ProgPower Europe 2004
- October, 2nd & 3rd 2004 - Sjiwa, Baarlo / Netherlands
The Dust Connection, All Too Human, Platitude, Adagio, Alechemist, Devin Townsend
Into Eternity, Novact, Tomorrow's Eve, Riverside, Katatonia, The Gathering
Saturday: October, 2nd 2004
This is my first time at ProgPower, but not the first show at Sjiwa. Even if it was years ago we easily found the venue. When we arrived the first band was already on stage and had played half of their set.
Anyway, I haven't heard of The Dust Connection before, so... Later I heard that they are origin from Forever Times and that the Tilburg-based band released a demo CD last year. Well, from the few tracks I heard can say that they almost have found their own sound. Technically the band is quiet good, only their singer need to discover his smoother side - vocally. He has a lot of power and his high screams fit more to a power metal band, but for a powerful prog metal band he has to work on the softer part to fill the quite moments with emotions. Okay, they also have to work on their stage performance, but that will come naturally when they play live more often. Guess I should check them out later...
The next band - All Too Human - didn't have the best conditions for a good show. The Americans came over to play a handful if shows and today they stuck in the traffic and had to rush to get on stage. But that's rock'n'roll! Thanks to the local crew who did their best to make up time so that the break didn't get too long. Btw, all the crew members were really nice and friendly, it was like a big family and they treated everyone like a relative or a good friend. Back to the music! They started with an instrumental intro which showed that it was now time for complex sounds, technically on a high level. Singer Don DuZan looked like coming from the gym pushing some weights. In my opinion Mr. DuZan is the weakest part in the band, coz his high vocals were a little limited. Also it seems that he didn't feel comfortable on stage. Guitarist Clint Wilson produced a fat guitar sound - or have they hidden a second guitarist somewhere? - which got supported by the keyboard play. They do much better then some of the Dream Theater clones you see here and there, even if they play very complex parts they always add some melody. All Too Human presented mainly songs from Entropy as I remember- was released back in 2002 - including Jester and E-Killer which were in my opinion the highlights of their set. Unfortunately the songs aren't catchy, so you won't remember much of their tracks, if they can improve that then they will step up the ladder.
Next in line were the Swedish youngsters Platitude. The sextet is quite young - average age 19 - and had delivered 2 good albums. Unusual is to work with 2 guitarists and 2 keyboarders! But that was also their main problem today, coz the soundman couldn't handle that. The youngsters tried their best to entertain the audience, but singer Erik Blomvist should have stopped animating the fans to sing along and/or clap their hands, coz they didn't respond. Unfortunately Blomvist couldn't keep up with his vocal performance on stage, but I think that's just a question of time. Like their stage performance. But the Swedish are definitely one of the prog metal hopefuls. Partly they really rocked and the keyboards reminded me of the Danish Pretty Maids... Even if the neo-classical influences á la Malmsteen were obvious. They presented tunes from their current release Nine - Catch 22 and Aeronautica, to name just a few - and from their 2003 release Secrets Of Life they presented Raining Tears. Hopefully they will have a better sound next time, but I think that they presented themselves well and that the majority of the progsters who watched recognized their talent. The band is up to work hard and so they might need a little more time, but they have the chance to make it.
I was curious to see the French band Adagio, coz their last 2 albums I really liked, but singer David Readman (Pink Cream 69) is no longer helping them out. They had to replace Readman on short note and found the Brazilian Gus Monsanto. It's always hard to replace a singer and David Readman is an excellent singer and frontman, but with Monsanto they had a lucky pick. He's 100% into Adagio and his first move was to move over to France in August. Then they rehearsed very hard to get fit for their first show on Sep. 1st followed by ProgPower in Atlanta and now the European version of this festival. Musically the guys are presenting neo-classical metal with complex parts and some minor black metal fragments. Guitarist Stephan Forte showed his talent on the six-strings and surprised the audience with a seven-string guitar. Singer Gus really entertained the fans and presented the songs more emotionally then Readman. Time will tell, if it was a good choice to hire the Brazilian, but I think it was! They offered a mixture of songs from Seven Lands Of Sin and In Nomine. But they early releases Sanctus Ignis and Underworld weren't forgotten. A highlight of their set was the Led Zeppelin cover version Immigrant Song. For me so far the best band today. I think it's time for an interview with Adagio soon.
Alchemist - this was the band I was waiting for! I'm not a huge fan of the band, but the Australians are very unique and I had to see them on their first visit in Europe. They have 6 albums released, but not in Europe. Here you get their latest release Austral Alien and Organasm, so they focused on that ones. Their music can be described as progressive industrial death thrash metal... with some psychedelic elements. Like a mixture of Voivod, Fear Factory, Total Devastation with some Pink Floyd-like elements. Any idea what I'm talking about? Well, you have to listen to them to get into the world of Alchemist! Singer / guitarist Adam Agius was limited in his stage performance due to playing and singing, but it was interesting to watch him. He changed from scream to grunts to clean vocals. Songs like Surreality and Austral Spectrum presented the Australians very well. Their music is too unique in a way to be 'mainstream', but their powerful and brutal sound is interesting for many metalheads - if they are open-minded. During their first tour in Europe I think they made some new friends and I hope that they will come back in 2005 to tour Europe again. A very impressive show.
