at Earthlink Live, in Atlanta, GA, USA, September 17–18, 2004

PROGPOWER V, in Atlanta, GA, USA, September, 2004
Photo: Henk Oosterveld

Every year, there’s a sold out venue in Atlanta’s Midtown that makes the local parking mafia scratch their heads. A sold out venue means that they should make, and probably pocket, lots of green bills as people show up to attend Earthlink Live, located on one of Atlanta, Georgia’s (USA) many and confusing Peachtree Roads. Only during these three nights (pre-party included), no cars show up! No parking money is made, and you can be sure the parking mafia’s heads and fingers are both sore. You see, this is no local event — this is North America’s prime festival for the “more demanding” Heavy Metal fans … the fans who care for musicians who can tune their instruments and write challenging music … and its fifth edition just went down in history – welcome to ProgPower V!

Promoter Glenn Harveston, known as the “Harvester,” refuses to upgrade to a bigger venue. This event sells out every year in a few days – he knows his budget and decides to play it safe and keep the same crew in order to make the show better, successfully so, every year. Fans, not only from North America, but the whole world, start to gather in Atlanta a few days before the festival takes place. There is always a pre-party, but because the Progressive Metal fan in the USA isn’t too spoiled with happenings of this sort at the time being, this year people have a pre-pre-party, one not organised by the promoter. It seems like the audience chose to get into town a day early – and who could tell where this will all end? Possibly a week of hanging out in Atlanta before the main event – so everyone could go to the airport and create “Beatles mass hysteria” when the bands’ flights eventually arrive? Oh, just a thought …

This year, it was logical to get into Atlanta as early as possible. Hurricane Ivan was threatening to hit Georgia and stay there for the whole weekend, so the wise decision was to fly into N. Carolina and make a road trip (a few stories from people who flew directly into Atlanta could be heard along the way, but that part belongs up on Sure enough, Ivan (he sounds Russian, but to G.W. Bush he’s an Arab terrorist) hit Atlanta with heavy rain showers on Thursday, the day of the pre-party. Now Harvester must have known about Ivan, because this year the pre-party was held in the Vinyl Club, located in the same building as Earthlink Live, not in a distant club farther away … and that’s the first thing on the list of improvements from this year.

Not that people shouldn’t support the pre-party, which always has three bands representing themselves, but some of you might remember the Tesla Into The Now CD review here at Metal Express (stating it was stellar). Anyway, Tesla scheduled a gig five minutes up the road on this night — in Atlanta’s Buckhead — a no-brainer choice in most people’s opinion. Some head up to Buckhead, only to find a whole block without power and a small note on the door saying that the Tesla show is rescheduled to Saturday night. Dohhh! Back at the Vinyl Club, people ask, “So how was Tesla? Are they done already?” Thanks, Ivan…

The rest of the pre-party is spent in the bar hearing the old war stories from Jon Oliva and getting the latest on his and the Puppet Master’s (famous producer) activities. Not that Jon should do anything but create the best there is in music, which seems pretty easy for him, but it is pretty apparent that this Godsend would make a fortune as a stand up comedian or by doing voices for cartoon networks after hearing his stories.

INTO ETERNITY (Live at PROGPOWER V, in Atlanta, GA, USA, September, 2004)
Photo: Henk Oosterveld

All right, it took a while, but let’s move on to the show itself. Day one, Friday night in Atlanta, the first band is Century Media’s Into Eternity. Every year there’s a misfit on the bill, and the ProgPower V Misfit Award goes to Canada’s Into Eternity. Not trying to sound rude, because they’re not misfits by their looks or capacity, but every year there’s a band with barking Death-like vocals on the bill, and this band sure scare off the stray cats. Over the last few years, the barking element may have worked well as a pause for some, a curiosity for others, but now it is done and over with after the first show. As you might have guessed, Into Eternity is not my kind of thing. I am sure they do they serve their genre right – who am I to say they don’t – but I just can’t stand roadie-looking musicians on stage (apart from the four-legged vocals). If you want to get somewhere, you need to walk that extra mile … and that also pertains to image.

