ProgPower USA XIV: At A Glance -- Newcomers and What To Watch For
Band Photo: Soilwork (?)
In its 14th year for 2013, the ProgPower USA Festival is one of the longest-running US festivals, and the longest-running US multi-day festival to feature bands from outside the US.
This year, it has the special distinction of being the US debut show for five bands. Totaling more than a hundred and twenty band performances in its time, it has developed a reputation as a tastemakers’ festival, heightening awareness within the US of foreign bands.
It can be a daunting festival, price- and endurance-wise, but it’s one that should be considered if the genres it derives its name from at all turn your head. Here’s what you can expect from this year’s celebration of the fast and the nerdy down at Center Stage in Atlanta, Georgia, starting on September 4th.
Starting early on Wednesday, heavy French proggers Morglbl open up for Mindcrime, a Queensryche tribute project. Instrumentalists unite! Morglbl will present a display of captivating technicality covering metal, jazz, fusion, and all sorts of weirdness before handing the stage over -- They are one band to really watch for.
On Thursday, US-based In The Silence and Circle II Circle will kick off the festivities. Students of the Opeth/Novembre style of metal, In The Silence will provide nice juxtaposition to the rowdy Circle II Circle, although Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody is easily the most anticipated of the events that night. Departed from Rhapsody of Fire, Italy’s Luca Turilli is out to prove that he brings the fire and should give quite a show because of it. His band is not one to miss, and worth the admission charge if it’s the only band you’re able to catch. Plus, who wouldn't want a chance to yell "At the dawn of a new eternity // shines the mighty blade of destiny" out loud? Oh, that's just Metal Underground admin CROMCarl? Well, FINE, if he has to have ALL of your fun for you, he will. He sure as hell did last year.
Friday is the first official full-length day of the festival, and it looks to be a packed one. The merchandise room, which is practically a prog/power metal completionist's mecca, will open early for certain badge-holders. Try to make it out in time to catch UK-based newcomers Damnation Angels, as they will open the day up early with their dark symphonic blend of power metal and are certainly not to be missed. Vocalist PelleK has a wild range to his voice and is a rising star among young power metal singers. Their debut album, “Bringer of Light,” is very promising and will be featured soon in Metal Underground’s ‘Reviews’ section.
Myrath takes the stage soon after Damnation Angels, which will be a highlight of the day. The band comes highly recommended by the Metal Underground staff and hails from Tunisia, a country never before represented at the festival. Fine-tuning their Tunisian and eastern folk influences into a very accessible blend of metal, the band members will present easily the most unique music at this year’s festival. Will they have a dancer and a warrior wielding shamshirs on stage, like in the music video below? Who knows, but the sound will certainly drop you in the thick of another world. You can go pick up their albums from Nightmare Records CEO and nice guy (and powerful vocalist in his own right) Lance King in the merch room afterward. You can thank me later.
Germany’s Xandria will follow them in their own style, featuring a mix that should please fans of Nightwish and those who like a shot of opera to follow their tall drink of metal. For more mid-day fun, Sweden’s Wolverine will take the stage next, bringing passion and a mixed bag of the hard and the soft textures. Their recent album "Communication Lost" was reviewed here, with great acclaim. They’re quite impressive for underdogs and should not be missed.
Make sure you're staying hydrated throughout this festival and do try to grab some food when you can. It can be a difficult task when you're presented with the possibility of getting autographs from every band you see on stage inbetween the sets, which each band is very happy to do. You ask, "Why can't I head to the bathroom? Why do they schedule everything back-to-back? Why is there a guy hastily walking around in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt?" Because it's ProgPower. Suck it up and deal with it. It's a whole lot of awesome crammed into a comparatively short amount of time, if you think about it.
Following Wolverine will be a majorly-anticipated joint tour de force between Matt Barlow of Iced Earth, Freddie Vidales (also of Iced Earth), and Van Williams of Nevermore, known as Ashes of Ares. They’ve also given noticed that their debut album will be released that weekend and made available to ProgPower attendees in the merch area. The Swedes of Soilwork will follow, bringing their “Living Infinite” to the US. Soilwork is renowned in melodic death metal circles as one of the core Swedish groups of the late 90s/early 2000s -- Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates, In Flames, Soilwork, and ProgPower veterans Evergrey -- and always bring a reliable show.
After Soilwork, there will be a ProgPower XV video that you won't want to miss, revealing the lineup for 2014's festival, and nearly 6-8 hours earlier than in prior festival years! (More party time later!) The other co-headliner for the night will be the long-running Shadow Gallery, bringing the prog side of things in spades. ProgPower headliners and co-headliners alike, in the past, have made special sets out of their festival appearances, and one can hope that Shadow Gallery will do the same. If they reach back to their self-titled debut album from 1992, they will be playing songs as old or older than some of the younger attendees. If you’re still standing and not tired after the band’s set, make sure you head to the courtyard of the nearby Artmore Hotel for an afterparty actually fitting of the often overused word “epic," raging on until 4-5 AM.
The next day, if you aren’t getting physical with the unofficial ProgPower USA running/fitness squad, you will probably be nursing a hangover and hunting for Ibuprofen and more ear plugs if you’ve done things right the day before. Wake yourself up and head down early to catch US-based Divinity Compromised tear up the stage as the day’s openers, with a full hour-long set. The festival is changing things up this year on this second day, letting the bands stretch their legs a bit with longer sets. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if the time schedule posted on the official website falls behind -- it always does. Fortunately, Center Stage is providing food service this year along with the normal bars.
Heaven’s Cry will follow with a similarly technical flair. Having previously opened for prog greats such as Marillion and Saga, Heaven’s Cry boasts lots of layered vocal harmonies over their blend of riffing. Shortly after these Canadians are finished, the 2014 festival Kickoff day roster announcement video will be played, revealing the picks for next year's pre-main event night(s). Some of these kickoff shows have been logistical nightmares for the crew, but they've always been worth it for the fans.
Sweden’s WOLF will take the stage shortly afterward, calling themselves “real metal for true bastards.” They will be adding a retro metal tinge to the festival stage, boasting traditional Iron Maiden-worthy classic vibes. The co-headliners following them will be the main focal point of the night -- Circus Maximus, Armored Saint, and Sabaton, neither of which need an introduction. With such a lineup, it might feel as if a force of commandos had run you down afterwards and mercilessly fucked your shit up, and you might even believe they had after you see Sabaton’s Joakim Broden in his camo and armor-shirt.
Inbetween all of the sets, festival attendees will get to drink with the members of all the bands, talk with them in the crowd, chat up other fans, debate which version of John Petrucci is the goofiest (the geeky-looking skinny guy with long hair, the super saiyan, or the Hulk), deck yourself out in a new band shirt or two, and revel in the fact that you're there and everyone else isn't. Moreover, attendees will become brothers and sisters in metal. Through all of the scrambling, moshing, drinking, singing, picture-taking, and exploring urban Atlanta, attendees often make strong friendships that remain beyond the festival.
Come for the music, stay for the camaraderie, and leave wearing your sleep deprivation like a badge of honor.
For some of our ProgPower coverage from the last two festivals, check these out, as well as our photo gallery and interview archives:
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