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ProgPower USA XV: Kick-Off Day With Pagan's Mind, DGM, and Draekon

Photo of Pagan's Mind

Band Photo: Pagan's Mind (?)

Just one year to the day after the expeditionary US satellite Voyager I left our solar system, pushing mankind’s exploration of space to interstellar regions, Pagan’s Mind, DGM, and Draekon were to push the limits of bombastic progressive and power metal in a live setting and leave the crowd -- and this writer -- with nothing but hyperbole to explain the feat.

After Wednesday’s Midweek Mayhem show, the bar was set high at ProgPower USA XV in Atlanta for Thursday September 11th’s Kick-Off Show festivities. Nevertheless, in ProgPower tradition, Thursday’s show by Swordlord Productions built upon Wednesday’s energy and elevated it beyond the stratosphere. On this night, I and the crowd were to be treated to the talents of the sci-fi prog thrill-seekers of Norway’s Pagan’s Mind, a show that was also to be recorded for a crowd-funded live DVD entitled “Full Circle.”

As if that weren’t enough, Italy’s long-running kings of speed -- DGM -- were to put in a set of their own, with the USA’s own Draekon opening things right. Moreover, Evergrey had just hosted an exclusive listening party for their upcoming album, “Hymns For The Broken,” in the main venue an hour before the doors opened. What a day it was to be!

The previous night having nearly sold out for the first time in ProgPower Midweek Mayhem history, the crowds piled into Center Stage steadily for Thursdays Kick-Off show shortly after the listening party, which saw Evergrey guitarist Tom Englund and newly-returned drummer Jonas Ekdahl taking pictures with and autographing items for fans. Throughout the hour-long preview of the album, crowds gathered on the floor in a line to preorder the album, buy an exclusive Evergrey t-shirt, and just to meet the guys. Class act gentlemen with a damn sharp sense of humor, Tom and Jonas matched the fans’ endurance and entertained the line for the entire hour that the album was playing overhead and then some.

“Hymns For The Broken” comes highly recommended by Metal Underground writer CROMCarl, who was also in attendance.

Indianapolis’ symphonic metal talents in Draekon brought the fire and started the show with fast theatrics, combining orchestrated keyboard parts with speedy riffs and intricate drumming. They may not do a great job of striking a balance of energy between the instruments and the vocals, making for a distracting listen, but they had the balls to present it in the best light they knew with more than enough energy. Songs from “Prelude To Tragedy” lit up the stage, highlighted by the deft fingers of lead guitarist Josh on his tasty Caparison 27-fret Horus guitar and Engl amp. Now that the USA had its time on stage, it was time to open it up to the Italians of DGM.

With a blend of speed and melody as strong as a straight shot of espresso, DGM laid down an arsenal of numbers spanning their last two releases, “Momentum” and “Frame.” Starting with “Void,” “Reason,” and “No Looking Back,” the hyper-melodic onslaught continued with “Universe,” “Numb,” and the suite of “Trapped... In a Movie”, which was easily a highlight of the show. Several more songs brought them to the end of the set, after which they returned at the crowd’s call to perform “Enhancement” and “Hereafter,” two beloved fan-favorites. If Marco, Fabio, Simone, Emanuele, or Andrea were tired, they certainly didn’t let on that they were, showing that signature Italian endurance and composure.

Simone also had the first Fender Telecaster to feature active pickups that this writer had ever seen -- HOT DAMN! Lovely guitars were on full display today. Next up was the longer test of endurance -- Pagan’s Mind -- and Jorn Viggo Lofstad's beautiful teal EVH guitar.

Slated to play their landmark 2002 genre-defining album, “Celestial Entrance,” in full at this show, Pagan’s Mind had the crowd going before the curtain was opened, psyched and ready for tales of Stargates, interstellar journeys, and world class musicianship. In twin-synthesizer attack mode, Ronny Tegner opened up the show, followed by drummer Stian Kristofferson, enthusiastic bassist Steinar Krokmo, and the tall guitar phenom Jorn Viggo Lofstad with the iconic “Approaching,” ushering in “Through Osiris’ Eyes.” The viceroy of vibrato, Nils Rue, took the stage last to a huge crowd response, belting out the notes as if he himself were not of this world.

Ripping through the entire album is no easy task for a live setting, but the band did so without any hitches and a whole slew of guitar solos that had the audience in awe. As if to say, “Hold on to your butts,” (like in the sci-fi movie ‘Independence Day,’) the band returned after a very short intermission and wardrobe change to play another blistering set of songs spanning “Heavenly Ecstasy,” “God’s Equation,” and “Enigmatic: Calling.” Following their stellar cover of David Bowie’s “Hallo Spaceboy,” the band performed an impressive and exclusive new song, entitled “Full Circle.”

Just after the new song, joined by a surprise guest vocalist and ProgPower fan favorite Michael Eriksen of Circus Maximus, the band closed out with “Walk Away In Silence” and “Eyes of Fire” in duet fashion. As an encore, “God’s Equation” and “United Alliance” wowed the crowd even further to truly end things. Friday was just around the corner and ProgPower XV had been successfully kicked off, which meant that the legendary after-parties were about to begin at the nearby Courtyard at the Artmore Hotel. The stories of the musicians from the show who wander over to the hotel, as well as the crazy stories of the fans themselves, will forever stay in the collective memory of the attendees.

Friday’s festival shows were to feature Need, Orden Ogan, Leprous, Overkill, Seventh Wonder, and headliner Stratovarius.

Complete coverage of ProgPower USA XV by MetalUnderground.com:

Progressivity_In_All's avatar

Frank Serafine is an avid writer, music producer, and musician, with five albums to his name. While completely enamored with metal, he appreciates a wide range of music. He also works full-time at the American-based performing rights organization, SESAC.

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4 Comments on "ProgPower USA XV: Kick-Off Day With Pagan's Mind"

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Anonymous Reader
1. The Great Southern Brainfart writes:

"They may not do a great job of striking a balance of energy between the instruments and the vocals, making for a distracting listen"

This makes no sense whatsoever. The chemistry in the songs themselves were fantastic and they have some of the best written songs iv'e heard in years. My only issue was the losing steam in between songs cueing up the intro tracks.

# Sep 17, 2014 @ 9:12 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Progressivity_In_All's avatar

Senior Reviewer

The Great Southern Brainfart, I hold that it does make sense. Every instrument was competing for attention at the same time without trying to sync up with each other. To me, it sounded like each individual musician going "Look what I can do! WHEEE!"

It was good musicianship, but it wasn't balanced songwriting. I made the mistake of making my own music (and consequently live shows) the same way with my first band, Ex Nihilo, so I'm speaking from experience.

# Sep 17, 2014 @ 10:04 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
3. The Great Southern Brainfart writes:

it's ok to be wrong Frankie. I won't hold it against ya!


# Sep 17, 2014 @ 5:40 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
4. gonzosc1 writes:

sorry, I gotta go with brainfart on this, but not for the reasons he gives. it took the sound man 3/4 of the set to even come close to an acceptable listening experience. being that I was in back of the mixing stand it took all I had not to jump the seat to kick his a$$ off so I could save my hearing for Pagan's Mind. luck for all someone replaced his a$$ but not before the damage was done. the last 2-3 songs were saved. the band rocked, I'd be willing to give them another listen provided I could run the sound..................

# Sep 17, 2014 @ 6:57 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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