ProgPower USA XII: Day Two
Band Photo: Therion (?)
If you attend Progpower, make sure you opt for the VIP gold badge over the regular. This will get you in to the “Insider Sale” where you will be able to purchase CDs of all of the bands that will be playing at next year’s festival. Gold badge attendees this year were treated to this sale in the vendor room long before the doors opened to regular attendees. Among the CDs on sale were some albums that previously had not received a US distribution, such as Amaranthe's debut.
When the doors finally opened, everyone was eager to get in and out of the bright Atlanta sun for another twelve hours. Being such an exclusive event, you could instantly strike up a conversation with any stranger you meet and be on the same page. With social barriers down, everyone was talking with everyone, discussing albums, bands, and previous ProgPower festivals.
UK-based progressive-symphonic band Haken was first up for the day, though the place was only half full about ten minutes before the band’s set. Clearly, the after-parties of the night before had been great. The venue eventually filled up in time for Haken’s second song. It was to be an exciting set, although a bit short. Seeing guitarists Richard Henshall and Charles Griffiths, as well as keyboardist Diego Tejeida rip some masterful solos did the trick on kicking hangovers from the night before.
Just like on Friday, there were signing sessions with all of the bands. However, also just like Friday, the sets ran behind on time. This forced the signing sessions to end up taking place during sets rather than in-between them, which was a real problem. Technical setbacks are nothing new for live shows, and this was the only real problem observed with the operation of the festival this year. Not bad. After Haken’s set, I was able to grab an interview with Ihsahn’s backing band, Leprous, who elaborated on their own music.
The second band of the day was US-based While Heaven Wept. There was a section of pretty devoted fans down in the pit for this set, and the band seemed to give them exactly what they wanted. The doomy keyboard onslaught was a nice contrast to Haken. The rhythm section was not as tight as expected, but the energy was there. It was a nice set, during which I had to cut out to interview several members of Haken. In their interview, I got the scoop on the concept behind the new record, “Visions.”
German-based (but multi-national band) Red Circuit was up next, marking their debut performance in the US. With the shredding talents of Christian Moser, tremendous vocals of veteran singer Chitral “Chity” Somapala, and keyboards of Marcus Teske, the band could’ve pleased the crowd just by playing tracks off of their first record, “Trance State.” The band played a nice set list with songs from “Homeland” as well as a new song, making for the 3rd great performance this weekend by a German band. Chity also bore a striking resemblance to the late Ronnie James Dio, with his mannerisms and stature.
Labyrinth was next in line to wow the crowd, and the Italians took the stage to a thunderous audience thirsty for shred and vocal theatrics. There are vocalists that can push their voice into their falsetto, but then there is Roberto Tiranti (aka Rob Tyrant.) Just when you’d think Rob was at the top of his range, he’d go another three to five steps above it. Olaf Thorsen and Anders Rain brought a twin-guitar firestorm, shredding arpeggios and tapped solos all over the place while the band pounded away.
Forbidden was next, kicked off by metal titan Gene Hoglan (Death, Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad) on drums. There was no way to tell that this band had been formed back in 1985, as the band breathed life into their classics as well as songs from 2010’s “Omega Wave.” Steve Smyth (ex-Nevermore) and Craig Locicero ripped solos like it was going out of style throughout the bombastic set as vocalist Russ Anderson got us riled up with shout-alongs.
Lastly, the Swedes of Therion closed out the night, pushing the festival again to an end time of around 2:30 am. A great choice for a headlining act, Therion opened with “Sitra Ahra” and commenced a setlist spanning several albums of material. For this era of Therion, a new member was added in Linnea Vikström, the angelic-looking daughter of Therion vocalist Thomas Vikström. The band has a flair for stage outfits, which were in full effect. Vocalist Snowy Shaw, capable of a thousand voices, was beastly.
The band noted that they had almost decided not to play the US ever again, but that the circumstances were right to play ProgPower and the band was very thankful for the huge crowd response, which drove them to play a few songs beyond their hour-and-a-half set. They wrapped up with “Quetzalcoatl” and left our ears ringing for the night. It's also worth noting that attendees nearly didn't get to see Therion play, due to an accident in sound check where guitarist Christian Vidal was rushed to a hospital. What a festival. It was almost a religious experience, with Center Stage as our Mecca.
Below is a picture of myself and the festival organizer, Glenn Harveston.
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