Oxford Dictionaries defines Pomp Rock as: “A genre of rock music, especially prevalent in the late 1970s and early 1980s, typically characterized by prominent keyboards and drums and heavy use of guitar effects, often regarded as bombastic or grandiose in its delivery.” Earliest use is attributed to British weekly pop/rock music newspaper Melody Maker in the 1970s.
The term was used mainly by the British music press to identify Symphonic/Progressive Rock played by American bands. In the US these bands usually were labeled as AOR.
Missing link beween Symphonic Rock and Adult Oriented Rock
Before we elaborate on that, it’s interesting to note that Pomp Rock in a way is a missing link between Symphonic/Progressive Rock and AOR. Originally AOR stood for Album Oriented Rock, a synonym of Symphonic/Progressive Rock. However, from the early 1980s on AOR is normally used as the abbreviation of Adult Oriented Rock.
This transition can also be seen in the development of one of AOR’s most prominent bands: Journey started out as a progressive outfit (1975, 1976 & 1977 albums) and evolved to the very definition of Adult Oriented Rock on Escape (1981) and Frontiers (1983).
Ambrosia followed a similar path. They also started out a progressive outfit (1975 & 1976 albums), had a succesful period at the end of the 1970s with West Coast style hit songs How Much A Feel (1978) & Biggest Part Of Me (1980), and reached their peak artistically with the 1982 AOR album.
More obscure Pomp Rock bands worth checking out
Starcastle. An American band with strong Yes influences. Usually categorised as Pomp Rock, although there’s little difference with other Symphonic Rock bands. Their debut (1975):
Roadmaster. This group is considered to be America’s premier pomp band. Especially the albums Sweet Music (1978) and Hey World (1979) are of interest for fans of early AOR, with songs like:
Touch. This outfit, with Mark Mangold, released one album in the 1980s (1980), that’s classic Pomp Rock. A second album was only released, together with the debut, some 20 years after it was recorded.
Speedway Boulevard. An inventive band, with keyboards wizzard Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater fame), that was way ahead of its time. The style of the diverse and powerful songs is hard to pinpoint. But their fantastic and only album (1980) is definitely worth checking out: