Review for Prog/Power #8 from 10/5-6/07
Ok, I did this review right after the Prog/Power show in Atlanta Georgia,with my friend Taylor Hicks. I didnt want to post this until after the review came out in Virtuosa Magazine,which it did just a week or so ago. So with Nick Hinton’s Blessings,this is a review of the most amazing show I have ever been to and it was so worth the trip. We had a blast down there seeing all these amazing bands and meeting all these wonderful people!! So here ya go kids!!!
Check out Virtuosa Magazine here and subscribe to a great Prog/Power/Neo-Classical magazine with great reviews and interviews!!! Virtuosamagazine.co.uk
Go to their web-site at: progpowerusa.com
ProgPower USA is an annual 3-day metal festival in Atlanta, Georgia that provides fans of Progressive and Power metal a rare opportunity to see some of the best bands in the genre perform. Most of these bands hail from overseas and are often performing for the first and only time in the USA. Those who do perform however, occasionally find themselves returning once they experience the energy and camaraderie the festival provides. ProgPower itself is 2 days featuring 12 bands preceded by another concert called the ‘Showcase’ which usually features 4 more bands, all headliner caliber. I had the chance to attend my 4th ProgPower event and was excited to take one of my best friends with me who until recently had no idea how happy her little metal heart would be once she experienced it for the first time.
PPUSA was once a dream; a dream for a man who was truly passionate about getting a Progressive and Power metal scene back to the USA. The metal scene in America had taken a back seat to mediocrity and become a victim of the record label’s industrious turnstile of ‘Pop’. Glenn Harveston had enough and took matters into his own hands. In 2001, he personally hired, organized, promoted, and booked everyone he needed to create what would become America’s Premier metal festival.
The first ProgPower event took place in Feburary 2001 and Symphony X headlined. The first two ProgPower festivals rode the coat tails of this fantastic band from New Jersey in which other bands; including some from Sweden such as Evergrey and Pain of Salvation were given a chance to showcase their incredible music along with Kamelot, a US band with a history of touring exclusively overseas. The lineups were rounded out with the likes of Jag Panzer, the UK’s Balance of Power, Norway’s Ark and Steel Prophet to the tune of 11 bands for each festival. Several from over-seas. Both PPI and PPII were held in the same year and since then it has become an annual event featuring up to 16 bands over 3 days with numerous sponsors and upgrades for the fans such as DVD’s, prizes, and ticket upgrades.
One of the unique features of this festival is that it remains an intimate and interactive event for the fans. To this day, the festival is still held at the original venue, a small theater-like environment which features a spacious floor area for the fans, a small club and 180-degree stadium seating up to a maximum of 1500 people. That’s it! The limited amount of seating means that the event retains a ‘family’ like atmosphere and becomes an exclusive experience for those lucky enough to get tickets. Each band also takes the opportunity to mingle with fans around the bar areas in addition to conducting signing sessions for those who want to have their newly acquired swag autographed. During the festival, the attached club is set up primarily as a vendor area for several music distributors to showcase rare and hard to find CD’s, DVD’s and T-shirts for some of the best metal bands in the world. Some of these distributors include Century Media, CD InZane, The End Records, Lance King’s Nightmare Records and Exploding Ned’s Tunes. Some great stuff available for great prices! We ended up hauling several hundred dollars of CD’s out of there! It’s practically irresistible! Check out their websites and you’ll see it’s nearly impossible to find a bad deal on a great CD!
Our experience began at the Grenada Best Western Hotel, just down the street from the venue where many of the bands and fans stay during the festival. The hotels really enjoy having the festival attendees. They provide complimentary happy hour 2 hours before the shows. This was a great opportunity to ‘warm up’ and mingle with fans and friends prior to the Showcase. There was even a game of Heavy Metal Trivial Pursuit on the table going on that my friend Leah, ‘THE’ metal queen, stepped in on to play. Everyone else was showing off their rare and unique metal gear while catching up and toasting another year gone by. This day, I chose to wear a very unique hat that an artist had made for me which became quite a hit with fans. As curtain time approached, the migration of metal heads began towards the venue.
Celador, opened up the festivities with a thundering roar. However, I failed to catch their set in lieu of additional liquid refreshment and trying to explain my hat to more fans. Plus, I could watch what was going on the stage via the flat screen monitors around the bar.
It was great to see Lance King, formerly of Pyramaze, back up on stage with his new band Krucible. He commands the stage like a true metal front man should and has a voice that permeates every hair on the back of your neck! He’s one of my favorite artists and one of the most approachable and hard working guys in the industry! It was disappointing that Vanden Plas from Germany failed to make the festival due to some problems with their Visas at the Canadian border. Freak Kitchen took over headlining duties. They are an exciting band from Sweden who you’ll either love or hate. They’re an extremely entertaining 3 piece that thrives on heavy, experimental music with a touch of humor in their lyrics. The band described their third album as “A corny little heavy-pop-rock-latin-world-jazz-avant-garde-metal-blues-record”. Their lyrics contain heavy criticism against capitalist society, conformity, racism and the attitude of huge record companies. Frontman Mattias Eklundh is widely known as a guitarist of high technical ability and will occasionally use foreign objects such as cell phones, chop sticks and vibrators to create an audible assault of sci-fi sounds on his audience. Aside from the mass consumption of beer, this warm up night was a great time! I felt like I was ‘home’ among my metal friends and family! The night closed with my friend wondering where the hell I wandered off to after the show…just looking for a party I said….We’re off to an all too typical ProgPower experience!
Friday the festival officially begins. The venue opens early so that fans can either attend musician clinics upstairs or browse through the vendor’s booths. Most fans load up all their swag bags full of CD’s and T-shirts and run them back to the hotel prior to the show. Some can get a bite to eat at the bar and grill and some even get the opportunity to go upstairs and check out the clinics. This year, the drum clinic was put on by former TNT drummer John Macaluso who played with likes of Yngvie Malmsteen, Jorn Lande’s ARK and, James LaBrie. He was very approachable and was happy to answer any questions. I especially liked the technique he described as ‘Spaghetti Arm’. The guitar clinic was a barrage of Swedish gibberish provided by Mattias Eklundh of Freak Kitchen. This guy had an extremely dynamic personality and my friend Leah thought he suffered from an extreme case of A.D.D. Very funny guy as he tried to explain, in his own unique way, the madness behind his creativity and improvisation techniques.
We made our way to the stage at 4pm to see Raintime from Italy tear it up! One thing about ProgPower is that even the opener is a headliner caliber band. They evolved their sound since their first album Tales from Sadness into a hybrid form of melodic death metal. Their musical style borrows elements from both death metal, such as growling and detuning, and from the more melodic genres, using Keyboard and guitar unison leads which are popular among the progressive styles. After seeing them officially open the festival, it was apparent to most that they were in for an awesome night of ass-kicking metal!
I really enjoyed hearing Communic. This band had a Priest-ish / Nevermore style vibe but with gut wrenching power for a 3-piece. They still retained a very original sound and their new album Waves of Visual Decay is receiving great reviews! Hailing from Norway, this was their first time in the states and they were well received with horns raised high! An ass kicking indeed by Tor Atle Anderson and company!
I didn’t care much for Virgin Steele. It was a bit too cliché’ for the power metal genre, right down to the flaming swords. Some in the crowd even brought some plastic swords they were waving around down in front. That was the highlight of their set for me. I LOL’d. They don’t use a bass player so their sound is real top heavy. My friend thought the singer, was a buffed out version of Ronnie James Dio and thought perhaps the music was compensating for some complex or another. Funny! Regardless, PP has plenty of straight up, sword yielding, dragon slaying, Power Metal fans and many were slain indeed by their set.
As we moved into the meat of the order, Ray Alder (former Fates Warning vocalist) and Redemption took the stage. Redemption’s music was probably the first real dose of Progressive Metal this night. Musically intricate and full of dynamics, one had to watch what was going on on stage to hear the music better if that makes any sense. The bass player Sean Andrews is a delight to watch as he trades licks with Bernie Versailles, the lead guitar player. Redemption is compromised mostly of members of Fates Warning and Prymary and are just coming off their supporting tour with Dream Theater. They played a lot of songs from their new release ‘The Origins of Ruin’ including the 21-minute epic ‘The Fullness of Time’ title track from their 2005 album which was the first featuring Ray.
