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50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time

From the Court of the Crimson King to the Comatorium

For close to a half century, prog has been the breeding ground for rock’s most out-there, outsized and outlandish ideas: Thick-as-a-brick concept albums, an early embrace of synthesizers, overly complicated time signatures, Tolkienesque fantasies, travails from future days and scenes from a memory. In celebration of Rush’s first Rolling Stone cover story, here’s the best of the deliciously decadent genre that the punks failed to kill.

The Mars Volta, 'De-Loused in the Comatorium'
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The Mars Volta, ‘De-Loused in the Comatorium’ (2003)

"Our music demands. . .at least an hour out of your life, and with complete silence and with complete devotion," Mars Volta vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala once proclaimed. Even a semi-monastic hour (and 51 seconds) of listening reveals a satisfyingly twisted universe within these Texas oddballs' first full-length suite, De-Loused in the Comatorium. Emerging from the vitriolic ashes of Bixler-Zavala and virtuoso guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López's art-punk project At the Drive-In, the group manically aligns triumphant metal, psychedelic rock and Latin jazz. The oft-grotesque lyrics — about a man who overdoses on morphine and rat poison and goes into a coma — are repeatedly ruptured and stitched back together with a desperate flair by Rodríguez-López. Produced with Rick Rubin, De-Loused also featured low-end rumbles from stand-in bassist Flea and drumkit pyro from current Queens of the Stone Age stickman Jon Theodore. The 12-and-a-half minutes of "Cicatriz E.S.P." — complete with a helicopter interlude — show 21st Century prog's heartbeat to be as irregular as ever. R.F.