Prog in Russia (and the same could be said for the USSR) was never a thing like it was a case with the Western world. One of the bands that emerged in the ‘70s was short-lived Horizont, a symphonic prog band who released two good albums during the 1980s; Summer in Town in 1985 and The Portrait of a Boy in 1989, before it disbanded.
Another band formed in the late ‘70s which includes various elements in their music is Piknik, who are still active. Alexander Kostarev started his career in the 1970s; he has released a few releases under the name Kostarev Group during 2000s.
Aquarium (Akvarium) was formed in 1972 in St. Petersburg (Leningrad) by Boris Grebenshikov, who remains the sole original member of the group to this day. The group released numerous studio and live albums with lyrics in Russian.
Arsenal are considered as one of the pioneering jazz rock acts in the Soviet Union. The band was formed by saxophonist Alexey Kozlov, and they remain as an active unit, releasing new records and playing live.
Below we have compiled a list of 20 Best Russian Prog bands; acts that are a part of the contemporary Russian and world scene.
Echoes and Signals
Echoes and Signals was formed in 2012 in Tula as an instrumental trio. The band plays music influenced mainly by post-rock and progressive rock elements. Originally the band was formed just as an improvisation playground for the founding members, but lately it turned into a real project. The result of all this transformations was their first 4-song EP album called Comma” released in July 2012. The trio’s most recent release is this year’s excellent full-length Monodrama.
The Gourishankar is a progressive rock band formed in 2001 by university friends, guitarist Alexandr “Nomy” Agranovich (a.k.a. Agranson) and keyboardist Doran Usher, in the Russian provincial city Syktyvkar. In 2002 the band released their debut demo tape Integral Symphony followed by their full-length debut, Close Grip (2013). Their second studio album 2nd Hands, was recorded in 2006 and was released by Unicorn Digital on March 15, 2007. The album revealed their unique style, which blends many musical genres. 2nd Hands was nominated for the Prog Awards 2007 in the”Best Foreign Band” category. The album became the best-selling Unicorn Digital release in 2007. Close Grip was rereleased by Unicorn Digital in 2008. The third studio album The World Unreal was released in Russia on January 14, 2016 through ArtBeat Music.
A “chamber progressive” duo who fuse classical, rock, jazz, and electronic influences, iamthemorning were formed in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2010. Members Marjana Semkina (vocals) and Gleb Kolyadin (keyboards) are both classically trained artists who continue to study in their respective disciplines. While Semkina and Kolyadin are the only official members of the group, they often bring in accompanists for their recording and performing projects. Taking their name from a song by Oceansize, iamthemorning made their recording debut in 2012 with an album cryptically titled ~. They signed with Kscope Records, which released their second album, Belighted, in 2014, featuring guest appearances by bassist Colin Edwin and drummer Gavin Harrison from Porcupine Tree. The group documented their live sound with the 2015 album From the House of Arts. In 2016, iamthemorning released Lighthouse via Kscope. Mixed by Marcel van Limbeek (Tori Amos), it was recorded in London, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. Lighthouse once again featured Edwin and Harrison as iamthemorning‘s rhythm section, chamber strings, and vocalist Mariusz Duda (Lunatic Soul, Riverside). In August, the recording won Album of the Year at the Progressive Music Awards.
Adaen was founded as a studio project of Valentine, the lead singer and guitarist of the band. In 2009 the first studio album Dancing Metropolis Burial was released and immediately it caused a positive reaction on the Internet and was highly rated by growing number of listeners. Later Adaen was reformed to a full-grown three piece band.
Influences of prog rock bands such as Muse, Tool, Rush, The Mars Volta and Meshuggah are traced in Adaen’s music. Lyrics of the band have a deep meaning and are inseparable with the music. Anti-military thematics takes a very important place in the band’s songs. Adaen stands for freedom and equality of all the people. Adaen is active when it comes to live shows, and is known for their bright and emotional concerts. The band played with Tesseract, Skyharbor, Monuments, Tera Melos, Horse The Band, Junius, Riverside, The Ocean, Caliban, Naïve etc. For six years of existence, Adaen has got a sweeping respect in the Russian underground. The band has put out six releases that gained positive reviews all around the world. The most recent release is this year’s full-length album Welcomer.
The Grand Astoria
The Grand Astoria is an experimental heavy psychedelic unit from St.Petersburg (Russia) under command of primal singer/songwriter Kamille Sharapodinov. The band have been very prolific since its formation in April 2009 and already released six full-lenth albums, lots of EPs and splits (both on vinyls and CDs), toured with no rest across Europe and Russia (more than 300 shows had been played) and constantly stretched their sound boundaries which include elements of heavy metal, classic prog, space rock, fuzz grunge and even acoustic folk.
