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All-Star Jam, After Forever, Sonata Arctica, Primal Fear, Pagan'S Mind, Freak Kitchen, Redemption, Threshold, Virgin Steel, Firewind, Cellador, Krucible, Communic, Raintime, Halcyon Way, Special Guest @ ProgPower USA, Atlanta, GA (USA)

ALL-STAR JAM, AFTER FOREVER, SONATA ARCTICA, PRIMAL FEAR, PAGAN'S MIND, FREAK KITCHEN, REDEMPTION, THRESHOLD, VIRGIN STEEL, FIREWIND, CELLADOR, KRUCIBLE, COMMUNIC, RAINTIME, HALCYON WAY, SPECIAL GUEST
in Thursday, 4 October 2007 at ProgPower USA
by Ian Kaatz

Since this is going to take a while, due to the number of bands, I will try to be as concise as possible without leaving anything out that was major.  To start with the special guest that got announced, for a special Wednesday evening show if you wanted to come in town earlier and were one of the 200 to get a ticket, he was none other than Jon Oliva.  I am a huge SAVATAGE fan so when this was announced I was extremely excited.  The evening was just him playing classic SAVATAGE, some JON OLIVA'S PAIN, TSO, and some BEATLES tracks.  It was just Jon and the piano and by god if it wasn't amazing.  Zak Stevens even came out of the woodwork to do a couple of duets as listed below.  The BEATLES songs were great and truly a once in a lifetime experience, but hearing Believe and Jesus Saves was just some of the most emotional I have ever been in concert before, and Jon knew it.  How would Jon know it, you say?  Because throughout the entire concert I was yelling for this song and that song; Jon eventually pointed me out and he had somewhat of a discussion with me while I was in crowd and I let him know the next day that he was truly amazing.

Jon Oliva's setlist:

The Show Must Go On (THREE DOG NIGHT cover)
Out On The Streets (original pre-recorded version)
Fly Away
Only You
Heal My Soul
Little Too Far
Eleanor Rigby
Imagine
Jesus Saves (original pre-recorded version)
In My Life
I'm So Tired
All That I Bleed_Strawberry Fields
Surrender
Golden Slumbers
If I Go Away
Pray For You Now
Sleep (Zak on vocals)
Alone You Breath (Zak on vocals)
Lady In Disquise (first time ever performed)
Souls (new song)
Believe

Skip to Thurday and I was awakened by awful news that VANDEN PLAS got turned away at customs and had to return home to Germany. Aaargh!  The promoter then added HALCYON WAY, a local Atlanta band, to at least add another one.  They played a really great set even though I was totally unfamiliar with them.  I would describe them as Progressive Metal but with some added Thrash elements.  Everything about their set was really good, the drummer beat the shit out of the drums, the bassist had some really interesting stuff going on, the vocalist had excellent range reaching the stratosphere at some points and the guitarists - while I didn't think they stood out as much - they were a very nice complement.

HALCYON WAY's setlist:

Manifesto For Domination
Inversion
Dance Of The Wasted
Blind Eyes To The Sky
I Fought The World Today
Desolation Day

Next up was KRUCIBLE, who I had seen before at Texas Madfest over the summer.  They didn't have really any new material since the last time, but they did sound a lot tighter overall.  They also threw in a fantastic cover of Eyes Of A Stranger rather than Take Hold Of The Flame (both songs by QUEENSRYCHE), like they did at Madfest.  There was also the very surprising addition of Pull Me Under by DREAM THEATER.  Lance, Don, and Darren have to be my favorites from the band. Lance is well Lance King and he is a fantastic singer no matter how you cut it.  Don shredded the crap out of his guitar even more so than last time.   Finally, Darren really nailed everything this time since the last time I saw them he had only one or two practices with the band before.

CELLADOR graced us with their presence next on the stage.  I had listened to them before, but not extensively for some reason.  The whole band did a fantastic job as far as stage presence and being all over the place.  If you haven't heard them before, I would describe them as Americanized HELLOWEEN.  They have a lot of direct influence from HELLOWEEN, which doesn't necessarily mean they sound like a clone.  While they have their moments, I think they can do better.  Anyway, back to their performance Michael basically made it very known that this was his stage for the duration of their set.  He was everywhere and really showing every person that they deserved to be stage, not to mention hitting some fantastic notes.  All the guitarists were on point as was the drummer, Dave.  The highlight of their set wasn't them playing the cover of Eagle Fly Free by HELLOWEEN, but an original and the title track off their latest album Leaving All Behind.  Overall, great performance and not to mention some really nice guys; I hung out with them for a good majority of the weekend as far as after concert partying.  I do look forward to seeing them on the upcoming TRAIL OF TEARS and KING DIAMOND tours, respectively.

