50 best progressive rock bands

Progressive rock is one of my favorite genres and there so many good bands. This is my list of the 50 best progressive rock bands in alphabetical order. Some of them are borderline metal and some of them are borderline other genres, like alternative rock and post rock.

These sub-genres can all be very confusing. One thing to be sure if that all of these bands are awesome, in my opinion. Go through my entire list of progressive rock bands right now, I bet you’ll find a new favorite! Oh, and I mostly listen to modern side of progressive music, so don’t be surprised if many old school influences are missing.

Brief history of progressive rock

Progressive rock developed in the 60’s and grew popular in the 70’s. It’s characterized by lengthy compositions, keyboard instruments and generally using experimental ideas. King Crimson and Pink Floyd are considered two of the most important bands in the style. Many modern takes on progressive rock came along over the years, and now many different bands can be considered part of the genre.

About the author

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I’m Stefan Nordström, an aspiring musician and content creator. This is one of the ways I promote Soliloquium, my progressive death/doom metal band. If you’re searching for new music in the style, it would be awesome if you listened to my stuff on:

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A Perfect Circle

Origin: United States
Recommended album: “Thirteenth Step” (2003)

I often find myself preferring Maynard’s second, more accessible project. APC has created many amazing songs over the years, and the latest album “Eat the Elephant” doesn’t stray from that tradition.


Agent Fresco

Origin: Iceland
Recommended album: “Destrier” (2015)

Icelandic band somewhere between the “college prog” tag that plagues bands like Karnivool and Rishloo and the neo-djent moves of Leprous.


Airbag

Origin: Norway
Recommended album: “All Rights Removed” (2011)

Norwegian Pink Floyd worshipers with plenty of emotion and songwriting talent. Very true to the Floyd blueprint, but the music is just too damn good to ignore based on that.


Alternative 4

Origin: United Kingdom
Recommended album: “The Brink” (2011)

Project by Duncan Patterson from Anathema and Antimatter. Very dark, moody stuff that’s rewarding over repeated listens.


Anathema

Origin: United Kingdom
Recommended album: “Judgement” (1999)

It feels like Anathema has reached into most genres at one time or another, and the 1999 opus “Judgement” is probably the most progressive rock-laden album.

10 best Anathema songs ->
Anathema albums ranked from worst to best ->


Anekdoten

Origin: Sweden
Recommended album: “Until All the Ghosts Are Gone” (2015)

Classy Swedish prog band with a lengthy, consistent discography. You can’t really go wrong, but I usually hit up “Until All the Ghosts Are Gone”.


Antimatter

Origin: United Kingdom
Recommended album: “Black Market Enlightenment” (2018)

Antimatter is not just one of my favorite progressive rock bands, it’s one of my favorite bands of all time. Some of the darkest, most honest music I’ve ever heard. The band only seems to get better over time, proved by 2018’s brilliant “Black Market Enlightenment”.

20 best Antimatter songs ->


Aoria

Origin: Sweden
Recommended album: “The Constant” (2012)

This project is mostly known for featuring Katatonia bass player Niklas Sandin, but it really is so much more. “The Constant” is an album filled with memorable vocal lines and genuine emotion.


Ayreon

Origin: Netherlands
Recommended album: “The Human Equation” (2004)

Ayreon is often to cheesy for me, but there’s no denying the power of 2004’s “The Human Equation”. Lots of talented singers, and an incredibly ambitious story and project.


Blackfield

Origin: United Kingdom/Israel
Recommended album: “Blackfield” (2004)

Steven Wilson-related project with some quality dark tunes. Hasn’t made that perfect album yet, but there are some unbelievable tunes like “Far Away”, “1.000 People”, “Glow” and “Epidemic”.


Camel

Origin: United Kingdom
Recommended album: “Mirage” (1974)

One of my favorites among the classic progressive rock bands. Camel is so good at crafting dreamy, otherworldly songs. “Never Let Go” also has one of the most unforgettable acoustic intros in the genre.


Ceterum

Origin: United States
Recommended album: “Fathom” (2011)

Underrated Tool-like band with only one full-length album in its discography. I’m surprised Ceterum didn’t get more attention around its release, because it’s a good one.


Cog

Origin: Australia
Recommended album: “Sharing Space” (2008)

Another band that kind of sounds like Tool, but still delivers enough on their own.


Cynic

Origin: United States
Recommended album: “Traced in Air” (2008)

Cynic is a classic band for many fans of death metal and progressive metal, but 2008’s “Traced in Air” is more a progressive rock album. I actually prefer “Traced in Air” to the classic 90’s debut “Focus”.


