Prognosis 2023 Festival

Prognosis Festival has been running annually for a few years and is now the worlds largest prog festival. Its increased in popularity and now sees prog fans from all over the globe traveling to the town of Eindhoven to take part in the two-day festival. This year sees the festival growing from two to three days and for the first time, a two-day London edition held at Indigo at the O2.

I’ve wanted to attend Prognosis for a while so when they announced a London edition, I decided it would be good to go along. This years line up features both well know and lesser-known acts so a great weekend was guaranteed. The festival is over two stages, I say two but in reality, the second stage is in the corner of the bar on the first floor. It’s really small so unless you are in the first couple of rows you are not able to see much.

The weekend didn’t get off to the greatest of starts with train delays and problems with my pass meaning that I missed the opening acts Mariana Semkina (from Iamthemorning) and Astronoid. So for me first up was Swedish post-rock band Pg.lost. I’ve not heard of these guys before but after their opening track I’m a fan. What their music lack in lyrics is more than compensated by huge riffs and driving rhythms. The music is a fierce and powerful wall of sound. This makes their music very listenable. At the later Q & A the band say they get sent lyrics all the time, but they feel there’s greater freedom in their music without lyrics. Sadly, the band say they are not currently working on any new material.

Next up were Canadian band Voivod. This band seems to have completely passed me by despite them being around for 40 years.

Having missed Mariana Semkina I’m determined to see Iamthemorning. I decide that to get to the second stage well in advance of their set to ensure a spot on the front row. I’m really glad that I did as several others have the same idea and it fills up fairly quickly. Their set is very short, and I wish it had been longer. Mariana’s voice is almost ethereal as she floats about on the small riser on which she is standing. Frightened she might fall off, Mariana steps off to dance on the floor. The area is very small and I get the feeling the band feel constricted.

Hawkwind were the first band I ever saw perform live more than 40 years ago and ignited my love of live music. Sadly, only Dave Brock is the last original member remaining. Decked in his baseball cap and glasses his voice is still as strong as ever. The set kicks off with Levitation, at nearly ten minutes long it’s a musical juggernaut. This is the followed by You’d Better Believe It and Psychedelic.

Warlords (Disappear In Smoke). Arrival In Utopia transports me back 40 years to listening to Choose Your Masques constantly on my Walkman. There isn’t much chat between songs but as Arrival finishes Brock says “there’s no more utopia for us”, “maybe it’s in Devon” is the reply from Martin MacKinnon. I believe this a reference to where Brock lives.We are treated to Rama from the forthcoming album “The Future Never Waits” which sounds great before returning to the 70’s with Spirit Of The Age and Assault And Battery / The Golden Void.

Accompanying the set is a spectacular light show including lasers and a visual backdrop. A powerful version of Brainstorm seems a fitting way of bringing their set and day one to a close.

Day Two

Day two kicks off with French Alt-Rock band LizZard on the second stage. I’ve seen them a couple of times and love their music. As mentioned before, the stage isn’t very big and is already rammed by the time I get there. Disappointed that I couldn’t get closer to the stage, I retire to the bar and listen from there. Opening with The Decline, they sound good as always and sets the scene for a promising day two.

Opening the main stage, are London metalcore band Ithaca. Usually, I like a bit of scream and growl, but I really didn’t like this, the lyrics seemed lost amongst the sound barrage. Frontwoman Djamilia Azzouz admitted she’s not that good at on-stage banter and encouraged the audience to imagine she’s just said something really funny which unsurprisingly made the audience laugh. Towards the end of the set, guitarist Sam announces the band is “about more than just music. Our current album They Fear Us is about healing from trauma” which seemed to make sense of the raw energy they put into their performance

Next up on the main stage was Sylvaine fronted by petite Norwegian Kathrine Shepard looking more like Goldilocks with her waist-length hair. It’s their first-ever London performance. They bowl a curved ball by walking on to an intro of ambient folk-rock and then bursting straight into hard hitting black metal. I must admit that I’m a little taken aback. Norwegian song titles are translated by Kathrine as the set progresses. It’s a mix of folk, rock and black metal with growling and snarling from the bassist thrown in for good measure.

Mono No Aware is apparently the heaviest thing Kathrine has ever written, it’s powerful heavy metal and without doubt is the highlight of their set.

It’s a mad dash upstairs to catch international supergroup O.R.k. The four-piece comprises vocalist,

Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari, Carmelo Pipitone on guitars, bassist Colin Edwin (ex-Porcupine Tree) and King Crimson’s Pat Mastelotto on drums. Again, everyone seems to have the same idea to get there early so again it’s rammed, and the band are completely hidden from view, so I find a seat outside and listen from there. There’s clearly some excellent music being played, a fusion of guitar and synthesizer but it’s a shame very few can see it.

Next up are Southend’s Rosalie Cunningham and her band. Looking like they have just stepped off the set of Daisy Jones and the Six, they transport us back to 1973. Rosalie herself, booted, dressed with stars and tassels wouldn’t look out of place on Top of the Pops. Their music has a retro feel to it, it’s quirky and melodic with a hint of classical. Ride On My Bike or Fuck Love wouldn’t look out of place on a Queen album. For me the standout was red haired bassist, Claudia. Sporting a sliver cape that Rick Wakeman would be proud of, she played bass the like of I’ve not seen since seeing Chris Squire with Yes

Swedish band Soen, are next on the main stage. Tonight, they are joined by a string quartet and backing singer, the brilliant Diana Kantner. Front man Joel Ekelöf walks on stage in a formal suit to the applause of the audience. He has an air of confidence as he commands the stage. He announces that they are going to perform their 2022 album Atlantis in its entirety together with some of the members of the orchestra that played on the album. It’s a very polished performance, the addition of the orchestra softens their songs turning them into power ballads. It’s very impressive and the hour seems to fly by. I’ve seen Soen a couple of times, and this was by far their best performance.

So on to the grand finale, Riverside. Opening with #Addicted which was quickly followed by Panic Room, during which the band stopped dead in their tracks and kept absolutely still for 30 seconds. The set is a mix of old and new. Next was Landmine Blast from their current album ID.Entity, it’s a prog-rock tour de force. Big Tech Brother keeps the momentum going. The set finishes with Friend or Foe from the new album. After a short break the band are back for a two song encore, Self Aware kicks it off and the festival is brought to a close with the brilliant Conceiving You.

Overall, I loved Prognosis. It was a wonderful mix of prog genres and an opportunity to listen to new bands. The organisation was meticulous, and the festival ran like clockwork. I really liked the idea of the Q & A sessions and being able to listen to the bands talk about their music.

To me, Ithaca and Sylvaine didn’t really seem to fit with the other bands but that’s just my opinion and others may have a different view. I really don’t understand why O.R.k. were not on the main stage as I’m sure many would like to have seen them rather than just hear them.

I hope Prognosis returns to London in 2024 but please find a more suitable venue. I’m sure there are other venues that could host two stages.

Words and Photos by Mark Stimpson 

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Philip Goddard

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