Here’s a list of my favorite albums that I first heard in 2008 (I say this because some of these albums predate 2008, but for me, they are 2008 albums because this is when I listened to them).
1. O.S.I. - Free
The second album from Kevin Moore (ex-Dream Theater keyboardist) and Jim Matheos (Fates Warning’s Guitarist) continues the excellence of their first album, yet they succeed in moving things forward.
Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) returns to play the drums.
A very unique sound – they seamlessly mix electronics with symphonic prog with just a touch of metal.
2. Frost* - Milliontown
An extremely listenable symphonic progressive rock album. Melodies are the centerpiece, with progressive rock changes in time signatures. For fans of classic Genesis, a must.
Also, shades of latter-day Peter Gabriel, but more melodic.
Especially good is "The Other Me," and "Black Light Machine."
Frost* has just released a new album (Experiments in Mass Appeal), which is not nearly as impressive as this first offering.
3. Ayreon – 01011001
When you listen to one of Arjen Lucassen’s Ayreon albums, you are in for an amazing treat: It is like going to the theater and experiencing an epic science fiction movie.
He immerses you into a story with sound effects and hard-driving rock with influences from Pink Floyd, Genesis, Dream Theater, Alan Parsons, and Metallica, depending on the song you’re listening to.
And it all flows together in an amazing seamless story. Ayreon's best album remains The Human Equation, but this album is still an amazing accomplishment.
4. Genesis – Live from Cleveland
I got the actual recording of when I saw Genesis play at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
After all these years, Genesis still “have it.” The best band of all time. It was a remarkable concert.
The mass-market live album of this tour is called Genesis Live Over Europe 2007.
5. DeeExpus Project – Half Way Home
I was introduced to this band during a break at this past summer’s 3 Rivers Progressive Rock Festival by the organizer of NEARFest. He played it on his car’s stereo for a bunch of us who were tailgating between shows.
DeeExpus Project actually “out-porcupine-trees” Porcupine Tree with this album! (see #7 below)
"Greed" is the best song of the year. But "PTTee" (an ode to the greatness of Porcupine Tree, especially their album Deadwing, one of the best of all time) comes in a close second. Pointless Child is haunting and beautiful - with harmonies singing of a despairing relationship.
6. Coldplay – Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends
Coldplay is the best thing on the radio. Period.
This album establishes that with no doubt in my mind.
Legendary producer Brian Eno (former keyboardist for Roxy Music and producer for U2's "Joshua Tree") brought out the very best in the band.
7. Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet
PT’s latest offering is another amazing display of Steven Wilson’s genius.
Porcupine Tree is the most popular prog band today ("Fear of a Blank Planet” debuted at #59 on the U.S. Billboard album chart), and there’s a reason for it: Excellence in writing, performance, engineering, and production. Wilson is the one of the best producers (and the band is filled with some of the best musicians) in the business.
This concept album speaks to the emptiness of suburban youth culture, very poignant and moving.
8. Simon Collins – U-Catastrophe
The son of Phil has arrived with this album.
It’s like listening to Genesis for the 21st Century. Hard-driving epic rockers and heart-felt melodies.
Guest artists include dad Phil on a wonderful drum-duet instrumental piece (“The Big Bang”) that is worth the cost of the CD in and of itself, as well as Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett on the excellent “Fast Forward the Future.”
9. Red – End of Silence
Who says Christian artists are lame?
Red’s “End of Silence” silences those critics.
This is as good as any hard rock going today, and with deeper meaning.
10. Neal Morse – Lifeline
Neal’s latest offering is vintage Morse (the former leader of Spock’s Beard, he left after the excellent album, "Snow").
The best parts are when he lets out all the stops with epic Prog songs, like “So Many Roads” which tells the story of how we have so many choices in life – either to walk with God or away from God.
The title track tells the story of Neal's life of seeking fame and fortune but God broke in and threw him a "lifeline." It's a Cliff's Notes version of the story he told on "Testimony."