at Center Stage, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, October 5, 2007


After the Thursday hangovers subsided, the crowd showed up in full force and early for Friday’s festivities at Center Stage, jockeying for floor space and seating position, definitely rarin’ to go. Unlike Thursday, there were no hornets’ nests or sudden catastrophes to deal with, and Pre-Party coordinator Shane DuBose handed over the baton to Glenn Harveston and company, who had organized a more than impressive line-up representing several different varieties of contemporary Metal – all under one roof!


Raintime First up was the Italian band Raintime, celebrating their first ever appearance in the USA. Looking a tad nervous at the start, Raintime converted those initial jitters into unadulterated energy on stage, and their brand of Power-Progressive Metal (with occasional Extreme/Death Metal tendencies) took off like a rocket. The fans quickly became engaged into Raintime’s performance and the band seemed to gain composure and added vigor as their set progressed. The crowd quickly demonstrated that they were indeed “true” and serious Metal fans, as many in the audience could be heard singing along with Claudio Coassin’s lyrics – a recurring (if not surprising) phenomena regardless of which band was performing throughout the remainder of the festival.

Raintime and Andrea Corona suffered through a few keyboard technical difficulty cut-outs during their set, but by and large the band as conglomerate songwriters seem to have a good knack of integrating keyboards into their varied brand of Metal, resulting in a full-bodied and diversified live sound. Their entire set was impressive, with selections from their new release, Flies & Lies, seeming to hit home with the crowd particularly well. After clearly giving the crowd all they had, Claudio delivered heartfelt thanks to the ProgPower USA VIII crowd for their enthusiastic welcome amid a thunderous roar back from those throughout the theater … all in all, a promising (if not great) start to this Friday evening.


Communic Next to enter the stage was the 3-piece Progressive-Power-Doom Metal band from Norway, called Communic, looking very Norwegian (blonde hair, flush cheeks, and an upbeat, friendly demeanor). Just like Raintime, Communic’s ProgPower USA VIII performance represented the band’s first visit to the USA. Due to a few personal issues that needed attention back home for Erik Mortensen, Communic had to perform their show with a substitute bassist, Bjorn Harstad from the Melodic Death/Black Metal band Green Carnation, who did more than a commendable job throughout the set. Drummer Andersen was particularly impressive for Communic, knocking out quite a few complex and fast-paced beats throughout the band’s set, but at times guilty of drowning out the bass guitar and Oddleif Stensland’s 6-string. Stensland handled his guitar and vocal duties quite well, shifting effectively and smoothly between clean vocals and occasional growls.

The crowd, thirsty for as much Metal as each band could pour out, was again very responsive during Communic’s entire set, and “Waves Of Evil Decay” and the Thrashy riffs ripped out during “Thunder Under” were received with considerable appreciation. As most know, 3-piece Metal bands, especially of the Progressive-Power variety are rare, mostly because it’s difficult to cover and fill all of the complex musical demands the genre normally requires with just 1 guitarist and a bassist. Communic, however, showed they are the real deal. Their set went down flawlessly, and Stensland showed he could replicate what you hear when you listen to their recordings in a live setting quite admirably, with no detectible holes or musical gaps. This ProgPower USA VIII night so far was 2 for 2 with veterans Virgin Steele up next …


Virgin Steele Waiting through a longer-than-expected delay after the Communic set (a problem that crept up more often than it should have on both Friday and Saturday), David DeFeis and the rest of USA-born Virgin Steele invaded the stage with their European-friendly Epic/Traditional Metal style. On paper and at first blush, Virgin Steele kind of looked like the 2nd thumb on this 6-fingered band line-up for the evening, but DeFeis, Edward Pursino (guitars), Josh Block (guitars/bass), and Frank Gilchrist (drums), with their extensive stage experience quickly showed that their inclusion on this year’s ProgPower USA VIII ticket was borderline genius.

DeFeis, certainly unafraid to display his middle-aged chiseled physique, showed strong aptitude that only experience can bring towards engaging and taking control of the audience. Although neither of the Power Metal nor Progressive Metal ilk, Virgin Steele lit up the crowd with the opener “A Symphony Of Steele,” and kept up the intensity through epic tracks such as “Kingdom Of The Fearless (Destruction Of Troy),” “Defiance,” and set closer “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” To pull off hosting as many bands as ProgPower USA does each year, it’s virtually impossible for organizers to accommodate typical stage show productions of any sort … basically the bands come to play and have to rely on their music and ability to charm the crowd and make that lasting impression. Intricate light shows, stage set-up props, and pyrotechnics are just not an option. Virgin Steele, however, came about as close as any band during this festival of working a stage show. DeFeis, looking half possessed throughout the band’s set, near the end came out with a burning sword … not just a rolling flame, mind you – more like a raging torch. The first thought that likely ran through many in attendance (jam packed as it was) had to have been Great White’s catastrophe in Rhode Island several years back, and whether or not Center Stage had a fire deterrent sprinkler system – or at least a solid and orderly exit strategy should those sword flames start dancing onto the stage curtains. In the end, all’s well that ends well, and Virgin Steele, though a bit of a fish out of ProgPower USA water, pulled off a solid, enjoyable, and memorable show … indeed a nice change-up. How Virgin Steele succeeded without a bona fide bassist in the fold is a legitimate question for another debate, but they did.


