Reviewing the 5 Worst Rated Progressive Metal Albums

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Using the very scientific method of asking rateyourmusic.com to tell me what the worst rated progressive metal albums are, I subjected myself to some garbage for your reading pleasure. I assume there is some calculation that takes into account the number of ratings and overall score, but I won’t pretend I know what it is. Regardless, I can say with certainty that there are obvious reasons for every album that landed in this list.

#5 Between the Buried and Me: The Anatomy Of

RYM Rating: 2.68 | Ratings: 910

Making a cover album in itself is a bold and usually stupid choice, but even bolder is BTBAM’s decision to make one with just three albums under their belt. Those albums are mostly good, but there’s still a little bit of that “finding themselves” feel in them. Why take a sidestep and write 14 covers from an odd assortment of bands, especially if not that many people care about you yet? Covering the likes of Queen, Smashing Pumpkins, Pink Floyd, Depeche Mode, King Crimson, and many more, I can’t say I know every song to judge if they did it justice, but most of them seem to earn a solid C+. Sometimes they force the songs into the early BTBAM flavor, other times they keep the sound largely the same. I can’t say one is preferable to the other, but it’s all exhausting. Most of these songs would be funny or interesting as an encore surprise, but not so much on a record. At least they pulled their heads out of their asses the next year and released Colors. But maybe I’m being too hard on it, it’s not unlistenable. Except “Blackened”. Not good.


#4 Next to None: A Light in the Dark

RYM Rating: 2.34 | Ratings: 43

How did I not know this was a thing! Or, maybe I did and gave myself selective amnesia. Next to None is Mike Portnoy’s kid’s garage band that got a record deal with Inside Out. A Light in the Dark is so bad that it’s actually a fun listen. It’s like the audio version of The Room. The only reason to listen to Dream Theater is the undeniable skill of the musicians, so doing Dream Theater without that part is ballsy, at best. No one listens to DT for the “Dance of Eternity”-style silly sections, but they have that in spades including a rancid section that uses a Pac Man sample (below). The drum kit sounds exactly like one of Mike’s old setups, which is pretty funny. When they try to speed things up and get into funky time signatures, it sounds so sloppy. Every 3 minutes or so, any DT fan will be able to point out a section that sounds EXACTLY like a song they’ve heard before. Or, if not a DT song, why not just use classical music to poorly/ironically borrow from? It’s a beautiful mess folks, highly recommended. At least the one thing they matched spot on with DT is my level of enjoyment of the vocals. The whole thing is just very amateurish and is a stain on the integrity of Mike Portnoy, Inside Out, and anyone who helped make this reach the ears of more than a school’s battle-of-the-bands show.


#3 The Human Abstract: Midheaven

RYM Rating: 2.50 | Ratings: 274

Way back in 2015, our favorite Pumpkin Baby wrote about The Human Abstract and noted that there was a pretty rabid hatred for this album among fans. It seems like almost all of the hatred arose from it being a total departure from the beloved debut, Nocturne. A handful of you copped to liking it in the comments though! As a new fan of the band when Digital Veil came out, I never spent too much time on the older stuff since I liked the neoclassical shred more than the metalcore aspects of the debut (and I really liked the new vocalist), but Midheaven is its own thing altogether. It’s an accessible prog-rock affair, and if it was put out under a different band name, it would probably not be on this list. Being from 2008, it does show its age a bit with some awkward moments that I probably wouldn’t have noticed in high school but are a little angsty now. I think the new guitarist picked up where AJ Minette left off using a similar style, but perhaps a bit less imaginative. A lot of the choruses approach a mid-aught alt-rock radio feel that I don’t love now either. Song to song, it’s a bit chaotic. There are so many genres and ideas that don’t mesh all that well together, but I’d be willing to ignore most of that since this is basically a debut for the new songwriters. This band within a band could have evolved into something pretty good! Maybe.


#2 Queensrÿche: American Soldier

RYM Rating: 2.51 | Ratings: 538

I don’t really have the ability to put this album into context with the band’s oeuvre since I have made the life choice to not learn anything about Geoff and the Tates, but there are a few obvious flags to indicate why this album fell flat. Prog metal for the troops? The concept is a little on the nose with tracks like “Hundred Mile Stare” and “Man Down!”, and perhaps people just don’t want to be bummed out about PTSD and pointless wars while getting their fix of solos and shrieks. The lyrics are largely about soldier stereotypes; it feels like someone is trying to write fiction by imagining themselves in a soldier’s shoes, but they forgot they have no imagination. “Warzones are scary, people have guns, a mistake might kill me and my friends, I wish this didn’t have to happen.” Hot take. Perhaps the album was just a bit late for the times since by 2009 we were collectively getting a bit tired of the 8-year troop-a-palooza. Musically, it’s about what you’d expect from a band on their 11th studio album and without the guitarist who made them famous. It’s fine. The samples used throughout, both action scenes and soldier interviews, are comically stupid and distracting. I cannot imagine a scenario where someone would have an urge to listen to this album in 2019.


#1 Dream Theater: The Astonishing

RYM Rating: 2.33 | Ratings: 1,623

I’m not listening to this and you can’t make me. 25 years into their career, I am shocked at their arrogance in thinking they had 130 minutes worth of solid material for a single release. 130 minutes! And that’s not even including the video game. I spent like a half hour sampling random bits and like 90% of it seems to be a ballad, making the pacing just abysmal. It’s just forgettable part after forgettable part and I just can’t see how anyone could subject themselves to a front to back listen of it. The band focused so hard on the concept that they forgot to write music with any inspiration at all. Much too much Labrie going on here. The vocalization of characters is cheesy. The lyrics and story are cheesy. It ain’t easy, being this cheesy. As with the Next to None, people listen to this band for sick solos and “fun” complexity, so it’s mindblowing that they just made such a painfully dull, flat, and slow album. Subpar decision making, guys. The upside? Whatever they put out this year will surely be an improvement.


Other notable losers:

  • The actual #2 is some Russian band called Vector of Underground, but there were too few ratings and not a big enough following to qualify. It’s a mix of prog and deathcore, I think? It’s strange, but not deserving of this public shaming.
  • #7 is Ephel Duath’s Through my Dog’s Eyes, which is avant prog that took a bad concept too far.
  • Symphony X’s self-titled shows up at #8, which makes sense because it’s bad. Russell Allen is required.
  • Kamelot’s Eternity ranks #10. That’s a lot of camels!
  • Queensrÿche shows up again at #14 for Operation Mindcrime II: Even More Crimes.
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