Hey thotlings! What’s up? How’s your 2016 going? It may be a new year but today I want to take a trip down memory lane to a few years ago when it seemed like everyone and their fucking pet pygmy goat seemed to be starting some type of progressive rock band, sorta like how everyone now seems to want to be in one of them “generic doom bands” that Robin discussed in her “6 Things that can Fuck off in 2016” article.
I don’t know if anyone else seemed to notice that 2010-2011 seemed to be the glory days of prog hitting it big, but damn, I sure did. Maybe this was just in my town? I don’t know, though, there seemed to be a fair amount of national and even internationally touring bands hoping on the prog shaft, so maybe not. Just a little disclaimer before I go any further: I am by no means any type of musical history expert, mainly due to the simple fact that I just haven’t lived through a lot of it. I was born six months after Kurt Cobain died, and I still don’t really understand what Van Halen is (Editor’s note, neither do I). All of my observations are just based on my modest life experiences.
So yeah, basically in junior high through high school I saw the advent and death of the whole “emo/scene” thing. Like must normal gals that were born roughly between ’92-96 and felt a type of way when they first watched The Virgin Suicides, I was once a little scene ass bitch. Although we eventually transitioned into rave babes or sad girls, we were once knee deep in epic hair fringe, fragile hopes of getting to go to Warped, and fuckboy pics that we stored on them Pantech phones with the slide out keyboards. Remember when that was next level technology? Fuck. This was a rough time for me, mostly because my hair is thin af and can’t hold a tease to save its life, but it was also just sort of a rough time for music.
I don’t want to completely get on my high horse here – I usually tended to find that most of those metalcore/post-hardcore/don’t call me a scene kid band even though that’s what we are-core bands had at least one catchy song, and I definitely occasionally rage to “You Only Live Once” by Suicide Silence when I’m drunk, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. But, like most super trendy music, it eventually outlived its usefulness once everyone woke up and realized how liberating it feels to not have their eyesight obstructed by bangs (I literally spent years of my life with not peripheral vision in my right eye and would routinely bump into kids in the hallway at school…thank god I didn’t get a fucking driver’s license until I was 18 is all I can say).
Unfortunately, those of my ilk were all so ashamed and scarred from our scene kids past that we seemed to pull 180, going from listening to “metal” with some of the least amount of musical integrity to the most. Well, in theory. There seemed to be two types of prog bands that emerged during this time: 1) rando hard rock bands that really were on top of their game, or 2) metalcore bands that adopted some progressive qualities in a desperate attempt to stay relevant. Regardless, though, we felt fancy for liking either and went around being little elitists about it because it allowed us to be the better-than-you assholes that had been putting us down for being scene kids for so long. The Vans Authentic was on the other foot now (and probably went from having zebra laces to being all black), but we definitely retained the special snowflake syndrome that plagued us in our emo days. Dropping band names was the shit, except now it wasn’t about who could name every shirt on the merch wall at Hot Topic, but rather who knew that band that plays in fucking 3/10. One name I remember getting brought up quite frequently at my high school was Between the Buried & Me, like they were the pinnacle of modern prog or something. I finally listened to them a few months back out of curiosity, and oh my god, they are terrible. Talk about overhyped.
Christ, I made the mistake of finally trying to learn guitar during this time. I always felt like a failure because I couldn’t play all this complex shit right off the bat and I eventually gave up. I mean I remember it was kind of the tits for certain prog bands, especially instrumental-only, to sell their tabs books at shows, but fuck, that shit was expensive and I was a literal child with two bucks to my name. I eventually just gave up, which I really regret in retrospect, but in all fairness, I think most 15 year olds have the motivation of a koala bear. I will say, though, there were a couple prog/alternative bands that I really got into this time that will always hold a special place in my heart. I still occasionally break them out when I need to chill out or get in some good contemplating, but I don’t feel on the edge enough for ambient black metal or whatever. So, I’d like to share them with you, because they’re all super underrated and whatnot.
- Fair to Midland:
FTM is just prime, and there’s really no other way about it. Hailing from the outskirts of Dallas, they were who really first sparked my love of music from down Souths, and were even the first show I ever went to when I was a little tenth grade fetus nugget. I think I’ve already mentioned in the past, but I think some of the greatest bands are the ones where each member brings some unique perspective to the table. FTM is pretty much the epitome of this – a little bit country, a little bit rock, a little bit metal, a little bit ambient, but united under the theme of musical complexity (which I guess is why they tend to just get slapped with the prog label). Fuck, just go listen to them and you’ll see. They had some pretty good success, opening for Serj Tankian and even playing for a while on Serj’s record label, but they sadly kinda fizzled out. Do you remember that band that was really cool to hate for a while, iwrestledabearonce? Well the vocalist of FTM got the vocalist of iwabo pregs and that seemed to be the end of that. Scene will always haunt us, I suppose. FTM 4ever doe.
My favorite album: Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True (2007)
If you’re into the harder side of things: Arrows & Anchors (2011)
If you like potato: Inter.Funda.Stifle (2004)
If you’re 15 and like potato: The Carbon Copy Silver Lining (2002)
When it comes to measuring bands in terms of shear talent, Karnivool is one of the first that comes to mind. While they actually toured with Fair to Midland in 2010, Karnivool seems to have gained more popularity, I guess because they have a bit more of a straight rock sound that’s easier for the masses to digest. Like FTM, though, their homeland of Perth, Australia seems to leave a distinctive mark on their music. Especially on songs like “Change” it’s easy to close your eyes and imagine running across the Aussie coast. I think another great achievement of Karnivool is how no frills they are in terms of aesthetic. Music is the first priority, which I guess was what particularly appealed to me when I was escaping my scene days. They seem to still be active, too, so keep your eyes out for them.
My favorite album: Sound Awake (2009)
If you unapologetically peeked at 19: Themata (2005)
If you have a fresh pair of Authentics and you’re feeling yourself: Asymmetry (2013)
3. The Contortionist
To me, The Contortionist is a great example of a core-style band that actually had a graceful and earnest transition into prog. Originating mainly as a deathcore act, they have managed to be one of the few things to emerge out of Indiana besides corn and Amber Portwood. I remember I first heard their all-instrumental interlude “The Apparition” in the spring of my sophomore year and it was the best 37 seconds of my life. For me, where The Contortionist really succeeds is their ability to keep you guessing musically. Just when you think you know where it’s going, the completely dip into something completely different, and they’ve definitely mastered the ambient feelz, too. Like Vool, I believe they’re still active, so then there’s also that (Editor’s note: If they are still active, this will be the first press they’ve gotten in a while. They should feel so proud).
My favorite album: The Apparition (2009)
If you want to float through the universe: Intrinsic (2012)
If you prefer pancakes over waffles: Language (2014)