Dan Swano is as much an extreme metal legend as you can get. From his work with the seminal Edge Of Sanity, to his years spent behind the desk making every band he worked with sound better than they ever had before, he is one of the key figures in the history of European extreme metal. And all of that is before even mentioning “Moontower”, his solo triumph. That album, in my eyes, is the single greatest death metal record ever made, and a towering achievement that single-handedly proves the merit of growled vocals.

Leprous is one of those bands I should be more familiar with than I am. Their last album, “Bilateral”, won massive acclaim from all around the metal world, but for reasons I'm not sure of, I never got around to listening to it. There was something about the blend of technical progressive metal with more modern influences that didn't sink in with me when I heard a clip or two, at least not in the way a band like Seventh Wonder is able to, so I come into “Coal” with a clean slate and an open mind.

Spock's Beard is known for three things; 1) having a silly name, 2) once having Neal Morse in the band, and 3) no longer having Neal Morse in the band. Simply put, their early run of albums helped to create the modern prog scene as it currently exists. What gets lost is that the band never stopped moving forward after Neal moved on to his solo career. Taking the Genesis route, Spock's Beard kept on going, even if they weren't receiving the same amount of attention they once did.

I remember hearing about Riverside when their first album was just coming out. I wasn't yet interested in progressive music, but there was enough buzz about them that they were always in the back of my mind. By the time they got around to finishing their trilogy and releasing “Anno Domini High Definition”, I was ready to see what all the fuss was about.

Progressive music walks a fine line for most of its existence, trying to balance the gratification musicians garner from playing difficult and involved compositions with the gratification listeners need to be able to elicit from those same songs. Finding the right mix of challenge for the player and fun for the audience is a bit of a magic trick, not unlike pulling a rabbit out of the hat. There are a few bands who have been able to marry the popular and the insular, but the numbers who manage to do so are few and far between. It's the nature of the beast.

The reputation of Hammers of Misfortune precedes them, even with all the tumult and lineup changes over the years. With only two original members remaining and two new additions on this latest effort, cynical fans might expect that the halcyon days of Hammers of Misfortune are over. Yet, they soldier on with "17th Street," the band's fifth official studio release. The band's press tells you that this is an album blending elements of doom metal, progressive rock, NWOBHM, and probably a dozen other long-winded buzzwords.

Gather round, fans of Fates Warning! Jim Matheos and former vocalist John Arch have put together a six-cut record of entirely new progressive metal material under the banner of brand new side project Arch/Matheos. "Sympathetic Resonance" lies somewhere between EP and full album, and was rendered from material that Matheos had written with preconceptions of another Fates Warning album. The musician goes on to say that he and Arch began working the songs one at a time, never really intending a full-length debut, but arriving at that destination in time.