Neo-progressive rock

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Neo-progressive rock (or often shortened to neo-prog, not to be confused with the significantly more modern new prog) is a subgenre of progressive rock, developed in the UK and popular in the 1980s, although it lives on today.[1][2]

Neo-progressive rock is characterized by deeply emotional content, often delivered via dramatic lyrics and a generous use of imagery and theatricality on-stage. The music is mostly the product of careful composition, relying less heavily on improvised jamming. The subgenre relies very much on clean, melodic & emotional electric guitar solos, combined with keyboards. The main musical influences on the neo-prog genre are bands from the first wave of progressive rock such as early Genesis, Camel, and to a lesser extent, Van der Graaf Generator and Pink Floyd.[1]

Early neo-prog was marked by sophisticated lyrics and often dark themes. While the accessibility of neo-prog by the mainstream is debatable, the form did generally seem more radio-friendly, with shorter tracks, than earlier progressive rock. Nonetheless, neo-prog never achieved the heights of popular success that the first wave of progressive rock in the 1970s did, with only one band, Marillion, achieving arena status.[3]

The early notable neo-prog albums included Fact and Fiction (1982) by Twelfth Night, Script for a Jester's Tear (1983) by Marillion, The Wake (1985) by IQ, and The Sentinel (1984) by Pallas.

In the book "The Progressive Rock Files", author Jerry Lucky dedicates a chapter on Neo-progressive rock with the title "A Neo Beginning!", stating that this subgenre "surfaced in late 1981, bearing testimony to the lasting values of this musical form" of progressive rock, but distinguishing it from this main genre by going on to say that "Sure the sound was a bit different ... a little more bite, a little more eighties".

Later in the same book, Jerry Lucky suggested that this subgenre of progressive rock peaked in the mid-1980s: "As 1984 dawned all of the British neo-progressive rock bands release material. Marillion's second Fugazi, Pallas' The Sentinel, Pendragon's Fly High Fall Far, Twelfth Night's Art and Illusion, Solstice's Silent Dance, Quasar's Fire in the Sky and plenty of others including records from Haze C'est La Vie, Craft, Mach One Lost For Words, BJH Victims of Circumstance, The Enid The Spell, and others".

Marillion were the most popular neo-prog band, achieving major success across Europe in particular and producing eight top ten UK albums between 1983 and 1994, peaking in popularity with their album Misplaced Childhood in 1985, which topped the UK album chart and produced two top five hit singles in the UK. The album has been called "the cornerstone of the entire 'neo-prog' movement".[4] Following this peak, neo-prog declined as a mainstream genre, although these three pioneering bands are still active as of 2009, and several newer groups have worked in the same space in the 1990s and 2000s.

By some fans of progressive rock, neo-prog is criticised for lacking originality compared to other progressive rock - even by such artists as Robert John Godfrey of The Enid,[5] whose own band has sometimes been promoted by neo-prog fans.

Key artists[edit]


  • Lucky, Jerry. The Progressive Rock Files. Burlington, Ontario: Collector's Guide Publishing, Inc (1998), 304 pages, ISBN 1-896522-10-6 (paperback). Gives an overview of progressive rock's history as well as histories of the major and underground bands in the genre. Neo-progressive rock is referenced in the book throughout, starting with the section titled "A Neo Beginning" (Page 79).