At the turn of the century, the concept record felt like something that was best left in the past. Since this was the era of music that would give way to streaming and the playlist approach to music, having a record that told a story from front to back felt a little bit dated to the modern listener. There were still musical storytellers out in the wild though, and they weren't afraid to set a scene every time they entered the studio.
Across every one of these records, you can tell that the band is trying to paint a picture in your mind using music, with some songs even having bits of dialogue sprinkled into the mix. Although not all of these are in the realm of rock operas like Tommy or the Wall, you can tell that they were made with the intent of being listened to from beginning to end, taking you through different scenes with every single song.
The music industry had changed a lot since the heyday of the concept album though, and these are much more interesting takes on how you can tell a story through nothing but your instrument and the song in your heart. Just because the tides were changing for rock music didn't mean that we had forgotten the power of a good story, and these artists had a lot of material to get off their chest.
10. Clockwork Angels - Rush
It almost feels like a missed opportunity for Rush to not make a concept album throughout their glory years. They were known for making epic tracks that had a strong narrative premise (some of which could have made entire albums in themselves), but they made the full commitment to one overarching story on one album. On their final album though, they finally took the deep dive into conceptual rock...by going full on steam punk.
Going through Clockwork Angels, this was the moment where the power trio pulled out all the stops for something grandiose and epic. Bringing together different kinds of orchestral instruments into the mix, the story of this album revolves around a young rebel trying to find his way to something better, as the song Caravan slowly pulls us into the station and gets us set up on this journey.
Even after years of delivering quality progressive rock, Rush still knew how to mix it up on this album, bringing in string sections on the road for the title track, going back to the more aggressive side of their sound on Headlong Flight, and tying things up beautifully at the end with the subtle sounds of the song The Garden. As if the album wasn't enough, Neil Peart even made a graphic novel detailing the story of the album in book form. Considering the multi media experience of this whole thing, this might be the one prog rock album that might actually lend itself well to a movie adaptation.