Angra, Gamma Ray, Devin Townsend, Threshold, Reading Zero
Saturday 16th November 2002
The Earthlink Live, Atlanta, USA

By Charlie Farrell

2nd Day of the hugely successful US Festival

With a more diverse line-up for the second night of the festival, it was no surprise to find that the audience was also more partisan, with sections of the crowd clearly in attendance primarily to see Devin Townsend, Gamma Ray or Angra, but rarely all three.

Joel, Reading Zero

The evening kicked off with a set from Virginia based Reading Zero, a band that I was not particularly familiar with. Their brand of prog/power metal took some time to register with the audience, but the crowd gradually became more and more animated as the set progressed.

Chris Roy, Reading Zero Things really got going when singer/bassist Chris Roy introduced his fellow band members before kicking into Strategy, though the new number To Hold An Angel was more to my liking with the bandís sound making a nod in the direction of Fates Warning at several points.

New Worlds was certainly appreciated by the crowd, but they went crazy for the set closer Next Stage as Chris left his bass behind to concentrate on singing, while Mikael Hakansson of Swedish band Evergrey put in a very energetic performance in his place, though sadly one which was largely inaudible, due to equipment problems.

Mac, Threshold

Next up was British prog-metallers Threshold, making their first appearance outside of Europe. Rather as had happened for Silent Force and Edguy the night before, it proved to be a suitable point at which to inject some energy into the proceedings and their set really woke up the crowd. Beginning with the punchy Phenomenon from their latest disk Critical Mass, they soon had the crowd at the front of the stage singing along.

All sounded fine as far as the audience were concerned, but the band clearly saw it differently as vocalist Mac explained " Everything went wrong that could go wrong" , he lamented. "This is Light and Space" he then announced with the band wasting no time in moving on to the next number and from there into the heavier, yet more straight-ahead Latent Gene from 1999ís Clone disk. Mac then tried to tell us that he had a cold but from his performance during the stunning Falling Away, one would never have known.

Karl Groom, Threshold

The set progressed with Fragmentation with its huge riffing sections gleefully played by the bandís twin guitarists Nick Midson and Karl Groom, which really enlivened the crowd. Then, much to my delight, 2 further tracks from the Hypothetical disk; the lengthy Ravages of Time and Long Way Home. The first of these was glorious and featured great interplay between the vocals of Mac and those of bassist Jon Jeary while the second was no less superb.

Though the crowd had seemed largely familiar with the material up to this point, the closing number Paradox from the bandís first album Wounded Land appeared to be unfamiliar to the majority of those present and after the triumph of the set up until that point, it seemed a shame for them to close with a tune that the crowd didnít know.

Nick Midson, Karl Groom and Jon Jeary of Threshold Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the band made a big impression on the audience as was evidenced by the long queue at their signing session later in the evening.

Besides the performance of the ever charismatic Mac, the guitar playing of Karl Groom and the brilliant drumming of Johanne James also made a significant impact on those who watched.

Devin Townsend

The wildcard in the eveningís entertainment was Devin Townsend, a unique character and certainly a controversial choice with many of the festival attendees. Whatever, he was not in a mood to mellow his act to win over the audience. The opening of his set was evidence of this as the band played about 16 bars of the huge Bryan Adams hit Summer of 69 before halting for Devin to suddenly proclaim "Weíre Canadian, so stick that up your ass".

Culling material from his various bands and projects other than his Strapping Young Lad project, the set began with his more extreme material and mellowed towards the end, where Devinís vocals were certainly less harsh and the music less brutal. The highpoint for myself was the brilliant Earth Day from his Terria album, perhaps because it was an instrumental, but also because it was the most progressive of the tunes that he played. Uncompromising to the very end, the band signed off with Bad Devil and a final message of "Weíre the Devin Townsend Band and we rock!". It was only the second live performance by this particular line-up and they can feel satisfied with their performance, which pleased a good proportion of the crowd.

Gamma Ray on stage

Rather like their compatriots from the night before, German Power Metal giants Gamma Ray were playing their debut show in the USA. Rather surprisingly I suppose, after a career of more than 12 years, but the audience were clearly as pleased as the band were themselves to be finally appearing on an American stage. They had brought their full stage-set with them, including the huge backdrop featuring the cover of the No World Order disk.

Kai Hansen

They began with Land of the Free from the album of the same name before vocalist/guitarist and main man Kai Hansen thanked the crowd for giving them the opportunity to play in the USA. His announcement was met by a huge roar of appreciation from the crowd and it was clear that the band had the audience in the palm of their hands right from the start. The crowd adored and happily sang along with tunes such as New World Order, Fire Below and Heavy Metal Universe before we were treated to an extended and surprisingly disappointing drum solo by the normally excellent Dan Zimmerman. However the set ended rapturously with the storming Valley of the Kings and the lengthy Somewhere out in Space which is as 'progressive' as anything the band has done.

