This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/20-best-australian-prog-bands/
Over the last few years, Australian prog scene has expanded a lot by giving birth to many great new bands and artists. But it was decades ago when the Prog seed was planted.
Although not a prog rock band per se, AC/DC is the biggest musical export coming from Australia when it comes to the rock music. But when it comes to prog rock it was artists like Daevid Allen, Cybotron, Bakery, Aleph, Ayers Rock, and many others, that put Australia on the Prog’s map.
Today, Australia is one of the fastest-growing countries in terms of genre’s presence; with new bands emerging constantly.
Below is a list of 20 Prog artists from Australia that, in our opinion, are Prog’s finest at the moment. Feel free to express your opinion in the comments below, and share your favourite Aussie prog bands.
Originally the project of Snowdroppers‘ Jeremy Davidson, Triple J DJ Dom Alessio, and guitarist Jonathan Khor, sleepmakeswaves was born properly in 2006 when Khor advertised for members on MySpace to form a new post-rock group using the original project’s name. Drafting Alex Wilson (bass), Tom Binetter (guitars), and William Smith (drums), the newly formed four-piece set about practicing and recording their first demos. In 2007, their self-titled two-track demo appeared online for free, and, with a growing fan base, the group released their first proper EP, In Today Already Walks Tomorrow, a year later on Australia’s Bird’s Robe Records. In a strange turn of events, the track “One Day, You Will Teach Me to Let Go of My Fears” appeared on a fan-made Twilight video posted on YouTube. Within a few days, the video had amassed a huge number of views and in turn generated a huge buzz for the group, with the track being downloaded over 50,000 times. The following year, the group went on a national tour with American post-metal outfit Pelican and also issued a split EP with fellow Australian outfit Tangled Thoughts of Leaving, before guitarist Tom Binetter announced he was leaving the band. Recruiting Otto Wicks-Green as a replacement, the group headed to the Wingello State Forest in New South Wales to start recording its debut album.
Released in 2011, …And So We Destroyed Everything saw the four-piece expanding its palette by dabbling with electronics, and with positive reviews, the album cemented the group’s place as Australia’s premier post-rock outfit. Tours supporting Russian Circles, Mono, and Boris further raised sleepmakeswaves‘ profile and enabled them to take on tours of the U.S. and Europe in 2012. Returning to Australia for another national tour and support slots with Tortoise, the band’s debut album received a nomination for Best Hard Rock/Metal Album at the 2012 ARIAs, and at the beginning of 2013, the group announced the release of the remix album …And Then They Remixed Everything. They signed with U.K. label Monotreme Records in June 2013, which reissued the band’s debut album to an international audience with the remix album as a bonus. Love of Cartography followed on Bird’s Robe in 2014, with Tim Adderley replacing Smith on drums. The record was their most popular to date, reaching number 31 on Australia’s albums chart. Amid continued touring that included regular festival appearances, founder Khor left the group and was replaced by Daniel Oreskovic for sleepmakeswaves‘ third studio LP, 2017′s Made of Breath Only.
Australian pop sensibility with modern progressive heaviness – the cult force that is Voyager.
With six full-length albums under their belt and shows throughout North America, Europe and Asia with the likes of Opeth, Devin Townsend, Children Of Bodom, Soilwork, Nightwish, Epica and Orphaned Land, the five-piece from Perth is now firmly entrenched in its international repute as “the band who doesn’t sound like anyone else.”
With a fiery red keytar, a feisty female guitarist and concerts described as “amazing chemistry blending pop with heavy, technical and progressive riffs,” Voyager are consistently a live force to be reckoned with.
In June 2014, Voyager released their fifth opus; the internationally critically acclaimed V. The album received incredible reviews. In addition, V entered the top 20 on the CMJ US Loud Rock Charts and led Voyager to receiving a nomination for the ‘Breakthrough Artist’ award at the 2014 Prog Magazine Music Awards.
In 2017, Voyager released their sixth studio album titled Ghost Mile.
