Concert Review Archive

 
Progpower Europe 2009

Cirrha Niva, Cloudscape, Andromeda, Akphaezya, Vanity, Chaos Divine, Seventh Wonder, Nahemah, Mercenary, Knight Area, Prospect, Enochian Theory, Neverland, Hacride, Evergrey

2nd - 4th October 2009
Sjiwa, Baarlo, The Netherlands

Article By Andy Read Live Photos Mattias Noren

It is damn hard to put on a festival for this sort of music. That the organising team manages to compile such a tasty bill year after year, and keep this festival running is a major achievement. ProgPower Europe 2009 was my seventh visit to this delightful corner of The Netherlands. The line-up had the usual wide variety within the genre, with bands that I had never heard of before and a few familiar faces. I must just make one quick excuse. The massive range of styles on this year’s bill will mean that few attendees will have delighted in everything on offer. Not necessarily because the bands were bad, more a case of how many people would have Knight Area, Chaos Divine, Seventh Wonder and Akphaezya on their playlists? The diversity is one of the festival’s strengths, but that makes it rather a tricky job for a solitary reviewer. My tastes lie with the more melodic and traditional ProgMetal and progressive rock. I am not the greatest fan of growly bands or the more extreme end of the spectrum. That is why in some cases I have left my comments as quantitative rather than qualitative.

Day one

Cirrha Niva

Cirrha Niva






My review of their new album had implored all ProgPower attendees to ensure they got there early to see Dutch ProgMetallers Cirrha Niva (official website/ myspace). Having departed from the UK determined to practice what I preached, I duly got stuck on a Dutch train-to-nowhere and completely missed their set! Reports from those who did get there in time were mixed.


It seems the bass player may have been on the same train as me, as he did not show either. This obviously had a big impact on their sound. New singer Legrand was a bit of a live-wire, offsetting his rather statically-nervous band mates. I am still enjoying their album, For Moments Never Done. Maybe next time.




Cloudscape

Cloudscape






Cloudscape (official website/ myspace) is a Swedish ProgPower Metal band whose melodic, upbeat interpretation on the genre just does not wow me. I arrived in time for the second half of their show. There was an enthusiastic crowd at the front, Mike Andersson is a charismatic frontman and the whole band is very solid. They put on an entertaining show without ever threatening to do anything exceptional.











Andromeda

Andromeda






Fully refreshed with a few beers and an opportunity to catch up with my Dutch friends (hello Dries, Rob, Rob, Andre and many more), I was really looking forward to a musical masterclass from Sweden’s Andromeda (official website/ myspace). A string of superb albums and the stunning live DVD, Playing Off The Board, has made this quintet one of my favourite ProgMetal bands.

The rare opportunity to see them perform a full headline set was the main musical attraction for my ProgPower weekend. All I need to say is: David Fremberg, Johan Reinholdz, Martin Hedin, Fabian Gustavsson and Thomas Lejon please take a bow, this was a truly superb performance.






Day two

Akphaezya

Akphaezya






Good ole ProgPower Europe. Always pulls a little surprise out of the hat. So take some soothing Kate Bush melodies, a raunchy French chanteause, some lively jazz overlaid by groovy trip-hop, and some grating death growls amid oriental flavours. Blend it together into an extreme form of avant-garde ProgDeath Metal and put your charismatic front woman in a flowery dress, sat astride a piano stool! Let’s just say Akphaezya (official website/ myspace) from France is not your average band.


I am probably unlikely to ever buy one of their albums, but like the entire hall I was simply agog at their show. The band was tight and confident, the music was varied and challenging and Nehl Aelen was an enthralling front women who kept an unfamiliar crowd enthralled. For fans of the avant garde, this band is essential.


Vanity

Vanity






Then it was a moment of Vanity (official website/ myspace)! Like most of the bands on the bill I had never heard of this young Polish outfit. Musically, their plaintive take on Opeth and Cynic was interesting for its added strains of technicality and ambience. These guys are definitely talented.


For me they are still too young-looking to pull this sort of music off in a live setting with the necessary power, authority or conviction. There are a few vocal lessons and some extensive road work still required, but Vanity did enough to show that there is plenty of potential.






Chaos Divine

Chaos Divine






As if to prove the point, Australia’s Chaos Divine (official website/ myspace) hit the stage with the power and authority that a few more years and a few more beers can generate. They grabbed the crowd’s attention from the first chords and did not let go until the end.


They deliver brisk, melodic death metal, mixing clean and growly vocals. Not obviously progressive and not my favourite genre, but amid a full European tour the band was tightly focused and their energy left a good impression. I enjoyed it.






