Symmetry, Chrome Shift, Novembre, Green Carnation, Nightingale, VandenPlas, Xystus, Andromeda, Pagans Mind, Everon, Elegy, Evergrey
October 4th & 5th, 2003
Sjiwa, Baarlo, The Netherlands
Also check the review by Dries Dokter
Hi Ho, Hi Ho! It's
October, so it must be off to Holland I go for my annual overdose of Metal of a
progressive nature. Now in its fifth year, Progpower Europe is firmly
established as the leading festival of its kind on the continent - 12 bands,
over two days, in a compact and friendly venue in the south east of the
country. And this year, organisers had excelled themselves by attracting their
most mouth-watering line-up to date. There were at least four bands that I
would have travelled from England to see on their own and so having left my
home at 1.30am, I arrived at the venue at 1.30pm, just in time for the
Having appeared at
the first festival in 1999, this Dutch five-piece were not a totally unknown
quantity. Formed way back in 1995 they've released a min-CD and a full album Watching
the Unseen a couple of years ago. They ply a fairly board mix of music
ranging from almost ProgPop to quite adventurous ProgMetal - a less progressive
Pain of Salvation would be a common reference point. A good tight unit, they
received a good response from an enthusiastic crowd. Afterwards I grabbed a
promo with three unmastered tracks from their forthcoming debut on DVS Records.
It shows plenty of promise especially the closing track Journey Into The
Unknown. Worth keeping an eye on.
I first caught
this promising new Danish band this summer at the Sweden Rock Festival
. Having since been highly
impressed by their debut album Ripples In Time, I was rather looking
forward to seeing them again. Hard to pidgeonhole - early Rush occasionally
springs to mind - Chrome Shift has received warm praise across the board for
their debut disc. Yet, whilst very impressed by their playing in Sweden, the
total lack of stage presence rather let them down - the words 'rabbit' and
'headlights' sprang to mind.
singer/frontman Rasmus Bak seems to have had a personality transplant. All
pained expression and frantic hand gestures - now much more a case of the fox
leading the hunt on a merry chase. It provided a much more visual show but
unfortunately it was taking it too far in the other direction for me - and his
musical performance suffered as a result. He missed too many notes and while
the band plays a fairly heavy slice of ProgMetal, their music needs an equal
amount of light and shade to really work. This was too shady.
The set was made
up of the best tracks from Ripples.. plus two or three tracks
described as 'not on the album' (Worlds and Chapter 19 were two I
picked out). When Rasmus managed to reign himself in a bit, songs like In My
Own Dreams and the closer Nightmachine really did work. The
instrumental Kosmonauten Er Dod was also much better beefed up live,
than on the album.
Don't get me
wrong, I did enjoy their set and they received a great response from an
impressive crowd at the front. It's just that this is a young band with such
potential, that I know if they could strike the right balance in a live setting
they could be so much better.
The crowd had
noticeably thinned for the arrival of these Italians and from the mumbled
vocals and gothic twanging of the opening track, Novembre were unlikely to be
to everyone's taste. Atmospheric, Gothic, Death Metal stands somewhere near
Celine Dion in my musical dislikes. The opening three songs, were two more than
I could take and I sought refuge in the downstairs bar and a game of pool with
members of a French metal band. However all five of the others I was with,
stayed and thought Novembre were the best band of the day until Vanden Plas -
so I guess it's down to personal taste.
One of the great
things about festivals like ProgPower is the chance to try bands that you'd
never normally come across. Perhaps I should have heard of these Norwegians
before, but until 6.30pm on Saturday October 4th I knew nothing. The only green
carnations I'd ever seen were in my grandad's garden!
But heck, this was
a damn fine set, from a damn fine band. I was hooked from beginning to the end
and the hour literally shot by. I believe they've only recently started to play
live but everything in the performance was spot on - they even managed to get a
learnt that the guitars are delivered by Tchort (ex-Emperor, Blood Red Throne,
Carpathian forest, Satyricon) I was expecting a near-death experience. However
while the music and lyrics are certainly very dark, musically the band is
thankfully far removed from his former bands, mixing rock, metal and gothic
with a fair sprinkling of folk influences.
Vocalist Kjetil Nordhus provided a solid centrepiece, but it was the music that
did the talking. Tracks like Boy In The Attic from their current
release A Blessing In Disguise had class stamped all over them but the
highlight was the playing of a huge chunk from their one-song-concept-album Light
Of Day, Day Of Darkness. Heads started nodding after the first track, people
were clapping along by the second and by the third, pretty much the whole hall
was won over. Ah well another few albums to add to my shopping list!
The surprise of the festival
for me and many others I spoke to. Hugely impressive.