Next up is Bavaria’s Dreamscape. You might not know where Bavaria is … it’s part of the Southern section Germany, and rumors say that because they are so different down there, they soon will claim their independence (then you will for sure hear about it). Dreamscape is a band that goes almost 20 years back, but just released their third album, a good, but very safe-sounding, Progressive Metal disc. The band fits perfectly on a festival like this, with music very much in the vein of Dream Theater. But just like their record, the live show is nothing out of the ordinary – it’s good, but there should be more joy to being on stage, so I cannot mention the words “playing safe” often enough. The band needs to come up with better songs to play their safe game and at the same time make an everlasting impression. A German band takes the Atlanta crowd by storm this year, but no, it isn’t Dreamscape.

The third slot on a festival like this has proven to be a good one. People have had their dose of Progressive music, now they have even had their dose of brutality, and they want in your face Power Metal. Enter Tad Morose! Now this is a band that seriously looks hungry. The Swedes go right at it like their lives depend on headbanging. Singer Urban Breed is all over the stage. I am surprised a guitar neck doesn’t smash his face in all the madness, and he makes it seem so goddamn easy when he shows his register from deep Zak Stevens-like singing to high pitched Midnight-like shrieks. He cracks up the crowd when he flips the microphone stand upside down and says he wants to drive it. “Anubis,” “Matters Of The Dark” (this time as a duet with the drummer), and “Etheral Soul” are all highlights of Friday’s most energetic performance … also one of the two most talked about shows after this weekend. The Tad Morons (judging from their stage craziness and Sweden’s drinking culture) don’t look like they used to roadie for a bigger name … they all look like they play in a band and are having the time of their lives. Is the Atlanta crowd on their feet? Yeah, but after the show none one was worthy. Everyone there took a bow and hailed today’s best Swedish band alongside Evergrey. Hard work pays off in the long run, and these underdogs are seriously tearing the walls down. You can bet they will be back.

KAMELOT (Live at PROGPOWER V, in Atlanta, GA, USA, September, 2004)
Photo: Henk Oosterveld

Kamelot headlined ProgPower II some three years ago. The band is, of course, a lot bigger today, but so are the names at this year’s festival, and because no stage should be even walked upon or touched after Jon Oliva’s mass destruction, they are pushed down to the fourth slot this time. As mentioned above, the third slot is a good one, well, so is the fourth. The third is good for an outsider, while the fourth is just as good as a headliner. You have all your own fans – plus the headliner’s fans (when the fifth band goes on, there are sometimes only diehards left in the house). When Kamelot hit the stage, the house is packed. Singer Khan sounds a bit strained during the first couple of songs, but when his godlike and unique voice is warmed up, he is right on for the rest of the show. Tad Morose is for sure not an easy act to follow, and Kamelot is no total mayhem onslaught power pack on stage, like the Swedes. Kamelot made up for it, however, with such a strong set and a truly professional delivery. Thomas Youngblood seems very confident with his playing, and backed up by four stringer showman Glenn Barry and “Duracell Bunny” Casey Grillo, as well as Vanden Plas’ Gunther Werno on keyboards, Kamelot is a tight unit. Gunther has a birthday today, and Khan takes the time to serve the band Schnapps. Hey, it’s good to be 29… once again.

Kamelot is joined by a few special guests tonight. Mentioned prior was Mister Werno, along with Mary Youngblood, who changes stage clothes faster than any recruit and does a great job dueting with Khan. The most prominent guests though, are Ben Jackson and Midnight (yes, true) from legendary innovative Progressive Power Metal act Crimson Glory, one of the reasons why there is a music genre like this and there is a gathering in Atlanta every year. Midnight comes on stage first during “Nights Of Arabia” and shows that he has no Kamelot CDs in the cave he’s been hiding in over the last 10 years. He tries to get into the song to do backups, but is called off stage. Khan announces “Ladies and gentleman, the legendary Midnight!” Seriously, it was very embarrassing. He looked more like a pizza delivery guy than a legend.