When the band returned for the inevitable encores, the audience and in particular the bandís older fans, exploded with joy as they played two tunes from Kaiís original group Helloween. The choices of Ride The Sky and I want Out could have been predicted but they made an excellent and very positive end to a triumphant debut performance in the USA.

Edu Falaschi, Angra

Final band of the Festival was the popular Brazilian outfit Angra, yet another band making its debut in Atlanta, as a precursor to a short USA tour. Though some of their material has them edging into the Progressive Metal genre, the majority of their material could be more accurately described as Euro Power Metal with a symphonic edge. Since I last saw them perform live in 1999 there has been a split in the band, with the current line-up featuring only guitarists Kiko Loureiro and Rafael Bittencourt out of the original members. They only returned to the European stage in spring 2002, but having missed that tour, I was glad of a second chance to catch them live.

As the stage curtain was pulled back and the overture In Excelsis boomed over the PA, the audience could see that the stage had been vastly re-arranged so that all of the speaker stacks faced inwards to the stage rather than towards the audience, while the back of the stage was decorated with a huge backdrop of the gorgeous cover of their Rebirth album. The crowd then let out a huge roar as the musicians appeared and launched into Nova Era, also from Rebirth. From there they moved into Acid Rain with its spoken Latin samples at the beginning before singer Edu Falaschi spoke to the crowd and, like almost all the bands, expressed the bandís heartfelt thanks at being given the chance to finally play in front of an American audience.

Kiko Loureiro, Angra The band then mixed up things a bit, a little something from Angels cry, the title track, something from Rebirth, Heroes of the Sand and then the marvellous Metal Icarus from Fireworks with the two guitarists showing just why they are such a highly rated pairing. The sound quality appeared to improve noticeably during the course of these 3 songs to the point where it became probably the best that any of the bands received all weekend. Meanwhile the set just got better and better.
Felipe Andreoli, Angra
The short solo spot by Kiko which followed was one of the highlights of the set. As adept with an acoustic guitar as with an electric, Kiko gave us a brief, fluid and technically excellent solo which left all of the wannabe guitarists in the audience desperate to hear more.

However the tribal drum samples indicated the beginning of Tribal War and the return of the band, during which oneís attention was drawn to the equally impressive drumming of Aquiles Priester and the monster bass playing of his partner Felipe Andreoli, far more than mere Ďadequate replacementsí for the bandís departed rhythm section. New recruits they may be, but as Edu performed the band member introductions, it was evident that I was not alone in taking note of the quality of their playing.

Kiko Loureiro swaps guitar for drums

One of the highlights of the old line-upís performances used to be a live rendition of Carolina IV, from the bandís most Ďprogressiveí album Holy Land. This used to begin with the former singer and the two guitarists playing a solo drum, as they pounded out the intro to the song. I was therefore delighted to see drums appear before four of the band member and though the rhythm, begun by Kiko, hinted at this popular tune, it developed into the track Hunters and Prey from the bandís recent EP. Rather surprisingly this was followed by another track from the same EP and the band seemed both pleased and surprised as it became clear that the audience was also familiar with that disk.

Edu and Rafael Bittencourt, Angra

The final part of the set consisted of older stage favourite Nothing To Say, preceded by its short instrumental overture Crossing and an encore of Carry On. The evening closed triumphantly with an excellent rendition of Iron Maidenís Number of the Beast along with which the audience sang its heart out. It was perfect ending to two excellent days of Progressive and Power Metal.

The event itself was a huge success, both in terms of the attendance and the performance delivered by the bands. Organisation was very good, a fantastic selection of CD stalls were available and the eventís sampler disks were packed with lots of great music too. Iíll be back in 2003!

Reading Zero:
And Never To Return
Scene Unseen
To Hold An Angel
New Worlds
Amongst The Clouds
Next Stage
Light & Space
Latent Gene
Falling Away
Ravages of Time
Long Way Home
Devin Townsend: (incomplete)
Seventh Wave
Earth Day
Bad Devil

Gamma Ray:
Rebellion In Dreamland
Land of The Free
New World Order
Fire Below
Gardens of the Sinner
Heavy Metal Universe
Beyond The Black Hole
drum solo (yawn)
Heart of the Unicorn
Dream Healer
Valley of the Kings
Somewhere out in Space
Ride The Sky
I Want Out

In Excelsis/Nova Era
Acid Rain
Angels Cry
Heroes of The Sand
Metal Icarus
Millennium Sun
Kiko Solo spot
Unholy Wars
Hunters and Prey
Live & Learn
Crossing/Nothing to Say
Unfinished Allegro / Carry On
Number of the Beast


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