ProgPower 2004
October 2nd, 2004
Sjiwa , Baarlo, The Netherlands

By Andy Read, Arnold Oostenbrink, Charlie Farrell, Clive McCaig, Dries Dokter
Photos by Andy Read

This is the first ever RTR concert review. So we have decided to take a bit of a different approach. Everyone of us have contributed his views on ProgPower and what you will find below is a review made up of those contribution. If there's not 5 separate reviews for every band, in most cases one of the reviewers wrote it down in the exact same words the others could have used. It could also mean all other reviewers were out for lunch, or stuck in traffic

Day 1

for a review of Day Two, click here.



 

Dries:
The order in which the bands are scheduled should say something of their quality but more important: their fame. The Dust Connection is not a well known band and that's the reason they kicked off the festival, lack of quality is not the reason in my opinion. This outfit from Tilburg has a lot of potential although their performance needs some tuning here and there. In the first few songs the sound was not too good either: it all sounded like one blur of all instruments entangled to just one. After a few tracks it got much better. The music of this band is pretty good, especially the keyboards are to my liking. The vocals were not really impressive, which is a pity because on the demo I got hold of later the vocals are in fact one of the highlights. The compositions are original and good. Only one hour into ProgPower and already I was in a good mood.

 

Andy:
One of the nice things about this festival is that even with a long day in front of them, the fans always make an effort to turn out for the often-unknown opening acts. Coming from the remnants of sympho/progressive Dutch band Forever Times, The Dust Connection released a self-produced demo disc last year to a good response. Musically this is a very strong band delivering a progressive metal mix that lies firmly on the power side of the spectrum. The keyboards and guitars combine well together and Robert Spaninks is a quality drummer laying down some great, ever-changing rhythms. It was the vocalist that I couldn't really get into. Jeroen Voogd's voice is really more suited to a straight power metal combo. Very powerful and able to hit the high notes but he really needs to develop a softer tone for the quieter sections. However the band managed to maintain my interest and saved their best songs for the end of the set, with Temporary and Prayer managing to get the biggest cheers. A solid start.

 

Due to Dutch traffic Charlie and Clive were not able to see The Dust Connection Live

 

Andy:
What a bummer. You come all the way from Texas to play a festival in Holland and you get stuck in a traffic jam and miss the start of your set. This was the one band that I was really, really keen to see and despite their curtailed set, they were one of the bands of the weekend for me. I'll qualify that by saying I'm a sucker for traditional ProgMetal in the Queensryche, Andromeda, Shadow Gallery style - i.e. that which comes with plenty of high-pitched vocals, top-notch musicianship and an ever-changing tapestry of riffs and rhythms. At the end of a six-date Dutch tour, All Too Human is an incredibly tight unit that work together as a team. Their set featured six tracks from their current album Entropy - the highlight of which was the catchy E-killer. Don Duzan more than matched his performance on the disc and as for guitarist Clint Wilson, the sound he created with just the keyboards in support - I had to keep checking there wasn't a second player hidden away somewhere. Sadly just as the audience was warming to them - and I was really, really getting into their music - they had to leave. Thankfully it was with a superb version of The Jester which for me was the best eight minutes of music all weekend. A deal has been signed for a new album next year - let's hope they get another chance to tour. Great band.

Dries:
The music, contrary to what I expected after hearing their last album, I found to be quite enjoying. I get a bit of a ProgPower deja vu: last year I really liked the Chrome Shift album but found their performance disappointing, Pagan's Mind I expected to not like at all and they were really good. This year, All Too Human I had ranked below Platitude (in my personal ranking) but after ProgPower these 2 bands swapped places. If you take into account their bad start due to traffic it was even more of an achievement they got their music across in this manor. The singer did make contact with the audience but as they were not able to complete their whole set

Charlie:
Well plans for the festival, and my own arrival, were thrown into chaos by the sudden appearance of major road works on the Dutch motorway heading past Eindhoven to Venlo. The result was that things got started a little late, but the crew did a great job and by the early evening things were soon back on track. Then, having hunted down the hotel, I arrived just in time to catch the bulk of the set by amazing Swedish prodigies Platitude. Featuring two guitarists (one of whom is about 16) and two keyboard players (one of whom is only 17), this Prog-metal band certainly don't have your standard line-up and they proceeded to rip though a selection of tracks from their first album and their more recent disk Nine. Unfortunately the mix worked against them, with one of the guitars and one set of keyboards being pretty much inaudible throughout and as hard as the young frontman Erik “EZ” worked, the crowd refused to respond. The end result was therefore a little disappointing, but these youngsters have tremendous potential and they are a band that I'll be watching over the next few years.

