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There was a scheduled 1hour diner break preceding Loch Vostok's set which I spent eating a rather bland tagliatelle dish in a nearby eetcafé while having a chat to one of the ProgPower Europe organisers. Arriving back at the venue a few minutes before Loch Vostok were due to commence, I was surprised to find them already on stage and, as it transpired, roughly two thirds through their hour long set. I'm guessing they were asked to play earlier to make up time lost when Transmission0 were around half hour late starting. I was not familiar with this Swedish band before today, and based on the 20 or so minutes I saw, failed to be impressed. Playing a fusion of progressive, power, and death metal, they have a fairly original sound, though it didn't work for me I'm afraid.
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Mörglbl is the name of French guitar virtuoso Christophe Godin's jazz-metal fusion project. Also featuring Ivan Rougny on bass and Jean-Pierre Frelezeau on drums, the trio of highly skilled musicians play a series of Vai/Satriani inspired up tempo instrumental numbers. I'm guessing with a degree of improvisation too as the three performers communicate well on stage with both their playing and range of facial expressions. When Mörglbl initially appear the crowd is sparse in the main concert hall, though grows to a significant size after a couple of minutes, and they manage to sustain this large audience through their fun attitude and virtuosic display of musicianship. Godin is a very likeable individual with a fantastic sense of humour as he entertains the crowd with his between-song banter. He also thanks the liberal minded people at Headway for having the opportunity to play at the festival and states Mörglbl are very pleased to be able to do so. The French trio receive one of the best crowd reactions of the festival, and leave the stage to massive cheers and applause. Absolutely awesome!
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I'd not heard of American band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum prior to this evening so had absolutely no idea what to expect. Apart from Canada, tonight marks their first show outside of the States. A few minutes before they begin, the curtains are drawn to reveal the band on stage, still soundchecking, and dressed in unusual dungaree/dress style outfits and face paint/makeup. What follows is an hour long set of incredibly original music coupled with an eccentric, almost theatrical performance. I shall not even attempt to describe their music as no text will do it justice, but there are some heavy guitar parts; male/female vocals; incessantly changing time signatures; alternately discordant and melodious violin; plus a whole array of unusual and interesting sounds. Apart from the conventional guitar, bass, drums etc, SGM play a lot of homemade instruments including bassist Dan Rathbun's Slide-piano Log, which he uses near the beginning of their set. It appears to be built from a long piece of wood (a few feet in length) and piano strings, which he plays using 2 sticks. Each song played is preceded by short bizarre introductions by vocalist/guitarist Nils Frykdahl that are almost nonsensical, though apt for SGM's performance. They defy categorisation and are, without a doubt, one of the most original and genuinely progressive bands I've ever seen - SGM are iconoclastic through both their music and live show. They are sublime in their eccentricity and ingenious through their transcendence and make Mike Patton's various musical ventures seem comparatively 'normal' and mainstream. SGM are wonderfully eccentric, versatile in their creativity, wholly original, truly progressive and musically innovative. I cannot recommend this band enough - they are mindblowingly fucking awesome! And I'm not alone in that opinion as many people in P60 rush to the merchandise stall after their performance to buy CDs. Sheer brilliance.
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Having been very impressed by Redemption's recently released new album 'The Origins of Ruin', I was looking forward to Saturday's headline act. Featuring Fates Warning's Ray Alder on vocals, the American band play Dream Theater style prog with similar virtuoso musicianship. A couple of songs into their set, Alder rhetorically asks the audience "how do we follow that" in reference to Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and, if they were on form, with a back catalogue of strong material, they perhaps could have. However, the band seem rather subdued on stage as their performance lacks the energy of the material they play. This is not aided by a bass-heavy mix through the PA which clouds their overall sound. Guitar riffs and leads lack any clarity and keyboards are incredibly muffled during most songs. Worse still is Alder's voice which sounds fine for the first 3 songs, after which he seems to struggle hitting the high notes as he mostly sings to the floor rather than the audience. An awful cover of Faith No More's 'The Real Thing' doesn't help matters, and a lot of audience members seem to lose interest as their set progresses. Very disappointing.
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Friday 6th April - Saturday 7th April 2007
P60 in Amstelveen, Netherlands
With their debut album only just released, Dial are perhaps best know for containing ex-Pain of Salvation bass player Kristoffer Gildenlow. The band state their diverse range of influences include Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Anathema, Massive Attack, Tori Amos and Queen, so I was quite intrigued as to how they would sound. Initially, Gildenlow appears on stage by himself and plays pieces of music on various instruments including bass and electronic drum pads, which he loops to build into a coherent whole and this works as a great atmospheric tension building piece. Other members of Dial then join him on stage, and the band work their way through a 45 minute set of fairly original prog rock songs. Vocalist Liselotte Hegt, with her distinctive false eye lashes, doesn't have the world's greatest voice, though her occasionally dissonant tones and almost raw punk-like qualities fit the music perfectly. On some tracks, Dial remind me of Melanie Garside's Maple Bee project although beyond that, Gildenlow lends many of the songs his great vocals which are not too dissimilar from brother and Pain of Salvation frontman Daniel's. Throughout their set, band members occasionally swap instruments which keeps matters interesting, and Gildenlow communicates well with the audience through his laid-back stage persona. Early in the set, he shows off his multi-lingual skills by speaking Swedish, Dutch, then settling for English when he asks the P60 crowd if they want him to speak the latter and the general response is yes. Overall, very impressive.
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Next up are Sweden's Seventh Wonder. I'd only heard one of their tracks before Headway - 'Star of David' - and remember being impressed. I cannot say the same of today. Playing fairly cheesy prog-rock metal, Seventh Wonder have a weak sound and bad mix through the PA which deprives their songs of any punch. On the positive side, singer Tommy Karevik delivers an impressively powerful vocal performance despite the fact he seems to be suffering with a cold. This engenders unintentional humour in their set as when he speaks to the audience between songs, his voice repeatedly 'squeaks', prompting him to say "just call me a girl", to which someone in the crowd obliges and shouts "girl"! Seventh Wonder are very talented musicians but, for me, are nothing special live today.
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Dutch band Transmission0 open the second day of Headway 2007. Exceeding their allotted half hour slot by 10 or so minutes, no-one seems to complain as the experimental rock-metallers treat the Headway audience to a slickly performed set of atmospheric, absorbing music. Fusing captivating synth-led soundscapes with sporadic bursts of heavy guitar and pounding drums, watching/listening to Transmission0 is a mesmerising experience. Tension-building lengthy instrumental passages are interspersed with Michiel van der Avoird's passionately delivered vocals, and the band have a pristine sound through the PA. Transmission0's varied styles of rock and metal reminds me in places of Isis and Tool, and some guitar riffing also brings to mind Primordial. In short, Transmission0 are stunning.
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