Aican is a Yekaterinburg-based instrumental post-prog band featuring Roman Varaksin on drums, Maxim Shein on bass, and Vitaly “Krikston” Pereladov on guitars. The band was formed as a quartet in 2009, and is dedicated to the concept of so called Evolution Rock, absorbing the influences from both prog-rock and experimental music. Aican disbanded shortly after completing their debut album Art Saves/Kills, but very soon re-emerged as a trio with a new bass guitarist onboard. It took the reformed line-up almost five years to compose, record, and produce new material that demonstrates a growing interest in more complex, epic, conceptual, and cinematic forms of modern instrumental rock music. Don’t Go Deep Into the Forest was released in 2016.
Konstant Singularity is an instrumental prog/jazz rock project by guitarist and composer from St. Petersburg, Konstantin Ilyin, who is also a part of the band Jam It! He has released two studio albums: Music Diversity Party (2014) and Randomnicity (2016).
Disen Gage branched out in 1999 when guitarists Konstantin Mochalov and Yuri Alaverdyan, and bassist Nikolai Syrtsev were studying at Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. Joined by Eugeny Kudryashov on drums, the quartet started playing out in a college-club and became known with a surprising quickness due to fantastically fast spread amateur cassettes and their reputation for insanely emotional live performances.
The band’s collaborative approach combined the intricate instrumentation of old-school progressive rock, the melodic expressionism of ethno-jazz, and the rough drive of garage-rock. Music-lovers apprehended the band as a phenomenon in local indie-scene as one of a few heirs in Russia to the traditions of instrumental rock. In addition to their work with the band, Mochalov, Alaverdyan and Syrtsev continued working as researchers at the Moscow Institute of Bio-Organic Chemistry, and Kudryashov played with a number of local indie-pop-rock groups. In 2002, tearing apart between their musical and academic interests the band stopped concert activity. Two years later, Yuri Alaverdyan left to continue his academic career in Sweden. Nevertheless, the quartet overcame the difficulties with the appearance of the crafted guitarist Sergei Bagin, and returned to play live. Disen Gage released four studio albums—the most recent being Snapshots (2016).
Endname is a Moscow-based trio operating within genres such as post-metal and doom, in addition to progressive rock-influenced segments. At the heart of creativity process lie devastating guitar riffs, rough song structures, pure feelings and emotions. The latest album, Triatom, was released earlier this year via Fono label.
I Will Kill Chita
IWKC or I Will Kill Chita (the band’s name jokingly refers to fraternal tensions between members in the past) came to be in 2008 when the Samarin brothers, Nikita and Nikolai started a chaotic punk-garage band. The search for their own stylistic terrafirma as well as competent partner-performers has continued through almost three years. After some years spent experimenting with the sound and line-up the band consolidated finally as a septet of Nikolai Samarin (keyboards, guitars), Nikita Samarin (drums, electronics), Andrei Silin (keyboards, electronics), Alexander Ivanov (bass), and Artem Litvakovsky (cello), Denis Smirnov (french horn), Ksenia Pluzhnikova (violin). In this setup IWKC tends to perform well composed and arranged pieces, completely instrumental, playful and melodic form of music with certain influences of neo-classic, art-rock, neo-psychedelia, and post-rock trends. Hladikarna is the newest album, released at the beginning of May 2017.
Antethic is an instrumental trio from St. Petersburg, playing atmospheric rock music with influences from alternative, progressive, experimental, post-rock. The latest album, Ghost Shirt Society, was released in April 2017.
Dating back to 1994, Little Tragedies were formed around the graduate of St. Petersburg Conservatory, composer Gennady Ilyin, in the city of Kursk. Their early music focused on the genres of instrumental suite, variations, different combinations of classical, contemporary and rock music. According to Ilyin, it was more like improvisations without lyrics and vocals – he was just interested in working with ‘pure’ music.
Although in the beginning the band consisted of four musicians, it was still Emerson, Lake and Palmer-oriented, with a reliance on the soloing keyboards. However, it was not an imitation, it was just a hint at the starting point. In fact, it was quite a heavy art-rock with an improvisation accent. The first album, called Little Tragedies I was not properly recorded in a studio and exists only on an amateur videotape made at the band’s single concert at that time. The most recent studio album was released in 2014, and it’s called At Nights.
