As 2015 releases are getting announced and released, it is hard to imagine it equaling the prolific year that 2014 was for progressive rock in the USA.
Looking back, this was quite the year for great prog music, especially when it came to American bands. While it has been bubbling under the surface for years, more than ever, there seemed be growth in the USA Prog community and that began in Feb of 2014 on the Norwegian Pearl with the Progressive Nation at Sea Cruise out of Miami, FL. Mike Portnoy, the most notable spokesperson for the genre, in 4 nights of Progressive music overload, introduced dozens of bands to a captive audience and in one shot gave the community something that was theirs and that they could be proud of. Not only was the audience exposed to bands they had never heard of or seen live, but they were exposed to other fans of the genre who know now they are not alone in their love for this genre. What was unique about the cruise was that is wasn’t rooted in the old guard but rather featured newer and younger bands bringing life to what many, not in the know, look at as a dated genre. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Led by Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy, 2014 saw releases from Transatlantic and Flying Colors, both of which were at the top of many 2014 Best of lists. Neal Morse added a solo album of his own in a singer/songwriter style. There were tours for both Transatlantic and Flying Colors, as well as Morse’s own Morsefest, a 2-day festival in Nashville, Tennessee. Enchant, with Ted Leonard who now also sings for Spock’s Beard, reunited after a 10-year hiatus to release The Great Divide, one of their best albums to date. John Wesley returned as a solo artist as well. But there were also a lot of new school prog bands that are carrying the torch for the USA.
Animals as Leaders, the heralded prog metal trio, pulled off the impossible and debuted at #23 on the Billboard charts with their latest release The Joy of Motion. It is hard for any rock band to sell a lot of records in America these days, but an Instrumental Prog Metal band? That’s some accomplishment. Umphrey’s McGee released their most progressive album to date with Similar Skin and continue to play prog to thousands who are none the wiser. Thank You Scientist, the 7-piece jazz-metal-fusion outfit out of New Jersey signed with Evil Ink Records, the label by Coheed & Cambria’s Claudio Sanchez and toured with Coheed to much success. The Mercury Tree from Portland, OR put out the stellar Countenance, while Kentucky’s Dream The Electric Sleep released Heretics, another great album. And District 97 from Illinois released a live album of King Crimson covers with John Wetton to bring things full circle. All of these bands seem more than ready and capable to carry the Prog torch moving forward in America.
As for 2015, we are already awaiting the release of all new prog from the Neal Morse Band. Periphery are releasing a double album, while Between The Buried And Me are working on a new album, as are Spock’s Beard. So Prog in the USA is bigger and better than ever. All we need now is a prog station on satellite radio.
Roie Avin is the Editor of The Prog Report website.