Seventh Wonder

Seventh Wonder


Seventh Wonder’s (official website/ myspace) last two albums have left a firm impression with many involved in the progressive metal scene. It is increasingly rare to find a band that can combine strong melodies and complex arrangements with such aplomb. The band’s rising star was certainly supported by a sudden expansion of the crowd as they came on stage. Their only previous Dutch appearance, at the Headway Festival in 2007 was a catalogue of disasters. Clearly determined to put the record straight, from beginning to end these Swedes were simply awesome. Tommy Karevik should be regarded as one of the leading rock/metal singers in the world I do not exaggerate – hairs stood alert on the back of my neck at several points. However this is a real band and the outfit was tight, focused, and most importantly clearly enjoying every second in the limelight. The set was a well paced mix of songs from their last two albums, Waiting in the Wings and Mercy Falls. I really could not find a single fault with this show. With Tommy announcing the band would be starting work on their next album, Seventh Wonder must be absolute certainties for a return appearance in two years time. Opening night headliners would be good. Band of the weekend by some distance and judging by the massive cheers as they left the stage, I was not the only one to think that.

Nahemah

Nahemah






Having lasted most of their debut ProgPower appearance two years ago, I was somewhat surprised to see Spanish deathy drone metallers NahemaH (official website/ myspace) get a return visit, and so high up the bill. Being the fourth growly band of the day, this was always going to be my time for an extended dinner break. I caught the last two songs. The crowd had noticeably thinned since Seventh Wonder.


The huge singer looked rather theatrical surrounded by his much smaller band mates. The music was on the dour side of melancholic but a significant number of people, including chief festival dude Rene, were absolutely loving the atmospheres created.




Mecenary

Mercenary



So much testosterone on one small stage can be scary. Mercenary (official website/ myspace) were fully pumped and primed for this gig and duly reinforced my opinion of them as a premier live act. On paper their high intensity melodic trad-influenced metal with growly bits should not appeal. They had totally passed me by until I saw them for two dates supporting Evergrey in 2004. This show was a real masterclass of how to pace and execute a live show, and of the benefit of finely tuning your craft with years of live experience. Although not generally regarded as a progressive band, I have always considered that the technical interplay between the drums, bass and guitars sets this band apart from many of their contemporaries. Top marks to singer Mikkel Sandager for fulfilling his commitment to the gig. His wife was due to give birth back home in Denmark at any moment – promoting several bursts off-stage to check his mobile phone. Sadly, shortly after this gig the band decided it was time to go their separate ways. Keyboardist, drummer and singer are moving onto pastures new. The remaining members are in the studio recording a new record with ‘a faster, heavier and more modern’ sound. As someone who saw their last ever show, all I can say is that this line-up sure went out in style.

Mercenary setlist
Black and hollow
Bloodsong
Endless fall
Death Connection
World hate center
Soul decision
Isolation
Lost reality
This black and endless
Never
11 Dreams
Execution style
Firesoul

Day three

Knight Area

Knight Area








I have heard their albums but Dutch band Knight Area (official website/ myspace) seem to play a style of Neo Prog that just floats through my ears. Their live set did nothing to change that, although I must say that after all the chaos on Saturday it was nice to have something where you could appreciate the combination of all the instruments, instead of one big wall of sound. A pleasant and mildly enjoyable start to the day.










Knight Area setlist
Dream weaver
Antagony
Momentum
Conspiracy
Dark Souls
A Million Lives
Mastermind
Mortal Brow
Prospect

Prospect





Every single year there is one ProgPower band in which I possess no expectation but ends up being one of the weekend’s highlights. This year it was Slovenia’s Prospect. Mixing modern alt rock, traditional heavy metal and a whole heap of other influences, this was nothing particularly new – just some great songs, performed with great passion and energy. I do not think they had played together for a while, so it was not quite as well-oiled as it could have been.


However with a guitarist who just seemed to have an endless supply of great grooves, a singer who could hit the highs and the lows, Prospect left the stage to a big response. I left to grab a copy of their excellent new album, Chronicles of Men. Soon all the copies had disappeared!




Enochian Theory

Enochian Theory




In my review of the debut album from the UK’s Enochian Theory (official website/ myspace) I called it a work in progress. A few great musical moments, wrapped in an awful lot of padding. The same applies to their live set. I can understand their desire the make a fresh start with the fresh line-up and fresh album. But there just is not enough ‘real’ music on the new disc to sustain an audience’s interest. Hopefully the trio learnt some good lessons from this, their first trip to mainland Europe. On stage they need another member, both to reduce the heavy reliance on tapes and effects but also to enhance the visuals.