Second try is when Kamelot goes into the only old song in their set (old means of course from the first two records — those without Khan), “Call Of The Sea”. Ben Jackson joins in on rhythm guitar (he’s an underrated player, why not take him out on the road, guys?) and Midnight appears again. This time he gets it and joins Khan in singing “The Sea Is Calling Me,” and when you can finally hear his voice come through the PA, the Midnight magic is on. What a voice! This brought tears to my eyes and shivers down my spine!
No offense Kamelot, this is your review, of course, but when you bring Midnight out of the cave, that’s what happens! To sum up Kamelot’s show, it is solid. Really solid … and these guys probably haven’t even peaked creatively yet. Let’s all see what a new album and a new label can do for them.

JON OLIVA'S PAIN (Live at PROGPOWER V, in Atlanta, GA, USA, September, 2004)
Photo: Henk Oosterveld

Finally, it is time for the real headliner of ProgPower V, Jon Oliva’s Pain, plus a set with current and former Savatage members – all named Weapons Of Mass Destruction. We’ll call the first part JOP, and the second … Savatage (for obvious reasons, no current answer to the official nameholder). Jon Oliva first paid a visit to ProgPower IV last year, he performed with Circle II Circle (featuring ex-Savatage singer Zak Stevens) and found out (more likely triple checked) that Jack Daniels tastes the same in Georgia as back in Florida.

All bias aside, Oliva does what Ivan never managed to do: He blows the roof off Earthlink Live, then tears the place down. Before the curtain falls, Oliva messes around on his piano and teases the crowd by saying, “I’ll make you so happy you will need to have plastic surgery to take the grins off of your faces!” … and more funny phrases along those lines. Intro on, curtain falls, and Jon and his friends (who supposedly cause him the pain) launch into “The Dark” from their new and yet unreleased CD, Tage Mahal. The song is related to Savatage’s “Commissar” and is not only a great song, but is also a good opener. Oliva is behind the piano for this one, but when JOP next go into the bombastic “People Say – Gimme Some Hell,” Jon finally (first time in 12 years?) walks the stage and proudly sums up his career. The crowd goes into a frenzy, and you can bet Oliva himself needed a surgery appointment after that crowd response!

Back at the piano for “Guardian Of Forever,” “Walk Alone” and a few more off Tage Mahal (watch out for a CD review soon), the Pain providers, consisting of Matt LaPorte and Jerry Outlaw on guitars, Kevin Rothney on bass, Chris Kinder on drums, and ex-Savatage member John Zahner on keyboards, leave the spotlight so Jon can run through a couple of his Savatage piano ballads while the stage is being prepared. Up to this point, JOP had already blew the roof off, now it is time for Savatage to bring the place down!

SAVATAGE (Live at PROGPOWER V, in Atlanta, GA, USA, September, 2004)
Photo: Henk Oosterveld

I hinted to Chris Caffery before the show that he couldn’t go on with a Savatage “The Dungeons Are Calling” T-shirt because it’s not politically correct to do so, but he made the point perfectly clear: This was going to be a Savatage show indeed (the Puppet Master doesn’t read Metal Express anyway). Back to the stage action: Jon goes into “Heal My Soul,” plays parts of “Mentally Yours” and “When The Crowds Are Gone,” then “A Little Too Far,” while the clever stagehands converts over to the drum set that was to be devastated that night. None other than original Savatage drummer, Steve “Doctor Killdrums” Wacholz, takes over and starts “City Beneath The Surface.” Caffery enters the stage and plays those fills in true and respectful Criss Oliva style, while Rothney and Zahner return from their short break. Yes, this is indeed a Savatage show, and when the band next progress into “The Dungeons Are Calling” (which hasn’t been played live by Savatage in 8 years, and hasn’t sounded right with Savatage since 1991), the crowd totally lose it. Not only is the need for plastic surgery obvious, but a chiropractor would come in handy as well. To top it off, and that could only be done in one way – the audience get to hear “Sirens,” the origin of Power Metal! After these three, the place is a mess, and though the building is still is up (of course, tearing the place down is just a well known cliche), imagine, if you will, the venue looking like the scene for the “Gutter Ballet” video. “New York City Don’t Mean Nothing” (I wish that is true, Jon) and “Jesus Saves” follow, and it is so good to hear the latter sung by Jon. All respect to before-mentioned Zak and Damond Jiniya, but there IS only one Savatage singer, and he can never be replaced.

