Today, Metalhead Community Team is putting a spotlight on the Modern Progressive Metal scene. We asked Adam Driskell, composer, guitarist, and audio engineer of the progressive instrumental metal project Circles of Namibia, to share with us his Top 10 Modern Progressive Metal Bands, and we put them together for our readers to find out more about these important bands.
I have discovered Circles of Namibia, the solo project of Adam Driskell about four months ago with their long-play debut album, Where It All Began. We have featured a song, Mountain with a review on Metalhead Community Magazine and networks before, even asked our followers to give their feedback. In this album, Adam has influences mainly from the modern progressive metal music scene, shows potential with his composing skills above everything else. Adam's Top 10 Modern Progressive Metal Bands list, in his words, is telling us a lot about his personal approach and perception as an artist, as well as what's so special about these important bands.
CIRCLES OF NAMIBIA - Mountain (Official Music Video)
10 - Spiritbox
Spiritbox was a very recent addition to my top ten list, but I felt like I had to include them because their “Eternal Blue” album is otherworldly. It takes what the djent genre already does well, but they, for sure, have their own unique sound. They are not a copy of TesseracT, Periphery, or Meshuggah for instance. I love all the sonic textures in their music. Their music can be beautiful, like you are floating on water and then, within the same few seconds, can crush you down to the bottom of the ocean. This is a band that is taking the djent subgenre into a different direction, and I am so stoked on what more of their music will sound like.
Spiritbox, Holy Roller (Official Music Video)
9 - TesseracT
I consider TesseracT like the Porcupine Tree of djent. They can do it all. They are heavy, technical, and can bring it. They are also amazing songwriters when it comes to dynamics. They can build on the same riff over and over again, slowly building up and breaking down songs. Some of my favorite experiences as a listener is trying to guess where a song is going, because normally I can accurately guess where a song is heading musically. But with TesseracT, that is not the case. They keep me guessing and have kept my musical interest since 2013 when I started listening to them.
TesseracT - Nocturne (P O R T A L S)
8 - Ice Nine Kills
While Ice Nine Kills can be considered more in the deathcore/metalcore category, they are genre-bending and progressive for what they do. I love all the strings and keyboard work in their music. This is a great example of a band that allows keyboards to help carry their sound to help with mood. They are amazing songwriters and have one of the best vocalists in the prog metalcore/deathcore genre. They are creative and think outside of the box with all their tracks. Their music is so creepy and haunting while also being catchy and heavy as hell at the same time.
Ice Nine Kills - Communion of the Cursed (Official Music Video)
7 - Periphery
I also cannot have a top 10 modern progressive metal bands list without saying “Periphery”. I have been a massive fan of Periphery since they dropped their very first album. Spencer’s vocals were just so legendary to me and continue to me. But I include them because they are arrangement and songwriting masters. It is so hard, from a mixing, production, and songwriting standpoint, to integrate 3 guitars into your music. Especially when they all might be doing something different. The way they effortlessly include all member’s influences into the band is awesome as well. I love the electronic elements of their music, as my favorite non-metal artist of all time is Owl City. While they do not influence me as a guitarist or in tone, they do help me understand what I can do with many different guitars in a song.
PERIPHERY - The Bad Thing (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
6 - Leprous
This is a very recent addition to my top 10 list as I really slept on Leprous until they released their “Aphelion” record. I was so blown away by this album and went back and listened through their whole back catalog up to this point. They are masters of dynamics. This is the primary reason I am in love with their music currently. The way they can build up on the same repeating pattern and then make it feel like a whole new part is amazing and is very difficult to do without making your music sound cliché. This point is also true for all other bands on this list, but they have a unique sound that I have never heard before. They are not just a Dream Theater or Periphery clone, which can be hard to find in modern progressive metal. I love their sound and I hope to see them deliver on what makes Leprous special.
