Prog-metal lyrics often have fantasy or science fiction themes; spirituality and individualism are also common lyrical themes.
Anyway, Queensryche is a classic prog-metal band, and some of Rush's heavier stuff qualifies. (Rush is pretty much all progressive, but not always metal.)
Other bands I would consider prog-metal, or at least to have done some prog-metal style songs:
When I first heard the name "Angra", "melodic" was not the first adjective I would have expected to associate with this band. However, it turns out to be a very accurate one (Gentle Change, Queen of the Night). Angra write neo-classical music varying in intensity. "Gentle Change" is remarkably quiet, although the metal influence is still audible; "Extreme Dream" is almost completely pure metal. Oddly, Angra progressed in the opposite direction from most prog-metal bands, going from more progressive (almost orchestral) to purer metal later in their career.
Artension's music is characterized by lots of keyboards, and by being seemingly quite obscure (Not so obscure that CDNow doesn't carry them, though).
Blind Guardian's music ranges from pure metal (early; Guardian of the Blind, Fast to Madness) to very orchestral stuff (Lord of the Rings, A Past and Future Secret). The lyrics are primarily fantasy-themed and usually dark, though not as dark as, for example, Iron Maiden. (Suggested album: Nightfall in Middle-Earth)
Ronnie James Dio used to be with Black Sabbath. Eventually he went off to form Dio. The music isn't in general very progressive, but I'd consider it moreso than many better-known bands. It's less heavy than most metal, and the lyrics tend to be introspective (Caught in the Middle, Holy Diver). The same sort of dark religious/fantasy themes that show up in Black Sabbath also show up to a lesser degree in Dio (Dream Evil, The Last in Line); one of the albums (Magica) is a story album.
Fates Warning has written a couple really long songs ("The Ivory Gate of Dreams" is 22 minutes long; one of their albums, A Pleasant Shade of Gray, is a single 40-minute song broken up into parts). I've never quite been willing to take the time to sit down and listen to these. However, the shorter songs that I have had the patience to listen to have been very good. The lyrics are often introspective (Outside Looking In), and the music varies in heaviness. They're a relatively well-known band; CDNow refers to them as "one of the forefathers of progressive metal". Since this stuff probably happened before I was born, in the non-Mudd sense, I'm going to take CDNow's word for it.
Gamma Ray's music has an odd, insane rollercoaster feeling to it, and varies from not heavy at all (The Silence) to moderately heavy (Rebellion in Dreamland, Heavy Metal Universe). The lyrics range from science fiction (Gamma Ray, Beyond the Black Hole) and fantasy (Valley of the Kings) to inspirational (Time to Break Free) or introspective (Changes), often touching on psychological themes (Dream Healer, Insanity and Genius). (Suggested songs: Time To Break Free, Rebellion in Dreamland)
There are so many people out there who know Iron Maiden better than I do that I'm not going to insult them by trying to write a description. All I'll say is they're probably one of the most progressive well-known metal bands.
Okay, I lied. I also have to say that their treatment of themes from classical literature (The Edge of Darkness) impresses me.
Nightwish is an example of that rare phenomenon: A metal band with a female singer. Unfortunately, it's not an example that makes the listener want to hear more women in metal. The singer is too operatic for my taste; her voice lacks depth, and the style emphasizes this fact. I only enjoy the vocals during the choruses, but then I always tend to enjoy it when singers harmonize with themselves. It's really too bad, because the lyrics, which are mostly fantasy-themed, are great. The music is orchestral without straying too far from its metal roots. In general, the songs where the singer doesn't break into operatic solos are very good, and the ones where she does are very bad. (Suggested song: Wishmaster)
I haven't actually listened to a lot of Sonata Arctica. What I've heard, however, makes me eager to hear more. Their music is a combination of standard hard guitar and keyboard, not really unusual, but their vocals are particularly catchy, and the vocalist has a pleasant voice.
Filled with keyboards and choral vocals, Stratovarius ranges from melodic and introspective music that it would be very difficult to call metal at all (4000 Rainy Nights) to far heavier stuff much closer to pure metal(Rebel). Their lyrics are not always stellar ("Look through yourself there's a mystery full of you" - Fright Night); I get the feeling English isn't their first language. However, their music is far better written than their lyrics. (Suggested songs: Season of Change, 4000 Rainy Nights)
The only album Symphony X has published in America is called V. I don't own it. However, the one song I've actually heard ("Smoke and Mirrors", from an import album) seems good, with fast, melodic keyboard and guitar solos, and pretty good if somewhat scratchy vocals.
There, that's a range of bands from somewhat-well-known to incredibly obscure. Someone else should suggest some other bands/songs. -- StephGrush
actually, none of them are that obscure -- I've listened to some stuff by all of them except Dio. Iron Maiden has some really good stuff anything in particular you are referring to? -- BenZeckel
Really? You get cool points. I mean, they're not obscure in the "impossible to find even online" way, but other than Iron Maiden, most people have no clue what I'm talking about. I haven't listened to Iron Maiden that extensively... You should recommend some songs. -- StephGrush
Updated 3/31/01 by StephGrush. I removed some (although not all) of the bands that I incorrectly decided were progressive because I liked them, added some bands, and started writing reviews/descriptions. I feel really pretentious doing this (I am *so* not a reviewer), but that's okay. It's fun.