We Lost the Sea
We Lost The Sea are a cinematic instrumental band from Sydney. Formed in 2007, friends came together to create a new collection of noise that gathers relentless crushing guitars together with post-rock atmospherics and melody, incorporating elements that hold up to the likes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Cult Of Luna, Mogwai and Sigur Ros
They released their first record entitled Crimea, engineered and mixed by Magnus Lindberg of Cult of Luna in mid 2010. In 2012, they released their second record The Quietest Place on Earth through Bird’s Robe Records, to acclaim from both fans and critics alike at home and internationally, making best album lists of 2012 above bands like Converge and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and best sellers on Bandcamp.
In March 2013, their close friend and vocalist of the band, Chris Torpy, sadly took his own life aged only 24. This, naturally, was devastating for the band and the rest of 2013 was a rough ride, playing only two shows.
2015 sees the band back releasing their third LP Departure Songs. This record is a slight shift away from their old dynamic, not so unintentional as maturing in sound, and the most personally experimental and emotional so far. Departure Songs is inspired by failed, yet epic and honourable journeys or events throughout history where people have done extraordinary things for the greater good of those around them, and the progress of the human race itself. Each song has it’s own story and is a soundtrack to that story.
We Lost the Sea is currently touring Europe.
Australian Prog Rock sextet Anubis celebrated their tenth anniversary in 2014 with the release of their third studio album, the critically acclaimed Hitchhiking to Byzantium. But in May this year, the band put out their third opus The Second Hand, which is their most mature release yet.
Before that in 2009 Anubis released 230503, and in 2011 a conceptual piece A Tower of Silence; both finding considerable success with Europe’s Prog Rock underground.
Named for the prized possession of Rome’s infamous despot, Caligula’s Horse is a progressive alternative rock band from Brisbane, Australia.
Channelling the raw honesty of rock and the skill of progressive metal into a seamless voice at once energetic, grand and forthright, Caligula’s Horse offers devotees of all strains of powerful and progressive music something unique.
Formed by Sam Vallen and Jim Grey in early 2011, Caligula’s Horse released their debut album Moments from Ephemeral City in April of the same year. Moments is a colourful and dynamic foray into modern progressive music, at once vital, eclectic, and memorable. It was followed in 2013 by The Tide, the Thief & River’s End, a dark, powerful narrative concept album about isolation, exodus, and the human spirit overcoming insurmountable odds. It received international acclaim in the progressive music sphere, lauded by rock and metal fans alike. The release of River’s End saw the group undertake an intense touring regime, including dates with the likes of Opeth, Tesseract, Mastodon, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Protest the Hero, The Ocean, Firewind, Twelve Foot Ninja, Ne Obliviscaris, and hundreds more.
2015 saw Caligula’s Horse release their third record Bloom, their most vivid, and emotional work to date. Bloom is the perfect mission statement for an act blurring the line between power and reflection; a musical assertion with depth enough for the most dedicated of prog fans, and with fire enough to bring audiences in venues across the world to fury and their voices to unison.
From Melbourne to Moscow, Budapest to Sydney, Melbourne’s purveyor of astral space rock Alithia have become renowned worldwide by both critics and fans alike for their hypnotic live shows and debut record To The Edge Of Time.
Although Alithia sit amongst the psychedelic, post-rock and prog genres, their sound is not easily categorised. Imagine floating through the cosmos, out of body and out of mind on a space trip shaped by melodies with mutant riffs, driven by tribal percussion and a shamanistic feel which captivates you whole…these are the astral space sounds of Alithia.
Alithia’s reputation as a profound, deeply spiritual and entrancing live act has increasingly spread internationally, following recent supports of progressive heavyweights such as Animals as Leaders, ALCEST, The Ocean, Mother’s Cake, Dead Letter Circus, Ne Obliviscaris, etc.
Leading audiences and listeners through a journey of uncompromising arrangements, crushing heavy riffs and soaring melodies, Perth’s enigmatic prog metal five-piece Chaos Divine have well and truly immersed themselves in a realm of sound and style matched by few, and admired by many.
With a suite of industry accolades, national and international tours, and appearances at Soundwave and Big Day Out festivals under their belt, Chaos Divine have carved out an impressive reputation for delivering a powerful and dynamic live show. The band has supported some of the biggest names in rock and metal including Slayer, Mastodon, Tesseract, Animals as Leaders, Between the Buried and Me, Fear Factory, Dark Tranquility, Trivium, The Ocean, Devil Driver, Satic-X, and more.
