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Saturday 6th Oct - Sunday 7th Oct 2007
Sjiwa in Baarlo, Netherlands
Commencing Sunday's proceedings are young Dutch unsigned band Day Six. Originally appearing at the festival's pre-party back in 2004 down in the Sjiwa basement, they have come a long way in 3 years and are bestowed the honour of a main stage slot in 2007. Labelling their own music as 'Progressive Symphonic Metal', their songs encompass a whole array of their self-professed prog influences including Pink Floyd; Pain of Salvation; Porcupine Tree; Dream Theater; Nevermore; Spock's Beard; Blackfield, etc. Frontman Robbie van Stiphout is a dynamic performer with the widest range of maniacal facial expressions the festival has witnessed since Devin Townsend's memorable performance in 2004. However, with the smallish crowd enjoying Day Six's music as much as the band appear to be performing it, 3 songs into their set and the festival experiences its first ever power failure in its 9 year history. No sound; no lights; no power at all! Rumours abound as to how this occurred involving the bass player from a particular band, but whatever the reason, the organisation are to be commended for rectifying the situation after only a ten minute delay, as are Day Six for their professionalism at finishing their set undeterred when the power has been fully restored. As much as I enjoy Day Six's music, my only minor criticism is that their songs sound occasionally cluttered as if they're trying to pastiche all of their influences within a single composition. However, they are technically impressive musicians, talented live performers, and deserve their music to be heard by a wider audience.
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Next up are American technical prog-metallers Meyvn. Hailing from Austin, Texas, I believe today marks their first ever European show, and the band's first live performance outside of the States and, more specifically, Texas! With their debut album, 'Splintered Skies', released only last year on KillZone Records, I'm not overly familiar with their music, though as they start playing I'm immediately impressed by the speed and high levels of technical virtuosity each band member exhibits on stage. And then the vocals start. While frontman Rick Clark (originally from the UK) has a strong, wide ranging voice, I initially find his more traditional style of heavy/power metal singing misplaced over the technical complexities of the music à la Watchtower and Alan Tecchio (though perhaps not quite as high pitched). However, as Meyvn's set progresses, I gradually warm to Clark's vocals, and his energetic performance belies the two consecutive heavy nights on the beer I understand he had previous to today! With the majority of audience members noticeably into Meyvn's music as head nodding turns into headbanging, almost threatening to break into mosh pits (which are generally quite rare at ProgPower!), it seems the Texan sextet will return home from their European trip with many more fans. Recommended.
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Norwegian progressive rock-metallers Circus Maximus take to the stage before the diner break and appear in front of the largest crowd of the day so far. With their debut album unleashed only two years ago, the appropriately titled 'The 1st Chapter', and sophomore release 'Isolate' out this year, Circus Maximus are relatively new on the scene. Oft-compared to Dream Theater by the media, this is perhaps lazy journalism, though seeing as the Norwegians' self-professed influences are largely similar to those cited by James LaBrie and co, it is an apt comparison for both their music and compositional style. However, while Circus Maximus' fusion of 70s prog-rock and 80s metal is, in parts, congruent with Dream Theater's own pioneering fusion of those styles, they also manage to preserve a degree of originality in their music through some skilfully written material. With a pristine sound and near perfect mix through the PA, every song played is well received by an enthusiastic crowd, although I'm slightly distracted for the first 3-4 songs by frontman Michael Eriksen's pretentious gesture of sunglass wearing - is he trying to be cool? At ProgPower? Fortunately, after several Elvis style poses (where he wouldn't have looked too out of place dressed in a sequin-clad jump suit), he sensibly removes the sunglasses a third of the way through the band's set. Sunglasses or not, Eriksen's powerful vocals impress and are aurally more pleasing than Dream Theater's Canadian frontman in that he doesn't stretch his voice too much at the higher end (unlike LaBrie, who sometimes sounds pained when trying to uncomfortably reach the high notes). Overall, Circus Maximus are an impressive live band and have the potential to become a major player in the prog-metal scene.