Extrovert was formed in 1993 as Big Trouble in Irkutsk. From 1995 to 2005 they were the main accompaniment group for Irkutsk Musical Theatre’s rock-operas (“Jesus Christ Superstar,””Juno and Avos,” “The Star and the Death of Hoakin Murieta” etc). After the release of a debut album Four Elements in 1999, Big Trouble changes the name into Stihiya. Elements of progressive metal becoming more obvious in their music. In 2005, they changed their name to Extrovert. They released seven studio albums to date—the most recent being 2015’s Восхождение.
Formed in late 2011, Human Factor is an exciting Russian supergroup featuring talented and experienced musicians. Konstantin Shtirlitz and Alexander Meshcheryakov, respectively former drummer and bassist of Infront, have joined forces with keyboardist and guitarists Sergei Volkov, principle composer and arranger for a theatrical prog-ensemble Kaftan Smeha, and guitarist Ivan Ivanov of indie-rock band Hagi Tragger. These four describe their concept as a “contemporary instrumental crossover between space, progressive, and alternative rock…” Quite straight, laconic, and groovy music, with certain melodism and dense, textured sound.
Lost World was formed by three conservatory-trained students in 1990, but their debut album, Trajectories, was only released in 2003 by Boheme Music. The trio (Vassily Soloviev – flute, vocal, guitar; Andy Didorenko – acoustic and electric violin, guitar, bass guitar; Alexander Akimov – keyboards, programming, sound engineering) wrote short yet complex and skillfully arranged (featuring flute, violins, acoustic guitar) songs and instrumental tracks.
Their second album, the completely instrumental Awakening of the Elements, was released in 2006 by Musea. This is classical progressive rock of the highest order, with flute and violin featured prominently. Probably because they are Russian, they sound unlike any of the other prog bands with heavy classical influences, so their music sounds quite original. These guys can definitely play and write great music. Lost World cover a variety of styles, with moods ranging from dark and frenetic to gentle, romantic and pastoral. Because the pieces are generally of modest length, it never gets boring. Soft soundscapes change into riffy moments, violin interplays with flute, complex signatures and shifting moods abound. Very good for those who about to be introduced to Russian Prog!
Ascorbic Acid is an jazz rock band from Moscow founded in 2010. The group recorded two albums up to this point, 2013’s Seven Words and 2016’s People, and is consisted of violinist Dmitry Shishkin (from progressive folk group Rada & Ternovnik), bassist Sergey Lobzhanidze, saxophonist Krishna Radogor and drummer Dmitry Losev, while on the first record their drummer was Sergey Bolotin from Silence Kit and the more known post-rock group Bosch’s With You. They play an eclectic instrumental rock influenced by jazz, modern classical music, and avant-garde.
The Morningside started in May 2005. That time guitarist/singer Igor Nikitin stopped his active work in the frameworks of britpop project Piterpen and decided to alter and finish something from his heavy metal record of 1993-94. That was accomplished unhurriedly with support of bassist Ilya Egorychev. The Shadows Of The Past was recorded in the beginning of 2006.
By that time guitarist Sergey Chelyadinov joined the project, and a little bit later in summer 2006 drummer Vlad Zaychikov joined as well. The Morningside initially was established as a studio project, became the full group and began its rehearsals.
In the beginning 2007 Vlad left the team because of high workload in other bands, and was replaced by Boris Sergeev. The group returned with their fifth album Yellow in 2016.
Roz Vitalis from Saint Petersburg exists since 2001 as a studio project, since 2005 as an electroacoustic chamber ensemble and since 2008 as a full-blown rock-band. Founded by composer and keyboardist Ivan Rozmainsky, Roz Vitalis successfully produces instrumental music which evolves around avant-prog, symphonic rock and folk. The latest studio album, Lavoro D’Amore, was released in 2015, and in April this year the band released a live album called At Last. Live.
Experimental progressive metal quintet from St. Petersburg, the Korea was founded in 2012. The band consists of singer Kirill Shtranin, guitarists Yury Lampochkin and Aleksander Kuznetsov, bassist Anton Akimov and drummer Denis Bukhantsev. In April this year, the Korea released their sixth studio album Calypso Act I.
Prog metallurgists from Yeisk, Shokran were formed in 2012 by guitarist and composer Dmitry Demyanenko. In September same year, they put out an EP titled Sixth Sense, which was followed by a debut full-length critically acclaimed record Supreme Truth. The group returned in 2016 with the release of Exodus.