LEPROUS - Nighttime Disguise (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
5 - Others By No One
This band is the most recent addition to my top ten list because Others by No One is a prog metal act that everybody is sleeping on. Their most recent release, Book ll: Where Stories Come From, is a masterpiece. The primary songwriter, Max Mobarry, is a monster composer. Their music harkens back to Native Construct era prog, which is some of my favorite progressive metal ever. I am so happy that Others by No One is continuing to put out music that is pushing the boundaries of progressive metal in a similar fashion to Native Construct. If you have not listened to “Book ll: Where Stories Come From”, then do yourself a big favor and give a listen. It is some of the best, most original progressive metal I have heard in a very long time.
Others by No One - Dr. Breacher and the Time Travel Anomaly || Official Music Video
4 - Rivers of Nihil
Rivers of Nihil blew my mind apart once I found out about them about 2 years ago. I had never heard of a band that could so effortlessly combine technical death metal into progressive metal so well and make it so listenable. When I listened through “Where Owls Know My Name” I knew these guys were different in the modern progressive metal scene. They would jump from these heavy, technical sections into beautiful saxophone solos. Sometimes the saxophone would still shred over the fast, technical parts. Their use of ambiance, especially with their clean guitars and the keys is perfect for their music. While my music sounds nothing like Rivers of Nihil, I look to them so much, in a similar fashion to Periphery, to help me and guide me to make smarter arrangement decisions. This is especially true for my use of keyboards in my music. They have heavily influenced me as they are master songwriters in their niche of progressive metal.
Rivers of Nihil - The Void from Which No Sound Escapes (Instrumental Playthrough)
3 - Dance Gavin Dance
You might be confused by this one, but I had to include Dance Gavin Dance. I do consider them progressive because some of the guitar parts and insanely smart songwriting decisions that happen in this band put them right up with some of the best songwriters in metal. Their song structures can be weird but are fun to listen to. Like having a guitar in the left ear playing one thing and then the guitar in the right playing something totally different, but it all still works and fits together. I love their ability to make these insanely cooky-sounding riffs and parts into catchy and sometimes beautiful parts. Tilian Person is one of my favorite vocalists of all time and what he adds with his voice is just perfect. I would be remiss if I did not include them in my top 5 favorite metal bands with some prog influence.
Dance Gavin Dance - We Own The Night (Official Music Video)
2 - Between the Buried and Me
Between the Buried and Me was the band that catapulted me into a brand-new direction of songwriting and showed me how heavy prog can be incredibly amazing, but all tasteful. While these are traits that Opeth shares with Between the Buried and Me, BTBAM was able to make screaming music accessible to me. Many of my very heavy sections in my music is directly influenced by them. Almost all my heavier breakdown sections wind up inadvertently sounding like them from their Colors and The Great Misdirect Records. Their massive influence on me as a guitarist along with Paul Waggoner’s amazing ability to switch so fluidly between different genres in just one song put them into Top 2 for me.
BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME - The Future Is Behind Us (Official Music Video)
1 - Plini
I started listening to Plini a lot back in 2016 right around the time when the Handmade Cities EP was released. This EP, to this day, is considered my favorite instrumental progressive metal record of all time. The way that he can influence emotion without the use of lyrics was so inspiring to me and, because of his album the influence it had on me, I chose Circles of Namibia to be a full instrumental prog metal project pretty much entirely because of this album. The way that he can pull from his roots in jazz music while also making his music accessible is amazing. His use of guitar ambiance played a massive role in my own music as I wrote about half of the “Where It All Began” album from 2016-2018 while I was still in university. I always went back to this EP, even many years later to find inspiration for my ambient lead guitar lines.
Plini – "I'll Tell You Someday" (PLAYTHROUGH)
Please feel free to comment below your favorites, share opinions, give feedback and also provide more detailed information about the bands! Thanks for reading!
Paragraphs about the bands written by: Adam Driskell of Circles of Namibia
Prog Metal Bangers by Adam Driskell Spotify Playlist
Top 10 Modern Progressive Metal Bands by Adam Driskell Spotify Playlist
Top 10 Modern Progressive Metal Bands by Adam Driskell of CIRCLES OF NAMIBIA
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