Surprisingly, Oliva pulls out a few rare Savatage tracks also, “Hyde” and “Thorazine Shuffle,” before getting back to the “Streets”-stuff … this time the ballads “Tonight He Grins Again,” “Somewhere In Time,” and “Believe”. Atlanta believes … even fans who flew in from Costa Rica believe … we all believe, because Jon’s voice is close to being in perfect shape on this night.
Doc mistreats his kit so badly – this might be his last performance anyway, though none would like to see such a special drummer retire completely.
Caffery is joined by Matt LaPorte for the next song, “Edge Of Thorns,” where Chris impresses the ProgPower crowd with his singing skills. (Watch out for a Chris Caffery CD review here soon, too). The ordinary set is rounded off with “Gutter Ballet”, and did Jon nail the piano intro? Of course not, then it wouldn’t have been a Savatage show, and it would have spoiled the fun.

“Power Of The Night” has Chris “Catastrophe” Caffery again stepping up as the lead singer, after all, he did this one every now and then back on the Gutter Ballet tour when Jon felt like playing drums(!), and after his extensive masturbation part (also called a guitar solo), it ws time for the “Hall Of The Mountain King”… Need anything more be said? This was the best Savatage show witnessed since 1993, and the same thing was said last year after the Criss Oliva Memorial show. Funny thing is – and the Savatage nameholder and Puppet Master should take notice – none of these shows were officially Savatage shows! Jon Oliva is best when the Mountain King walks alone. Can you hear the dungeons calling? They still do.

Moving on to Saturday, Atlanta starts to show a little of its “Hotlanta” reputation, at least for someone used to 8 months of winter. Again, people show up early – this is not the gig where you come late to act important and only see the headlining artist (all bands are headlining ProgPower – simply because they all consider it a great honor to be invited). Also, second on the list of improvements, the merchandise section is moved into the Vinyl Club this year (yup, where the pre-party was held), and that makes the hangout area much more comfortable. And that popular bartender have even more stalkers…

ADAGIO (Live at PROGPOWER V, in Atlanta, GA, USA, September, 2004)
Photo: Henk Oosterveld

The French assumingly make their debut at Progpower USA as the first band this Saturday. The act is Adagio, and like Pagan’s Mind last year, the band made a buzz and got people on their toes just by their reputation. Sure, people are a bit disappointed that David Readman, who sings on both studio albums and the Japanese live album, quit Adagio just shortly before this event, but the new kid, Brazilian Gus Monsanto, wins the crowd with his enthusiasm, stage act, and most importantly, his singing. Not as solid and professional as Readman yet though, but as an international debutante, he could have done far worse. A few shows down the road, it’ll be more obvious that he is the right man for the job (you see, it was so difficult for Readman because he lives in Germany – but this guy is from Brazil! Keyword, again: Enthusiasm!). Most of all, Adagio gained their praise because of guitar hero Stephan Forte, who absolutely demonstrated to the crowd why he is here and why he has advanced this far. Forte is in total control of his instrument, and that can be said about the bass player as well. I am no musician, and therefore never care too much about what musicians do technically – mainly, I base what I like upon what I hear … I can’t remember seeing anyone, however, playing bass and using the sweeping technique like this dude does. Simply amazing – just like their cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” where the young promising Brazilian really shows why he is the chosen one. If you ever get the chance to see Adagio, whose style isn’t too far away from Symphony X’s, do it.

WUTHERING HEIGHTS (Live at PROGPOWER V, in Atlanta, GA, USA, September, 2004)
Photo: Henk Oosterveld

The all-star Intromental outfit (Intromental is a high-class Danish band-management company) Wuthering Heights, comes across like just that – an all-star (almost-star?) band. The problem is — apart from the fact that their somewhat Celtic Skyclad-like musical approach does little to impress — all these guys look like they fell down from a different planet. This Danish/Swedish band again proves how important image can be (ok, who didn’t grow up with posters of Vince Neil, Dee Snider, and Blackie Lawless on the wall?). The bass player, otherwise a fine drummer named Teddy Moller (known from Mayadome), comes on stage with a skirt, while singer Patrick Johansson can’t undress his white shirt fast enough. He looks like David Coverdale 10 years from now, and he sings like Coverdale’s and Ronnie J. Dio’s adopted child – much in the vein of Jorn Lande. While Jorn used to be closer to Coverdale (before he luckily found himself), Johansson possesses more genetics from Dio. He does nothing wrong singing-wise, he just needs to videotape himself on stage and then take a close and critical view of it!

