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ProgPower USA XV: Day 1 (Friday) with Stratovarius, Seventh Wonder, Overkill, Leprous, Orden Ogan, and Need

Photo of Leprous

Band Photo: Leprous (?)

There really was no better way of preparing for the official days of 2014’s ProgPower USA festival than to have gone “Full Circle” with Pagan’s Mind, DGM, and Draekon the night before, on September 11th in Atlanta, GA. For the 12th of September, if you weren’t waking up late and shmammered from the after-party the night before, you were soon to be treated to a variety of international bands: From Greece, the proggy show-stealing Need, performing their latest album, “Orvam: A Song For Home.” From Germany, the power chant-fest that is Orden Ogan. From Norway, young prog super-champs Leprous. From Sweden, the humble prog-titans of Seventh Wonder were to perform their “Mercy Falls” album. Finally (and again from the Scandinavian countries!) from Finland, the prestigious major-key-masters of Stratovarius were to perform their 1997 album, “Visions.”

With doors opening at 1:30 in the warm Atlanta afternoon, crowds and pizza (courtesy of nearby restaurant DaVinci’s) flowed in steadily to Center Stage, combining with drinks, merchandise, band members, and a few awesome wheelchair-bound metalheads with passion for the music for a very warm “Welcome to ProgPower!” feeling. Truly, ProgPower is a festival like none other in the US - full of friendly faces, excitement, and a sense of brotherhood. Further, the first band of the day (Need), personified this enthusiasm and attitude perfectly as they took the stage at 2PM. They would have the crowd in their pocket within three songs.

Easily the “Beyond The Bridge” of the year (lesser-known, surprise huge hit), Need’s story was an unlikely one -- The replacement for a replacement band on the roster. Disperse, having dropped off the bill early on, opened up their spot to Thought Chamber, which just didn’t seem to be a fitting replacement to the fans despite the band's obvious prog credentials. Once Thought Chamber dropped off the roster as well during the early half of 2014, Need was pursued by festival promoter Glenn Harveston after receiving music from lead vocalist Jon V and a glowing recommendation from the Jon Oliva camp, whom Need had already toured with previously. Need’s raw passion on stage piqued the interest of the crowd, who had filled the entire room and were singing along by the end of the set. “Entheogen” and “Mother Madness” absolutely riled up everyone, but none more so than vocalist Jon V, who was exploding in energetic outbursts across the stage. How could you follow that? Only with Orden Ogan.

The lords of ice, Orden Ogan thankfully refrained from bringing a blizzard with them, and instead took the stage with only a heavy wardrobe on, to protect them against the non-cold, presumably, and to make them look absolutely crazy. In fact, mainman SEEB had as an accessory to his outfit a full quarter of a tire for a spaulder on his shoulder! Opening with “The Frozen Few” and on into “To New Shores of Sadness,” the band wasted no time capitalizing on the energy that Need fed the crowd. “Land of the Dead,” “To The End,” and “We Are Pirates” were easy crowd favorites, the latter getting some members of the crowd to dance a jig in the pit. After introducing the crowd to the proper response to “Hello, my friends!” and the ‘fist of fate,’ the band closed with “The Things We Believe In,” to the largest crowd response so far. Unbelievably, it was already nearing 5pm when they were done with the shred-filled set, although it sure felt like it had been quick.

Leprous were to take the stage next, and were to end their set to a crowd chanting “HO-LY-SHIT! HO-LY-SHIT!” Easily the most eclectic group at this year’s festival, the boys of Leprous brought a setlist heavy on “Bilateral” and “Coal” songs, summoning the energy of ferocious demons out for blood. Not new to ProgPower, having played previously as Leprous and as Ihsahn’s backing band, but finally getting to perform a longer set, vocalist Einar Solberg and the guys let loose and used the full stage, jumping around and obeying the will of the songs. For those who understood their music, it was a thing of beauty to behold. The next band was to be far less nuanced, but more ‘to the point’ - The long-running speed metal war machine of Overkill.

Regardless of whether or not you thought Overkill was right for ProgPower, vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth shut you the hell up and made you listen -- if you were in the main room when they went on. With the hardest time slot of the day (dinnertime), Overkill killed it and then some although many were in and out during the set to grab something to eat to maintain their energy. Songs from the new “White Devil Armory” were really well-received, as well as their past hits. If you were on the floor, it was likely you were moving, which is more than this writer can say for most of the bands of the day. Their infectious enthusiasm (and spiky fiercely-colored guitars) made it immediately apparent why Glenn made the decision to have them on. The next set was to be markedly different -- a lot of staring in awe and joyous singing for Seventh Wonder.

Seventh Wonder isn’t one of your ‘casual interest’ bands among the ProgPower crowd -- you either adore them or they’re not your thing. Those who didn’t appreciate them were obviously not in attendance this night, as a full house greeted the boys from Sweden as they opened up their album-long blast-from-the-near-past set. The decision to record it all for a DVD made the Seventh Wonder guys noticeably stiff in their performance, but didn’t hurt the performance much, if at all. It was enrapturing to watch. The audacity of playing an album so clearly meant for the studio so flawlessly and completely live made up for the bit of stiffness in its execution to the folks in the crowd and this reader, who were singing along with every song.

The next morning would see Seventh Wonder playing a second set to a crowd of gold badge holders bright and early at 10 AM, almost an entirely different band altogether (for the better!) in terms of looseness and energy levels, which was also recorded for the DVD. It was now time for the announcement video, though -- The famed annual lineup announcement video that was going to make or break your decision to attend ProgPower next year if you were a newbie who hadn’t been brought into the fold of the family of fans yet. This video can be seen below, which announces Hibria, Anubis Gate, Morgana Lefay, Voyager (with a setlist to be chosen by the fans), Falconer (which is to be their final show EVER), and headliners Anathema for Friday night. Announced for Saturday were Helker, Persefone, Dynazty, Riverside, Royal Hunt (performing “Paradox” in its entirety), and the mighty Angra, performing “Holy Land” in its entirety. Next year is to be a nearly entirely international festival!

ProgPower USA XVI Roster Presentation from ProgPower USA on Vimeo.

After Seventh Wonder’s set, seen by most of the Kamelot bandmates, in attendance to see their lead vocalist’s first love, Stratovarius was to take the stage and close out the night. They were to perform the classic album “Visions” in its entirety along with a few favorites like “Deep Unknown,” “Eagleheart,” “Unbreakable,” and “Hunting High and Low.”

Keyboard player Jens Johansson was a sight for sore eyes -- a keyboard player who wasn’t all ‘classical composition’ and cagey correctness just shooting from the hip with what he knows to be tried and true, absolutely stunning. Timo Kotipelto was in good shape and sang with warm confidence and pride. Guitarist Matias Kupiainen, with fast fingers, gave a fine performance, as well as bassist Lauri Porra, with his bell-styled pants for the retro Mikael Akerfeldt look. Drummer Rolf Pilve also had to have been exhausted after galloping on those kick drums for so long. A classic end to a now-classic ProgPower Friday night saw the first day done with and fans satisfied.

The second day of the festival was to feature Withem, Divided Multitude, Voodoo Circle, Masterplan, Pain of Salvation, and Jon Oliva’s Pain.

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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