ProgPower USA XXII – Day 3 – September 8, 2023 – Center Stage Theater, Atlanta, GAThursday, 19th October 2023
When ProgPower USA first started out, there were only 2 days, but by the 3rd edition, another day was added. Eventually this expanded to 4 days that were billed as Kick-Off and Mid-Week Mayhem, and the main 2 days were called Day 1 & Day 2. These pre-fest days typically had 3-4 bands, and in 2016, the festival changed to be considered 4 full days rather than just pre-fest days, gradually expanding the number of bands on the first 2 days to be 4-5 bands. While days 3 and 4 are still considered the main days of the fest, many, including myself, now consider it all as one festival. Tickets for days 1 & 2 are sold separately and 3 & 4 are sold as a package, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it all as one someday. With that little bit of history out of the way, let’s dive into Day 3.
German progressive rockers The Cryptex were first up and really got the crowd going. Their 4th album, Nimbus, was set to release at the end of the month, and they actually brought 30 copies to sell early. Based on some comments made by lead vocalist Simon Moskon, it sounded like this was much to the chagrin of their label, Phonotraxx Publishing. This also led to a setlist that was heavy with many of the new tracks. I had not yet had the pleasure of listening to this latest offering, so this was quite a treat, and I’m confident I was not the only one chomping at the bit to hear this sonic experience in full. Their range was truly incredible, going from heavier tracks to beautiful piano ballads. Toward the end, Moskon even smashed a microphone stand while André Jean Henri Mertens’ fingers danced along the fretboard, playing a masterfully crafted solo. But why this abuse of a mic stand, you may ask?
As excellent of a warmup as this was to the fest, we found out later that The Cryptex had a heck of a time with traveling. Their flight from New York City was initially delayed 2 hours, then another 2 hours, but by midnight, they were on the plane. This would have been an annoying inconvenience, but instead, after an hour on the plane, they were told the flight was canceled. Their crew was actually able to get a 6am flight, but the earliest they could get the band to Atlanta was 2pm, which is when their set was scheduled to start, and there were no other options from JFK. ProgPower’s Glenn and Milton find that they can get them on flights out of Newark at 7am, so they get them an Uber to Newark which is an hour away. Now, that flight is delayed until 9am, but thankfully they found a flight they could get on with standby that departed at 8am. At this point, by the time they got to the venue, they had 2 hours to get everything prepped and their sound check was able to be completed 10 minutes before they went on. These guys hadn’t slept for 36 hours, and were still able to put on an insanely impressive performance. They deserve all the applause, and Moskon fully deserved to destroy that mic stand!
Back in May, it was announced that Wind Rose was canceling their performance, with the official statement on May 17th citing “scheduling conflicts,” this struck many as odd. Turns out 2 days earlier, it was announced by Feffarkhorn – an Italian Folk/Celtic festival – that they would be playing there instead. Not a good look, to say the least.
Thankfully, Battle Beast heeded the call, stepped up to the plate, and definitely hit a home run with the crowd. I was initially bummed I wouldn’t get to see them, since their Florida show was taking place the next day. They also got to play a longer set than they did on their tour dates, so the crowd got to hear “Familiar Hell,” “No More Hollywood Endings” and “Bastard Son of Odin.” While their latest record, Circus of Doom was going to clearly be at the forefront, it was a little disappointing to not hear anything from their first 3 records, but alas, that’s what happens once you start getting that amount of material.
Noora Louhimo always has the most amazing stage outfits and presence, with this day being no exception; long frills from her arms and horns on her head, she was set to attack the stage. There was a time around the late 90s into the early 00s when most female fronted bands felt like they were all attempting to get a operatic vocalist like Tarja Turunen, and while I thoroughly enjoy her voice, it was getting a little old hearing nothing but that within metal, aside from a few exceptions such as Doro and Elisa C. Martín (Hamka, ex-Dark Moor, ex-Fairyland). Louhimo has a gripping voice, and combined with catchy leads and a powerful rhythm, it’s easy to see how Battle Beast really helped break the mold in female-fronted power metal. Although at one point they did jokingly claim they were the greatest viking metal band and started playing the “Twilight of the Thunder God” riff and got a good laugh from the crowd before going into “Bastard Son of Odin.” You can’t trick this crowd though, everyone knows Battle Beast is Finnish, not Swedish, plus there wouldn’t be a rowing pit until the following day.