Despite all the wonderful bands and immense talent that been rockin’ our tails off all night, the tension had been mounting for what was about to be a highlight of this year’s festival. Fans had been talking and the buzz was all about seeing the next band, Pagan’s Mind. If you hadn’t had your ear plugs in, or hadn’t had your ass kicked by now, the time was nigh upon you for strapping in and fastening your seat belt. It is rare that a band will perform live and sound better than they do on a CD. Pagan’s Mind is one of those bands. The studio does not do them justice. Hearing and seeing them perform live elevates their music to another level. Pagan’s Mind is another band from Norway who up until recently was an unknown. They played their first ProgPower back in 2003 as one of the openers and now they were back in the states with 2 new albums worth of a material and another forthcoming. I saw them back in 2003 and they were good then, but NOW they have become even better on stage. Nils’ stage presence is simply mind-blowing, singing with a vocal range that rivals the best in metal. Jorn Viggo and Steinar’s energy and enthusiasm on stage is 2nd to none. It’s very obvious that they ENJOY playing. Viggo is an incredible talent on the guitar and plays with energy and emotion. Their set included a wide variety of songs from each of their albums, including the ever popular ‘Osiris Eyes’ and my personal favorite ‘Supremacy, Our Kind’. Nils’ voice was further accentuated and featured when they played ‘Space Boy’, a David Bowie cover. Pagan’s Mind can be described as Heavy, in-your-face Sci-FI prog metal. They’ve got some great heavy grooves and mystical themes that take you into another world while pounding your soul into submission. One of the most intriguing and special things about the bands from European countries is that they are so down to earth and open to their fans. Pagan’s Mind is no exception, they’re a great bunch of guys and we enjoyed hanging out, sharing a brew, some laughs and talking about the new album, God’s Equation, which comes out in November.(Which I will be doing a review on here!!)
The next band was from Finnland and they are one of those symphonic/power/metal bands that are amazing and beautiful. On the vein of bands like Blind Guardian and Therion, Sonata Arctica, are to me a bit hard to follow but killer! They are talented as hell and their songs are gorgeous. The singer Tony Kakko was great to watch as he has so much passion. Keyboardist,Henrik Klingenberg was like a madman on the keys and was one of the most talented musicians I have ever seen play the keys! They have a new cd out called Unia that you should pick it up if you dig these guys!
The last day of Prog/Power was seeing many hungover people milling about before the show but they were in for more ass-kicking and we knew we were in for a loong nite. The show started at 4pm with one of my fave bands that hail from the beautiful country of Greece with guitar god Gus G, a new singer, Henning Basse (from Metallim) Firewind! With a new cd out called Allegience,this band will rock your ass off with a form of power metal that is reminicent of the 80’s without being cliche’. I thoroughly enjoyed their set and Henning really blew my socks off and when their singer from Between Heaven and Hell and Burning Earth,Steven Frederick came out to sing with him,it was intense! They were as good live as on cd! Gus G showed his chops and bounced off the walls and showed us why he is one of the new guitar hero’s of this generation! The whole playing guitar and keys at the same time was a neat trick!! This was an amazing band!
After that blistering set came the prog/metal band Threshold, from the UK. Damien Wilson was back on board now supporting their recent cd called Dead Reckoning. Damien commanded the stage and had an amazing voice and even stage dove into the crowd at one point. He is a killer frontman and even though I had to rush out to get in line for Firewind to sign my swag, I stayed on for a couple of songs just to check them out. Surely a band on the rise!!
There was a buzz in the air because Primal Fear was about to hit the stage next and I was excited as hell to see one of my fave power/metal bands from Germany. They have a new cd out called New Religion that I think is one of the best to date and has a song called Fighting the Darkness that just gave me goosebumps when they played it!! I couldnt believe that Ralf Sheepers voice was so perfect and clear live! He just takes over the stage with his powerful phisique. They played some of my fave songs like, Demons and Angels, Metal is Forever, and Angel in Black. The song Seven Seals made the hair stand up on my sore neck again as I headbanged away to their killer metal onslaught! They were up there with my fave bands of the weekend!
I rocked out so hard to Primal Fear that I could barely walk,so I wandered up to the bar area and visited with a few of my new friends and stayed up there until After Forever went on. This band from Holland is amazing with their symphonic/heavy/goth/power style.
I think Floor Jensen has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard live in my life. She has a wide range of vocal styles and they are all exhibited during their set. They also have Sanders growling the death growl to offer dynamic variety and that is killer! Their new cd After Forever is a good one to pick up ! They had a smoking hot set with Bas and Sanders just jamming out together and looking like they were having the time of their lives! They were fun to watch! They were beginning their US tour with ProgPower! Check them out!!
By the time After Forever was done,I was about done. It was 1 am when we were told that the all star jam was about to begin. This is a special thing,my friends. This is something that you will never see again and the whole lot of us were grateful to be there to see the fun and frolic that was about to go on onstage. There were supposedly 22 songs to be played by the house band for the nite,Pagans Mind, and all the singers of the other bands were going to do their renditions of the classic songs that they were given! One of the first priorities was to get Steinar from Pagan’s mind the proper headgear, so I threw my ‘metal cowboy’ hat up on the stage which he quickly donned!
