This year was the 13th edition of ProgPower USA in Atlanta and was my 3rd time in attendance at the festival. As always, there were unexpected hits, disappointing misses and an all-around great Metal time. I am definitely a new fan of some bands and have had my fandom for others solidified. Seven bands a day for two days is a lot, especially considering the minimum set time was an hour. I’m sure I missed some stuff, but I don’t feel like I didn’t get my money’s worth, especially at about $10 per band.
As you can see on the promo poster, the lineup this year had a good bit of variety. The fest in recent years has become more diverse, so it really isn’t much of a surprise to see groups who don’t really fit into Prog or Power. The two headliners were just about as I expected – I didn’t care much for Epica and Symphony X continues to be one of my favorite live bands, as this is the 4th time I have seen them. They opened with Divine Wings of Tragedy, an epic 20+ minute song that they have played only a handful of times live. The remainder of their show was pretty standard for their current setlist, except for the encore – The Odyssey, another 20+ minute work. Clearly they are one of the titans of Progressive Metal.
There are a number of bands on this bill that surprised me in a good way. First and foremost was Mystic Prophecy. I was expecting them to be decent since what I had heard previously was what I would consider to be workable Power Metal. What I heard Saturday night was much more than that. A lot of what they played tread the line between Power and Thrash. I went in thinking they would be OK, but came out the other side a fan of the band. Bottom line: Mystic Prophecy ruled. Another band I was not expecting to like much, but proved to be a pleasant surprise, was Serenity. They simply put on a great show and were very well received by the crowd. It was an absolutely enjoyable performance and one that made me a fan as well.
Two other bands that I came in with low expectations for were Solution .45 and Primordial. They both killed. Neither fits into the Prog or Power genres – Solution .45 is more of a Melo Death band, while Primordial has its roots in Black Metal and has a unique heavy sound. Rob warned me that Solution .45 would be “badass”, and they were. The name of the game with these two was intensity. It was the first show ever for Solution .45, so even more kudos to them. The last band that was a good surprise was MaYaN. I didn’t care much for their only album Quarterpast – live, though, was a different story. They put on an outstanding show with 4 vocalists (including Floor Jansen), definitely winning me over – although I’m not sure the studio stuff is really my thing. I think they are a band that is a lot better live than in studio.
There were a couple of bands who met my expectations, but didn’t blow me away. Redemption and Sinbreed were solid and performed their sets about as I expected. One thing of note was the guitar work by Redemption’s Nick Van Dyk and Bernie Versailles. I think technically, except for Michael Romeo of Symphony X, they were the most accomplished and had a great performance – a couple of amazing musicians. There were a few bands that I did not really expect to like much – and I didn’t. Amaranthe, Kingcrow, Pretty Maids, and Beyond the Bridge didn’t do much for me. I suppose their music was well done, but none of them drew me in. Finally, I was let down by Lanfear. I very much enjoy their studio albums and consider myself a fan. Live, however, there seemed to be something missing. I don’t know if it was in the mix or what, but if I wasn’t familiar with them, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it much. I don’t think they did justice to their studio material.
I have to take this opportunity to recognize my long time Metal brother, Fred. We have known each other for 30 years now. On September 5th, he had a heart attack, and still attended the shows in Atlanta with me 9 days later. He is insane, but I love him!
This was the first time in the US for 11 of the 14 bands. ProgPower USA tends to bring bands who don’t have much exposure here and give them a chance to play in front of an American crowd. Most of the bands are very grateful and love playing this fest as well. It is common to see the artists out mingling with fans all through the fest. At the end of the first night, the video for the lineup for next year (6-7 September) was played for the crowd. Looks like another interesting lineup with the likes of Myrath, Ashes of Ares (Matt Barlow’s new band), Wolf, and 5 headliners – Shadow Gallery, Soilwork, Armored Saint (what!?! YES!), Circus Maximus and Sabaton. There will be 2 co-headliners on Friday and 3 co-headliners on Saturday, 13 bands in total next year. I am not sure what that means, but it should be interesting. Also, when you are in Atlanta, go to Shane’s Rib Shack for the pulled pork – awesome!
Watch for Burnt Offerings features on each of the bands for next year’s fest at some point in the near future.
I hear the sound in a METAL way.