Last, but not least... Devin Townsend! The Canadians jumped in when the initial headliner canceled. To hire Devin and his pales was a good idea, coz he draw the attention of prog metalheads to this years ProgPower Europe festival. Mr. Townsend is a mad hatter, no doubt, but he had the audience's attention within a second. A flick of an eye was enough to start the party. No way that he would play Strapping Young Lad tunes, he just presented material from his solo albums Ocean Machine and Accelerated Evolution. Hevy Devy got them all with songs like Suicide and Bad Devil. The mad professor gave a lesson in melodic, catchy, sometimes thrashy, sometimes symphonic prog metal. It was fun to listen to his comments and stories as well. Hevy Devy is a really mad entertainer and that's what makes him and his performances special. Time to simply enjoy the show and forget about making notes! Definitely the highlight of the first day!
Sunday: October, 3rd 2004
Day 2 of ProgPower Europe in the small Dutch town of Baarlo. It's just a one hour ride from my hometown and so we been back to Düsseldorf for the night. We had the intention to be back in time for the opening Into Eternity, but missed the first 2 songs. No traffic jam this time, just been a bit slow in waking up. ;-)
The Canadian progressive death metaller jumped in to replace Symphorce. But Into Eternity are on tour with Kataklysm, Graveworm and Mystic Circle which meant that they had to play later the day in Hengelo at the Metropool. And so they played as the opening act, coz otherwise it would have been impossible for them to play again at ProgPower Europe. A line-up change - drummer Adam Sagan replaced Jim Austin and singer Dean Sternberg replaced Chris Krall - took effect on the bands show. Not just that Sternberg seems to miss playing guitar, too, also there seemed to be misunderstandings on stage. So did mastermind Tim Roth finished a song while the rest of the band was still playing. He laught and joint in again. Not one of their best shows... But they played the songs the fans wanted to hear and with Paralyzed a new track. And then they had to hurry up to get to Hengelo.
Then the Dutch band Novact entered the stage. Some might remember Morgana-X which was the predecessor of Novact. The band offered prog rock with some bombastic elements which didn't make it easy for them to play after Into Eternity. Their singer really seemed to feel the lyrics, something I can't say about every singer I saw at this festival... Their stage acting is something they have to improve, but that will come with the experience. I don't know their songs, so I can't tell you what they played. The songs sounded good, but a lack of originality make you soon forget what you heard. Well, let's see what they offer in future. For me the weakest performance of the festival... But everybody needs a 2nd chance, perhaps next time they can convince me...
With Tomorrow's Eve at least one German band should play ProgPower Europe. The sound was still not quite good, but well... The Germans offered some bombastic - at least partly - melodic progressive metal, but heaviness wasn't something to miss in their songs. Songs like Live Your Dream and the balladesque Point Of No Return showed the spectrum of Tomorrow's Eve's sound. Singer Rouven Bitz and his companions were doign good and when Bitz asked the fans "Scream for me Baarlo" many followed the call. Not bad! For me the best band today so far. A band which is worth a closer look.
Actually the Swedish Amaran should play, but had to cancel and so the Polish Riverside replaced them. I have to confess that I haven't heard of this band before. They offered a mixture - roughly described - of Anathema and early Pink Floyd. The guys were all pretty good - the drummer seems to have a jazz background - , but personally it wasn't my cup of tea. Perhaps it would be different, if I had known their songs... Well, we decided to get some coffee and food.
Back in time for Katatonia. Like Opeth the Swedish play some gothic progressive metal. They opened up with Ghost Of The Sun from the 2003 released Viva Emptiness. It took them awhile to move the people at least a bit, perhaps it was the stiff stage acting... Singer Jonas Renske was hiding behind his hair most of the time, one of the guitarist looked at the floor most of the time... Between the songs the band turned their backs to the audience and seemed to discuss what to do. Perhaps Renske should have communicate with the audience instead. But songs like Black Session, Tonight*s Decision, Sweet Nurse and Evidence were presented better in the past. It was their dogs day. Usually a good live act, but today... Hopefully they are better next time...
The Dutch The Gathering were the last act of ProgPower Europe 2004. They took their time to eliminate technical problems and then it was time for some melancholic, atmospheric rock. They call it TripRock. Singer Anneke van Giersbergen is pregnant which was quite obvious, but it seems that the pregnancy make her even more beautiful. As usual the band stayed in the background, they don't need to produce themselves to get attention. They let their music do the talking. And Anneke who decided to communicate in Dutch with the audience. Usually she's making fun... The latest release of the band is Sleepy Buildings a semi-acoustic version of some songs. They started with Rescue Me and with Even The Spirits Are Afraid they presented a song from Souvenirs' album. Here and there Anneke picked up her guitar to support guitarist René Rutten's play. One of the classic Gathering songs in Eleanor of Mandylion and On Most Surfaces (Inui) of the Nighttime Birds album. A highlight was Saturnine as on Sleepy Buildings and Amity. At the end they played Black Light District which took the fans on a travel through the world of The Gathering. It's always a pleasure to see them on stage. They are very professional and at the same time they are down to Earth. No rock star attitude. I guess for awhile the shows in late November / early December will be the last chance to see The Gathering. Hopefully the baby break won't take too long, even if they deserve a break. Don't miss them later this year!
An so the 2 days of ProgPower Europe 2004 been history... Thanks to René Janssen and everyone else of ProgPower Europe organization. I hope that next year more people will find their way to ProgPower Europe. Still the festival can't be called financially successful, but a festival from fans for fans. So every progster should check out their website www.progpower.nl frequently and plan a trip to ProgPower Europe 2005. See you there!!!