ProgPower USA is the premier US festival for progressive and power metal. It takes place every year in September at the Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. The festival seeks to bring in bands that don’t necessarily have the fan base to tour the United States but still would like to get their foot in the door. Just as the bands travel from all over the world to play here, so do the fans. The combination of international bands and fans mixed with the intimate atmosphere of the Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, Georgia leads to one of the most unique festival experiences that the United States has to offer in terms of heavy metal.
These Berklee College of Music alums may have been brought in as a replacement for when Anubis Gate dropped off of the bill, but don’t let that detract from their performance, they are the real deal. These guys are fresh out of school, and the first band to ever play ProgPower with only one released album (Quiet World via Metal Blade Records), but you wouldn’t have guessed that from seeing them. These guys are a product of one of the best music schools in the country, and proof that it can give our scene more than just Dream Theater. At one point during their set, they were going so hard that bassist Max Harchik broke his guitar’s strap lock mid song and didn’t miss a beat. He finished the rest of the song, still standing, and then the rest of the set sitting. In solidarity, the other members of the band also joined Max on the floor and played some of their set sitting down together. If this is what we can expect for their upcoming tour with Between the Buried and Me, then these guys will be picking up some fans this fall.
While the band’s core members are Myles, Edward, and Max, they were joined by two of their friends from Berklee, Poh Hock on guitar, and Jake Dick on drums. While talking to the band I discovered that Jake learned their entire set in the week before the show, with only one practice, and I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I didn’t hear it straight from the band’s mouths. If you don’t believe me, he then went on to win a national drum competition in New Hampshire the very next day.
Jeff Scott Soto
Another replacement, another stellar act. Jeff was brought in to fill one spot, but when Hibria dropped off at last the minute because visa issues (surprise!), it was then decided that he would play a longer, career spanning set that would be recorded for a future live album. If there was to be any true rockstar spirit on the stage this night, it was going to be Jeff, as his stage presence is a marvel to witness. The things Jeff does with a microphone as superbly entertaining, and I mean more than just belting notes flawlessly into them. Think of what bartenders do when throwing around liquor bottles while they make you a cocktail, and put it into a heavy metal vocalist context. That’s not to take away from the rest of the band either, as their set was incredibly varied and technical, and even included a few Yngwie Malmsteen covers just in case they needed to prove what they were made of.
Unfortunately, I had to leave their set a little early, but what I was there for was excellent!
Having missed them on their Pittsburgh date last week left me devastated, however having the opportunity to see and meet them here made it all worthwhile. These Aussies are veterans of ProgPower, and obviously know how to enjoy themselves during the set, as well as the rest of the show. You can find them, or at least their singer Danny Estrin in the pit singing along to his favorite songs when not on stage singing his own, and they were exceptionally nice when it came to hanging around and interacting with their fans.
Voyager puts on a great show, and the entire band looks genuinely happy performing live. I would be lying if I said that I teared up a little when they performed “Iron Dream (In Memoriam: Peter Steele)”, their tribute to Type O Negative front man Peter Steele. A fan had brought a Vinnland flag, the national flag for a fictional country made up by Steele, and handed it to their singer, which he held as he sang. Following up that emotional moment, their bassist Alex Canion was gifted and proceeded to put on a pink wig by a man in a banana suit. Things took a bit of a strange turn at that point. They then jumped into a song medley that involved covers of: the Game of Thrones theme, Ghostbusters, “Backstreet’s Back,” “What is Love,” “I Would Do Anything for Love,” and “America, Fuck Yeah.” By the time they jumped into “What is Love” I was having trouble breathing because I was laughing so hard. After a couple more killer tunes, the band brought out and introduced an idol of theirs to join on “Fire of the Times,” DC Cooper. I even learned something during their set, white keytars are vastly superior to red ones, or something along those lines.
Seriously, these guys are on tour right now with Evergrey and it would be in your best interest to not miss that show if it comes through your town.
Despite not being familiar with the band before ProgPower, the English atmospheric prog rock group brought their soul crushing sound across the pond for an absolutely emotionally charged performance. For being as complex and intense of a sound, they were by far the most soothing band to play the festival, almost lulling the more exhausted fans, such as myself, into a music induced trance. Vocalist/guitarist Vincent Cavanaugh at one point appeared to have broken a string mid-song on his guitar, which seemed to drive him over the edge as he began playing with a ferocity that hinted that maybe it had insulted his mother.
ProgPower USA XVII Roster Announcement & Metalheads For Life
Immediately following Anathema, the time when fans usually leave the room to leave the bathroom, get snacks, and imbibe in copious amounts of alcoholic beverages, nobody moved an inch. It was time for next year’s acts to be announced. Before the announcement video was played, there was to be a quick announcement.
Marc Gessford, aka “Visa guy,” was there to talk about his non-profit organization Metalheads For Life, an organization that he was inspired to create after his daughter was diagnosed with cancer. The group was formed around the concept that as metalheads we are all family, and because of that we should also focus our efforts not on promoting our favorite bands, but also towards fighting terminal illness. For more information, go to their website MetalheadsForLife.org, and give them a like on Facebook.
Then came what everybody was on the edge of their seat waiting for (besides Falconer of course), the roster video announcement. The lights dimmed, the video began, and with every single name to appear on the screen came a thunderous applause, hoots, hollers, whistles, and happiness. You can watch the video and be excited, but it’s a pale comparison to the feeling of being in that room at the time.
Here is it, this is what I had been waiting roughly eight years for. I still remember the moment that I first heard Falconer. It was the song “Lord of the Blacksmith,” which was posted on an Ultimate-Guitar review of their debut album. That was my first introduction to folk/power metal, and they have been a personal favorite ever since. The raw emotion that filled the room when the curtain opened was overwhelming. Fans were still reeling over the wonderful line-up for next year, and now Falconer was going to play their last ever live show, and only their second ever in the United States.
The first thing to strike me seeing them live was the same exact thing to hit me when I first heard their music back in highschool, vocalist Mathias Blad’s voice. Would it be cliche to call it angelic? Too bad, because that’s exactly how it sounded. Biased opinions aside, despite not being a live band, they were surprisingly tight, although there was one minor hiccup that I caught on “Age of Runes.” While I’m not entirely sure which it was, either Mathias jumped into the first verse a little early or Stefan went on with the intro a little long. In the interview that came with the show program, Stefan admitted that things like that might happen, so I just chuckled as a confused Mathias turned to look over at Stefan riffing away.
The band treated fans to a variety of their catalog, covering almost all of the fan favorites. Towards the middle of their set they did three acoustic songs, and three songs sung in Swedish, and to finish it off they did an encore of Mindtraveler and Clarion Call. The encore can be seen in the video below, with many more popping up on YouTube each day. They could have played until the show started again the next day and I wouldn’t have even considered leaving my seat.
Me during their entire set: Try not to cry. Cry. Cry a lot.