CELLADOR's setlist:

A Sign Far Beyond
Never Again
Forever Unbound
Bass Solo
Eagle Fly Free
Follow Me
Guitar Battle
Seen Through Time
Leaving All Behind
Eye Of The Tiger
No Chances Lost

Due to the canceling of VANDEN PLAS I got longer sets by all afore mentioned bands, but most importantly the final band FREAK KITCHEN.  They played an extravagant set just like last year.  Their set was complete with their bassist wearing bizarre gear as well Mattias doing his vibrator guitar solo thing, only this time he had three!  He never ceases to amaze me.  Their set was incredible with lots of great tracks, but unfortunately they still didn't include Chest Pain Waltz.  That is my all time favorite FK song, but nonetheless the stole the show as anticipated that they would.

FREAK KITCHEN's setlist (not in order):

Blind
See You in Pittsburgh
Walls Of Stupidity (acoustic)
Taste My Fist
Vaseline Bizniz
My New Haircut
Silence
Ugly Side Of Me
Everything Is Under Control
Propaganda Pie
Nobody's Laughing
Snap
Porno Daddy
Razor Flowers
Hateful Little People
Speak When Spoken To
Rights to You
Infidelity Ghost
Theme From Fletch

Friday began early for me since I had a Gold Badge which allowed me access to a drum clinic done by John Macaluso (ex-ARK, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, T.N.T.) as well as a guitar clinic by Mattias IA Eklhundh (FREAK KITCHEN).  Both of these special events were limited access so if you wanted to see and watch everything it was very easy.  Both artists played some solo stuff as well as showed off some fancy technique for the actual musicians.  I found it be extremely fun and nice start to a very long day.  Side note, John was partying with CELLADOR and I (a good portion of the weekend) and he is also an unbelievably nice guy.

The first band up for Friday was RAINTIME from Italy.  They are an excellent blend of Prog and Melodic Death with a sprinkling of Power.  They were as every other band that I had seen so far, absolutely stellar.  They did omit their cover of Beat It by MICHAEL JACKSON, which I can understand; first time in the States, probably should play all originals.  If they happen to read this, I was the guy yelling for it right after the first song that made Claudio say, no, they aren't going to play it.  On the upside they decided to include two tracks from their album that is no longer in print, Tales From Sadness.  They also happened to be my two favorites from the album Moot Lie and Faithland.  Both songs got the crowd as well as some of the newer ones Rolling Chances, Flies & Lies, and Another Transition.  From what I could see, by the response from the crowd, they were gonna be one of the bands that surprises everyone after they see them perform, like FREAK KITCHEN last year.

RAINTIME's setlist:

Faithland
Moot Lie
Apeiron
Rolling Chances
Flies And Lies
Another Transition

The next band I was thoroughly excited to see and was one of the reasons that I came to the fest; COMMUNIC, from Norway, was that band.  To start off with an unfortunate negative comment, they lack stage presence.  I think this is because they are only a three piece and they had an interim bassist.  I think that Oddleif should possibly free up the guitar to another player and also add another guitar player.  I think this would allow for more movement and more enjoyment to be had by all.  On the upside, all kinds of good music flowed out of their pores like it was some kind supersonic force.  Their overall sound was some of the best of the weekend.  They also included only two songs from the first album, which was good for me since I greatly prefer the newer offering.  My favorites of the evening included Under A Luminous Sky, Frozen Asleep In The Park and my personal favorite of theirs, Fooled By The Serpent.  The latter was the closer of the set; it was easily one of the highlights of the entire weekend for me, absolutely mind altering.  I also had a chance to talk with Oddleif about some of their lyrical content which was very interesting how the terms he selected don't exactly fit in translation, but are still very epic.

COMMUNIC's setlist:

Communication Sublime
Frozen Asleep In The Park
Waves Of Visual Decay
Under A Luminous Sky
Fooled By The Serpent

VIRGIN STEELE was up next and they were the band I was least looking forward to seeing for the weekend, but I still did want to see them since I was a fan of a few of their albums.  Once they hit the stage I it was exactly what I was expecting; leather pants and the whole nine yards of cheese outfits.  I also noticed they didn't have a bassist, which apparently in post made after the fest of the guitarists has his guitar rigged so he can play both at the same time.  The whole idea doesn't sound quite right to me, but I can't refuse it.  I thought they were a huge disappointment performance wise.  I didn't think the singer could match the range he did on record, I couldn't hear the backing vocals at all, and just their overall sound musically wasn't that enjoyable.  I left the stage area about 5 songs in for a food break.