Redemption Shifting back to its Progressive Metal roots, next up on ProgPower USA VIII‘s billing was Redemption, featuring guitarist Nick Van Dyk and frontman Ray Adler (Fates Warning). Unfortunately, after DeFeis’ half-demented energy and the overall rawness of Virgin Steele, Redemption’s plain clothes guy-off-the-street look with a half melancholy stage presence seemed to fall a bit flat with this crowd, who were still fired up and ready to ROCK. Supporting their 2007 Inside Out release, The Origins Of Ruin, Redemption skillfully and thoughtfully delivered a heartfelt set, but few songs seemed to solicit the constant crazy crowd reactions that the other bands thus far had earned. The song “Suffocating Silence” appeared to be the crowd’s favorite selection, but by and large much of the Redemption set proved to be a good opportunity to catch up on restroom breaks, to visit vendor displays, or to grab another beer and search for nutritional sustenance. As mentioned above, Virgin Steele seemed to be the sore thumb lineup inclusion on paper, but in the end, Redemption was the band that proved to be the odd man out on this night.


Pagan’s Mind Gearing up and ready to go at full force once again, the crowd was itching to welcome Norway’s Pagan’s Mind to the stage. Few, however, could have imagined what a treat they were truly about to witness. In a post-show interview with vocalist Nils K. Rue conducted in the backstage water closet sitting area (glamorous as hell, eh?), a more than somewhat inebriated stage crew member, midstream it must be said, blurted out a few simple, yet oh so true assessments of the Pagan’s Mind set:

“I don’t know much about you guys … f*#k, I’m not going to lie … I don’t know anything about you guys … but what I do know, is that you’re a good f*#king band … actually, you’re a GREAT f*#king band and that was one of the best f*#king sets that I’ve ever heard.”

Pagan’s Mind stormed the stage amid the majestic sounds of “New World Order,” and the crowd that had drifted off into a quasi-slumber during the Redemption set was immediately back on queue to again assume their frantic state. Rue was nothing short of outstanding, completely unafraid to reach every high note that many of songs in their set demanded. Without question, Rue held NOTHING back … he attacked the audience and punished (in a good way) their eardrums by extending out countless higher octave notes, showing unbelievable lung capacity and range. In addition to Rue, guitarist Jorn Lofstad made an indelible mark in the memory bank of each person’s mind with a sensational performance. Pagan’s Mind’s music is very complex Progressive-Power Metal, however, it’s really difficult to truly appreciate how much effort and expertise goes into playing each song until you see them performed live. During songs such as “Through Osiris Eyes,” “Enigmatic: Mission,” and “Aegean Shores,” (just to name a few), Lofstad totally lit it up. Not only did he ROCK, he really laid the foundation for a very unique playing style. You can almost always identify a Yngwie Malmsteen solo or Joe Satriani song structure … Lofstad is fast approaching this status with a noticeably unique style that blends Progressive, Thrash, and Punk soundscapes into a totally fresh and original sound. His performance was one of those rare niceties that make you want to run home and listen to the recorded versions again of certain songs performed live just to enjoy the visual flashbacks of how he was able to crank those killer riffs and technically challenging solos.

All members of the band were in top notch form with kudos also going out to bassist Steinar Krokmo, who should win the award for the entire festival for looking like he was having the best time of anyone who crossed the stage. Pickless Krokmo plucked out plenty of impressive bass riffs and fills, and indeed appeared to be the musical glue that holds Pagan’s Mind together.

On November 9, 2007, Pagan’s Mind will be releasing God’s Equation an album that promises to be as innovative and heavy as anything put out by the band thus far, and the audience was treated to a small handful of songs from this forthcoming release, including “Atomic Firelight,” “United Alliance,” and the David Bowie cover of “Hallo Spaceboy.” All were received well by this audience, and the band left the stage with the crowd clearly wanting more. Perhaps the only downside of the Pagan’s Mind set was that one of the band’s best songs from early on in their career, “Embracing Fear,” was not part of the set. Well, there’s always room for improvement, eh? … even though Pagan’s Mind’s show was about as close to perfection as it gets.

On November 9, 2007, Nils K. Rue will introduce each track from God’s Equation as part of the Metal Express Radio Daily Album Premiere Show. More details to follow … stay on top of this announcement and other special features aired daily by signing up for the Metal Express Radio weekly e-newsletter (see the right side of our homepage – it takes less than a minute to sign up!).


Sonata Arctica With a buzz still remaining in the air from the Pagan’s Mind set, Finland’s Sonata Arctica, one of the few European bands on the ProgPower USA VIII‘s ticket that routinely hits North American shores for touring purposes, was last in line as Friday’s headliner. Again, the organizers of the event did a great job of putting together a band line up that contained a good variety of Progressive-Power styles. Sonata Arctica, after the aggressive style of Pagan’s Mind, offered up a set filled with more atmospheric segments and less blistering speed and technical play. Main guitarist Elias Viljanen (E.Vil for short – check out his most recent solo album if you’re into Instrumental Metal albums), didn’t get many opportunities within the Sonata Arctica sound structure to fully display his chops, but when the occasions presented themselves, he met the challenges admirably. Tommy Portimo, looking very blonde, thin-featured, and long like a stereotypical Finn, pounded out some very interesting and unique beats, and Tony Kakko’s voice was smooth and suave throughout the set, although not overly impressive.

The band’s currently supporting their 2007 release Unia, and tracks such as “Caleb” and “In Black & White” from that album were played well. Other winners on this night were the moody “Full Moon,” “Don’t Say A Word,” and the closer “The Cage.” The crowd stayed on top of this set from beginning to end, and deservedly so (most times) for Sonata Arctica. If anything, it proves that with solid management, an “underground” band from less traveled parts of the world can make a name for themselves worldwide, gaining consistent exposure and a loyal following along the way. Well done, chaps!


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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