The 10 best rock and metal sci-fi concept albums

Iron Maiden/Wishbone Ash/Hawkind/Ocean/Nektar
(Image credit: Press)

Whether it's metal records inspired by Frank Herbert's Dune, the impossibly far-reaching influence of Lord Of The Rings or albums that challenge the whole notion of the concept record altogether, rock and metal have never shied away from fantasy realms. 

Entire subgenres have been born from the imagination of wild dreamers, and Naxatras are no exception. The Greek psych rockers have spent the past decade exploring music’s outer limits. As they gear up to tour the UK, we asked bassist/vocalist  John Vagenas, to pick out 10 the greatest  sci-fi concept records in the cosmos.

Metal Hammer line break

1. Camel – Snow Goose (1975)

"This piece of art manages to form a language of each own. While based on the novel of the same name by Paul Gallico, the music creates images that shift according to the listener’s imagination. Elegant, gentle melodies merge as guitars and synthesizers cast visions of elves and magical machines."

2. Wishbone Ash – Argus (1972)

"Knights, swords, chivalry. A rock tale of pure emotions, beauty and righteous struggle. Although this is not literally a concept album, the songs share the same vision and aesthetic, which along with the incredible cover, could help in describing it as a loose concept album."

3. Eloy – Ocean (1977)

"This is a classic and one of the first albums that opened our minds to this kind of music. The tale of lost Atlantis is being narrated here and the music takes the mind through the vast depths of this ancient, aquatic civilization, up to the farthest reaches of the sky."

4. King Crimson – Lizard (1970)

"Early King Crimson had already been flirting with medieval fantasy since The Court of the Crimson King, but in Lizard they really went deeper. Peter Sinfield’s elaborate lyrics are woven on top of the prog, classical and jazzy arrangements, culminating on the epic 23-minute finale about Prince Rupert and a grand battle. Robert Fripp doesn’t like this album, but it’s loved by many fans and has grown its own following."

5. Hawkwind – Warrior on the Edge of Time (1975)

"Hawkwind’s close friendship with fantasy writer Michael Moorcock (Elric, Corum, Erekose) has brought forth good fruit. His lyrical contributions to the album revolve around the concept of the Eternal Champion. The music ranges from mysterious, ecstatic melodies like Magnu to proto-rave motorik instrumentals such as Opa-Loka with great results. It’s also their last album with Lemmy on bass."

6. Pink Floyd – Atom Heart Mother (1970)

"This album is probably the first post-Barrett album that manifested Pink Floyd’s extraordinary skills as songwriters. The title track sets a universe of its own, one could describe it as the genesis of a world, a surreal tale of golden spaceships and cosmic structures. No wonder Kubrick wanted to use it as a soudntrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey."

7. Gong – Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy (1973/1974)

"Consisting of three albums, Flying Teapot, Angel’s Egg and You, this is Gong’s peak as an artistic collective. There is a story about Zero the Hero, Pot Head Pixies and Octave Doctors is expressed through spacey synths, mad brass, an incredible rhythm section and the adorable ramblings of Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth. Master Builder and The Isle of Everywhere are definitely among the trippiest songs of all time."

8. Nektar – Remember the Future (1973)

"One song divided into ten tracks. A conceptual progressive rock album with a lot of funk elements. The rhythm section creates a continuous feeling and the chord progressions are very intelligent. The story of the album is about a blind boy communicating with a winged, blue-skinned extraterrestrial named Bluebird, who emanates societal truths telepathically through song."

9. Kraftwerk – Radio-Activity (1975)

"You can’t have a sci-fi album list without these masters of electronic music. You could argue that Man-Machine is their most characteristic one, but Radio-Activity captures a very unique, post-apocalyptic, nuclear disaster vibe. The eerie sounds take you on a very strange journey."

10. Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time (1986)

"The 80’s were pretty great for heavy metal and sci-fi. Among the gems Maiden was releasing one after the other, Somewhere in Time is probably the proggiest along with Seventh Son…. The songs are about time, the past, the future and the impact on our lives, expressed through addictive sing-along melodies, high-energy grooves and ethereal solos. Derek Riggs’ mind-blowing artwork is one of his best and really sets the mood for this one."

Metal Hammer line break

Naxatras’ latest album, IV, is out now. They tour the UK in September. 

September 14 - Green Door Store, Brighton
September 15 - The Exchange, Bristol
September 16 - The Underworld, London
September 17 - Riffolution Festival, Manchester
September 18 - Ivory Blacks, Glasgow