Clive:
Despite fairly poor sound, I thought Platitude were decent enough. The songs are fairly catchy, with some nice melodies, and despite the singer's abject failure to engage the crowd (though he tried), they at least performed with some enthusiasm. The band looked extremely young, and I think it was their first performance outside of Sweden, they coped admirably well enough I think.

Andy:
Having reviewed both albums by this young (and I mean young) Swedish band, I was interested to see how a group with an average age of around 19, would come across on a festival stage. The answer was - not very well. With twin guitars and twin keyboards, the sound desk never really managed to cope but it was the singer who proved the weakest link. I'll be kind and say he may not have had a monitor but he managed to be out of tune and out of breath at the same time. Looking like a backing singer from an 80's New Romantic band like the Human League, his constant yelling at the crowd to join in and/or clap along just fell flat. Hopefully he took the time to watch Devin Townsend later and learnt a few lessons as to how to really reach into a crowd. Full marks for effort and there are some good songs hidden in there but this is a young band still at the beginning of a very steep learning curve.

Dries:
Platitude showed that trying to hard might backfire, and it did. Once you notice that the crowd is not joining you in clapping and cheering, you should stop it and get their attention in another way. Better singing for instance might have grasped their attention. I found Platitude the largest disappointment of the festival. Not because they were that bad but because their album Ninepromised much more than they offered in this live performance.

Clive:
Their set was more of an endurance than anything, since I couldn't detect anything resembling a song. Completely uninspired generic progmetal to my ears, with an abundance of pointless fret board masturbation. Technically impressive, but ridiculously tedious. This guy should have been in the audience to witness the guitarist from Riverside, who did far more with far less notes. The bass solo was about the highlight. Personally, I thought the singer was a decent enough front man, if not the greatest singer, who at least got some decent crowd reaction going.

Charlie:
After the very civilized dinner break, it was time for French Prog-Metal outfit Adagio. While I enjoy both of their albums, this is due to some degree, to the presence of the amazing David Readman on vocals and with him having left the band as short notice, I was somewhat worried as to how they might perform with new Brazillian vocalist Gus Monsanto on board. However, I was impressed with the performance he gave and his experience as a front man certainly showed through. He was certainly one of the best and most confident front men over the two days of the festival. When it came to singing, he couldn't quite hit all of the heights that Readman could on disk, but to be honest, I think that Adagio would have had real problems finding anyone who could match David Readman. After experiencing the strange mix that Platitude guys got, I had my fingers crossed that things would be better for Adagio, but overall there wasn't much noticeable improvement. Yes, you could hear all of the instruments, but the result was still rather muddy and Kevin Codfert's keyboards seemed rather quiet. Things were no better on stage apparently and the band made a good job of playing an hour long set without monitors. The result was a rather frustrating set both for the audience and for the band. The material from the band's first album Sanctus Ignis, such as In Nomine and Seven Lands of Sin fared rather better than the material from second album Underworld. I'm sure that the Stephan Forte and his cohorts are capable of better than this and I'm sure that I will find an opportunity to see them again, under better conditions.

Andy:
On paper Adagio should be my sorta band. Complex, symphonic-based metal songs with superb musicianship, this French band has released two well-received albums and I was keen to see them. Sadly they just left me bored, waiting for a melody or riff that grabbed my attention. Recently losing the services of Pink Cream 69 singer Dave Readman was a major drawback. It is always going to be a near impossible task to replace such a world class vocalist, but on this evidence Brazilian Gus Monsanto doesn't come close. A real lunatic, he knew how to play the audience and was probably the best frontman of the weekend. Again I'll be kind and say there may have been technical problems, but there were just too many bum notes to make it enjoyable.

Clive:
Very heavy, just a few songs were enough for me to decide that the time could be better spent at the chinese restaurant. The sound at Sjiwa isn't really suited to music that heavy in my opinion. When they introduced some electronic elements into their sound, it was at least a bit more palatable, otherwise it sounded like noise with some grunting. I like that fine on record, not so much live.

Andy:
The first time this festival has ever brought over a band from Australia, and like All Too Human it proved well worth the long journey. Progressive Industrial Death Metal would be a fair description and having released six albums in the past decade they've clearly been around long enough to know how to deliver the goods. There were clearly a lot of people drawn to see this band and from the general reaction, no-one seemed disappointed. It's not the type of music I can listen to in long bursts but I know enough to say Alchemist hit all the right buttons. The vocalist was particularly impressive, squeezing every possible sound out of his stretched lungs. After this show the band was off on a tour of the UK with Cult of Luna and Dutch progressive deathsters Textures and on this evidence I don't think it'll be long before they are invited back again.

