This is the second and final article from our coverage of ProgPower USA XXII. If you landed here without reading the recap for days one and two, head over here.
As the week rolled into the weekend, it was time for ProgPower USA to take it up a notch. Day Three and Day Four had both undergone numerous roster changes, including almost half of the Day Four roster, since the 2023 festival’s original announcement. But despite the adjustments in the bill, ProgPower USA was sold-out, and Center Stage was packed to the brim on both Friday and Saturday. By noon the line to enter the venue was wrapped around the block and black shirts sprawled as far as the eye could see. Metalheads poured out of local pizzerias, bars, and nearby hotels. The air across Atlanta crackled with palpable excitement.
To begin the latter half of the festival was an appearance from The Cryptex. These German metallers faced multiple travel obstacles on their way to ProgPower USA, including lost bags, cancelled flights, and more than 32 hours on the road. Given their electric set, however, it would have been impossible to guess just how many struggles they had faced. This explosive opening set included anguished screaming, delicate piano ballads, and just a few men putting on a show worthy of an entire theater company. The audience was treated to a shocking sight as the set came to a close, and countless eyes widened as the mic stand was repeatedly slammed overhead and into the ground.
Day Three also featured two female vocalist powerhouses back-to-back. First came Battle Beast, with none other than the incredible Noora Louhimo at the helm. She came out dressed as a goddess, draped in rich greens, blacks, and golds, with horns reminiscent of Loki. While she was prowling the stage, guitarist Joona Björkroth shredded his way through anthems from the band’s recent album Circus of Doom. And as untouchable as Louhim may have appeared while on stage, the equally stunning Melissa Bonny came out next with Ad Infinitum. The band has released a staggering four albums since 2020 after Bonny formed the project in 2018. There is no question that Bonny was the magnetic centerpiece of Ad Infinitum’s set, but there was much credit owed to the unflappable excellence of drummer Niklas Müller. These two bands were a perfect midday matchup for the power-driven festival. Seamless on-stage chemistry, bright costuming, and high-energy sets defined the early afternoon at Center Stage. And as for Battle Beast, there were hours of chatter about whether the band matched the prowess of their spin-off act Beast in Black.
Just as powerful, and perhaps even more deeply touching, Green Carnation followed shortly thereafter. This was the band’s great comeback to ProgPower USA after prior placements had fallen through due to extenuating circumstances. Not only did Green Carnation play an immensely moving set on Friday, but they began Day Four with an exclusive (and sold out) acoustic set for their biggest fans. The competence and experience of this progressive music act showed through in their professionalism and perfectionism. It was transcendent to see Kjetil Nordhus command the audience with his imposing vocal presence while pianist Kenneth Silden carefully painted the melodic backdrop. Saturday’s acoustic set was just as alluring, although in an entirely different light. With more than three decades since the band’s inception, Green Carnation’s ProgPower USA appearance was long sought-after, and obviously appreciated by many fans in attendance.
Another moving display of emotive and evocative musicianship came from Australia’s Caligula’s Horse. These progressive metallers made their US debut at ProgPower XX in 2019, and although they were scheduled to go on a North American tour in early 2020, it was cancelled due to global circumstances. It was once again ProgPower USA that welcomed Caligula’s Horse back to the states, and this time in the second headlining spot. This placement gave these fan-favorites more than 90 minutes to stretch their talents for all to see. In this time the band traversed their discography, leaning heavily on 2020’s Rise Radiant and 2015’s Bloom. There was also the impressive rendition of 15-minute crusher “Graves,” followed immediately by “Dream the Dead,” to bring the set to a close. Vocalist Jim Grey stood calmly at the front of the stage and spoke to the audience between songs, delving into the sensitive subjects that drove both the sad and hopeful tracks on the set, and asked the audience to hang on with him for just one more day with “Salt.” A stray heckler was shut down instantly, proving just what respect Grey has for his art and for the audience members on the rail that were moved to tears.
Lightening the mood were the day’s highly-anticipated headliners, none other than symphonic power metal legends Kamelot. This appearance at ProgPower USA followed vocalist Tommy Karevik’s announcement that he would be departing his other project, Seventh Wonder, to work with Kamelot alone. Both Kamelot and Seventh Wonder are ProgPower USA alumni, and Tommy seemed right at home on Center Stage. Two sound issues brought silence across the stage, and drumming from Alex Landenburg’s kit was the only audible rhythm. The band continued to play through these technical difficulties, never missing a beat, until the sound was restored. It was a fun, vibrant set, heavy with costuming, lights, and Karevik’s irresistible charisma. There was no better way to end Day Three with high-charged metal bliss, the encore ending just minutes before the night slipped into the early morning.