With an EP and three studio albums under their belt, the band offered up Colliding Skies in 2015, their most accomplished record to date that delivers a bold step-change to an already proven formula. The follow-up to 2011’s The Human Connection—the group’s critically acclaimed second studio album, branded by many as a benchmark in modern progressive metal—Colliding Skies showcases a new level of craftsmanship in power and melody. It is being heralded globally as one of 2015’s best progressive heavy albums.
Virgil Donati is widely recognized as one of the most dedicated and technically advanced drummers of all time. He was born in Melbourne, Australia, where he also launched his career. Since the mid-nineties he has been a household name. Residing in Los Angeles, Virgil is travelling the world as a international drumming superstar, as well as a composer and an educator.
He has performed and toured with the likes of Tommy Emmanuel, Steve Vai and Allan Holdsworth, while maintaining a busy schedule as a band leader and member of numerous recording and touring bands over the years, most notably Loose Change, Southern Sons, On The Virg, Soul Sirkus, Planet X and various incarnations of The Virgil Donati Band and The Virgil Donati Trio.
His natural talent, combined with a herculean work-ethic and never-ending curiosity, has propelled him to an unbelievable performance level.
In 2016, Donati released his latest studio offering The Dawn of Time.
Hailing from Sydney, guitarist, composer and architect Plini has independently released several EP’s, singles and an album titled Handmade Cities over the last few years.
He’s worked with musicians including Marco Minnemann, Chris Letchford, Troy Wright, Rick Graham, and many more.
Dead Letter Circus
Dead Letter Circus is an alternative rock band with a progressive rock style who made their smash hit album debut with This Is the Warning in 2010. Founded in 2005 in Brisbane, Queensland, the band is comprised of Kim Benzie (vocals), Rob Maric (guitar), Stewart Hill (bass), and Luke Williams (drums). Their influences include Faith No More, Muse, the Mars Volta, and Radiohead. They made their commercial recording debut with Dead Letter Circus (2007), a six-track EP released association with MGM Distribution that spawned the single “Disconnect and Apply.”
The following year they released a second EP, Next in Line (2008), which spawned the singles “Reaction” and “Next in Line,” the latter of which was a breakout hit for the band. Upon signing a major-label recording contract with Warner Music, Dead Letter Circus made their full-length album debut with This Is the Warning (2010). Produced by Forrester Savell, This Is the Warning reached number two on the Australian albums chart and featured the singles “The Space on the Wall” and “Big.”
2013 saw the departure of founding member Rob Maric and the additions of new band members Tom Skerlj and Clint Vincent. It also saw the release of the group’s critically-acclaimed sophomore outing Catalyst Fire, which debuted at #2 on the Australian album charts. An acoustic EP, Stand Apart, arrived in 2014, followed in 2015 by the band’s third studio long player, Aesthesis.
Karnivool started out as a high school band in 1997, playing parties around Perth focusing on covers of Nirvana and Carcass with a handful of original songs thrown into the mix. After a year of this, singer Ian Kenny decided to change the focus to purely original material, getting rid of the original bandmembers—who had been called “a bunch of clowns” around Perth, hence the name Karnivool—and recruiting guitarists Drew Goddard and Mark Hosking, bass player Jon Stockman, and drummer Ray Hawking to work on a self-titled EP.
This was followed by the full-length albums Persona in 2001 and Themata in 2005. Lead guitarist Drew Goddard played most of the drums on Themata and also began contributing his own songs, which were written in an unusual combination of dropped-B and standard E tuning. This became their trademark as the band moved away from their early nu-metal sound towards a more progressive style heavily influenced by Tool. New drummer Steve Judd was brought in for their live shows and then became a permanent member of the band. American label Bieler Bros. Records gave Themata a U.S. release in 2007. In 2009, Karnivool released Sound Awake, which debuted at number two in the ARIA album charts and was a top-seller in Australia’s independent chart.
2013 brought the release of Assymetry, the latest studio effort by the band.
