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The 9 Most Influential Prog Rock Bands in History

Introduction to Progressive Rock

If you’re a fan of rock music, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of progressive rock. This genre emerged in the late 1960s and was characterized by its experimental nature, drawing inspiration from a range of genres like classical music, jazz, and psychedelia.

Progressive rock, or prog for short, quickly gained popularity, but also faced criticism from those who accused it of being pretentious and overly complex.

Stylistic and musical innovations

What sets prog apart from other genres of rock is its ambitious approach to composition, often incorporating complex time signatures, longer song structures, and extended instrumental sections. Prog also drew from classical music in its use of orchestral instruments and themes, and jazz in its approach to improvisation.

Another key aspect of prog was its use of new technology, from the synth sounds of bands like

Yes, to the use of tape loops and sound effects by

Pink Floyd. These innovations helped push the boundaries of what was possible in rock music and paved the way for many modern approaches to production.

List of 23 greatest prog rock bands

Prog has produced some of the most influential and enduring bands in rock history. Some of the most iconic and innovative bands include

Pink Floyd,


Yes, and

King Crimson.

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd is undoubtedly one of the most popular and influential prog rock bands of all time. The band was formed in London during the mid-1960s and went through several lineup changes before settling on the classic lineup of Roger Waters, Richard Wright, Nick Mason, and David Gilmour.

The band’s 1973 album “The Dark Side of the Moon” is perhaps their most famous work. This album spent over 15 years on the Billboard charts and features hits like “Money” and “Time.” In 2023, the album will celebrate its 50th anniversary.


In conclusion, prog rock is a fascinating genre with a rich history and legacy. Its many innovations and contributions to rock music have had a lasting impact on the genre and continue to inspire new generations of musicians.

So if you’re looking to expand your musical horizons, why not give prog rock a listen?


Rush is a Canadian rock band that formed in Toronto, Ontario in 1968. The band’s classic lineup consisted of Geddy Lee on bass, Neil Peart on drums, and Alex Lifeson on guitar.

Their music has been described as a combination of hard rock and progressive rock, characterized by complex time signatures, intricate guitar work, and introspective lyrics.

Album success and commercial achievements

Rush’s commercial peak came in the early 1980s with their album “Moving Pictures.” This album features some of the band’s most well-known songs, including “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight,” and has been certified quadruple platinum in the US. The band continued to achieve mainstream success throughout the 80s, with hits like “Subdivisions” and “The Big Money.” Overall,

Rush has sold over 40 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling bands in rock history.

In addition to their commercial success,

Rush has also been recognized as one of the most innovative and influential bands in progressive rock. Their complex musical arrangements and ambitious song structures have influenced countless musicians in the decades since their formation.

Neil Peart, in particular, is widely regarded as one of the greatest drummers in rock history, and his virtuosic playing style has made a lasting impact on the genre.


Yes is a British progressive rock band that was formed in 1968. Over the years, the band’s membership has been constantly changing, with nineteen different members in total.

Despite these lineup changes, the band has remained active to this day and has released 22 studio albums.

Popular and acclaimed albums

One of the band’s most famous albums is “Fragile,” which was released in 1971 and features hits like “Roundabout” and “Long Distance Runaround.” This album helped solidify

Yes as a major force in prog rock and is often cited as one of the greatest albums of the genre. Another notable album is “90125,” released in 1983, which saw the band moving in a more pop-oriented direction but still maintaining their prog sensibilities.

This album features the hit song “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and has been certified triple platinum in the US. Despite their longevity,

Yes has faced many challenges over the years, from lineup changes to creative disagreements.

Nevertheless, the band’s enduring popularity and influence have cemented their status as one of the most important and beloved prog rock bands of all time.

King Crimson

King Crimson is a progressive rock band that formed in London in 1968. The band has undergone many iterations over the years, with 22 different members coming and going.

This constant change has allowed

King Crimson to constantly innovate and evolve, pushing the boundaries of what was possible in rock music.

