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August 18 - 20, 2000; Tall Cedars Venue; Baltimore, MD

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Day One/August 18, 2000
Persephone's Dream
Marcel Coenen
October Thorns

Persephone's Dream, a late addition to the Powermad 2000 bill, suffered through the first half of their set with sound problems (through no fault of their own, by the way). Persephone's Dream played many songs from their second CD "Moonspell" and attracted immediate attention to their neo-progressive rock sound that has elements of gothic and dreamy darkwave. One of the unique aspects of Persephone's Dream is the use of a percussionist in addition to drummer. The band is currently working on their third still untitled full-length CD.

Defyance was the nicest surprise of Friday evening's performance. Defyance already have three CDs out that they released throughout the '90s. As they hail from Iowa it is nice to know that there is more than just Slipknot coming from this great heartland State. The twin harmony leads and cool arrangements immediately separated Defyance from other bands on the bill.

Powermad 2000 was the live debut for New Jersey's very own Etheria.  Etheria didn't seem nervous at all and put in a good performance. With Geoff Tate-like vocals and song-structure influences of Dream Theater and Fates Warning it appears Etheria has chosen prog-metal stalwarts to guide them through the embryonic stages of their metal journey.  Etheria's cover of Queensryche's "Eyes Of A Stranger" was impressive.  Look for a debut from Etheria soon. 

Dutch native Marcel Coenen (ex-Lemur Voice), who had opened Powermad 2000 during the opening party the previous night, put in the evening's most out-of-the-ordinary performance. Since Coenen didn't have his band Sun Caged with him he played guitar over the backing of his solo CD and the Sun Caged demo (which is drawing comparisons to Areyon). Coenen proved his worth as a shredder and I guarantee it won't be long before Sun Caged are signed to an international label and are releasing their music worldwide.

I'd built up pretty good anticipation for October Thorns as I'd heard the buzz for this progressive metal outfit was strong and well deserved. October Thorns did not disappoint. Not only were my expectations met, my expectations were exceeded! Paul's vocals are a cool blend of James LaBrie and Charlie Dominici and the music behind him is chock full of challenging riffs and very refined arrangements. Since October Thorns had just lost their second guitar player they asked Marcel Coenen to sit in with them; Coenen learned all six songs in two days! October Thorns' brand of progressive metal with an aggressive edge is something worth hearing now! Keep a keen eye out for October Thorns!

I'd seen Raven about two months ago so I wasn't expecting any surprises. After listening to four songs I realized that Raven were performing pretty much the same set as they did when opening for U.D.O. There's nothing particularly wrong with that, but it wasn't anything new to me. Never being a big Raven fan I left to rest up for Day 2's extravaganza.

Powermad 2000: Day Two/August 19, 2000
Reading Zero
Jag Panzer
Reign Of Terror

Having been introduced to Archetype last year as one of the first bands I had the pleasure of reviewing for Rough Edge I was really looking forward to seeing the band perform live. Archetype does a great job balancing technicality, melody, and heaviness into a distinguished package. Archetype played a couple of songs from their debut "Hands Of Time," but focused their time on stage on their new material from the forthcoming CD "Dawning." If the new song are any indication, "Dawning" should attract a lot of attention in heavy metal circles.

I knew virtually nothing of Event before Powermad 2000 - now I wish I had known more earlier. Hailing from my home state of Massachusetts I really liked what Event has to offer with their progressive hard rock style without resorting to '70s prog-rock clichés and overt power metal influences. The music was patient and creative - what more could you ask for? One could easily describe Event as a grittier version of early King's X.

The Powermad 2000's Biggest Surprise Award goes to Grayhaven. Playing a style self-termed as electro-rock Grayhaven does not use a bassist - keyboards are used to handled the low-end. As a consequence Grayhaven did not sound like any other band on the Powermad bill - with 26 bands it became somewhat difficult to make one band distinct from the others. This young band (everyone is still in college) keeps their music heavy while still leaving room for atmosphere and unique tones. Look for the band's sophomore release very soon.

I was familiar with Ohio's Antithesis through their song "Breeding The Beast" from a sampler CD. Antithesis' brand of progressive heavy metal was more aggressive than most other acts featured this weekend and that suited me just fine. Antithesis' brand of technical playing and provoking lyrics is a great combination for those of us looking for something that hits the gut as well as the mind. The band is recording their sophomore effort this Fall.

Wraith has a vocalist frontman that immediately recalls some of the great voices of the genre including D.C. Cooper and Ian Parry. But, luckily for us, Joseph Alexander did not dominate and let his band support him with poise. Wraith's brand of European influenced power metal was quite satisfying. Hailing from Florida Wraith have just signed with Progressive Arts Media and will have their debut in stores later this year. With two guitarists who can shred and judicious use of keyboards it sounds like Wraith have it together and are prepared to conquer the metal world. 

The local press for Reading Zero has been nothing short of astounding.  So, would Reading Zero be as good as advertised? Yes! With members spread out across the country you'd think that it would be difficult to maintain any sense of sanity in coming up with original material. Nothing could be further from the truth. Much like Event brought a truly unique approach to prog-rock, Reading Zero brings a stunning sense of stylistic nuances to progressive metal.