Dianoya

Origin: Poland
Recommended album: “Obscurity Divine” (2010)

Polish band with a metal edge and some solid talent. I’m surprised Dianoya isn’t more famous, considering the apparent skills displayed on 2010’s “Obscurity Divine”.


dredg

Origin: United States
Recommended album: “Catch without Arms” (2005)

Awesomely super-geeky band somewhere between progressive rock and alternative rock. “Catch without Arms” is the most catchy album, while the album after goes heavy on the prog and art rock leanings. One of my all-time favorite bands.


Emptyself

Origin: Australia
Recommended album: “Nothing Follows, Nothing Stays” (2011)

Really depressive stuff somewhere in the softer side of alternative rock and progressive rock. Thoughtful lyrics and nice vocals, albeit a bit too calm at times.


In the Silence

Origin: United States
Recommended album: “A Fair Dream Gone Mad” (2012)

In the Silence and the 2012 album “A Fair Dream Gone Mad” is one of the first bands that came up when someone needs something similar to Katatonia. Really classy progressive music on the border between metal and rock, with songwriting, emotion and great dynamics.


Indukti

Origin: Poland
Recommended album: “S.U.S.A.R.” (2004)

Mostly instrumental band with some really creative music ideas going for them. For me Indukti is even better when joined by Riverside singer Mariusz Duda on 2004’s “S.U.S.A.R.”.


Karnivool

Origin: Australia
Recommended album: “Sound Awake” (2009)

Often seen as the Australian take on Tool, and it isn’t that far off. Karnivool has a lot to offer on its own merit though. “Sound Awake” from 2009 contains most of my favorite Karnivool songs.


Katatonia

Origin: Sweden
Recommended album: “Night is the New Day” (2009)

Katatonia is my favorite band, treading somewhere between doom metal, progressive metal and progressive rock. Fans of progressive music are bound to find something to enjoy from the modern part of Katatonia’s discography.

20 best Katatonia songs ->
Katatonia albums ranked from worst to best ->


Khoma

Origin: Sweden
Recommended album: “The Second Wave” (2006)

Super-emotional band with ties to Cult of Luna. Khoma delivers everything from sludgy heaviness to gorgeous progressive/alternative rock with a level of emotion most bands never reach.


King Crimson

Origin: United Kingdom
Recommended album: “In the Court of the Crimson King” (1969)

Mandatory band on this list, since it’s just so influential. I’m not a huge fan overall, but the classic songs are definitely something every progressive rock fan needs to hear!


Kingcrow

Origin: Italy
Recommended album: “Phlegeton” (2010)

Classy modern prog rock with a slight metal edge. Long-running band that only seems to get better over time.


Klimt 1918

Origin: Italy
Recommended album: “Sentimentale Jugend” (2016)

I ranked Klimt 1918 as number one in my best shoegaze bands article, but that doesn’t stop me from including the band here as well. This band is just so good, taking the best parts of shoegaze, alternative rock and progressive rock, putting it into an overly emotional mix.


Leprous

Origin: Norway
Recommended album: “The Congregation” (2015)

Super-hyped band in progressive rock and progressive metal, and mostly for a reason. Insane vocal performances and some damn interesting dynamics. 2015’s “The Congregation” is the band’s peak for me so far.


Lunatic Soul

Origin: Poland
Recommended album: “Fractured” (2017)

The solo project from Riverside’s Mariusz Duda. Lunatic Soul has always put quality material but 2017’s super-emotional “Fractured” quickly became a favorite.


Messenger

Origin: United Kingdom
Recommended album: “Threnodies” (2016)

Mostly known for touring with Katatonia. Solid progressive rock band that’s bound to please anyone looking for more music in the style.


Neuronaut

Origin: Sweden
Recommended album: “State of Not Enough” (2019)

Psychedelic progressive rock band that released its debut in 2019. I really dig the first single “Hypothalamus”.


No-Man

Origin: United Kingdom
Recommended album: “Schoolyard Ghosts” (2008)

Steven Wilson project with a massive discography. Lots of good material throughout.


Opeth

Origin: Sweden
Recommended album: “Blackwater Park” (2001)

I don’t care for new Opeth, but the material that made me an Opeth fan in the first place stays relevant. If you want to lose the metal completely, listen to the brilliant “Damnation” album.

10 best Opeth songs ->


Paatos

Origin: Sweden
Recommended album: “Kallocain” (2004)

A band that many Katatonia and Opeth fans used to listen to in the early 2000’s. Solid female vocal prog rock with a mysterious, dark edge to it.


Pain of Salvation

Origin: Sweden
Recommended album: “The Perfect Element I” (2000)

Balancing somewhere between progressive metal and progressive rock, Pain of Salvation is a given band to check out for fans of both styles. The albums around the millennium shift are the best ones, but the band returned to good form with 2017’s “In the Passing Light of Day”.