Influence on prog rock

King Crimson played a pioneering role in the development of prog rock, with their innovative use of dissonance, unconventional time signatures, and free-form improvisation influencing countless other bands in the years since their formation. The band’s founder and leader, Robert Fripp, is widely regarded as one of the most innovative guitarists in rock history, and his playing style has had a major impact on the genre.

Famous debut album and successful hit

King Crimson’s debut album, “In the Court of the Crimson King” is considered one of the greatest prog rock albums of all time. The album features a range of sonic textures, from the driving rock of “21st Century Schizoid Man” to the lush orchestration of the title track.

The album’s success helped cement

King Crimson’s place in the pantheon of prog rock legends, and its influence can still be heard in modern music.


Genesis is a British rock band that was formed in 1967. The band’s initial lineup consisted of Peter Gabriel on vocals, Tony Banks on keyboards, Mike Rutherford on guitar, Anthony Phillips on guitar, and Chris Stewart on drums.

The band members met while attending a prestigious boarding school in England, and their early music was heavily influenced by the progressive rock movement.

Most successful album and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction

Genesis achieved their greatest commercial success in the 1980s, with the release of “Invisible Touch.” The album features hits like “Invisible Touch” and “Land of Confusion” and has sold over 15 million copies worldwide. The band’s success led to their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

Although some longtime fans were critical of the band’s move towards a more pop-oriented sound in the 80s,

Genesis continued to pay attention to creating new music that pushed the boundaries of what was possible in rock. Despite the band members pursuing solo careers and lineup changes over the years,

Genesis remains one of the most enduring and beloved rock groups in music history.

Dream Theater

Dream Theater is an American progressive metal band that was formed in 1985 by guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung, and drummer Mike Portnoy while they were studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston. The band quickly gained a following for their technical mastery and ambitious songwriting, and their second album, “Images and Words,” cemented their place in the prog metal canon.

Band formation and success

Dream Theater’s lineup has gone through several changes over the years, but the core trio of Petrucci, Myung, and Portnoy remained together until 2010 when Portnoy left the band.

Dream Theater has been consistently successful throughout their career, selling over 12 million records worldwide and earning a reputation as one of the most talented and innovative bands in progressive metal.

Grammy Award win

In 2019,

Dream Theater won their first Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance for their song “The Alien.” This recognition was a long time coming for the band, who had been nominated for Grammys several times over the years. The win was a testament to

Dream Theater’s enduring popularity and influence.


Tool is an American rock band that formed in Los Angeles, California in 1990. The band’s lineup consists of Maynard James Keenan on vocals, Danny Carey on drums, Adam Jones on guitar, and Justin Chancellor on bass.

Tool is known for their self-described “dark and introspective” sound, which blends elements of metal, progressive rock, and art rock.

Conceptual themes and avoidance of lyrics

One of the most distinctive aspects of

Tool’s music is their focus on conceptual themes and avoidance of traditional song structures. The band’s lyrics often deal with topics like spirituality, psychology, and philosophy, and are filled with cryptic imagery and esoteric references.

This approach to songwriting has made

Tool one of the most intellectually stimulating rock bands in music history. Another unique aspect of

Tool’s music is their avoidance of traditional verse-chorus-verse structures.

Instead, their songs often feature extended instrumental sections and unconventional time signatures, helping to create a sense of tension and release that reinforces the band’s introspective themes. One example of this approach is the song “Schism,” which features a complex rhythmic interplay between the band members that emphasizes the song’s sense of dissonance and confusion.

Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull is an English rock band that was formed in 1967. The band’s sound is characterized by its unique use of the flute, which was played by frontman Ian Anderson.

This blend of blues rock and progressive rock was distinct, and the band quickly gained a dedicated following.

Band history and unique use of flute

Jethro Tull’s early years were characterized by frequent lineup changes and experimentation with different sounds. The band’s use of the flute was particularly innovative and helped to establish their distinctive sound.