If ProgPower USA is known for anything, it’s special shows, such as U.S. first appearances and that’s exactly what was up next. Ad Infinitum is one of my favorite bands, so to say I was excited would be a massive understatement. For this scribe, Melissa Bonny is tied with Adrienne Cowan (Seven Spires) for favorite female vocalists – they both have absolutely beautiful voices, haunting growls and untouchable ranges. Much like Seven Spires, Ad Infinitum may be “female-fronted,” but that is not what defines this band. The quartet works as a unit, with a pounding rhythm and infectious leads.
Their latest album, Chapter III – Downfall came out back in March, and has since received great praise. Obviously, it was expected to have a setlist heavily featuring this latest offering, and if that’s what one was hoping for, then this show would not disappoint. 3 tracks from the original printed setlist were not played, but had it not been for that, then half of the new album would have been on display. Still, 6 out of 14 isn’t bad, but for those keeping track, 2 of those 14 are actually instrumentals of other tracks on the album, so in some ways you could consider half the album played. The only song I wish had been played was “Marching on Versailles,” but that’s something to look forward to in future performances.
Click here for more Green Carnation photos from ProgPower XXII
This isn’t the last we’ve seen of Bonny today, but now it’s time for the legendary Green Carnation. After a difficult American tour (both with the routing and promoting) in 2006, the band split up in 2007 with Tchort remaining, but saying Green Carnation would likely never play live again. As someone who was just getting into metal around 2006 and not discovering them until a couple years later, it was disappointing to know I’d likely never get to see them live. Fellow Dead Rhetoric writer (and my husband) Dan Barkasi did have the pleasure of seeing them at a place called Screwy Louie’s (yes, that’s really the name) in Kent, OH, and his signed poster from that tour is something he has always cherished. Then in 2014 it was announced they would play live again, but would they come to the U.S.? Well, in 2015 I clearly remember watching the announcement video and seeing green scales and then “1 set, 1 album, 1 song” and I screamed out “IS IT REALLY GREEN CARNATION?!” I think by now everyone knows it was their exclusive U.S. performance of Light of Day, Day of Darkness.
I doubt we will ever see another U.S. tour for Green Carnation, but thankfully we have ProgPower USA, and they gladly came back this year to put on an exceptional performance. Standing in for Tchort (who unfortunately cannot get a U.S. Visa) was Trond Breen, and this was also his first electric set with the band, as prior to this he had just played on The Acoustic Verses tour. Breen also ingratiated himself with Atlanta locals by sporting an Atlanta Falcons hat throughout the performance.
Many classics were played, but also the band’s newest single “The World Without a View” – and, I know this was released almost 3 years ago, but it’s still the newest and as far as I can tell, this has only been played live previously at ProgPower Europe in 2022, so a rare treat indeed! The band also performed an electric version of “Sweet Leaf” and had those of us who would be attending the VIP/Gold Badge show the next day debate if we would hear both versions. Time will tell.
Click here for more Caligula’s Horse photos from ProgPower XXII
Caligula’s Horse was up next, and let’s talk about just how amazing this performance was. While in the photo pit, I saw folks on the barricade emotionally singing along when “Slow Violence” started – this was just the second song in and already they’ve moved some folks to wonder “What is this salty discharge?” – at least the ones that hadn’t been there to experience The Reticent.
Once the crowd was warmed up, we were treated to an Australian slang lesson. This is one thing I love about these guys; they always have such great crowd interactions and are so incredibly funny. They definitely got the crowd chanting, even just random things, more than any other band of the fest – you’d think this was a wrestling show. They also hit on some serious subjects though, before “Salt” was played, Grey told how much this song meant to them and this was the moment someone decided to shout something indecipherable. While shouting stuff out can be funny, please be tactful, otherwise Jim Grey will tell you to “shut the fuck up.” One thing he said that I think really hit many of us hard is when telling how a lot of moments can feel too heavy and even the rest of your life can feel that way, remember “you don’t have to make it for the rest of your life, you just have to make it until tomorrow.”
