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Progressive rock

Progressive rock is a broad and convergent style of rock music and progressive music which arose in the late 1960s, reaching the peak of its popularity in the early 1970s, but continuing as a musical form to this day. Progressive rock is often closely identified with other styles of music such as experimental music, symphonic rock, art rock and progressive metal.

Progressive rock artists sought to move away from the limitations of the radio formated rock, mainly its cyclic structure, favoring a progressive one (hence the term "progressive"). Progressive rock is often wrongly percieved as complex and elaborate music, requiring a high level of musicianship from the artists, mainly because of the impression left by some of the most popular progressive bands.

Some elements often wrongly used to define progressive rock include:

None of the above can be used to define progressive rock because they are not specific to it. On the other hand, progressive rock very often borrows one of these forms (alone or in combination):

Having emerged as an entity of its own at around the end of the 1960s, progressive rock's popularity peaked in the mid 1970s, when progressive rock artists regularly topped readers' votes in mainstream popular music magazines. With the advent of punk rock in the late 1970s, and its earlier precursor pub rock, popular and critical opinion moved toward a simpler and more aggressive style of rock, with the words "pretentious", "pompous", and "overblown" often being used to describe progressive rock. This attitude has remained in place to the present day, particularly among mainstream music writers.

The early 1980s saw something of a revival of the genre, led by groups such as Marillion. Groups that arose during this time are sometimes labelled neo-progressive. At the same time, some progressive rock stalwarts modified themselves to some extent, simplifying their music and including more obviously electronic elements. In 1983, Genesis achieved international success with the song Mama, with its heavy emphasis on a drum machine riff. In 1984, Yes had a surprise number one hit with the song Owner of a Lonely Heart, which contained modern (for the time) electronic effects and was accessible enough to be played at discos.

The genre received another minor surge of popularity in the 1990s with a wave of new bands, many of which played harder-edged music known as progressive metal. These later bands are usually happy to be unashamedly known as progressive, and produce very long pieces and concept albums that sometimes make the epics of the 1970s look like catchy little tunes aimed at commercial radio.

The work of contemporary artists such as Radiohead, Sigur Ros and Godspeed! You Black Emperor could be said to incorporate some of the more experimental elements of progresive rock, sometimes combined with the aesthetic sensibilities of punk rock, to produce music which many find at once challenging, innovative and imaginative. Tool has done the same thing with traces of heavy metal, with some commercial success.

Today, progressive rock continues to be created and admired by a solid core of enthusiasts, but seems to be paid little attention by the mainstream music press and receives virtually no radio airplay. The genre can no longer convincingly claim to be progressing rock music at the rate it once did, and those innovations that are being made are usually ignored or derided by the commercial world at large, and by progressive rock enthusiasts themselves.

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