BRAINSTORM (Live at PROGPOWER V, in Atlanta, GA, USA, September, 2004)
Photo: Henk Oosterveld

While Jon Oliva and Savatage, or Weapons Of Mass Destruction, indeed are the favorites of this weekend – objectively, there’s no denying that German band Brainstorm wins the most new fans as a result of this event. With an ultra-active, charismatic, and highly talented frontman/singer, Andy B. Franck, heavy, brilliant, USA Power Metal supreme riffs from Thorsten Ihlenfeld and Milan Loncaric, backed up by Andreas Mailander on bass and Dieter Bernert on drums, Brainstorm is one living human organism that indeed demonstrates that hours and hours spent in the rehearsal room are worth every moment when converted to a crushing stage attack. The adrenalin that Andy works up during a show, and especially this show, could eradicate the hunger in Africa! He is all over the stage, and he even wins the sympathy prize when he runs all the way out into the crowd to greet and honour a guy sitting in wheelchair. Brainstorm plays a set containing all “Highs Without Lows” — to quote one of their best songs — other highlights are “Fornever,” “Hollow Hideaway,” and “Voices,” a track that goes back to their second album in 1998, Unholy. The crowd reaction is massive, and though there might have been a handful of diehard Pain Of Salvation fans out in the hallway who refuse to check the band out due to something that Andy and Daniel Gildenlow had already put in their past, both the Atlanta crowd and Brainstorm are surprised at how good of a fit each end up being. When the singer from Wuthering Heights said, “I love you, you are the best” after their first song, when there was hardly any applause at all – you know Andy B. Franck means it when he explains how he fights to find the right words to describe Brainstorm’s feelings. This performance went down just as well as their gig at the Wacken Open Air Festival in August (they were the best band there also, in the world’s number 1 Heavy Metal Mecca). Brainstorm will do their first headlining European tour in March/April next year – BE THERE!

Those die hard Pain Of Salvation fans will for sure not respect me more than they (dis)respect Andy B. Franck. Mentioned above was that Tesla’s show the other day was cancelled – well, it was moved to this Saturday. Yours truly (unless your biggest expectation from this review was the POS-report), and his travel partner quickly head up to the Roxy Theatre to catch this stunning hard rocking outfit. How were they? Like “Harvester” said, they’re Tesla (meaning that they’re always good). I’d say they were worth the trip alone, and if you’re a single male – those eighties rock shows are cool to go to … but let’s leave Tesla at that … this is a ProgPower review after all.

EDGUY (Live at PROGPOWER V, in Atlanta, GA, USA, September, 2004)
Photo: Henk Oosterveld

We get back to Earthlink just in time for the German humour Metalers Edguy. Edguy is more along the traditional European Power Metal lines, and is getting very popular in the States, at least judging from their two shows so far in Atlanta. Hell, a description of their music seems out of place, after all, they headline this event, so it’s a safe bet you know the band if you have read this far. Edguy is a good live act, which they prove once again this night. Tobias Sammet’s voice is in good shape, and he is a showman who dares to make a fool out of himself because he gets away with it. Frankly, his penis humour gets a little too much when he starts talking about guest singer Rob Rock’s size… Another guest is Timo Kotipelto, who joins in for one of the older songs. With “Out Of Control,” Edguy ends ProgPower V in a worthy manner, after having entertained the crowd with, amongst others ,“Lavatory Love Machine,” “The Piper Never Dies,” and some stuff off the fantastic first Avantasia record.

With a festival like this, selling out as fast as it does, there will always be talk of moving it to a bigger venue. That would have its advantages, but also its disadvantages, like losing the feeling of intimacy. The crowd at ProgPower is like one big happy family by now, and I bet “Harvester,” as the head of the family, will bring happiness next year, too.

A huge thank you to Henk Oosterveld for providing photos for this review.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.