ProgPower USA XVI: Day One
28th September 2015, 13:00
Posted by Chris
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We travel to the USA to attend one of North America’s hidden musical gems – the progressive and power metal festival known as ProgPower USA now in it’s 16th edition! On today’s kick-off billing we see 4 bands, including one British heavy metal legend…

September 10th, 2015
Center Stage
Atlanta, GA, USA
Support Bands: Saxon, Armored Saint, Dragonland, Almah

In the Midtown venue of Center Stage in Atlanta, the promoters of this festival have sought to bring premier European talent over for rare North American appearances, and over the 16 years they have met considerable success selling-out for the past few editions of the festival.

This year the festival met some considerable difficulties with numerous bands being forced to cancel their appearances, some at the last minute, due to visa issues entering the United States. However the show must go on, and the promoters did their utmost to continue to provide the great experience they have provided to all the loyal festival goers, and in the face of adversity they very much succeeded. Onward to the the music!

Almah

The first to hit the stage of the ProgPower USA were Brazilian power metal outfit Almah, formed in 2006 as a side project of ex-Angra singer Edu Falaschi progressing into a full active band after his departure from Angra. The band were set for their USA debut tonight fairing up to the Atlanta crowd.

The band kicked off the festivities with ‘Wings of Revolution’ demonstrating their position as a power metal force, and despite some initial sound problems the epic hooks of the track rung around the venue and immediately had fans and curious patrons alike belting out the chorus. Falaschi’s vocals provided the audience with reminiscence of the Angra days with the musicians in the band proving their talent with fast harmonised solos and heavy riffing in tracks like ‘Living & Drifting‘.

The show seem however that Falaschi is struggling to let go of the Angra days, as 3 of the 9 songs in the setlist included Angra covers, which considering Almah have 6 albums filled with fantastic power metal under their belt is a bit of an odd feat. Especially when the band travels this far to help promote themselves with their North American audiences. All the music was executed flawlessly though, and proved that Almah should be a bigger force to be reckoned with than they are in power metal.

almah

Dragonland

Sweden’s Dragonland who have played very few shows in their 15-year career were another band set to make their USA debut tonight. With guitarist Olof Morck finding success with his band Amaranthe, Dragonland appearances are few and far between, but tonight we are treated to an hour’s long performance.

The band’s intro rings out introducing the classic track ‘Shadow of the Mithril Mountains‘, and as the opening notes fire up the band burst on stage with high energy. Plenty of fans have shown up tonight to witness the performance underlining the fact that a Dragonland live show is a rarity, but the musicians effort and clinical precision of the performed tracks would certainly make a fan feel like the band have been performing every night throughout their career.

Vocalist Jonas Heidgert puts in a sublime performance demonstrating his vocal range in ‘A Thousand Towers White‘ while storming around the stage and firing up the audience before laying down an epic duet with Brittney Slayes of Unleash the Archers in ‘Cassiopeia‘.

It was one of those performances where you savour every moment, as there was always that thought of knowing that Dragonland may not play the USA again, but the performance certainly lived up to the quality of the music. Tracks like ‘Starfall‘ and ‘Durnir’s Forge‘ were the highlights maximising the audience engagement with the band looking like they too were enjoying themselves, and also being treated to a rare violin performance from Olof Morck on the track ‘Lady of Goldenwood‘.

A few technical hiccups sadly forced Dragonland to cut their set short, but it turns out that this would not be the first and only USA performance…to be continued!

dragonland

Armored Saint

Armored Saint are one of those bands that have musically never tickled my fancy, but I have found it fascinating how they abandoned their career early in the 90’s and have erratically decided to reinvigorate it and random times. But here they are providing the next hour plus of entertainment tonight, and I’m always happy to give a band a chance live!

And Armored Saint perfectly proved that they are in it to win it. Despite some sound problems that caused minor delays in the performance the band were there to win your attention, and say ‘yes, we are alive and kicking’.

Serving as a precursor to the headliner tonight, the band kick-off with ‘Win Hands Down‘ that gets that classic heavy metal sound running through the venue. After the fantasy trip that was Dragonland we were brought back to earth with the punishing sound that is Armored Saint.

Classic tracks such as the fist pounding ‘Reign of Fire‘ and the triumphant ‘Can U Deliver‘, captivated the audience even though a fair few members of they weren’t overly familiar with the band’s discography (guilty of that myself!). And the members of the band certainly did their utmost to get everbody involved.

It was a good show, and definitely painted quite a few new shades of respect for the band. It sounds like they are going to keep going, and travel the world to show the relevance and influence of Armored Saint on the heavy metal genre.

Saxon

And the night prepares to be wrapped up by the British heavy metal legends that are Saxon. Before this show, they were currently on a botched US your supporting Motörhead, of whom had to cancel a few dates due to Lemmy’s health. While Saxon have struggled a bit to keep their magic alive outside of Europe, tonight they have the opportunity to perform in a full headline role and show the USA why they deserve to be top billing.

And top billing they certainly deserve! Saxon thundered out after a prolonged intro with their classic track ‘Motorcycle Man‘, and instantly proved why these five men from Yorkshire are veterans of the industry. The sound was perfect, the light show was rampant and frontman Biff Byson completely owned the stage, with the audience bowing at his every command.

The band quickly moved on to showcase their newer material with the lick heavy ‘Battering Ram‘ proving that Saxon can write heavy metal for the modern age, despite heading into their 40th anniversary next year. It is easy to assume a band like this are old, ragged and irrelevant, but the display of tracks like ‘Power and the Glory‘ and ‘Heavy Metal Thunder‘ prove why Saxon own what they do, and have a few things to teach the younger heavy metal bands out there.

It was quite special to see Saxon perform in such an intimate venue, considering the last time I saw them was amongst 50’000 people at Wacken last year. It is a rare occasion to see them on a stage this small, but it did not deter one bit from their performance. It may have in fact enhanced it! A happy Saxon belted out the final tracks of ‘Wheels of Steel‘ and of course ‘Princess of the Night‘ before a delighted audience demanded a return of ‘Crusader‘ and a wrap up of ‘Denim & Leather‘.

saxon

An absolutely fantastic band to get the ProgPower party going, and an excitable kick-off into the main festivities!