VIRGIN STEELE's  setlist:

A Symphony Of Steele
Immortal I Stand (The Birth Of Adam)
Black Mass Blues
The Wine Of Violence
Kingdom Of The Fearless (The Destruction Of Troy)
The Voice As Weapon
Invictus
Bonedust
Defiance
Veni, Vidi, Vici

Next up was only third band that I had seen before I came to ProgPower in the three years that I have been going.  REDEMPTION opened with Threads and Bleed Me Dry , which was perfect playing two of their most popular tracks to start off the set.  While I am not nearly as familiar with anything pre-Origins of Ruin as I am with said record I still enjoyed the other songs.  However, the songs from said album were just absolutely breath taking improved from the last time I saw them in January open for DREAM THEATER.  Overall a very solid performance from yet another band for the weekend.

REDEMPTION's Set List:

Intro
Threads
Bleed Me Dry
Nocturnal
Memory
The Suffocating Silence
Release
Fall On You
Sapphire
The Death Of Faith & Reason

The next band had a lot of hype going to the concert since many people I know saw them at ProgPower USA IV.  I will say that they were one of the highlights of the fest.  PAGAN'S MIND's performance was symphonic, melodic, powerful, epic, and progressive all within a set list that could have been extended much more.  They finished with my favorite Osiris' Eyes, but they also threw in some new tracks off their yet to be released album.  One of these tracks included Hallo Spaceboy, a tune that was originally done by DAVID BOWIE, which ended up being a very tight sounding song.  Jorn, the guitarist, was totally blowing away most other performances thus far for the weekend; teamed Nils on the mic to was a really stellar set.  An almost flawless performance, the only down side was their mix was extremely loud.

PAGAN'S MIND's Set List:

New World Order
Aegean Shores
Supremacy, Our Kind
The Prophecy Of Pleiades
United Alliance
Atomic Firelight
Search For Life
Instrumental
Hallo Spaceboy
Enigmatic Mission
Through Osiris' Eyes

The headliner for Friday was SONATA ARCTICA, who I personally don't know if they are on the same level as past ProgPower headliners.  They are doing well in the clubs here, but it just doesn't seem like they should be in the same tier as BLIND GUARDIAN, SYMPHONY X or NIGHTWISH.  Regardless I enjoyed their set immensely even though Tony asked for the A_C to be shut of so the air wasn't so dry.  The heat did result in me leaving early, but I only missed a few songs at the end.  Out of the all the bands that played on Friday it appeared as if they had the second most fun next to PAGAN'S MIND.  Tony, singer, though had some weird clothes on being a pair of odd red plaid pants.  They played a pretty good mix of their catalogue such as 8th Commandment, Tallulah and Gravenimage for older tracks as well as plethora of songs from the last two albums.  While I still wasn't convinced that they should be headlining in my opinion, they did perform a high energy and high quality set.

SONATA ARCTICA's setlist:

In Black And White
Paid In Full
Victoria's Secret
Broken
8th Commandment
Tallulah
FullMoon
Caleb
Black Sheep
It Won't Fade
Gravenimage
San Sebastian
Encore
Old MacDonalds
My Land
Don't Say A Word
The Cage_Vodka Song

FIREWIND, another big reason I was in attendance, was the first band up on Saturday and they had a very special set in store.  The original singer for FIREWIND, Stephen Frederick, happened to live in Atlanta so he joined them on stage for all of the older songs that he originally sung.  Another note on this is that Gus had never met Stephen before this weekend, so it was the first time they were played with Stephen. Apollo for whatever reason couldn't make it, so they had Henning Basse from METALIUM fill in and do the vocals on all post-Stephen material.  Both singers did a sensational job and I must say that I had my doubts about Henning, but he certainly played it off.  Gus also thoroughly impressed me, but that should be no surprise since he is a mammoth of a guitar player.  Their other guitarist was great as well pulling double duty of keyboards and guitar at the same time was a high-class move.  The finale with both singers was easily the highlight of the set.

FIREWIND's setlist:

Allegiance
Insanity
Ready to Strike
Destination Forever
The Fire And The Fury
I Am The Anger
Brother's Keeper
Till The End Of Time
Falling To Pieces
Between Heaven And Hell

Yet another special surprise was presented with the departure of Mac from THRESHOLD. We were graced with the presence of Damian Wilson, their original lead singer.  I wasn't really how sure how good these guys would go over with me since I seem to not be such a fan of straight Prog bands live.  I would say that I was half bored, but half enthralled by their music. Certain aspects really stood out at times like the amazing drum work of Johanne, and the awesome sound that Damian has in his voice.  The songs that really grabbed me were Slipstream and Pilot In The Sky Of Dreams. While musically they were on point as well their sound as a whole blended perfectly alas, I just can't sit through every song of every Prog band like I can for a Power Metal band.

