Sub-genres of Progressive Rock

Please note that this diverse list highlights the great diversity and wealth of progressive rock, but may differ from your own ideas and concepts. This is, by no means, a definitive guide. This list represents but one opinion, but does serve as a useful guide. Your own opinions may differ based on your listening experiences. This style guide was written by Mike McLatchey and appears here with his kind permission.

Ambient

More of a minimalist form of electronic music (although not always electronic) bands that tried this form of music were usually quite experimental. Maybe the most deceptively simple form of progressive music.

Bands

Eno, Cluster, early Kraftwerk, Neu, etc.

Art Rock

The very border of progressive music in which more commercial styles of music were created at a different angle. Not quite progressive but almost.

Bands

Be Bop Deluxe, early Eno, Roxy Music, etc.

Canterbury

More of a region in England where all these bands originated. Maybe the earliest form of progressive, Canterbury bands wallowed in complexity and sounded extremely English. The ideas resulting from this form of music were very original.

Bands

Caravan, Soft Machine, Hatfield & The North, etc.

Classical Progressive

More accessibly related, bands starting with The Nice that fused classical music, i.e Bach, Beethoven with rock structures and were often quite pompous yet were quite successful at their time. Usually a three man format.

Bands

The Nice, ELP, Le Orme, Ekseption, Trace, The Trip, etc.

Dutch Euro-Rock

Obviously Dutch oriented, bands like this all had a certain sound in common, yet one I find difficult to describe except for the fact that they usually have a huge guitar presence.

Bands

Focus, Finch, Supersister, Crucis (Arg.), Earth & Fire, etc.

Early British Progressive

Most associated with much of the music on the early Vertigo "Swirl" label, this type of music was like combining late sixties psychedelic rock with the advent of progressive music and was almost that exact combination.

Bands

May Blitz, Cressida, Spring etc.

Electronic Progressive

Often mis-categorized by being called "new age," much of this music was around far before they coined that awful term. Arguably the most explorative of the prog genres, this is a wide open field and is categorized by the use of almost all electronic equipment. Only for the patient.

Bands

'70s Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Steve Roach, early Popol Vuh, Heldon, Richard Pinhas, etc.

Euro-Rock

A catch-all that basically describes a more straight forward type of progressive music, characterized best by the early 70's German label Bellaphon. Often combined with "Kraut Rock." Often, the band has a distinctively styled female vocalist that is quite lush and usually very German sounding.

Bands

Nektar, Message, Nine Days Wonder, etc. With female vocalist: Earth & Fire, Sandrose, Analogy, etc.

Experimental/Industrial

Very weird genre that may do anything at any time and can be quite stunning to quite horrible depending on what you are listening to.

Bands

Nurse With Wound, Current 93, etc.

French Theatrical/Symphonic

Close to the symphonic genre yet distinctly French - a style of music that consisted of progressive rock and theatrical sensibilities and carried on with Gabriel's costume/rock style. Too French to be compared to Genesis though, except for that fact.

Bands

Ange, Mona Lisa, Angipatch, etc.

Fusion

More explorative jazz-rock that took this simple form of music to a new level of innovation. Maybe a little jazzier than the space fusion, if you don't like jazz at all, you may want to avoid this category. Not a good enough description but it will do.

Bands

Mahavishnu Orchestra, Brand X, Bruford, Arti E Mestieri, etc.

Gentle Giant Influenced

Gentle Giant were an island unto themselves and created a startlingly complex music that involved more elements than I have time to describe here. This include bands heavily influenced by them.

Italian Progressive

Since this genre is so undefinable, I never bothered to compare all those bands in my articles to the English ones. For the most part this type of music is purely Italian with the accentuation on dynamics and elegance and vocal sophistication.

Bands

PFM, Banco, Nuova Era, Semiramis, Il Balleto Di Bronzo, etc.

Kraut Rock

Another catch-all that vaguely defines most of the music created in Germany in the early seventies and may or may not include the labels Ohr, Brain, Komische, and Pilz. This definition is quite inadequate - most of these bands were pioneers as of themselves and all merit intense discussion!

Bands

Amon Düül II, Annexus Quam, Xhol, Can, Faust, etc.

Neo-Classical Progressive

Music that fused Bartók, Prokofiev, and Satie 20th century classical music with Crimsonian rock structures and chamber rock. Also very difficult to get into, bands like these were way out on a limb and quite different.

Bands

Univers Zero, Art Zoyd, ZNR, etc.

Neo-Progressive

Symphonic rock done in a typically more simple or commercial format. Also very lush but lacking the complexity of the upper bands.

Bands

Marillion, IQ, Pendragon, Aragon, etc.

Oldfield Progressive

I don't know what else to call this type of music since it was so innovative. Mike Oldfield, an incredible musician and composer created a form of music that combined everything form hard rock to Celtic music and did it with such style and verve that it actually became popular. Usually written like Symphonic prog and was also quite bombastic yet more sensible.

Bands

Mike Oldfield, Jean-Pascal Boffo, Sung Woo Lee, etc.

Progressive Folk

A variety of music that took simple folk songs and did something quite new with them. There were many forms of this exploration.

Bands

Emtidi, Witthuser & Westrupp, Malicorne, etc.

Progressive Fusion

A more rock oriented fusion that isn't purely jazz-rock but fuses together many elements from the different progressive genre including Euro-rock, symphonic and ethnic musics.

Bands

Embryo, Area, Thirsty Moon, etc.

Progressive Space Fusion

Very jazz oriented but typically with a heavier rock edge or "punch" bands in this category used heavy amounts of trippy synth effects and were incredibly rhythmic.

Bands

You-era Gong, Ozric Tentacles, Neo, Carpe Diem, some Djam Karet, etc.

Rock In Opposition

A form of music coined by ex-Henry Cow drummer Chris Cutler. This type of music consistently defies categorization (except for "RIO") and is extremely challenging and often hard to listen to. Only for the very explorative.

Bands

Henry Cow, Art Bears, News From Babel, Thinking Plague, etc.

Space Rock

Like space fusion but without the jazz edge, more of a straight forward type of space rock. Hawkwind were almost the be all and end all of this genre and were the innovators.

Bands

Hawkwind, Amon Düül [UK], etc.

Symphonic Progressive

Characterized by lush keys/synths and very melodic vocals and usually written like a piece of classical music - i.e. "Symphonic." Different from Neo-progressive by being much more complicated, especially in rhythm or scale structure.

Bands

Yes, Genesis (early), Camel, Atoll, Teru's Symphonia, etc.

Zappa Music

If you listen to Frank Zappa, you know what I mean. Not typically quoted as being "progressive" but deserves to be included here maybe more than some of these others. Quite individual.

Bands

Mothers of Invention/Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Floh De Cologne, etc.

"Zeuhl" Music

A type of jazz fusion heavily influence by the French band Magma. Magma were a truly bizarre band who's drummer, Christian Vander created his own language to convey his conceptual universe. The music is often dark and gloomy and can swing form Coltrane-ish marches to wailing fusion operas in a matter of seconds. Pronounced "tsoil."

Bands

Magma, Shub Niggurath, Honeyelk, Musique Noise, etc.
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