Anderson’s virtuosic playing and unconventional approach to the instrument helped to break down barriers between rock and classical music.

Successful album and concept album

One of

Jethro Tull’s most famous albums is “Aqualung,” which was released in 1971 and is often regarded as a masterpiece of progressive rock. The album features hit songs like “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breath” and incorporates themes of religion, poverty, and social injustice.

Its lasting popularity is a testament to the band’s ability to combine great musicianship with compelling storytelling.

Porcupine Tree

Porcupine Tree is a British progressive rock band that was formed in 1987 by Steven Wilson. The band’s sound is characterized by a fusion of influences from

Pink Floyd to Tangerine Dream.

Over the years,

Porcupine Tree has become known for their infusion of metal into their sound, earning them a significant following within the progressive metal community.

Band formation and influence

Porcupine Tree was formed by Steven Wilson, who remains the band’s sole permanent member. Wilson’s vision for the band was to create a sound that blended the atmospheric qualities of early

Pink Floyd with the technical proficiency and heaviness of metal.

This unique sound helped to establish

Porcupine Tree as one of the most innovative and influential bands in modern progressive rock.

Infusion of metal into sound and praise from musicians

Over the years,

Porcupine Tree has earned praise from musicians like

Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy and Opeth’s Mikael kerfeldt for their ability to push the boundaries of progressive rock. Their infusion of metal into their sound has helped to bring new fans to the genre, and their impressive musicianship has made them highly respected within the music community.

Despite going on a hiatus in 2010,

Porcupine Tree remains an important and influential band in the world of progressive rock. Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention

Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention were an American experimental rock band that was formed in 1964.

The band was known for their genre experimentation, incorporating elements of art rock, jazz, blues, doo-wop, and avant-garde music into their sound. Frank Zappa’s genre experimentation and band formation

Frank Zappa was the driving force behind The Mothers of Invention, and his vision for the band was to create a sound that defied categorization.

Zappa’s compositions were often complex and unconventional, incorporating dissonant harmonies, odd time signatures, and extended instrumental sections. The result was a sound that was unlike anything else in rock music at the time.

Famous album and mix of music genres

One of The Mothers of Invention’s most famous albums is “Apostrophe (‘). This album is a prime example of Zappa’s mix of different music genres, including jazz, hard rock, and boogie-woogie.

The title track is a classic example of Zappa’s absurdist humor and a showcase for his virtuosic guitar playing. Overall, “Apostrophe (‘), represents some of the finest experimental rock and roll in history, with its dynamic approach to instrumentation and layered production.

Emerson, Lake, & Palmer

Emerson, Lake, & Palmer were an English progressive rock band that was formed in London in 1970. The band’s lineup consisted of keyboardist Keith Emerson, bassist and guitarist Greg Lake, and drummer Carl Palmer.

ELP were known for their virtuosic musicianship, elaborate stage shows, and use of synthesizers and organs to create complex, symphonic soundscapes.

Band formation and use of synthesizers and organs

Emerson, Lake, & Palmer formed after the breakup of two other influential progressive rock bands, The Nice and

King Crimson. The trio was committed to pushing the boundaries of rock music, and their blend of classical motifs, jazz improvisation, and rock rhythms helped to redefine the genre.

Emerson’s use of synthesizers and organs was particularly notable, and his ability to create dense, layered textures helped to give ELP’s music a sense of grandeur. Example of progressive rock’s fusion of classical, jazz, and rock music

One of ELP’s most famous albums is “Trilogy,” which was released in 1972.

The album was a prime example of progressive rock’s fusion of classical, jazz, and rock music, with each band member contributing their unique sound to create a cohesive whole. The album’s title track is a standout example of the band’s symphonic ambitions, with Emerson’s keyboard work creating a lush and cinematic soundscape.

Overall, Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s music represents some of the most ambitious and inventive rock music of the 70s.

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