One thing that makes ProgPower USA so special is the commitment to the audience experience. Longtime promoter and festival founder Glenn Harveston has created a festival that sells out year after year, yet continues to host the festival in the modestly sized indoor venue of Center Stage. This ensures that all fans have a more intimate and personal experience with the bands in attendance, and musicians often come out on the festival floor to mingle with attendees and watch other bands. Not only is there this physical closeness, but ProgPower USA features free signing sessions each day from almost every band in attendance, with efficiency that allows more than 300 people to get their merchandise signed in less than 30 minutes. Bands also have the discretion to have photo sessions with fans, with Elvenking taking dozens of photos with fans following their impressively long signing session on Day One. Kamelot’s line was truly impressive, with merchandise and signing session lines that literally extended out the venue’s main entrance. These details make the experience of ProgPower USA something truly special, and ensure that this festival will retain its notoriety for many years after its 25th edition.
Progpower USA XXII – Day Three Photo Gallery
The oddball of the weekend was Day Four’s second opening act, the thrash-heavy, knife-wielding Evil Invaders. This was quintessential old-school thrash energy with a power-speed metal touch. And as much as bands like VOLA and Battle Beast had some jostling in the crowd, Evil Invaders stoked a pit that stretched from the leftmost seating area to the rightmost. It was heavy, violent, and so incredibly cathartic. Oddballs they may have been, there’s no question that Evil Invaders left a lasting impression on ProgPower USA, and that they showed the talent of a rising star.
In sharp contrast with Evil Invaders stock in trade, the second slot of the day belonged to Germans Poverty's No Crime, which brought forth their tried-and-true take on progressive metal, with sprawling songs that held on to typical verse-chorus structures, distinguishable riffs and harmonious leads. Sometimes veering into more of a hard rock sound and others going more clearly in the direction of metal with crushing guitars, they employed a remarkable use for catchy melodies, while putting their undeniable skills in the service of their songs.
Day Four had even more female-fronted bands, beginning with Visions of Atlantis, transitioning to Delain, and then ending with Unleash the Archers. Each act had something special to bring to the table, with Visions of Atlantis having their iconic pirate-themed garb and banter. There was a rowing pit in the middle of the set, call and repeats, as well as numerous jokes from both vocalists (Clémentine Delauney and Michele Guaitoli). The band has undergone numerous lineup changes, but there is no question that these pirates ensured that the audience had a fantastic time joining them on the high seas.
Delain has toured the US numerous times before, but ProgPower USA featured the appearance of new vocalist Diana Leah. Filling the shoes of longtime vocalist Charlotte Wessels is a monumental task, but Leah proved up to the challenge. She interacted frequently with the crowd, and danced delicately around the mic stand as her voice reached up through the rafters. Ludovico Cioffi in particular drew stares with his screams. This lofty metal performance was shortly followed by quintessential power metal band Unleash the Archers. Still riding the high of 2020’s Abyss and 2019’s Apex, Unleash the Archers was prepared to blow the roof off, after a stop at Mad With Power just two weeks earlier. Brittney Slayes took it to the stage with the professionalism and grace of a true performer, and she was matched in energy by all her bandmates. During a set-list that included fan-favorite cuts like "Cleanse the Bloodlines", "Ghosts in the Mist" and "Afterlife" the band also discussed about their new and upcoming material set for release in 2024, letting the crowd ride high on that anticipation until the curtains closed.
ProgPower USA ended with a band that rarely sets foot in the US, and when they have in the past, it has also been at ProgPower USA. At an entirely different stage in their career, Myrath returned to Atlanta, celebrating the success of most recent album Shehili while also teasing new material to come. Hailing from Tunisia, Myrath entertained the crowd with stories of cross-cultural experiences, the meaning behind their music, and a lesson in getting a packed venue to partake in a three-part harmony. This was a showcase of the diversity that exists within metal, particularly with the inclusion of Arabic instrumentals and folk melodies amid the metallic bite. The ever-stunning “Believer” brought a close to ProgPower USA XXII, and with it came assurances from vocalist Zaher Zorgati: believe in yourself, and carry on, carry on, carry on…
ProgPower USA XXIII is already on the books for 2024, scheduled from September 4th through September 7th at Center Stage. The full roster, except for three Day One bands, has also been announced via a live video on Day Three and on the festival’s official social media pages. The success of ProgPower USA XXII makes one thing certain – this special celebration of power metal and progressive music is destined for success until its doors finally close.
Special thanks to Samantha Buckman for her writing contributions to this article.
Progpower USA XXII – Day Four Photo Gallery