Something rather exciting is happening at The Garage tonight. It’s not quite seven o’clock on a warm Thursday evening and a huge crowd are already waiting patiently in line for an almost sold-out show. But this isn’t just any old show: this is a celebration of the new wave of modern progressive metal, and it’s captured the attention of a very diverse group of music fans. There are young faces, others with a few more wrinkles and there’s even one guy with an impressive Mohawk. They’re all here to show appreciation for music that refuses to sit within any boundaries. What’s more, the headliners are being filmed for a live DVD.
Openers Arkentype are at the heaviest end of the progressive metal spectrum, although the sound doesn’t quite do them justice. Taking their cues from last year’s debut Disorientated, the Norwegians mix elements of metalcore, djent and even a little industrial to create something quite unexpected. Despite their energy – vocalist Kevin Augestad even clambers onto bassist Kjetil Hallaråker’s shoulders during one song – they just don’t gel with the crowd, many of whom look, frankly, a bit shocked.
It’s a different story for Special Providence. By the time they launch into their slick jazz‑fusion instrumentals, the venue is almost at capacity and the crowd are mesmerised. Their impressive performance might not be as polyrhythmic as, say Animals As Leaders, but they’re dark, quirky and utterly captivating. Prog suspects that the Hungarian collective may have won themselves a lot of new fans tonight.
Soon it’s time to rev up the Delorean and go back to the 80s for the second date of Haken’s Affinitour. Dressed in black and green to match the sleeve of retrotastic album Affinity, the band are on top form and couldn’t get much tighter. There’s massive applause as the 8-bit-influenced opener Affinity.exe segues into Initiate, caressed by Ross Jennings’ lush vocals. Arcade game noises return to punctuate the complex rhythms of Falling Back To Earth, which is performed with panache and fancy lighting.
Then there’s 1985, which sounds like it could have been a bonus track for 90125, albeit a couple of years too late, and a euphoric rendition of Cockroach King from breakthrough album The Mountain, with guest vocals from almost every member of the audience. It’s rare to witness this kind of crowd participation at a prog gig, especially when the band isn’t at stadium level.
Affinity has only been out for a month but Haken’s fans already know all the lyrics and they’re not afraid to sing them. Their unbridled enthusiasm continues for the foot-tapping anthem The Endless Knot and it spills over into the encore Crystallised. Tonight we’ve seen the future, and it’s 1985!