Headway Festival
Day 2: Day Six, Atmosphere, Morgana X, Sahara Dust, Bumblefoot, Sun Caged, Prototype, Pain Of Salvation
April 5th 2003, P60, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

By Andy Read


Day Six Few bands can have taken the musical journey from Punk to ProgMetal but that’s the trip that this young, Dutch band has taken. Together since their early teens, they released a couple of Punk albums as Peanuts before changing direction and name. There are sadly very few young bands playing ProgMetal and bounding onstage like the latest Nu-breed popstars, I must admit it was a joy to watch this young band deliver a short, four-song set with an amazing sense of energy, confidence and conviction. Singer Robbie van Stiphout in particular was a breath of fresh air in his youthful delivery – although the rest of the band do need to try a bit harder to keep up with him. Opening track Day IV was my favourite, with its crunching Evergrey riffs and clipped melody. The band is currently in a studio recording their debut album. Most definitely ones to watch.


Starting off with a long-instrumental, it was a good seven or eight minutes until the vocalist came onstage – not really a great way to make an impact on a largely new audience. And to be honest, things didn’t get much better when he did arrive. The music was really a stale version of Dream Theater and the onstage performance was similarly in need of a bit of bite. The set ended with an interesting version of Eleanor Rigby but overall it was all a bit underwhelming.


Morgana X Most Impressive Newcomer Award for the festival must go to this Dutch band. Having just received a copy of their demo CD Misunderstood I was rather looking forward to this. And I’m delighted to say, that the promise shown on the disc is taken several steps forward with the live show. Mixing ProgMetal (think Pain of Salvation and Enchant) with PopRock (think Marvelous3), Morgana-X has created something refreshingly new in a sound that has great crossover potential. Playing all four songs from the CD plus two new ones they are certainly much heavier in live setting although it was the delightfully melodic but more restrained Eternal Life that stood out in particular. The centre of attention is frontman Eddy Borremans - mixing a bit of soul, with plenty of power and emotion, he put in a really confident, high-energy performance that helped win the band many new admirers. The debut album can’t come soon enough.


Sahara Dust The great thing about this festival was that it was clearly an ego free zone. Every band had the full light and stage show and the sound was superb from beginning to end. The second Dutch band plying Operatic Goth Metal, Sahara Dust (now known as Epica) have been getting a lot of attention recently - mainly because of 17-year-old mezzo-soprano Simone Simons. Floating inside a slight, silk top, she certainly makes a very appealing picture and the light show for this band was by far and away the most effective of the weekend. However young Simone needs to quickly have a few lessons in basic microphone control. With it constantly held to her lips, her voice sounded horribly distorted throughout. With many bands now well established in this genre, newcomers have to have that something special. Sahara Dust still have some developing to do.


  Image Rocky-era Sylvester Stallone playing Frank Zappa, on a guitar shaped like a foot, with a script written for Mike Myers? Welcome to the wonderful world of Bumblefoot. Never heard of the bloke? Neither had I. But I can assure you, he managed to put on one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen.

                Bumblefoot (a.k.a. New York guitarist Ron Thal) can best be described as an alternative-rap-metal-artist combining intense Hendrix-tinged metal with humorous lyrics. Fans of groups like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mr. Bungle or Primus should certainly investigate further with a mix of light-hearted melody and angst-ridden rock clearly having a fair few admirers in Holland already. Clearly a top-notch guitarist, what kept me entertained for an hour was the man himself. If dry humour is your scene, then if he ever gets fed up with the guitar, I’m sure Bumblefoot could always make it as a stand-up comedien. I wouldn’t buy his records, but I’d certainly go and see him play a gig again. An absolute nutter!


Sun Caged They've yet to release an album, but the fact that the hall was packed for the arrival of this Dutch ProgMetal band shows the interest they have been attracting over the past couple of years. Their constant gigging and two well-received demos has won a deal with Lion Music and a recent tour in support of Evergrey. Their debut album, produced by none other than Arjen Lucassen (Star One, Ayreon), will be out in the first week of June.

Formed three years ago by ex-Within Temptation drummer Dennis Leeflang and Marcel Coanen (ex-Lemur Voice), they are musically very much in the Dream Theatre school of complexity – an ever-changing cacophony of keyboards, guitar, bass and drums with unpredictable rhythms and moods. The set list picked the best from their demos and tracks from the forthcoming debut album. Secrets of Flight is still my favourite, while a new track Home showed a growing maturity in the sound. There was also a welcome encore in the shape of Queensryche's Eyes of a Stranger. By this time, it was clear the whole band were really enjoying themselves - and by the warm response so were the audience. Sun Caged - a band that will be getting a lot of attention this year.


This was the band's first ever European show but to be honest this probably wasn't the best audience to put them before. Formed from the ashes of aggressive thrashers Psychosis this American four-piece have released two self-promoted albums, Cloned and Trinity and are currently seeking a label for their third. Combining their former aggressive elements with a few new progressive ones their set was a fair mixture from their career past and future with an encore of Cold Is This Dawn from their original incarnation. Far and away the most straight-ahead heavy band on the bill, I could appreciate what they were doing but they were a bit static on stage and it didn’t really hit any buttons for me.


A band never afraid to tackle difficult political issues, considering the world situation at the time of this gig, it was little surprise to me that Pain of Salvation should come bounding onstage in bright orange Dutch football shirts with the legend ‘No War’ emblazoned across the front. It looked great on stage and, hell, I just wish more bands would wear their hearts on their sleeves (or shirts!).

This is a band that I must admit took me a long while to really warm to. It wasn’t until last year's superb Remedy Lane opus (my album of the year) that it began to click. I revisited their back catalogue with a fresh mind. Now only Entropy still gives me a hard time.

A band that can be very complex, both in terms of its message and delivery, I was a bit worried beforehand how it would all work in a live setting. Fear not – seeing Pain of Salvation live takes their music to another level. Playing before a healthily full venue, this was a full-on visual and musical feast – a real show – that was just a pleasure to witness. It wasn’t one of those gigs where I was at the front getting into every riff and rhythm. It was one of those gigs where you just stood, watched, listened and let the whole experience bring a smile to your face.

Pain Of SalvationThe whole band is full of energy and the musicianship was able to ride high on another excellent sound and light show. Daniel Gildenlow really bares his full soul. One moment leaping around in anger, another crouched down on the floor in despair and another leaning against the mic’ stand in confession. I honestly can’t tell you what songs they played - I was enjoying myself too much. A great way to end, a hugely entertaining festival.

This, the first Headway Festival, was the brainchild of Sun Caged drummer Dennis Leeflang and attracted a healthy crowd from as far away as Iceland and Israel, as well as the UK. Set in the centre of a town on the outskirts of Amsterdam, the modern 650-capacity P60 club was perfect for the event with excellent lights and sound plus the handy distraction of being surrounded by good places to eat. There were plenty of chances to mingle in the three bars and café, where an interesting addition was the chance to see workshops from some of the musicians. So thanks to Dennis for the idea and the hospitality. Bands have already been booked for next year. For anyone into Progressive Metal it would be well worth the trip


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All photos by Andy Read for DPRP © 2003.


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