Hemina are a 4 piece Progressive Metal band from Sydney. The band’s sound has been described as a unique combination of hard hitting syncopated grooves, lush synth backwashes, multi-part vocal harmonies, blistering memorable leads with a focus on songwriting and emotion.
The band have supported international bands Uriah Heep, Kamelot, Apocalyptica, etc. They have shared the stage with Aussie legends, Caligula’s Horse, Chaos Divine, Voyager, James Norbert Ivanyi, Divine Ascension, Breaking Orbit among many others and simply live for the stage.
Hemina’s first two albums Synthetic and Nebulae were met with critical acclaim traversing two different sides of the band’s sonic spectrum from the complex and dark, to the concise and uplifting.
With a reinvigorated lineup, the band’s third album Venus is the most collaborative work to date offering flavours of what fans have come to expect in the past as well as a new palette and range of expression never before heard from the group. Hemina returned with an 80 minute concept album detailing and examining domestic violence, relationships, and individuality in the 21st century with a narrative arc to accompany and elaborate on their previous conceptual output. Venus is Hemina at their heaviest and most energetic without ignoring the tender and delicate side that keeps the music in balance. With a powerful modern production and mix crafted between Douglas Skene and Nathan McMahon at Ploughman Studios with audiophile mastering from Ermin Hamidovic at Systematic Productions (Periphery, Devin Townsend, Plini)—this is the band at their best.
Twelve Foot Ninja
Specializing in a propulsive and hard-to-shoehorn mix of searing alternative metal and shape-shifting, experimental rock with progressive tendencies, Aussie quintet Twelve Foot Ninja fall somewhere between the decibel-pounding onslaught of bands like Periphery and Between the Buried and Me, and the kitchen-sink eclecticism of Mr. Bungle. Formed in Melbourne in 2008 around the talents of Kin Etik, Shane Russell, Steve Mackay, Damon McKinnon, and Rohan Hayes, the band released a flurry of singles and EPs between 2008 and 2011 before issuing their debut long-player, Silent Machine, in 2012.
The band spent the next three years touring heavily—Silent Machine was released in America in 2014—but eventually returned to the studio to begin work on album number two. The resulting Outlier dropped in August, 2016, and quickly shot to the top of Australian Artist Charts.
The Helix Nebula
The Helix Nebula is an instrumental progressive metal band formed in 2011. Based in Sydney, Australia, this act compensate for the lack of vocals by aggressively challenging the listener with numerous riffs and highly complex technical wizardry regarding time signatures and instrumental prowess.
Having toured with a multitude of acts including Animals as Leaders, Between the Buried and Me and Beyond Creation, the band released their first EP entitled Meridian in August of 2014. The lineup consists of Jake Howsam Lowe and Stephen Taranto on guitars, Simon Grove on bass and production, and Nic Tresise on drums.
Dyssidia have crafted a unique sound amongst their peers. Infusing bone-crushing riffs with rich harmonies, soaring vocal melodies with brutal growls, and breathtaking soundscapes with intricate rhythms. They are synonymous with blending styles, displaying emotions and showing off some incredible technical prowess.
This duality of sonics and their mesmerising stage show has led to them to share the stage with the kings of the global progressive scene, including Opeth, Tesseract, Trivium, Between The Buried And Me, Katatonia, Fallujah, Klone, Beyond Creation, Intervals, Ne Obliviscaris, Psycroptic, Be’lakor, Caligula’s Horse, Plini, and Voyager.
With their previous EP’s, 2013’s Quiet Waters and 2015’s Children Of Aether And Earth, Dyssidia’s musical journey has evolved significantly and brought them to their latest release; 2016’s Of Delight & Despair.
Following their 2016 Australian tour with Brisbane progressive powerhouse Caligula’s Horse, Dyssidia will be touring nationally with Sydney instrumental guitar prodigy James Norbert Ivanyi in August 2017. With the release of their third video for “Dead Smoke,” the recording of their debut album in November and more tours to follow, Dyssidia have no plans on slowing down anytime soon.
Vanishing Point was formed in the early 1990s. The band concentrated their efforts on song writing/recording and their first album, In Thought was recorded in 1996, and released in Europe by German label Angular Records in 1997.
