There were too many good bands on the bill for me not to go to the Night Of The Prog in Loreley this year, so myself and Neil Palfreyman decided to drive across and camp at the site, which turned out to be a very easy and enjoyable option.
The Friday started with Martigan, very much a neo-prog sound, but I find there is nothing wrong with that if it is done well, and they do what they do very well. Their sound is very melodic, flows well with excellent musicianship and good, strong vocals from a frontman who is just dramatic enough at times. They also have an edge to their music, keeping it interesting and challenging as they build their epic sound. The keyboards and guitar combine very well and the bass and drums keep the rhythm tight through a very accomplished performance.
Next up were Sky Architect and I had really been looking forward to seeing them after hearing some tracks from their latest album on The European Perspective podcast. There is a hard side to their sound which pushes against the jazzy feel as they develops their songs. It is a busy sound with lots going on in and around the main sound, very accomplished musicianship and vocals which are easy to listen to. The guitar sound is prominent, lots of great riffing as the tracks drive along. They are clearly having a brilliant time performing, and that feeling is spreading through the crowd, drawing huge applause as they bring their set to a close.
I had missed seeing Threshold a few times recently so was pleased to see them on the bill, and I was clearly not alone in that as there was a huge response to them coming on to the stage. None of us were disappointed as they rocked along with power and enthusiasm, their sound heavy and pounding, upbeat and uptempo. The guitar riffing is brilliant, the rhythm so tight, and amongst it all is Damien Wilson, dominating with his great vocals and also with his charismatic presence. He comes out into the crowd on more than one occasion and there is a huge clamour to get near to him as he runs around with seeming endless energy – and it is an energy which is being replicated on the stage by the rest of the band. The crowd are clapping and chanting and could not be more worked up as the storming set continues to drive along before screeching into a sustained, pounding finish and a roar of applause which the band very much deserve.
I have always liked Riverside and found them to be an excellent live band, and they just keep getting better every time I see them. They were the band of the weekend for me. There are just so many aspects to their sound, the deep rumbling bass which provides so much more than ‘just’ rhythm, the pounding drums, the powerful vocals full of emotion, the flowing keyboards, and so often dominating it all the sharp guitar – and now they have developed a real maturity to their sound, adding subtlety, sophistication, demonstrating a true confidence in what they are doing – they know how good this is, and they know how much we enjoy it – which brings it all together so tight that it is irresistible. It was noticeable that a crowd chant from their set was being repeated around the crowd through the next day. They leave their impression. There is a rich variety to their sound as well, at times understated before bursting out, sometimes swirling as it builds into a driving section which leaves the listener breathless, and the set draws the crowd along, holding us transfixed through the quieter moments, and mostly keeping us clapping and clapping and the applause gets louder after each song, and the crowd chant seems to never stop, even when they jokingly ask us to stop singing, and they end a brilliant set by leaving the stage one by one, allowing it all to fade to a close.
I have to admit that all I knew about Eloy before this were their excellent album covers. I do not think I had ever knowingly heard any of their music, though, so I did not know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, as it turns out. Their songs are very entertaining rock with a full, rounded sound, great melodies and something of a hard edge, the guitar leading the sound as the keyboards provide depth. They are another band who are clearly enjoying themselves and who can blame them when the crowd are obviously loving everything they do. They also bring in a number of female vocalists through the set, either as backing singers or to provide lead vocals, and every one of them had a stunning voice. There is really quality on show here. Darkness has descended by now and the music suits the setting – spacey at times, swirling keyboards within an atmospheric sound, the guitar cutting into that until the drums and thumping bass release us. They keep it moving along upbeat and uptempo, a tight sound despite this being their first gig in so many years, which is even more impressive when the complexity of their material is taken into account. It has been an excellent set and they bow to applause and cheers, before coming back for a well deserved encore, and then back again for another song which was clearly unscheduled but is performed perfectly and now the crowd seem happy to accept that is enough, at least for now.