10 best Pain of Salvation songs ->


Pink Floyd

Origin: United Kingdom
Recommended album: “The Divison Bell” (1994)

No list of the best progressive rock bands is complete without Pink Floyd. The classic stuff is good, but I’ll declare blasphemy by saying that my favorite is 1994’s Roger Waters-less “The Division Bell”.


Porcupine Tree

Origin: United Kingdom
Recommended album: “In Absentia” (2002)

I’ve listened to this band so much it’s unbelievable, especially “In Absentia”, “Stupid Dream”, “Lightbulb Sun” and “Deadwing”. Now I mostly go back for some solid nostalgia, but there’s no denying the power of those albums.


Port Noir

Origin: Sweden
Recommended album: “Puls” (2013)

Port Noir is a great example of newer progressive rock, sounding similar to other bands on this list, like Khoma, Aoria and Agent Fresco. Sadly, the band gradually lost their edge after the great debut album.


Rishloo

Origin: United States
Recommended album: “Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth” (2014)

Tool-influenced band with a fantastic vocalist and a nice blend of progressive tendencies and simply rocking out. It feels like Rishloo got better over time, and I’m eagerly awaiting more material.


Riverside

Origin: Poland
Recommended album: “Rapid Eye Movement” (2007)

Riverside is one of the progressive rock bands that have been with me the longest. Debut “Out of Myself” caught me a long time ago, and I’ve pretty much approved all the band’s twists and turns over the years. “Rapid Eye Movement” and “Anno Domini High Definition” remains my favorites.

10 best Riverside songs ->


Rush

Origin: Canada
Recommended album: “Clockwork Angels” (2012)

I got into Rush very late, but both influence and songwriting makes them mandatory in an article like this. The band really went out on a high note with 2012’s “Clockwork Angels”, my personal favorite.


Sleeping Pulse

Origin: United Kingdom/Portugal
Recommended album: “Under the Same Sky” (2014)

International project featuring Antimatter’s talented Mick Moss on vocals. Similarly to Antimatter, this is great stuff on the darker side of the progressive rock spectrum.


Soen

Origin: Sweden
Recommended album: “Lotus” (2019)

Soen has always been a quality band for me, but the band’s sound really exploded on 2019’s “Lotus”. It rid the band of the most obvious influences, while carving a whole new quality when it comes to vocal lines and lyrics.


The Beautified Project

Origin: Armenia
Recommended album: “Beyond the Butterfly” (2010)

Talented Armenian band I found through the collaboration with Antimatter’s Mick Moss. “Broken Smile” is an absolutely massive song, and there is more quality material from the band.


The Dark Third

Origin: New Zealand
Recommended album: “Even As the Light Grows” (2018)

Underrated band tucked away all the way in New Zealand. The 2018 debut is a very original offering for such a new band, and I’m certain the next disc will be even more interesting.


The Pineapple Thief

Origin: United Kingdom
Recommended album: “Magnolia” (2014)

Modern progressive rock in a similar style to Porcupine Tree, fronted by the talented Bruce Soord. Extremely consistent discography.


The Tea Party

Origin: Canada
Recommended album: “Transmission” (1997)

Weird bands are fun, and The Tea Party certainly is one. I only found the band through Nevermore’s cover of “Temptation”.


Thenighttimeproject

Origin: Sweden
Recommended album: “Thenighttimeproject” (2016)

Something best described as a lighter version of the new Katatonia sound. I really loved the first album, and the second one is solid too.

“Pale Season” review ->


Tool

Origin: United States
Recommended album: “Lateralus” (2001)

There’s no need to describe Tool’s music or motivate why they are on a list of the best progressive rock bands. I’ve been divided on the band over the years, but there’s no denying the power of 2001’s “Lateralus”.


VOLA

Origin: Denmark
Recommended album: “Inmazes” (2015)

VOLA is a band that defies classification, but the progressive rock influence is certainly strong, especially on the lighter second album. Very original and refreshing band in today’s over-saturated rock scene.


Votum

Origin: Poland
Recommended album: “:KTONIK:” (2016)

Polish progressive rock is not all about Riverside. Votum is a similarly styled band with four quality albums in its discography, 2016’s “:KTONIK:” being my favorite.


Wolverine

Origin: Sweden
Recommended album: “Communication Lost” (2011)

One of the most underrated progressive bands out there. Kind of similar to Pain of Salvation, but with its own super-dark edge. Insanely good vocals, especially on the newer albums.


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Read more:

30 best progressive metal bands ->
Full doom metal genre guide ->
50 best melodic death metal bands ->
Soliloquium, progressive death/doom metal ->


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