By the time Dan
Swano and gang wandered on stage there were plenty of Nightingale T-shirts at
the front - solid testimony to his huge cult following. I'm afraid I can't see
the attraction. A multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and producer
probably best known for his work with death metallers Edge Of Sanity he's got a
For much of the
set here, the music on offer was more doom-tinged hard rock in support of the
band's current album Alive Again. Perhaps it's something that needs more
listens but there was very little movement or personality from the stage to
engage me either. Only on the last three tracks especially the epic Eternity
and a superb Black Tears from one of his former projects did they really
grab my interest. When I saw them at Progpower USA two years ago I was
disappointed that Swano had the lyrics next to the mic' stand. Here it seemed
he had at least learnt the words - that was until I went to the front and
discovered they were merely hidden, taped to his monitor!
Threshold, Kamelot and Ark (where's the next album?), Vanden Plas is one of the
few bands that, whatever they do, seems to press all the right musical buttons
for me. Having finally got to see them play earlier this year, I was well up
for a return visit and again Andy Kuntz and Co didn't disappoint.
in everything they do, it may be a little too polished for some but you can't
deny, that with the likes of Far Off Grace and the orgasmic Rainmaker,
they've some of the finest slices of ProgMetal ever created. It seemed the band
was well up for this gig and seemed to really enjoy themselves - Andy Kuntz in
particular was a bundle of energy. Leaning in the front row, over the bass
monitor, also reinforced what an invaluable contribution Torsten Reichert makes
to the band's crunching sound.
It was pretty much
the same set as previously and my only complaint was that it may have been nice
to have popped a couple of unusual/rarely played older tracks as a treat for
fans who've seen them before.
Four days later,
as I write this, my neck is still aching but this set was worth the journey
from England alone and just about the highlight of the weekend.
Once again it was
good to see a healthy crowd had turned up to see the first band of the day and
the interest was rewarded by another good opening set. A young band from
Holland, Xystus seem to have a fairly wide range of musical influences. We had
some fairly straight Power Metal and some hard-edged Prog, but on a first
listen they were most effective with the songs that sounded like a more
progressive Kamelot. Their frontman handles all guitar as well as vocal duties,
which maybe needs looking at if the band is to progress. On this showing, I
think he'd be more effective as just a frontman. But if he wants to do both,
then the band should at least consider a second live guitarist to fill out the
sound and give a bit more movement on stage. Their debut album is due out soon
on DVS Records and Xystus did enough to win some new fans here.
With Xystus having
done a good warm up job, like a class of schoolchildren at Christmas, there was
an eager sense of anticipation in the hall for the arrival of this Swedish
band. Their debut album Extention of the Wish was a great slice of
guitar-based ProgMetal. This year's super II=1
is a slightly lighter, more progressive disc - and a genuine classic of the
genre. Opinion is divided over which is the best and so thankfully the set took
a good selection from each. As a result the Andromeda hour was a real
rollercoaster ride with some flowing keyboard sections, beautiful melodies and
some real neck-breaking riffing.
In David Fremberg
they have a real gem of a vocalist and in Johan Reinholz a guitarist from the
top drawer (the rest of the band ain't bad either!). A rare gig by the band to
date, it's fair to say their stagecraft can be developed much further but the
crowd was too busy lapping up the music to care too much anyway. The versions
of Encyclopaedia and Mirages were on their own the two best
slices of progressive metal I heard all weekend. The only complaint was that it
was over all too quickly. I want more gigs now!!!
If I was eager to
see Andromeda, I was practically gagging in anticipation for these Norwegian progmeisters
to get onto the stage. Their current album Celestial Entrance was
actually the first that I ever reviewed for DPRP.
Queensryche with sci-fi lyrics, epic arrangements and some very heavy guitar
work, it was one of my favourites last year and still gets regular outings to
Sadly, other than
their successful appearance at the Progpower USA a month previously, I don't
think the band had previously played outside of Scandinavia. So this was a real
treat. And having spent almost a day travelling to Holland, it was clear that
the band was determined to give a good show.
I'm afraid they
didn't put on a great show though - it was superb! The fact that only one track
was played from their debut suggests they share my view that it was a poor
album. Instead we had as much of the current disc as they could squeeze in and
... well Pagans Mind were just immense.
In addition to a
great vocal range, singer Nils K Rue has a great stage presence - really in
yer face, constantly leaning into the crowd and pouring his heart into every
word. I didn't really notice the lack of a second guitarist and I must say that
six stringer Jorn Lofstad is a star in the making. But to single anyone out would
be unfair as this was truly a band performance.
Again the sound
did them no favours and Nils seemed to have constant problems with his monitor,
but I think the band seemed to be many people's favourites. They've already
started writing their next album and I duly expect them to get an invitation to
return next year - but much higher up the bill.
On two previous
occasions Everon had been booked for this festival, only having to pull out due
to health problems. Ironically it was this year's last minute withdrawal of
fellow Germans At Vance that opened a slot for them to finally appear.