Mastermind added the '70s prog-rock touch to the show's consistent yet varied line-up. Vocalist Lisa Bouchelle has been a wonderful addition to the band; her vocals are as good live as they are on Mastermind's latest jewel "Angel Of The Apocalypse." The brother Berends have a lot to be thankful for and tonight's performance showed the crowd how these veterans still can impress with flair - the younger and less experienced bands no doubt took notice.

Local legends Mystic-Force were a crowd favorite and this evening was an opportunity for the band to showcase their new album "Man Vs. Machine."  "Man Vs. Machine" is the first new material from the band in nearly five years. It is unlikely that you've heard of Mystic-Force, but I'll tell you right now that Mystic-Force, with new vocalist William Wren in the fold, is likely to turn some heads as the final months of 2000 unfold. 

The growing maturity of Jag Panzer has been simply a joy to witness. I'd basically ignored Jag Panzer back in the '80s (shame on me!), but the late '90s and the new millennium have found Jag Panzer at the top of their game. Performing many songs from their latest CD "Thane To The Throne" Jag Panzer deployed songs from this ambitious concept CD with aplomb. Jag Panzer had the best audience participation of the entire three-day festival and it's not hard to see why these guys are getting their long-overdue acclaim.

Sad to say that I missed Reign Of Terror as I was looking forward to seeing Joe Stump perform. Rough Edge will cover Reign Of Terror next time.

Powermad 2000: Day Three/August 20, 2000
Silent Shadows
Jacob's Dream
October 31
Single Bullet Theory
TT Quick
Towne Cryer XXI

Traffic foul-ups caused me to miss Exhibition. However, "Wild Dutch" spoke highly of this melodic progressive band from New Jersey. What I've heard of Exhibition from the sampler CD reminds me of Iron Maiden but with a neo-power metal twist.

From the hallowed area that has borne metallic masters Fates Warning and Divine Regale comes Silent Shadows. Connecticut's Silent Shadows' power/prog metal mix is sure to please even the most discerning of music fans. With high-energy and a sound reminiscent of a heavier version of '80s Queensryche Silent Shadows were able to play fast songs, mid-paced songs, and near epics with equal dexterity and aptitude. 

Metal Blade recording artists Jacob's Dream provided one of the strongest sets of the weekend by adding an element of doom to the power metal madness. Employing three guitarists allows the band to explore all the nuances of their music. Look for Jacobs Dream to continue to impress a wide variety of fans as they promote themselves into the consciousness of metal maniacs everywhere.

If you don't already know, October 31 play a fist-pumping brand of old school metal that is simply infectious. Now that King Fowley is free from the constraints of the drumkit he can unleash his never-ending energy as a vocalist to set new standards. October 31 played many songs, but a healthy dose of songs from "Meet Thy Maker" made it onto the set list with a cover of Saxon's "Power And The Glory" as a set-closer. Special note must be made of Brian Williams who shredded his way like no other guitarist on the bill. Hey, Snidermann: if you like October 31 on CD wait 'til you see these guys in concert!

Attacker, introduced by King Fowley with great enthusiasm, hit the stage to honor the memory of the recent passing of Jim Mooney. It must be noted that this was Attacker's first live performance in nearly 13 years! Bob Mitchell and his band of merry pranksters played with tons of emotion and enthusiasm - quite frankly you'd never think these guys had ever stopped playing. It was easy to sense a longing for the band to continue to do this as a regular gig in the future. 

Out of the ashes of Cipher comes Philadelphia's Single Bullet Theory.  Single Bullet Theory brought their decidedly modern approach to power metal and turned some heads. These guys are true metal warriors and will continue to fight the good fight. 

After a long hiatus Hades are back to rock your world with banner waving heavy metal spirit. Now that they are signed to Metal Blade, Hades have a chance to bring good ol' fashioned heavy metal back to the forefront of listeners' ears. It was odd that these guys were on a power metal festival's line-up, but the crowd dug these guys just the same.

TT Quick, yet another band I ignored in the '80 for no apparent reason, performed hard rock gems from their past and their new CD "Ink." Radio would be wise to put these guys on their playlists and bring a little sensibility to rock 'n' roll radio.

Towne Cryer XXI, a young band from upstate New York, make no bones about their debt to Dream Theater, yet still are able to craft their own niche in the power and progressive metal scenes. I thought Towne Cryer XXI's arrangements were quite impressive given the youth of this band! 

Zandelle, originally scheduled for Friday evening, went ahead and performed to the thinning crowd. Fresh off their rousing performance at this year's Milwaukee Metal Fest Zandelle displayed confidence and swagger in spades. Zandelle brought forth a high-energy performance despite the declining number of folks in attendance - those who left early can kick themselves now for missing out on something worth seeing. Zandelle's blend of speed and melody have captured the attention of big players in the music scene and only good things can await this talented outfit.  

Powermad 2000 taught me that I shouldn't give up on American bands just yet. It also showed me that the power metal scene is vibrant and ready to break down some barriers.

Many props go out to the many organizers, crew, and stage hands that kept the music flowing all throughout the weekend. All their efforts will make the next Powermad an even bigger success. 

I will definitely be at Powermad 2001 as this event is truly capable of showcasing the burgeoning American power metal movement. 

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Copyright © 2000 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:16 -0400.