The word “progressive” can be used to describe a wide range of bands and artists. From its early beginnings in rock music with bands like Yes, King Crimson, RUSH, and Genesis, to those who continued to carry the torch such as Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, and Haken, progressive music has found fans throughout the world. It has since widened its reach and spilled into a multitude of sub-genres. The unity all of these bands share is the desire to push the boundaries of music to a higher form of art. Most often, this also requires virtuosic musicianship, which is partly why so many prog guitarists have become so revered.
This list consists of 5 modern progressive guitarists that have been polishing their music and growing in recognition over the recent years. There are, without a doubt, many more that deserve to have their names listed with the ones below, but 5 is a good place to start.
Album: Handmade Cities
Plini is a young Australian guitarist and composer who writes some of the most entertaining, inspiring, and, at times, cinematic music I’ve heard. One of the most pleasing elements in his music is his use of space. A sense of atmosphere is ever present when listening to his music, and you’re not constantly bombarded by wave after wave of sound. Like Miles Davis said, it’s sometimes “the notes you don’t play.” He’s released a slew of singles and EPs with one album to date called Handmade Cities. I recommend giving it a listen.
Artist: David Maxim Micic
Album: Who Bit the Moon
If you’re already a Plini fan, perhaps you’ve also heard of David Maxim Micic. His music posses similar characteristics to Plini’s (in fact they’ve performed together on several occasions), but it shines through a different lens. Similar influences have found their way into Micic’s music including the progressive metal elements and the brilliant use of space but with a sound that leans a little further towards the new wave of djent (with down tuned or extended range guitars and fast acting noise gates). You’ll also hear some really cool post-production effects Micic has incorporated. Listen to his album Who Bit the Moon, and see if you get a sense of what I’m talking about.
Artist: Steve “Stevic” Mackay (Twelve Foot Ninja)
Another Australian on the list, Steve “Stevic” Mackay, is the lead guitarist for the band Twelve Foot Ninja, winner of the 2019 Bad Ass Band Name (BABN) Award, an award that I just made up. A real award that they actually won was Best New Talent at the 2014 Revolver Golden Gods Awards. One would be hard-pressed to find another band like Twelve Foot Ninja. With metal at their core, they don’t hesitate jumping to a completely different genre in the middle of a song. You might be able to catch a clinic with Stevic explaining how he can swap sounds (and even tunings) so quickly and do so in a live concert no less. Stevic uses the Variax guitar and Helix processor from Line 6 to jump from, say, DADGAD tuning on a tele with a Fender amp sound to Drop C on Les Paul with a Diesel amp sound, all within the click of a metronome.
Artist: Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders)
Album: Madness of Many
The trio Animals as Leaders (name inspired by Daniel Quinn’s 1992 novel Ishmael) has been on the scene since 2007 with Tosin Abasi as the founding member. The current line up for Animals as Leaders is Abasi (8-string guitar), Javier Reyes (8-string guitar), Matt Garstka (drums). If you’re looking for heavy riffs, boggling rhythmic complexity, 8-string slap guitars, all held tightly together by an insane drummer, then look no further. Lately, Abasi has been at least partly focused on promoting his line of guitars aptly named “Abasi”, which began started off mostly with 8-string models.
Artist: Aaron Marshall (Intervals)
Album: The Way Forward
Toronto, Canada native Aaron Marshall is a founding member of the prog metal group Intervals. They’ve been on the scene since 2011 with their EP The Space Between, which was programmed and recorded by Marshall in his own home studio. Touring picked up a year or two later, and the group has been growing in popularity ever since. Marshall is known for his skillful guitar work as well as his compositional sophistication. Their latest album, The Way Forward, is an exciting album featuring lyrical melodies and djenty riffs and rhythms.
Who would you add to this list? Comment below and don’t forget to subscribe.