This past September, the Atlanta venue Center Stage treated fans to four days of progressive-metal utopia at the eighteenth edition of the ProgPower USA festival. The sold-out event hosted twenty-one international prog- and power-metal bands with exclusive performances by some longtime favorites. The highly anticipated lineup featured
MD Hall of Famer Mike Portnoy in a rare appearance with his Shattered Fortress project. The event’s gear sponsors included DW and PDP drums and hardware, Evans heads, Sabian cymbals, Promark sticks, and Shure microphones. The nineteenth edition of ProgPower is scheduled to take place at Center Stage on September 5–8, 2018.
Drummer Rich Smith kicked off day one with the U.K. metal band Power Quest. Next, Andreas Schipflinger slayed a set with the Austrian symphonic power-metal group Serenity. Matan Shmuely and the Israeli extreme-metal band Orphaned Land then took the stage, followed by headliner Haken, one of the U.K.’s top prog-metal acts, which performed the album Visions in its entirety, driven by the dynamic drumming of Raymond Hearne.
The Pennsylvania-based metal group Next to None opened day two with an impressive performance from eighteen-year-old Max Portnoy, who’s confidently following in father Mike’s footsteps. The Swedish power-metal act Twilight Force, featuring drummer De’Azsh, and German prog-metal favorites Vanden Plas, with Andreas Lill, played stellar sets. Coheadliner Between the Buried and Me featured the mind-bending drumming of Blake Richardson, whose stop-on-a-dime rhythmic changes dazzled the crowd as the group ran through the complex material that defines its 2007 album, Colors. Drummer Stet Howland closed the set with the American icon Metal Church and delivered powerful old-school metal madness.
The Brazilian prog-metal group Daydream XI, featuring drummer Bruno Giordano, masterfully launched day three. Israel’s Distorted Harmony, with drummer Yogev Gabay, followed, before Andres Cobos took the stage with one of Spain’s premier power-metal acts, Lords of Black. Drummer Dirk Assmuth tore the roof off with the German band Angel Dust, and the Tunisian group Myrath delivered a solid set of prog metal with Morgan Berthet’s tasty, gospel-infused drumming.
Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress, which features members of Haken and the Neal Morse Band, stood out as a highlight of the show during its Friday headliner set. Portnoy handily reminded the enthusiastic crowd why he was such a driving force behind the success of Dream Theater as he played “Twelve-Step Suite,” a set of five songs he wrote during his tenure with the band. For Portnoy fans, it was a must-see event and a long-awaited return to the music that made him a widely influential drummer.
The final day of the festival opened with the impressive Boston power-metal band Seven Spires, featuring drummer Chris Dovas. Four Swedish acts followed, including the power-metal ambassadors Dynazty (featuring drummer George Egg), the entertainingly evil Snowy Shaw (with Carl Tudén), the metal gods Pain (Sebastian Tägtgren), and the fiery Amaranthe ( Morten Løwe Sørensen). Drummer Daniel Moilanen and the Swedish headliners Katatonia brought the packed house of diehard fans to their feet to close the festival.