Vanishing Point headed to Germany for the 2000 Wacken Open Air festival. Later that year the band’s second album Tangled in Dream was released in Australia by Metal Warriors and internationally by Germany’s LMP label. The following eighteen months was a busy period for the band. In late 2001, Vanishing Point returned to Europe for a tour with Gamma Ray and Sonata Arctica.
In 2005 the band returned to a live performances at Metal For The Brain, and then a show with Nightwish on the Melbourne leg of their Australian tour. Embrace The Silence was released mid-year internationally by their new label, Germany’s Dockyard 1 and in Australia by the Wollongong-based Riot! label. During 2006, Vanishing Point supported Black Label Society and Gamma Ray on the Melbourne leg of their Australian tours, and in May 2007, Vanishing Point supported DragonForce in Australia and New Zealand. The band’s fourth album The Fourth Season was released on the 24th August 2007, through Dockyard 1. In February 2008 Vanishing Point supported Iron Maiden, performing a single show in Perth and two shows in Melbourne. Vanishing Point appeared alongside fellow Australian power metal band Black Majesty on tour with Helloween in February 2008.
In late September 2008 Vanishing Point once again took off for Europe this time supporting Sonata Arctica with Norway’s Pagan’s Mind; the tour was a success and the band played in many new countries where the band had never been to before. Vanishing Point returned home to Australia for a short break and then to fully concentrate on writing the follow up album to The Fourth Season. Distant Is The Sun was released in 2014.
Hibernal is a project of Brisbane-based composer Mark Healy. The project his original sci-fi stories with instrumental music to create an immersive experience for the listener. Combined with a professional voice cast, the ‘audio movies’ have been hailed by critics and fans alike for their originality and creativity. The latest album, The Dark of the City, was released in January 2017.
“Like the volcano, Krakatau starts with a foreboding warning and continues through explosive improv jams, haunting drones and climactic conclusions.” This is how the Melbourne-based instrumental prog/jazz rock band describe their work.
The quartet released their debut album Water Near a Bridge on vinyl in 2014 via Trouble in Mind Records, followed by last year’s vinyl release of Tharsis Montes/Apogean Tide via Growing Bin Records.
James Norbert Ivanyi
James Norbert Ivanyi is a guitarist, composer and producer based in Sydney who records music at his home studio and release it independently. Since 2013, he has put out three instrumental EP’s, Aphasia (2013), The Matter Circumvention (2015), and The Usurper (2016). His new, fourth release titled Denalavis is out on June 1.
Ne Obliviscaris are an extreme progressive metal band from Melbourne. Conceived late in 2003 by violinist/vocalist Tim Charles and vocalist Marc “Xenoyr” Campbell, the band included a female soprano vocalist, lead guitarist, bassist, and drummer.
Former Gomorrah rhythm guitarist Matt Klavins signed on in early 2004, as did lead guitarist Corey King. The band’s original rhythm section was replaced in 2005 by bassist Brendan “Cygnus” Brown (ex-Aphotic Dawn/Primordial Space) and drummer Daniel Presland. For nearly two years this unit continued to rehearse and play regional shows.
In 2007 the collective released the three-track, 33-minute demo The Aurora Veil to thunderous underground acclaim due to its signature yet unpredictable meld of death and melodic metal, classical music, jazz, and avant-garde improvisation. King left shortly after the record’s release and the band was forced to soldier on without a guitarist until they successfully auditioned French guitarist Benjamin Baret, who had played with Brown in Primordial Space in 2008.
As the band began recording its full-length debut with this sextet in 2009, they held a concert called Festival de la Grenouille to raise funds for a Distinguished Talent Visa. It would allow Baret to relocate to Australia. After 14 months of waiting, and having a finished record about to be mixed, his application was denied.
Ne Obliviscaris appealed the decision by initiating a petition and letter-writing campaign which proved successful in 2011. The long-finished Portal of I was finally released in 2012. The evolution in sound and approach was greeted globally with critical and fan acclaim. In 2013 the band signed to Seasons of Mist and began recording a follow-up. After finishing the album, they began a crowd-funding campaign in June of 2014 to fund a world tour to support it upon release. They asked for $40,000 and received over twice that. Citadel was issued in November of 2014.