transcended the progressive genre and became staples on classic rock radio.

#9: Tool

Proving that the progressive rock movement still had life past the ‘70s, Tool emerged from Los Angeles in the ‘90s with a thunderous sound that could not be ignored. Although they only released four albums in the span of 15 years between 1991-2006, each won them critical acclaim and legions of fans. They’ve even scored three Grammy wins. With vocalist Maynard James Keenan bellowing over sprawling, heavy-metal infused songs with inventive videos, Tool became an unlikely MTV band as well.

#8: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Keith Emerson and Greg Lake were each part of successful British bands in the ‘60s before joining forces with drummer Carl Palmer in 1970. One of the first so-called supergroups, ELP’s sound was dominated by Emerson’s keyboards, who brought in classical influences and helped popularize the use of the synthesizer in rock and roll. The hit “Lucky Man” from their debut album paved the way for a series of highly successful and influential albums for the band in the early ‘70s and beyond.

#7: Coheed and Cambria

For those who thought the progressive rock movement couldn’t last into the new millennium, Coheed and Cambria proved them wrong. Even though the band formed in 1995, they didn’t release their first album until 2002, which was the first in a series of albums that are all tied into an overarching science fiction narrative. But none of those trappings would be effective without the inventive music and potent lyrics the band consistently conjures. Put those elements together and it’s clear why Coheed and Cambria has such a loyal following.

#6: King Crimson

Guitarist Robert Fripp is the core member of this progressive rock outfit with a consistently changing lineup. Their debut album, 1969’s In the Court of The Crimson King, established many of the tenets on which progressive rock was based. The band was able to shift from hard-rocking tunes to quiet, weightless jams in a heartbeat.

#5: Yes

This English band was one of the few progressive rock bands that had rock radio success thanks to their accessible melodies and singer Jon Anderson’s unique high-pitched voice. The band’s multifaceted musical arrangements and multi-tracked harmonies also helped them stand out from the pack. Yes even had comeback success in the MTV era, scoring a huge ‘80s hit in “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” And although they’ve changed lineups often, they’ve remained a musical force.

#4: Dream Theater

This Boston band carved out a niche for themselves during the grunge era of the early ‘90s thanks to their amazing technical ability as instrumentalists. Dream Theater has always come down on the heavy metal side of the progressive rock spectrum, but even when playing at light speed, guitarist John Petrucci and bassist John Myung never let things degenerate into a loud mess. The power and precision of Dream Theater is why they are prog rock royalty.

#3: Genesis

Many fans know Genesis from their years with Phil Collins as the lead singer when they were hugely successful hit makers. But there was a time when Collins was just the drummer and Peter Gabriel was the lead singer. That was when the band made their impact in the world of progressive rock thanks to their intricate instrumental chemistry and Gabriel’s charisma as the frontman. No matter who is out in front though, Genesis is a band for the ages.

#2: Rush

With only three main men in the band, you might wonder how such mesmerizingly intricate music is made by Rush. The Canadian trio of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart has built one of the most devoted fan bases in music, which is one reason why they now reside in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. With Peart playing walloping drums and penning philosophically probing lyrics and Lee singing in his penetrating nasal voice, Rush is one of the most distinctive bands in any genre.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Porcupine Tree
- The Moody Blues
- Frank Zappa
- Electric Light Orchestra
- The Alan Parsons Project

#1: Pink Floyd

After starting off in the early ‘60s in the British underground rock scene, Pink Floyd hit the mainstream with a series of blockbuster albums during the following decade. The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall are two of the ‘70s defining albums, combining atmospheric musical passages with Roger Waters’ biting lyrics about heavy topics like war and insanity. Although group infighting slowed their progress in the ‘80s, Pink Floyd still stands as the preeminent prog rock band of their era.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite progressive rock band? For more musical Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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