Now, I was a great
fan of their Fantasma disc, but last year's double bill of Flesh
and Bridge did nothing for me at all. Listening to this set I came to
the conclusion that for me, their lighter, NeoProg material suits their sound
and especially suits Oliver Philipps' voice, more than when they take a more
With just an
hour-long set, what we had was a good selection from the band's career to date.
Philipps has a wonderfully distinctive and appealing voice but with him caught
behind a keyboard, the band is somewhat static on stage. However the use of a
female vocalist for a couple of songs mid-set did inject a nice bit of
variety. And although I wasn't really in the mood for the lighter side of
Prog', it provided an enjoyable enough listen.
musicians - forgettable songs. Englishman Ian Parry has a great voice but
whether someone who could do a good job for Ronnie James Dio is best suited to
this sort of music is debatable. Also the 80's stadium stagecraft of constantly
urging the crowd to clap their hands, seemed to get on a lot of people's
nerves. Guitarist Patrick Rondat knows his way around a fretboard but finding
his way around the stage seemed too much for him. Hardly the biggest response
of the weekend. Disappointing.
If, despite a
lousy sound, an 18-hour drive to the venue and losing your bassist for ten
minutes in the middle of the set, Evergrey can still play a blinder, then you
know you've been watching something special.
Fresh from a
gruelling US tour in support of Arch Enemy and from the start Tom S Englund had
the crowd eating out of his giant palms. Their current album Recreation Day
has already shifted way
more than their first three put together. And while the disc is certainly
heavy, onstage the band takes the power and energy onto another level.
As I said, the
sound was abysmal - at times you could barely hear Tom's vocals and I hardly
recognised the opening track - a real shame as it was Blacked Dawn
from their debut which I love! Despite this, the sheer brilliance of tracks
like Mark of the Triangle and Blinded still managed to shine
Since I saw them
at last year's Sweden Rock Festival, Tom's command of an audience has grown
considerably and despite two new members, the band has become an incredibly
tight unit. They use of the stage and movement was a joy to watch.
A few songs into
the set bassist Michael Hakansson suddenly rushed off the stage. After
ad-libbing for a few minutes (and making several references to the toilet?!) he
decided to go into a rendition of the acoustic Trilogy Of The Damned. I
don't know if this was originally part of the set but it certainly worked for
returned, Tom borrowed a joint from a member of the crowd, took a puff, smiled
and continued with the set. We ended on a high with Recreation Day,
Nosferatu and The Masterplan and despite having taken in nearly 12
hours of music, the still packed hall, was going absolutely ape. The sound
meant this didn't have the impact of the set I saw two years ago but it was a
cracking way to end the festival.
Always a point to
mention, is that within five minutes of leaving the stage the whole band was
out in the hall signing and chatting with their fans. There's talk of a special
album from the band in the spring (taking bets on an acoustic album myself)
with the next full disc due later in the year. Sadly I fear venues this size
will soon be too small for this band by then. But when they're rich and famous,
at least I'll be able to say I was there, when they laid waste to Baarlo.
2003 was yet another triumph for the organisers. It must be damn hard to put on
a festival for this sort of music. But that they managed to put together such a
tasty bill with no obvious problems, was a great achievement.
perfectly formed, Baarlo is a quaint base with free parking and a good
selection of bars and eateries within a few minutes walk of the venue. The
downstairs bar too, provides a good alternative if the music coming from the
stage isn't your taste.
The only complaint
really was the sound. With this sort of music, more than most, it's imperative
that you are able to hear all the instruments clearly. Hopefully next year
someone who doesn't feel the need to play everything at '11' will be left in
charge of the controls.
Top three bands of
the weekend for me were Vanden Plas, Pagans Mind and Green Carnation. Biggest
disappointment - why do the Dutch drink beer out of such small glasses?
Strangest moment - the French guy who handed me an Everon album and asked me to
sign it (?!?). (I've never signed an album before - so I couldn't really
Thanks to Rene
Janssen for sorting me out again and I understand Canadians Heavens Cry are
already pencilled in for next year's event. If you like Progressive Metal then
there's really only one place you can be next October
Ripples In Time
In My Own Dreams
Kosmonauten Er Dod
Le Temp Des Assassins
Nightingale: (not in order)
Into The Light
Scarred For Life
Steal The Moon
Deep Inside of Nowhere
Into The Sun
We're Not God
Free the Fire
I Can See
Far Off Grace
Reaching Deep Within
In The Deepest Of Water
II = I
Star Shooter Supreme
Extension Of The wish
This Fragile Surface
The Words Unspoken
Under My Skin
In a Room
No Code No
Mark Of The
Speaks To The
Trilogy Of the
Damned (Pts I&II)
End Of Your
Rulers Of The
All photos by Andy Read for DPRP © 2003.