THRESHOLD's setlist:

Slipstream
Pressure
Mission Profile
Sanity's End
Hollow
Pilot In The Sky Of Dreams
Fragmentation

I knew before Saturday even started that the upcoming band was going to own the day easily, without a doubt in my mind.  PRIMAL FEAR definitely succeeded in not just being the best of Saturday, but the best performance of the entire weekend.  They played a mystifying amount good tracks like Face The Emptiness, Seven Seals, New Religion, and actually who I am kidding? Their entire set was absolutely bombastic and phenomenal, Power Metal at its true finest.  Ralf aka Mr. Clean was nothing but flawless and alike was the rest of the band.  The highlight of the entire weekend was encapsulated in the final song of their set Metal Is Forever.  It was just too amazing singing along with old friends, new friends and people I had never met; the electricity that was going on in the arena at point in time was just astonishing.

PRIMAL FEAR's setlist:

Intro
Sign Of Fear
Rollercoaster
Face The Emptiness
Seven Seals
Angel In Black
Iron Fist In A Velvet Glove
New Religion
Battalions Of Hate
Demons & Angels
Fighting The Darkness
Final Embrace
Metal Is Forever

The final actual band for the evening was AFTER FOREVER and while I am not a huge fan of theirs I do thoroughly enjoy their music.  Unfortunately, they suffered the same fate EPICA did last year where I just find them semi-boring live.  I caught beginning and ending of their set, but not the middle.  I thought they did a really good job but I needed to eat.  

AFTER FOREVER's setlist:

Discord
Transitory
My Pledge Of Allegiance #1 - The Sealed Fate
Monolith Of Doubt
Energize Me
Estranged
Face Your Demons
Digital Deceit
Lonely
 De-Energized
Being Everyone
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Equally Destructive
Dreamflight

Forlorn Hope (encore)

Finally, the time had come for the final performance of the evening, which was something that probably will never be re-created again.  Basically everyone in attendance saw PAGAN'S MIND become a cover band for the next 2 hours with a plethora of guests from bands that played throughout the entire weekend.  I will just mention the highlights.  The first one that really got me was Strutter with Zak Stevens in town on a special guest appearance for Wednesday evening show and now this. The next one was Welcome Home with Nils from PAGAN'S MIND on vocals. The way he was hitting those notes was ridiculous.  Henning doing the MALMSTEEN track listed below was fricking bad ass too. Nils also took the cake with Lance King for their rendition of Lady Of Winter; all I can say is I would buy the DVD this year just to hear this again.  The AC_DC tracks with the FREAK KITCHEN crew were also a huge amount of fun.  Surprisingly the staff for ProgPower came out and did their rendition of Flight Of Icarus to give PAGAN'S MIND a little break. I Want Out with Michael was fricking sweet along with Bill (CELLADOR) on guitar coming out for a solo. Then the ending was immaculate with the one two punch of Metal Gods and Balls To The Wall, I couldn't have imagined a better ending to the perfect weekend. Thanks to the entire crew that makes it happen and thanks to all my friends that attend from all over the country and world.

ALL-STAR JAM setlist:

Final Countdown (EUROPE - Floor Jansen of AFTER FOREVER)
Strutter (KISS - Zak Stevens of CIRCLE II CIRCLE)
Symphony Of Destruction (MEGADETH - Oddleif Stensland of COMMUNIC)
Welcome Home (KING DIAMOND - Nils Rue ofPAGAN'S MIND)
You Don't Remember, I'll Never Forget (YNGWIE MALMSTEEN - Henning Basse  of METALIUM / FIREWIND \[fill-in] & Gus G of FIREWIND)
Youth Gone WIld (SKID ROW - Claudio Coassin of RAINTIME)
Back On The Streets (GARY MOORE - Ralf Scheepers & Mat Sinner of PRIMAL FEAR)
Lady Of Winter (CRIMSON GLORY - Nils Rue of PAGAN'S MIND) & Lance King of KRUCIBLE)
Highway to Hell (AC/DC - Christer Ortefors & Mattias Eklundh of FREAK KITCHEN)
Back In Black (AC/DC - Christer Ortefors & Mattias Eklundh of FREAK KITCHEN)
Flight Of Icarus (IRON MAIDEN - PP crew)
Alone (HEART - Floor Jansen of AFTER FOREVER)
Who Wants To Live Forever (QUEEN - Floor Jansen of AFTER FOREVER & Ralf Scheepers of PRIMAL FEAR)
Desperado (EAGLES - Zak Stevens of CIRCLE II CIRCLE)
Hard To Handle (BLACK CROWES - Damian Wilson of THRESHOLD)
The Real Thing (FAITH NO MORE - Ray Alder of REDEMPTION)
I Want Out (HELLOWEEN - Michael Gremio of CELLADOR)
Take Hold Of the Flame (QUEENSRYCHE - Nils Rue of PAGAN'S MIND)
Children Of The Sea(BLACK SABBATH - Zak Stevens of CIRCLE II CIRCLE)
Metal Gods (JUDAS PRIEST - Ralf Scheepers of PRIMAL FEAR)
Balls To The Wall (ACCEPT - Lance King of KRUCIBLE)

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