13 Incredible Bands Similar To King Crimson

King Crimson emerged during the late 1960s and revolutionized the rock music scene with their mix of jazz, classical, and experimental sounds. They strode into the realm of progressive rock with a bold and innovative approach that continues to echo in the music industry today.

Many bands have since been inspired by King Crimson’s distinctive sound, creating a ripple effect that has shaped countless musical journeys.

Learn who they are in this list of 13 incredible bands like King Crimson. So sit back, relax, and keep reading!

King Crimson by Hunter Desportes (CC BY 2.0)

1. Yes

Founded in London in 1968, Yes quickly made a name for itself as one of the pioneers of progressive rock. The band’s original lineup included Jon Anderson (vocals), Chris Squire (bass), Peter Banks (guitar), and Bill Bruford (drums), who would later work his magic with fellow prog-rockers King Crimson.

Yes has produced several cohesive albums throughout its career, with memorable tracks showcasing their dedication to experimentation and growth. Albums like Fragile and Close to the Edge are often cited as genre-defining masterpieces that helped shape the future of prog rock music.

In 2017, Yes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, and today, they continue to tour and produce new music, maintaining their status as one of the most influential and enduring bands in the history of progressive rock.

2. Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Our next band, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, often called ELP, stands out as an influential English progressive rock band that paved the way for others in the genre.

One of the key similarities between the band and King Crimson is the involvement of Greg Lake. Before forming ELP, Lake was a founding member of King Crimson and played a vital role in shaping the band’s sound during their early years.

Their discography includes nine studio albums and numerous live albums. Among their most notable records are Tarkus (1971), featuring the epic 20-minute title track, and Brain Salad Surgery (1973), which includes their iconic adaptation of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

The band’s final performance took place in 2010. Sadly, both Emerson and Lake passed away six years later, leaving Palmer as the only surviving member.

3. Genesis

As one of the most impressive bands often compared to King Crimson, Genesis carved a name for themselves in progressive rock music. 

Genesis established their sound in their early years with roots in classical and folk music, appealing to mainstream and niche audiences. Later, they evolved into a progressive rock powerhouse instead.

The band’s early albums, including Foxtrot and Selling England by the Pound, showed off their progressive rock style with extended, multi-part suites and intricate instrumental passages.

Both Genesis and King Crimson were unafraid to challenge traditional songwriting conventions and pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable within the rock genre.

4. Gentle Giant

British progressive rock band Gentle Giant emerged in the late 1960s. Besides rock, their musical style was characterized by a mix of jazz fusion and avant-garde elements, setting them apart from other bands of their time.

Despite not achieving the same level of commercial success as King Crimson, Gentle Giant left a lasting impression on the music scene. Their musical genius saw them experiment with instruments uncommonly used at that time, including the recorder, cello, violin, marimba, and vibraphone. 

Like King Crimson, Gentle Giant showcased virtuosic musicianship and highly technical proficiency in hit tracks such as “The Advent of Panurge.” The members of both bands were skilled instrumentalists who brought a wide range of influences and expertise to their respective music.

5. Van Der Graaf Generator

Hailing from Manchester, England, Van der Graaf Generator is a progressive rock band formed in 1967, around the same time as prominent acts such as King Crimson and Genesis.

The band’s dynamic range is another hallmark of their style with King Crimson. Their music can go from soft and subtle to loud and bombastic within a single song, making for an electrifying listening experience.

Both bands incorporated jazz, classical, and avant-garde elements into their compositions, creating a distinct and unconventional sound. Examples of Van De Graaf Generator’s hit songs include “Darkness” and “Wondering.”

6. Jethro Tull

Another major English band in the progressive rock genre and an excellent option for fans of King Crimson is Jethro Tull. The band’s unique sound comes from their use of the transversal flute, which adds an unusual yet exciting element to their music.

While some people may classify Jethro Tull as a hard rock or metal band due to their many popular hits such as “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breath,” they remain firmly rooted within the progressive rock genre.

Throughout their career, Jethro Tull has released more than 20 studio albums, selling over 60 million copies worldwide. They also received numerous awards, including a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in 1989.

Despite the passage of time, Jethro Tull continues to captivate audiences with their innovative music and energetic performances, with a new album titled RökFlöte just released in April 2023.

7. Magma

Next up is the French prog rock band Magma, formed in 1969 by drummer and composer Christian Vander. They are known for their unique approach to music, which they often describe as “Zeuhl,” a term coined by Vander.

King Crimson and Magma sought to break traditional rock conventions and explore new musical territories. Magma, in particular, developed a highly original and idiosyncratic musical language, blending elements of jazz, classical, and avant-garde music with a powerful and emotive approach.

If you are an avid fan of King Crimson and want to broaden your musical horizons, Magma is definitely a band you should listen to! Check out their latest work, Kãrtëhl, released late in 2022.