 


The Devin Townsend Band

Charlie:
The final two bands of the evening promised to be anything but, my cup of tea, so I stayed outside of the door to the venue rather than venturing in to experience the Death/Industrial Metal Mix of Australian outfit Alchemist and then took the opportunity to eat dinner before returning for the closing 30 minutes or so of Devin Townsend's set. An enigmatic character, Devin is someone who people seem to love or hate and though I had tried to appreciate his music before, it had always proved to be beyond me. However, on this occasion he chose to play a selection of tunes that seemed to fit the mood of the day perfectly. Certainly, he was helped by the fact that his band received the best sound of the whole day, but there was a vitality and freshness to his music, that I had not heard in the bands earlier in the day and his music was both powerful and progressive. Overall the day had proved to be a little disappointing and it seemed rather odd to have to admit that Devin Townsend was the highlight of the day.

Clive:
A bit of a surprise for me, I didn't expect him to be quite so accessible. I was anticipating something akin to a wall of noise, since his albums tend to be very layered, but stripped of that in this live environment, allowed some catchy moments to come through. He came across as a good performer if somewhat mad. Also at times, it reminded me a bit of Dead Soul Tribe. I could have sworn he also did a cover of a pop-song that I recalled, I just can't remember what.

Dries:
As Andy says in his Novact review : it's fun to say: "I told you so". 5 minutes into last years ProgPower I decided to also attend ProgPower 2004. Had I not made this decision, the addition of Devin Townsend to the ticket would have been enough to pull me over. I had some discussion on this year's line-up and I seemed to be one of the few eager to see TDB. Even minutes before his performance I heard remarks like: "too loud", "too much noise", etc. And only thing I could say: "just wait and see, this man is brilliant". No explanations were needed after The Devin Townsend Band left the podium. The audience had just been witness to a mad, but lovable, musical hurricane. The fact that the sound was much better than the other bands, that day, did also work in Devin's advantage but most of the credits should go to his energy packed, heavy but melodic music, backed up by this fine band. If one could just explain why it took Devin Townsend just 1 minute to grab the audience' attention a lot of bands would benefit of it. What a charismatic guy this is! Certainly the highpoint of my saturday.

Andy:
One of the great strengths of this festival is the chance to sample bands that you'd never normally get to, or want to, try. In the case of Devin Townsend, all the reviews and samples I'd heard before had told me not touch with a barge pole. I had intended to linger over my dinner, but my curiosity got the better of me and for once I'm glad that it did. After the original headliners had to cancel, the festival had flown Devin and his band in especially for this one-off show and the number of people buying late tickets to see him showed his ability to draw a crowd. He's a total mad hatter but loveable with it and has that ability to capture an audience with a flick of an eye. The show was based entirely on material from his ‘solo’ career with not a single Strapping Young Lad in sight. My glance at the set list revealed four tracks (Deadhead, Away, Suicide, Storm and Slow Me Down) from last year's Accelerated Evolution; another foursome from Ocean Machine (Night, Seventh Wave, Life and Regulator); from Terria we had Earthday and Deeppeace and from Infinity there was Truth and Bad Devil. The music was delivered with great emotion, even greater conviction and damn me, there were some darn fine songs to be enjoyed. I always know I've had a good time, when seeing a new band makes me want to go out and buy their album. The name ‘Devin Townsend’ now appears twice in my CD rack, with more to come

End of day one

A very satisfying day at Sjiwa Baarlo, but it is not done yet: Concert review for day 2 of ProgPower will follow soon.

Setlists:

The Dust Connection
(intro)
Armour To Shatter
The Grand Final
Out Of Nowhere
Temporary
Desert Sessions
Prayer
(outro)


All Too Human
Entropy
E-Killer
The Jester
Arrhythmia
Haunted
Seven Deadly Sins

Platitude
Dark Mind
Oblivion
Illusions
Trust
Endless
Raining Tears
Drumsolo
Aeronuatica
Falling
Catch 22
Anima

Adagio
Second Sight
Panem et Circences
Chosen
From my sleep to Someone Else
Franck bass solo
The Seven Lands of Sin Immigrant Song
...In Nomine

 

 

Alchemist













The Devin Townsend Band
Truth
Regulator
Storm
Earthday
Suicide
Life
Night
Deadhead
Away/Deeppeace
Bad Devil

Seventh Wave
Slow Me Down

 


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