ProgPower USA XIII: Day One at Center Stage in Atlanta
Band Photo: Primordial (?)
While the rest of the world went to work or whatever it is they normally would do on a Friday, the contingent of the lovers of loud and fast music down on Peachtree St in Atlanta were being awesome. The day that many metal fans were waiting for since Day Two of the 2011 festival had finally come around -- Day One of the 2012 festival had arrived, bringing with it headliners Epica and support bands Sinbreed, Kingcrow, Amaranthe, Serenity, Primordial, and Redemption. The night before, Nightwish and Kamelot had thrilled in the same venue.
With several levels of ticket options available to attendees, gold badge attendees were given early access to the festival's merchandise room. Like the gaping maw of a hungry beast, the doors to the merchandise room were opened at noon and soon swallowed absurd amounts of money with little effort from the wallets of attendees. For attendees who found the dilemma of "I just need ONE more CD," without having the money for it, there was an ATM around the hall so that "one more" could then turn into "ten more" without a worry.
When doors officially opened in the early afternoon, Sinbreed was first up to show their mettle with heavy metal. The opening slot on the first day of ProgPower is often a proving ground of sorts, given that it's the hardest slot to get people in for. Performing songs from their 2010 album "When Worlds Collide," as well as a new song entitled "Reborn," Sinbreed shook the house. Vocalist Herbie Langhans, like a younger Jorn Lande, worked the stage with classic metal flair and flailing hair while the band launched an all-out aural assault.
Inbetween Sinbreed and the next band, Italy's Kingcrow, I had walked up the street to the Artmore hotel to sit down with vocalist Jake E and guitarist Olof Mörck of the Swedish-based Amaranthe for an interview. Kingcrow were true to Italian form, dripping with passion and very happy to be in the USA for the first time after putting out four albums. Their more recent "Phlegethon" was a big hit during the set. During their time on stage, I had to head out to the lobby to wait in the line, which was already lengthy and pushed back to the venue doors, for Epica's scheduled autograph session. After waiting 45 minutes and still not nearing the front of the line, I went back inside because Amaranthe was about to come on.
A personal favorite of mine, Amaranthe brought the hyper-technical melodic death-pop in droves to the USA for their first time. Thanks to a last minute save from producer Jacob Hansen, the band was able to use their backing tracks after losing the originals and various other things on the plane they came over on. Lead vocalist Elize Ryd was clad in skin-tight leather and heels, looking quite like Catwoman. Antony Hämäläinen of Nightrage filled in for Andy on death vocals, covering where needed and supporting with an equal stage presence. Bringing the house down, Amaranthe even did an encore with their single "Hunger," and finished with loud applause and shouts of "We love you, Elize!"
After getting autographs from Solution .45, I came back in to see Serenity take the stage. After just being confirmed as a permanent member of the band, Clementine Delauney joined them on stage for several songs. Powerful crowd favorites, the mates of Serenity upped the ante and got a thunderous applause and the audience singing back to them for most of their songs. Frontman Georg Neuhauser had a commanding presence. Together with the unparalleled beauty of Fabio D'Amore's bass guitar, Clementine, and five-part a capella vocals, the band struck gold for this performance -- also their first on US soil.
The next act -- Ireland's Primordial -- was a bit of a change-up and took ProgPower by surprise. Vocalist Alan Averill came out in what looked like black metal facepaint, which was the cue for some festival folks to head out and grab dinner instead. The ones that stuck around (still at least half a packed house) crammed in near the front as the band summoned a storm of metal on stage. Averill re-enacted what looked like Christ's crucifixion during the set, jabbing his wrists and making the motions of cutting open his sides during one song. It was... interesting, to say the least.
As they wrapped up their set, I headed down to the Artmore to interview Peter Degenfeld-Schonburg and Christopher Tarnow of fantastic German-based prog newcomers Beyond The Bridge, who would be performing the next day. After being interrupted for a time by a happily drunk Geddy Lee lookalike, we made our way back for Redemption's set. Ray Alder, Bernie Versailles, Nick van Dyk, and the rest of the band were in top form. Bernie and Nick were especially on their game with their guitar solos. During the set, an intensely emotional tribute video rolled on the screen behind them for various cancer survivors and victims of the heavy metal world, ending with Dio -- to whom every hand in the filled venue was raised in the sign of the horns. "Walls" and "Noonday Devil" were big hits of their set and only one guitar amp had problems during the set, ironically right after Alder noted that "nothing's blown up yet!"
Epica took the stage and practically stole it, the crowd was so loud for them. In top form, the band was having a lot of fun together. When guitarist Mark Jansen would get up next to vocalist Simone Simons, he would take a quick second to pinch her nose or scratch her head while still playing. In return, she would mess with his fretboard or tune one of his guitar strings down and back up again, all while maintaining composure and singing her ass off. "Sancta Terra," "Consign To Oblivion," and several new songs were big hits of the night. The band ended around 2 AM, but the eager crowd still wanted more.
Given a taste of the next year's festival lineup with a video after Epica's performance, the crowd tapered out to either party at the Artmore or get in at least a couple of hours of sleep before the next long day. Day Two's festivities were to bring even more fun.
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