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First on after Sunday's diner break are German band Dreamscape - more Dream Theater inspired prog. Having seen them twice before - at the ProgPower Europe pre-party last year in the Sjiwa basement, and at ProgPower UK just over six months ago - I am intrigued by today's show, as it's only their third with the new lineup after three fifths of the band left in June after what was reported to be an amicable walk-out. It is, therefore, rather astonishing that guitarist and founder member Wolfgang Kerinnis, along with sticksman Michael Schwager, managed to not only assemble a new lineup so quickly, but one that is back on the gigging circuit so soon. This is even more extraordinary when you consider the complexity of Dreamscape's lengthy compositions and how quickly the new vocalist, keyboardist and bassist have learnt the songs whereby they can be performed live as well as they are today. With their new formation, Dreamscape seem revitalised, collectively delivering a far more animated performance than when I last saw them, and reciprocating well on stage with each other as Kerinnis intermittently wanders over to his newly acquired bandmates with a beaming grin. While previous singer Roland Stoll impressed me as a frontman, new vocalist Mischa Mang is a far more animated performer and suitably hyped up for the occasion. Climaxing with the epic 20-minuter 'The End of Light', Dreamscape exit the stage to huge applause and cheers from the sizable crowd gathered in the Sjiwa having surprised many, including myself, with such an accomplished performance with the [very] new lineup.
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Penultimate band of ProgPower 2007 is Sieges Even from Germany. First appearing on the scene in the late 80s, the band quote a disparate range of influences in their music, including jazz fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth; the late bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius; 70s prog-rock acts such as Yes and Kansas; metal giants Maiden, Metallica and Pantera; and even the likes of Madonna! Playing what's best described as prog-rock with occasional metal leanings, all of their influences are audible in the music they play to varying degrees. Appearing on stage a short while after 8pm, their set of just over an hour engenders positive crowd responses as most people in the Sjiwa appear to lap up Sieges Even's musical offerings, contrary to the Clive Barker inspired 'Hellraiser' tattoo on frontman Arno Menses' left forearm - "So eager to play, so reluctant to admit it"! Although the band deliver a musically tight and generally impressive performance with an excellent sound through the PA, I find guitarist Markus Steffen's lead sound occasionally weak and lacking in depth of tone. That said, the German progsters are otherwise flawless in every other respect, and clearly a popular choice in the festival lineup with the ProgPower audience.
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As Jon Oliva takes to the stage with his fellow band members just after 10pm, around half an hour late, the largest crowd of the weekend by far is gathered in the Sjiwa eagerly anticipating a set that has been promised to incorporate both Jon Oliva's Pain tracks and classic Savatage songs. Commencing with a retro-vibe, 'Warriors' from 1985 release 'Power of the Night', the ProgPower audience bounce up and down en masse as a sea of fists punch the air in a wide display of metal horns. This opening number is complete with a mild Spinal Tap moment as Oliva's mic cuts out, only for a roadie to appear on stage and turn it back on for him (I'm guessing he got confused by a stand-by switch rather than the actual on/off switch!). The set continues with 'Sirens', opening title track from Savatage's 1983 debut, and '24 Hours Ago' from 1987's 'Hall of the Mountain King'. And then the first JOP song - title track from latest album 'Maniacal Renderings'. This becomes the pattern for their two hours on stage - Savatage classics (including six songs from 'Streets: A Rock Opera') interposed with a scattering of JOP compositions. Oliva, a masterful showman, spends virtually the entire set smiling which I'm sure has more to do with him enjoying the moment and reciprocating with the lively crowd rather than the large amount of Jägermeister he seems to drink during the show and, of course, his 'smoking'! Guitarist Matt LaPorte impresses me as he did at ProgPower UK this year with his accomplished fretboard work, and I'm still left wondering what configuration of effects he uses to attain such a richly tonal sound out of a Telecaster, while bassist Kevin Rothney strikes every clichéd metal pose known to man in a wildly energetic performance. Climaxing with encore song 'Hall of the Mountain King', JOP provide an insanely entertaining finale to ProgPower 2007, and as they exit the stage, virtually everyone in the Sjiwa (including the bar staff!) sing loudly in unison as some sort of mutual appreciation for their collective enjoyment of the Mountain King and his clan. JOP are unashamedly cheesy, though pure metal entertainment.
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Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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