Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Progpower Europe 5 -6 October 2012

Are there any Dutchies in the Hall? Any non Dutch?. This question from A Liquid Landscape and the subsequent raising of arms made the penny finally drop for me. As repeatedly told by Josy: You should write in English. After all the very few followers probably get it still and the hits from search machines out of Russia, Australia or Argentina might now be able to read what you write.So herewith my official first move into English blogging and what better to start it off than with the annual highlight on the music front: The ProgPower Europe Festival.

Baarlo is the place to be for every first weekend in October and not only for Progmetal lovers from Holland, but very much so from all over Europe, with even the odd visitor from far overseas. After last year's very unfortunate accident this year even started with an extra Thursday evening commemoration and pub show. I did not manage to join this, neither to stay for the full weekend, so my 2012 Progpower was reduced to an early 2000's edition of the Friday night and a full Saturday. Still 9 bands, a return to Camping de Berckt and meeting many friends from abroad made it yet another memorable weekend.

Friday night started of with the somewhat strange Orkenkjott from Norway. As entertaining as they were, there was the constant need for changing musical directions and styles, which made them confusing to follow. Also glitter and painted faces for the guitarists, Sjimmie on bass and a vocalist that looked like Biker-Jesus-later-turning-redneck-yank, made things not like your average Progmetal outfit. Very positive I found their performance and what they played in bits and pieces sounded actually very nice, but why not stay with the Doom metal, or the heavy metal, or the ..... End of the month they get a second chance while supporting Leprous. Still trying to figure out if I am looking forward to that or not really.

Anubis Gate from Denmark, brought us back to more conservative and predictable Melodic Progressive metal. While saying that I must add, that being less extravagant is not always a bad thing. I liked their performance with solid songs and playing. Their bass player/vocalist reminded me somewhat of Glenn Hughes in his poses and that was the only point to comment on their performance. Good band.

You look over 40, so you should like our Friday Night headliner Heaven's Cry. As Christiaan (sorry if I am mixing up names) told me earlier this year during an Obscura, Gorod, Exivious show. And right he was (about both my age and my liking of Heaven's Cry) Never seen them before I was pleasantly surprised when after three songs the sound problems were solved and the Bass player turned out to have a live voice as good as on CD. Their music is complex and with a new CD being released the very day I noticed sometimes an attention span lapse over the new work. But the show was great and especially their Food for Though Substitute songs made a strong impression (probably since I know that CD best) Definitely a worthy Friday night Headliner and listening to their new CD at home, glad I got the last copy.

Saturday morning waking by rain noises on the trailer the possibilities were limited. With no chance to run along on Sunday morning run, decided to go for a round along Maas, Castle, village and back. Always good to run the beer out and get a clean conscious for starting all over again. Saturday gave me some expectations with an interesting program, although several bands I only heard songs from through the net mainly thanks to Andy's great radio show, which can be heard through DPRP.

A Liquid Landscape got some great reviews. Entering the room, when they just opened, I was impressed with their build up and sound. On stage a very sympathetic looking band played their progressive rock songs very well and the good result was that by the end of their set the audience had doubled. Somehow the band seemed impressed that the audience got their music, but this is not your average festival crowd. I for one was convinced enough to get their CD after the show and realizing that this turned into one of my favorite national bands after just one show. They tour with Paatos this autumn, so maybe a second impression in November.

The first ever band from Ireland to play at Progpower; Shattered Skies. With the Irish having a very musical culture and a legacy of Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore and for me also Sandstone some expectations. Just heard some songs on the show from the metal mayor from Stroud and their bandcamp site I quite liked what I heard so far. After the standing still to listen experience with ALL before, this was all about moving along (Anyone for headbanging at 3 'o clock in the afternoon?, you can now).A very dynamic show, with great presentation by their very Irish Vocalist. Their music seemed a blend of Heavy Metal with some overdose on the tech side by their very good guitarist, bass player and drummer. Most interesting stage performance came from the bass player dancing fanatically towards his amplifiers. Young as they are their music can be downloaded. One of the most asked questions to them by the aging audience definitely must have been, where are your CD's?

And then after the progressive rock from A Liquid Landscape, the progressive Heavy Metal from Shattered Skies, ended the perfect build-up with Progressive Thrash metal from Alarum. some years ago I did not yet fully get their show, but earlier this year I heard a song from their new CD Natural Causes, which made me buy the album and what a blast it is. One of the highlights of the year, which includes in For New Creation a song that shall make my top-three of songs of the year, what a killer hook! Live this was a show of taking no prisoners a constant flow of uptempo harsh metal, covered with the really unearthly play of the two best guitarists of the festival. This was a show between gazing amazed at the stage and banging your head until a sudden jazz break would take you to a next flow. The band seemed to enjoy themselves a lot, pleased to get this hard stuff out right live. Even the loosening of a cable turned into an optimistic intermezzo by replugging just in time for a three note jazz break. For me the highlight of PPE 2012. And summing up the afternoon, this might well have been the best afternoon program I ever saw at Progpower. Three very different bands spanning almost my whole taste range from progressive rock to technical death metal, and all performing well above my already high expectations.

After the dinner break Mark from Alarum came back on stage now with Levitation Hex. This was Heavy, very much so actually. But while Alarum had a brilliant break by every blink of an eye this was more of a constant storm hitting you full in the face. The timing was not the best after the perfect afternoon and with hunger kicking in, it was off to Milano for a Shoarma pizza (speaking of traditions) after four songs. Maybe like Alarum I need a second attempt to get it, but now they madelittle impact.

Dan Swano on stage with Nightingale. I have several CD's from them and like their traditional Hard Rock with Dan's deep voice. The show kicked off with just that voice and dressed in a yellow ELO T-shirt huge Dan made a stage impression. When the band joined all sounded good and a great show was to be expected. After some songs all solidly performed some disinterest started hitting in. Maybe there was too little difference inbetween songs and did I miss the powerfull grunt that makes Edge of Sanity such an outstanding band. The ballad Alonely made things happening on stage. Unfortunately not as planned, since the guitar solo went lost by technical problems. Also here it was that Andrew's research on what the Russian hat was all about started, which together with the shirtless remainder of the set could have been hidden in the lyrics, but we never knew. Concluding a good show, but I expected more due to lack of variety.

Closer for my PPE 2012 was Vandenplas. I pretty much liked the Vondenpinkel T-shirts, but there is something about Vandenplas that doesn't work for me. They seem relaxed enough, they have good songs and play very well, but last times I saw them I always felt like something was missing. Maybe it is in the Christ poses from Mr. Kuntz, or the little communication with audience, but with them I tend to get the feeling I might just as well listen to a CD from them at home. The Sjiwa looked pretty full when they were on and reactions were positive, so I might have been one of the few. Also known from experience headliners tend to have a harder time in convincing me, since starting at 13:30 hrs I get somewhat tired and thus critical around 22:30 hrs. Still appreciating the musicianship I did enjoy the show and my beer.

A short festival for me this year, did not stop me from enjoying the usual mix of discovering great new bands (A :Liquid Landscape, Shattered Skies),  see some bands meeting my expectations (Anubis Gate, Heaven's Cry) and being blast away by a surprising good show (Alarum). Thanks go out to the organization, for making this possible and already filled out their questionnaire with my suggestions for next year for Headliners Fates Warning, Watchtower and Psychotic Waltz, plus several great bands that  released brilliant CD's in 2012 like Headspace, Linear Sphere, Gorod and Stealing Axion. If they follow my requests or not: I'll be back.

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