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The Best Prog Albums Of 2016... So Far


We’re half-way through 2016, so what better time to reflect on the cream of this year’s new releases. January began with new offerings from Dream Theater and Nick Beggs’ side-project The Mute Gods, and over the last few months we’ve seen new material from the likes of Radiohead, Hawkwind, Frost* and Big Big Train. Then there’s the hotly-anticipated Jon Anderson and Roine Stolt collaboration out this week, and that’s without mentioning all the new talent out there.

So here, in alphabetical order, are some of the best progressive releases of this year… so far!

Anderson/Stolt – Invention Of Knowledge

We said: “It’s a stronger summoning of Yes music than anything Yes have managed in a while, and will provide ammo to those who believe Anderson is now the true spiritual carrier of the torch.”

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Bent Knee - Say So

We said: “If you love original, inventive music that defies easy categorisation, you simply cannot ignore Bent Knee.”

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Big Big Train – Folklore

We said: “Devotees of art, literature and legend, they keep mythic ideas and exceptional characters alive through poetry and song on a grand, almost orchestral scale.”

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Dream Theater – The Astonishing

We said: “A momentous, absorbing and uplifting tapestry of music and melody that deserves a listen from intro to finale, lyric sheet clasped in hand… It’s also Dream Theater at their most progressive, as they dip into more styles than ever before.”

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Frost - Falling Satellites

We said: “An immersive and enjoyable, proving that modern progressive music can straddle numerous camps.”

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Haken – Affinity

We said: “The 1980s is a surprising influence here. Where the group previously eulogised 70s proggers Gentle Giant et al, this album plugs into the following decade’s technicolour synth and penchant for kitsch via keyboard player Diego Tejeida. Think Yes’ Owner Of A Lonely Heart, but bug-eyed after seven Red Bulls.”

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Hawkwind – The Machine Stops

We said: “Musically, the bulk of the album is typical Hawkwind fare, and the mix of hypnotic riffs, driving rhythms and swirling synths will sound a familiar chord with long-standing devotees. Brock himself is in fine voice, his distinctive tones seemingly ageless and impervious to time.”

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Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone

We said: “Packed with force and feeling in its own right… Each song has its own reason for being, a lyrical theme, an emotional starting point, and emerges – several intricate musical detours later – as an entity, an event.”

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Hexvessel - When We Are Death

We said: “Traces of prog and folk, freakbeat and drone rock, while artists as disparate as King Crimson and The Doors have been invoked by listeners attempting to make sense of this splendidly unclassifiable noise. Throw in Roxy Music and early Spirit, Pendragon and Pavlov’s Dog if you like: Hexvessel evade easy definition.”

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iamthemorning – Lighthouse

We said: “This is an album which, from first listen, you know is monumental. Then the more time you give it, the more it yields. Lighthouse is at war with its demons and at peace with its own elegance.”

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Ihsahn – Arktis

We said: “What Ihsahn does so brilliantly is evolve through a cascade of ideas, many of which shouldn’t be able to coalesce. But they do with such an organic presence that it’s invitingly natural.”

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Andy Jackson – 73 Days At Sea

We said: “The shards of Gilmourian guitar glinting across tracks such as Type 2 Error complement his skilful touch with evocative studio atmospherics.”

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Knifeworld - Bottled Out Of Eden

We said: “If you want to know what progressive music sounds like in 2016, point your listening gear to Knifeworld.”

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Messenger – Threnodies

We said: “By turns seductively gentle and sledgehammer urgent, overwhelmingly heartbreaking and unbearably exciting, Threnodies is a spellbinding album. Before our eyes, a good band is becoming a great one.”

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Motorpsycho - Here Be Monsters

We said: “Big Black Dog marks the beginning of a remarkably dramatic journey that feels bound to the slow movement of stars, connected to something that is ancient and steeped in ritual and leading to an inevitable, cathartic denouement. In other words, classic Motorpsycho.”

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Purson – Desire’s Magic Theatre

We said: “An endlessly inventive, mischievous and absorbing album of meticulously crafted psychedelia and theatrical bluster, the band’s second full-lengther takes Cunningham’s beloved 60s and 70s influences and slams them artfully together.”

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Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

We said: “A well-honed balance of accessible and esoteric, this is Radiohead’s best record in a decade, a haunting and beautiful affair that shows some things do get better with age.”

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Shearwater - Jet Plane And Oxbow

We said: “The gap between Shearwater’s delicate melodies and the atmospheric currents of Gazpacho (even latter-day Marillion) remains satisfyingly narrow. Ultimately these are simply gorgeous, intelligent and often viscerally powerful songs.”

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Southern Empire - Southern Empire

We said: “There’s richness to their sound and the material is imbued with a wonderfully even flow. Unlike so many prog show-offs, guilty of over-playing at every turn, Southern Empire subscribe to the theory of ‘less can also be more’.”

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The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me

We said: “A suitably diverse record from a supremely versatile talent.”

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Natasha Scharf

Dark prog (and chocolate) fan Natasha has been a Prog regular since 2009. News Editor between 2014 and 2019, now Deputy Editor, she is the only member of the team to have appeared on Prog's cover.