8. Camel

English prog rock band Camel has been around since 1971 and is known for its talented guitarist, Andrew Latimer. The band became popular for their melodic and atmospheric sound, blending progressive rock, folk, jazz, and classical elements.

Fans of King Crimson will appreciate Camel’s musical range and virtuosic musicianship displayed on tracks such as “Lady Fantasy” and “Freefall.” Camel’s ability to blend folk melodies with hard-hitting rock riffs makes them noteworthy among other progressive rock bands.

Both Camel and King Crimson displayed a talent for crafting epic and extended compositions. Camel’s albums often featured multi-part suites and long instrumental passages such as “Nimrodel/The Procession/The White Rider,” creating a sense of musical storytelling.

9. Rush

Another Canadian progressive rock band likened to King Crimson is Rush, formed in 1968. Comprising of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart, the band’s music spans various genres, including hard rock, progressive rock, and heavy metal.

They are particularly known for their concept albums, such as 2112 and Hemispheres, which feature epic narratives set to music. Their biggest hit, “Tom Sawyer,” is from the Moving Pictures album and is one of the most iconic rock songs of all time.

Like King Crimson, Rush was known for their intricate and challenging compositions, featuring complex time signatures and unusual song structures. They both strongly emphasized lyrics and storytelling in their music, including philosophical and abstract concepts in the lyrics.

10. Gong

Formed in Paris in the 1970s, Gong is a psychedelic rock band with music considered whimsical and eccentric, incorporating elements of improvisation, Eastern mysticism, and surrealistic storytelling. 

Their unique sound draws influences from artists such as Allen Ginsberg and Frank Zappa. Their music transports you into different dimensions, combining fantasy-like lyrics with instrumental solos. Some of their well-known tracks include “How to Stay Alive” and “Flying Teapot.”

The biggest similarity between Gong and King Crimson is their experimentation with the rock genre. Both bands are known for their adventurous and innovative approach, often incorporating unconventional song structures, improvisation, and unique instruments into their compositions.

11. Can

A German experimental rock band formed in Cologne in 1968, Can became known for their psychedelic rock, avant-garde, and electronic music. Like King Crimson, Can drew inspiration from various musical genres and incorporated those influences into their music.

Their music is often categorized under the umbrella of “Krautrock,” a term used to describe the innovative wave of German music in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

One of Can’s defining features was their use of tape editing as a compositional tool. Bassist Holger Czukay would often manipulate and edit their recorded improvisations to create the final track. This approach resulted in a sound that was uniquely their own.

The band split in 1978, but the members have remained active in the music world, often working as session musicians for other artists. In 1986, they briefly regrouped with original vocalist Malcolm Mooney to record Rite Time (1989).

12. Faust

Another legendary experimental rock band from Germany is Faust, formed in the early 1970s. Their music incorporates rock, electronic, and tape manipulation elements similar to Can’s style.

Like King Crimson, Faust shares a penchant for complex arrangements and unconventional instrumentation. One notable example of Faust’s unique sound can be found in their self-titled debut album, released in 1971. 

This album features extended improvisational passages interspersed with musique concrète elements (sounds taken from everyday objects), which creates a hypnotic sonic experience unlike anything else at the time.

A few examples of their notable albums showing off their inventiveness are Faust, So Far, and Faust IV. These days, Faust continues to make music and perform live, carrying on their tradition of innovation and experimentation.

13. U.K.

Ending this list is progressive rock supergroup U.K., formed in 1977. The band was originally formed by John Wetton (bass) and Bill Bruford (drums), both former members of King Crimson. They were later joined by Eddie Jobson (keyboard/violin) and Allan Holdsworth (guitar).

Their discography includes two studio albums: U.K. (1978) and Danger Money (1979). The first album is particularly notable for its fusion of progressive rock with elements of jazz fusion, and it included the popular song “In the Dead of Night.”

However, like many supergroups, U.K. was plagued by internal disagreements and lineup changes. Following a final European tour in 1979, the band separated.

Despite their short lifespan, U.K. left a significant mark on the progressive rock scene. The band’s combination of skilled musicianship and innovative compositions have earned them a place among the greats of the genre.

Summing Up Our List Of Bands Like King Crimson

And there you have it! We’ve journeyed together through the rich and diverse soundscapes of 13 bands that share a musical kinship with King Crimson. From mind-bending psychedelia to complex prog-rock masterpieces, we hope this list has given you plenty of fresh beats to spice up your playlist.

Of course, we know the world of music is vast and ever-changing, and we might have missed some bands that should be on this list. If you’ve got a band in mind that channels the spirit of King Crimson and didn’t make our list, please give us a shout so we can add add them here!

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Written by Dan Farrant
Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.