Until they produce a second album, they need to pad out the live set with either a couple of covers or something from their earlier demos. Frontman Ben Harris-Hayes needs a stage persona and some sentences to build a rapport with a crowd. Endless intros and apologetic mumbling gave more of an impression of a rehearsal that a well thought-out live performance. I spoke to the guys before and their enthusiasm and determination is impressive, but 10 minutes of impressive music in a 50-minute set is not enough.


A new definition of heaven: Take a cool beer, a freshly baked pizza, sit on a bar stool and listen to one of your favourite bands plays a special acoustic live set. It was a last minute offer by Evergery to add this to the late afternoon bill and a very pleasant surprise it was to all who gathered. Does this mean that we will finally get that acoustic album?

Neverland

Neverland


At the risk of being unashamedly biased (our Dries was the band’s ‘tour manager’ and we had been sharing rooms at the Castel with the band for two days), I did find Neverland’s (official website/ myspace) set one of the highlights of the weekend. Firstly, they are clearly a band with something to say. A liaison between Turkish band Dreamtone and the Greek singer Iris Mavraki, they showcase the ability of music to break down cultural and political barriers. Secondly, there was an impressive level of professionalism about their performance. Musically tight and well rehearsed, they were both good to watch and great to listen to. Thirdly, it was great to have a bit of accessible, melodic metal in front of us. Fourthly, Oganalp Canatan was probably the only frontman to actually have a dialogue and engage with the crowd. Fifthly, there were no growls!


The set concentrated on their debut album, Reversing Time, with impressive new compositions. This was the very first time for the band out of their home country. It must have been a nervous leap into the unknown, but I think they landed on their feet and impressed a lot of people.


Hacride

Hacride






As I said at the start, this year’s event probably offered the widest range of musical styles it has ever had. The musical journey from Knight Area to Evergrey in just six bands is a pretty long one. A rest was needed and again it was the growly band which provided the obvious opportunity.


The two songs I caught at the end hinted that Hacride (official website/ myspace) were France’s more up-tempo, high energy answer to NahemaH. Similarly a lot of people were absolutely raving about the show with adjectives such as ‘amazing’, ‘incredible’ and ‘band of the weekend’. As they say, one man’s meat is another man’s poison.





Evergrey

Evergrey






Coming towards the end of their second European tour in support of current album Torn, Evergrey (official website/ myspace) rolled onto the stage as a well-oiled metal machine. A generous spinkling of tracks from their more recent albums left no room for the usual favourites Solitude Within and Nosferatu, but this was an excellent showcase for the produce of an excellent career that has spawned seven excellent albums. Whilst the music was heavy (and a little too loud) the band was relaxed and jovial onstage.


I could enjoy Tom S England singing out the names in the phone book. Henrik Danhage would sound great playing a banjo, and few drummers can pound their kits with such power as Jonas Ekdahl. I have seen Evergrey many times and they are a darn fine live act. A great climax to the weekend.




Evergrey setlist
Fear
As I lie here bleeding
Soaked
More than ever
She speaks to the dead
Watching the skies
In remembrance
Blinded
End of your days
The Masterplan
Still in the water
Monday morning Apocalypse
Words mean nothing
I'm sorry

When the walls go down
Recreation day
Broken wings
A touch of blessing
Conclusion

I think spreading the event over three days on the main stage has been a successful development – it always seemed to be over too quickly before. The sound too has improved greatly in recent years and was almost exclusively excellent. The social side of the festival will always have equal appeal to the line-up. The mixture of the outdoor marquee, the downstairs bar and the surrounding village cafes and restaurants provides great alternative for those (growly) bands who do not tickle my fancy. The after-show parties were up to their usual notoriety. Hopefully my air guitar duet with Andromeda’s Johan Reinholdz to Master of Puppets will never make it onto YouTube! This year had a greater emphasis on the heavier side of the genre. Judging by the big reaction to Seventh Wonder and Prospect, I wonder whether a couple more of the melodic ProgMetal bands would give the bill a little more balance and wider appeal? Highlights of the weekend were for me (in this order) Seventh Wonder, Andromeda, Prospect and Evergrey. Biggest surprise was how much I enjoyed Akphaezya. Roll on next October!

Links
Mattias Noren

Progpower Europe Official Website

Sjiwa

 


© 1996 - 2017 : Dutch Progressive Rock Page