This show was the signoff show for their Rise Radiant tour, and I hope it was cherry on top for them, but remember how in 2019 Caligula’s Horse played ProgPower USA – announcing a new album coming out in 2020, and that they’ll be back to the U.S. and, as Grey put it “In doing so, I cursed the fucking world.” While we all had a good laugh, he then proceeded to tell us they have a new album coming out next year, and they will be back to the U.S. Here’s to hoping that was a one off curse.
Days 3 and 4 2024 Announcement
If you’ve never attended ProgPower, you might be thinking Kamelot is up next, but you’d be wrong. Before the headliner is the roster presentation for days 3 & 4. Now the format of this announcement has changed over the years, but since I have been going there’s always been some kind of announcement video, and it’s always so beautifully done, courtesy of Wayne Joyner. Most years I always like to make a list of guesses in advance which include both realistic and unrealistic options. I won’t bore you with my giant list, but I did correctly guess Amorphis! Not surprising that another striking (yes, that pun is intended) lineup has been booked with Day 3 consisting of Striker, Fifth Angel, Elegy, Soen, Lovebites, and Amorphis. Day 4 continued to impress with Frozen Crown, Disillusion, Eleine, Damian Wilson, Pagan’s Mind, Winger (Performing Pull). While Winger is obviously a special set, this writer is extra excited for Damian Wilson, as he will be performing a special set from across his amazing career. This includes his work with Threshold, Ayreon, Star One, Headspace, Landmarq, Arena, and who knows what else he may throw into the mix. While there will be some shows for this coming up, ProgPower USA is always special, so I’m going to keep my fingers crossed for some extra surprises!
Enough looking to the future, let’s look a bit to the past. Kamelot has always been a very special band to me, they were one of the earliest bands I got into when I started listening to metal, and back in 2007, they became my first metal concert. Many of their songs have gotten me through tough times in my life, so whenever they are on the bill, I’m very happy. Having 13 full-length albums with the releases of their latest The Awakening, it probably becomes more difficult each time to pick a setlist, but they always seem to be able to pull off a wonderful combo of new and beloved classics.
Kamelot are no strangers to the ProgPower USA stage from their first performance at the festival in November 2001 to now, they are a beloved staple. While lead vocalist Tommy Karevik has performed ProgPower USA 3 times before with his prior band, Seventh Wonder, this would be his first time taking the stage with Kamelot (unless you count their tour stop being Center Stage twice in 2012 before ProgPower USA, but as far as I know that wasn’t officially considered part of the festival that year). As mentioned earlier, Melissa Bonny was also back to contribute her unique vocal talents to 7 songs; both the female vocal parts and the growls in songs like “March of Mephisto” and my personal favorite track from their latest offering “New Babylon.”
While there were some sound hiccups during a couple songs (major kudos to the sound technicians that fixed it so quickly), it actually was really interesting to watch everyone continue to play and the crowd sung their hearts out showing just how well we all know and love this band. With how the band didn’t miss a beat, one has to wonder if their ear monitors were still playing things back or they just truly are that talented – my money would be on the latter, especially with the way Karevik kept adjusting his earpiece.
Almost a decade ago folks wondered when Roy Khan left Kamelot if it would be their downfall, but Thomas Youngblood is such an incredibly skilled guitarist and songwriter, as evidenced by pre-Khan Kamelot era, that most of us knew this would be just a transition to a new era. Even if Karma remains (and probably always will because of tracks like “Don’t You Cry” hitting so close to home) my favorite Kamelot record, that doesn’t detract from any later works. Kamelot gave the crowd the perfect end to day 3 and while many stayed for what looked to be a fun after party, we needed some sleep to be ready for the final day of ProgPower USA XXII.
Stay turned for Day 4 (including the Green Carnation VIP/Gold Badge show) to follow!