The first and one of the funnest things that happened was Zakk Stevens of CircleIICircle/Savavtage came out in Paul Stanley make-up and did his best at singing KISS’s Strutter!!! That was so much fun and he was having a blast doing it. This was an opportunity for all the musicians, crew and even the promoter himself, to entertain, relax, jam and let loose!! Each and everyone one of them got a piece of this party!!
Some of the highlights were Nils from Pagan’s doing two King Diamond/Mercyful fate songs! Nils is NAILS! In addition, Floor Jensen did a beautiful rendition of ‘Alone’ by Heart, and Zakk blew us away with his beautiful voice on the Eagles’ ‘Desperado’. Some of the crew even got up onstage and did ‘Highway to Hell’ by AC/DC. Primal Fear doing ‘Metal Gods’ was Awesome!! This was one of the best covers of the nite, as Judas Priest is certainly one of Ralf’s influences! Floor and Ralf also did a most beautiful duet of ‘Who wants to live Forever’,by Queen,one of my personal faves!! Anyone who wasn’t emotional and or crying from just being tired and drunk, shouldn’t even be here at this point!! Another photographer Adam, said that this was the greatest nite of his life and I had to agree with him. I can only hope they got this one for the DVD. I was grinning ear to ear but barely upright after a 11 hour day of non stop in your face metal. After all the fun had ended at 3am, we were told by our commader in chief Glenn Harveston to watch the screen to see what bands were on the list for next year. I watched with dismay that I knew none of the bands! I realised that I have a year to listen to these bands and get to know them before the next PP. Time to expand my mind once again! So much quality metal exists all over the world and once again, PP will bring it to the USA. People were cheering so it seemed like there was plenty of talent heading our way!
Tired and beaten, I was fumbling around to find my little camera that had fallen outta my pocket and my bag with a hundred bucks or so in cds that I couldnt locate. I ran upstairs to see if we had left it there and ya know there it was leaning up against the wall where I guess I left it two hours ago. Also my camera was returned. So when I tell you PP is one of the coolest shows to see with some of the coolest metal-heads in the world,man its true! The people rule, the bands hang out and party and this is a bonding show. This is where is all starts for PP fans in the USA to get together and agree that this music is the best in the world with the most talented musicains and we wont settle for aything less than that! If you can hit PP 9 next year,then by all means necessary,go. It will be the time of your life!
Top 10 Things to Remember when attending ProgPower USA
10 Carry a bottle opener with you at all times. More than likely, you will be offered a beer, sometimes in the morning. Even more than likely, it won’t be a domestic. An international metal festival deserves an international beverage. ‘Sko’L!’
09 Take advantage of staying at the 3 closest hotels! Book as soon as the festival is announced! Better yet, take advantage of the free booze and breakfast they offer for the festival attendees on weekdays!
08 Bring money! Many independent record distributors bring a large inventory of goodies to sell. Can’t find it in your local record store? You’ll find it here!
Despite any pre-determined amount of discipline in spending, you’ll still fail!
07 Introduce yourself, ask questions and network. This as much a social event for fans of Progressive and Power metal than anything. Visit the forum and be prepared to place a handshake with an internet avatar at a moment’s notice.
06 Bring a Sharpie! Each and every band has an autograph session. In addition, there is a vast potential to meet musicians that are not even performing, but just attending for the festival.
05 Take advantage of the public transportation. There is no need to rent a car, the train can take you from the airport to within a block of your hotel and the venue for all of about 2 bucks! Parties are all within walking distance from there on out!
04 Respect the vicinity hotels. There are 3. I’ve seen rates rise dramatically during the festival in recent years. More than likely due to metal fans trashing the rooms, etc. Act like an adult, they’ll treat you right and maybe, just maybe, PPUSA fans can distinguish themselves as the premier metal fans by being respectful and continue to offer us incentives and not jack up the rates. The few can ruin it for the many.
03 Participate and accept the ‘Southern hospitality’. If you notice it, appreciate and reciprocate!
02 Come with an open mind. Just because you haven’t heard of a band before or because they’re Prog and you like Power, or vice-versa…this is a festival for music fans. Not people with a close-minded taste for what they like. I’ve discovered so many new bands and genre’s through this event. Each and every one of them are headliner caliber and will kick your ass. Take it like a true metal fan should! Appreciate each and every opportunity to experience something new!
01 If you get a chance….tell Glenn Harveston, the promoter and organizer of this event, “THANKS”! Glenn Harveston,the man that started it all!!
I give this show \m/\m/\m/\m/\m/ horns WAAAAY UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you want to see more shots from the show,go to the Prog/Power gallery at Leahburlington.com!!!