Really, somewhere between 1986 and 1989 began what I call The Prog Renaissance. A new generation of bands were experimenting with--or out-right reviving--non-pop and long-playing song structures, including THE CARDIACS, OZRIC TENTACLES, SOLARIS, TALK TALK, PAT METHENY, DAVID SYLVIAN, THE CURE, and THINKING PLAGUE.
Whole new sub-genres were being (inadvertently) created:
-- Prog Metal rose from late 80s albums by FATES WARNING, IRON MAIDEN and QUEENSRYCHE, out of which came bands like DREAM THEATER, PAIN OF SALVATION, AYREON, SYNPHONY X, SAVATAGE, REDEMPTION, PSYCHOTIC WALTZ, SHADOW GALLERY, THERION, VANDEN PLAS, MINDFLOW, NIGHTWISH, EPICA, CRIMSON GLORY, MYRATH, ANGRA, BLIND GUARDIAN, KAMELOT, and, later, RIVERSIDE, DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA, SHAOLIN DEATH SQUAD, TO-MERA and MIND'S EYE.
-- Post Rock/Math Rock was born out of KING CRIMSON, TALK TALK, PAT METHENY, and MASSIVE ATTACK, TORTOISE, BARK PSYCHOSIS and STEREOLAB.
-- a revival of the long-playing Symphonic with ANGLAGARD's Hybris and Epilog albums in 1992 and 1994, respectively, as well as the rise of PAR LINDH PROJECT and ECHOLYN.
-- Evolving from the 1980s work of RUSH and KING CRIMSON and, later, METALLICA and MEGADETH, VOVOID, WATCHTOWER, MEKONG DELTA, and SIEGES EVEN came the Tech/Extreme Prog Metal movement. The mid 90s saw the arrival of ENSLAVED, ATHEIST, DEATH, CYNIC, MESHUGGAH, OPETH, and, later, EXIVIOUS, GOJIRA, and .
-- In the mid-1990s with the work of MR. BUNGLE, U TOTEM, NEUROSIS, PELICAN, THINKING PLAGUE and HÖYRY-KONE gave rise to the Experimental/Post Metal sub-category--out of which we now have ANATHEMA, MAUDLIN OF THE WELL, DEVIN TOWNSEND, TOOL, ISIS, UNEXPECT, ALCEST, FEN, OSI, ORPHANED LAND, INTRONAUT, NEUROSIS, THY CATAFALQUE, AGALLOCH, GREEN CARNATION, and CLOUDKICKER.
The fact that most of the bands mentioned are of the heavier or metal side of prog is, I believe, due to what was happening in music in the mainstream at the same time. The blossoming of this heavier side of prog was in my opinion a result of a reaction to and an opposition to the synthesizer- and computer-generated "glam" pop of the 1980s. In one vein we have the Seattle-initiated "Grunge" movement, in another, underground hand we have the exploding metal genres. Generation X had a lot more to say than just through Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Hole, and Alanis Morrisette. METALLICA was saying a lot. (And people were listening.) And a lot of anger was being released by the youth in Northern Europe (especially Sweden).
Anyway, artists were getting tired the techno-pop and glam-glitz posturing. And the youth were lost and directionless and wondering WTF to do.
Prog is alive again!