Monday, 3 October 2016

Prog Power Europe - Sjiwa Baarlo 1/2 October 2016

No, Prog Power did not reduce this year to the  two day event of the early years. I could not make it on the Friday, so herewith some thoughts on the last twelve bands. Actually the real start of Progpower 2016 was already on Wednesday to me, when Andrew and Celine joined me to Obsidian Kingdom a bicycle ride away from home. This year's festival also suffered from a ridiculous amount of competition, with Epic Metal Fest and Euroblast being the big ones fishing in the same progmetal pond, while also many interesting smaller bands played not that far from Baarlo Dead Lord and Lizzies or Sinistro to name just a few. Still the effect of all this poor timing was neglectible, as ProgPower grew for years into something bigger than the actual bands playing there. Not stating that the bands don't make the festival, just confirming the fact that no matter the line-up some 85% of the audience shall show up anyway. This means you meet lots of friends over the days and manage to not exchange a word with some of them or meet people for the first time, who also happen to be there for the umptieth time. Finally glad to see that Pois Chic was back and Andy and Debbie already discussed plans for next year's return.

Saturday kicked off moody and almost instrumental with Belgian band Atmospheres. A pretty good band with some nice instrumental sessions. I did get the impression that a vocalist could add something at times, but the general impression was positive. What I further remember most are the metal poses of the central stage placed bass player, funny at times. And then for something completely different 6:33 came on. Coming on the stage fit, or with some help, their masks stood out first. These were not the Progmetal Crimson Glory type of masks, but coming closer to the Slipknot headwear. Starting the music the drums stayed under cover, while two keyboards gave us a base. Musically I do not recall all the details really (I take no notes). This was just a show to watch and undergo. Very entertaining band on stage and definitely one to go and see again while in the area. At times the music went carnavalesk, but to me they could get away with anything,since they gave us a show. Last band before the dinner break was Distorted Harmony from Israel. To me this band played music I heard before, although not knowing them yet. They seemed a kind of Symphony X light, so not dissimilar to several bands we saw before during other years, but with a good performance. After one spicy falafel salad I prepared myself for the band I was looking forward to most on the Saturday: In Mourning. A few years ago they impressed and since then they released The Weight of Oceans and Afterglow, two fine albums. Compared with some years ago, their hair got shorter, their beards fuller, but the show stayed pretty much at the same level. Progressive Death Metal with the occasssional break into calm guitar interludes. Grunts, shouts and a few clean passages. They played a mix of their albums and my expectations were met. Great band. Hereafter Chaos Divine came on. Australian band that played thrashy prog, with a surprise cover of Africa (Toto). This was a good band but for me they suffered a bit of having to follow up a highlight. Your energy tends to go down and you regain forces near the bar. Closer of the Saturday were Textures. This band released Phenotype this year and followed this by playing almost all available festivals around. I even got to see them on the beach near my house. This means that they are not a new thing to the Ducth part of the audience. Someone advised them halfway that being dutch is making part of a minority at Progpower, so announcements swapped to English and on they went. That is what they did most, be heavy and rock on. Good closer of the day, bringing lots of energy to the stage.

Sunday was the day I looked forward to most. Some bands I knew would surely be good and something to discover inbetween. Opener were Smallman from Bulgaria, probably the least known band from the festival. Over breakfast we had some fun over their not so metal bandname, but seeing them kick off, they shut us up. Mixing some folky instruments with atmospheric music they were the annual eastern european surprise of the festival. Next on were Sadist, one of my favorites of this year's line-up. I saw them only once before, some ten years ago and liked their tech metal a lot. Guitars and Keyboards played by the same guy, six string bass for some small breaks, some furious drumming and vocals that remind me of the agressive bits of Jon Oliva, but then all the time.  From One Thousand Memories until closer Sometimes They Come Back, we got an overview of their 25 year career. These are the bands I love most at Progpower, with their crazy instrumental masterclass on stage, while the heaviness never gets lost. I did have the impression they could have played some 15 minutes longer, or was time just flying by: a highlight. Klone from France followed and again suffering from following a high, they failed to impress me. Musically Ok, but a bit more of the same after a while, and the vocals could be more singing less moaning. After the dinner break Nordic Giants would be on. Progpower's Christian advised me the day before that it might not be my cup of tea. He doesn't know that I do like bands as Sigur Ross, GY!BE as well, which makes this not a huge step away. The drums and keys, with some guitars, playing to the morbid movies on a big screen, were to me maybe the biggest surprise this year. A band like this shall always divide opinions, but I felt that many people liked this different show. You further needed a rather black sense of humor to appreciate the coffin story or the suicide brothers, but I think I got their point and shall see this experience again if they ever return. Closing Progpower were two veteran bands, bringing us the best vocalists of the festival. Wolverine played their sixth Progpower festival. Since the start of PPE in 1999 they moved from a Melodic Death influenced band, to a moodier, calmer rock band. On their last CD I got a bit worried that they would turn too calm, but live they did impress again. This mainly due to the great voice of Stefan Zell. The album covers on the background  and some small comments to the songs did the rest. An emotional high came when Stephan announced the song he played for his daughter when she underwent heavy operations. I actually missed their Progpower 2001 performance as that year Tiago at 1 kilo was struggling for his life while being operated. Totally relating to the feelings and atmospheres in that song I now read for the first times along with the lyrics in the booklet as well. While the songs are dark and close to depresssion the show was beautiful and Wolverine showed once again, why they are the PPE house-band. Closer Threshold did not yet make it to six appearances, but should come close. They are just the perfect band for closing the Sunday night. Everyone is tired and struggles to stay fit on the last evening. There comes Damian Wilson who started warming up the crowd outside when the stage was being prepared. This man just does not allow people to drift off for a second, making his usual mileage through the audience. The band is also never disappointing and the setlist started and closed fast with some epic songs inbetween. The best surprise came in Sanity's End. Don't know when we heard that one last, but interesting to see how all the old songs are always in the front of your memory, while during more recent songs you need time to figure out which one they play. The Mexicans, from Australia being highlighted was a laugh and the wall of death turned into a waltzing alley. Threshold are entertainment combined with great music closing down this year's ProgPower in style.

And then it was over and we all go home knowing we shall be back next year. As I am Dutch and we are the complaining kind I can end with a remark. Research recently proved again that the Dutch are the tallest people in teh world. Yet all the bands I really would have liked to get a T-shirt from brought S/M and maybe L sizes. That just won't do for me, so sorry In Mourning, Sadist and Wolverine much less shirts left the table, then should have been possible. (I mean even Smallman brought XL) A final word of thanks to all those making this possible to us, a Hyaena scream for Organizers and bands, see you in 2017.

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