JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

September 10, 2014
Center Stage
Atlanta, GA USA
Review by Andy Laudano
Photos by Andy Laudano

ProgPower USA XV - Sep. 10-13, 2014

ProgPower Metal Festival Rocks Atlanta

The fifteenth edition of promoter Glenn Harveston's ProgPower USA took place September 12-13 at the historic Center Stage in Atlanta, Georgia. The festival was preceded by Wednesday's Mid Week Mayhem and Thursday's ProgPower Kick Off for those that wanted to lengthen their festival experience. The actual festival sold out in 30 days thanks to a stellar lineup headlined by Jon Oliva's Pain playing the classic Savatage album, Streets in it's entirety.

For those unfamiliar with the fest, ProgPower USA features mostly progressive and power metal bands from around the world, many of whom had never been to the US before. Just to keep things fresh, there's usually an oddball or two that are neither power or prog. This is a very fan friendly fest as all the bands usually do autograph signings and many will hang out with fans at the bar and/or the huge aftershow parties in the Artmore Hotel courtyard. Patrons receive a free swag bag when entering containing a program and a CD sampler. The adjoining bar, The Vinyl is filled with metal music dealers and labels where you can find nearly any CD you're looking for. Each year plenty of musicians not playing the fest will attend as a fan. This year saw Glen Drover (Megadeth), Nick Van Dyk (Redemption), Steve "Doc Killdrums" Wacholz (Savatage), Urban Breed (Trail of Murder/Project Arcadia), Thomas Youngblood (Kamelot) and Sean Tibbetts (Kamelot).

The Mid Week Mayhem show was held in The Loft, a connecting upstairs venue that's Part of Center Stage. It featured sets from Vangough, Theocracy and one of the bands from the main festival, Pain of Salvation doing a completely different set.

Even before the ProgPower Kick Off got started, there was a listening party for the new Evergrey album, Hymns For The Broken. Fans got to listen to the whole new album, buy shirts, preorder the album and meet with founder Tom S. Englund (vocals/guitar) and drummer Jonas Ekdahl.

Draekon opened the Kick Off show with a nice set followed by the return of Italy's DGM. The Italian's were a hit the last time they played the fest but since then DGM have really stepped up their game. They were just the first of many bands who would be shooting a DVD over the weekend. Headliner and longtime festival favorites. Norway's Pagan's Mind were also shooting a DVD that night - with a catch. First they would play their entire Celestial Entrance album. Then they'd play another full set of favorites from the rest of their catalog for an incredible three hour set! Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, another friend of the fest, Circus Maximus' vocalist, Michael Eriksen joined his fellow countrymen for a pair of killer songs from Pagan's Minds latest release, Heavenly Ecstasy, "Walk Away In Silence" and "Eyes of Fire."

Day one of the festival started with a bang as Greece's Need not only won over the crowd, but Jon Oliva who came out to watch their set. German power metalers Orden Ogan followed and vocalist Sebastian "Seeb" Levermann had the crowd in the palm of his hand. After getting everyone to chant and sing along with their songs Seeb proclaimed, "We spent nine hours on a plane to get here, and it was totally worth it!"

Norway's Leprous played a heavy progressive set. New Jersey thrash icons, Overkill may have looked out of place on paper, but they came out and destroyed the place like they had something to prove. Frontman Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth was hilarious interacting with the crowd. "Are we too progressive for you? We can get heavier!" They pulled out all the stops including their attempt at progressive, "End Of The Line."

DVD time again as Sweden's Seventh Wonder, led by current Kamelot vocalist Tommy Karevik, played their entire fan favorite Mercy Falls album. I have attended 12 ProgPowers and the sing along for "Tears For A Father" was the loudest I've ever heard at this festival! Finnish power metal legends Stratovarius closed out the first night playing all of one of their biggest albums, Visions as well. It was weird to hear them open with a pair of songs usually saved for the end of the set, "Kiss Of Judas" and "Black Diamond." Once they finished the album, Stratovatius played a few more classics including "Eagleheart" and "Hunting High and Low" to end the show. It would have been nice to hear a few more songs from their last three albums which have been excellent but otherwise a great set.

For some, day two got off to an early start as Seventh Wonder played a special 10am show for sponsors and Gold Badge holders. Fans were treated to favorites and rarities from the rest of their catalog including an amazing acoustic medley.

The actual fest started with great sets from Norway's Withem and Divided Multitude. In fact, Divided Multitude's drummer had visa problems so at the last minute drummers from Withem and Pagan's Mind pitched in to learn Divided Multitude's material so they could still play the fest. Michael Eriksen made another appearance, this time to help sing a killer cover of Deep Purple's "Perfect Strangers."

Next up was the German supergroup Voodoo Circle, featuring Pink Cream 69 vocalist David Readman and Primal Fear's Alex Beyrodt (guitar) and Mat Sinner (bass). Voodoo Circle is pure, bluesy, hard rock. If you're a Whitesnake/Rainbow/Deep Purple fan, this is the band for you! Readman was channeling David Coverdale while Beyrodt was doing his best Ritchie Blackmore worship. The German one, two punch continued when MasterPlan made their US debut. Led by founder and ex Helloween guitarist, Roland Grapow, the band's new lineup features vocalist Rick Altzi (At Vance) and bassist Jari Kainulainen (Stratovarius). Altzi stepped into some huge shoes replacing Jorn Lande, but he did a phenomenal job!

Pain of Salvation returned to play what many fans consider their masterpiece, the emotional Remedy Lane. Then it was time for Savatage/Trans-Siberian Orchestra mastermind, Jon Oliva to take the stage. The Mountain King opened with a few Savatage favorites before taking us all on an emotional roller coaster ride through Streets. Oliva was more animated than usual, coming from behind his keyboard to take center stage as he belted out songs. This despite revealing to the audience that he'd broken ribs a couple days ago when he tripped over his wife's cat. Jon's new friend, Jon V. from Need helped out with backing vocals. Guitarist Bill Hudson did an unbelievable job playing the late Criss Oliva's leads. Everyone there that night knew they had witnessed something truly special and many tears were shed, both during the album's closing track "Believe" and the night's final encore, the Savatage classic, "When The Crowds Are Gone."

Tickets go on sale for next year's fest October 4. Last year tickets sold out in 30 days so don't delay if you want to attend America's premiere metal festival!