Prog Power UK returns this weekend (Mar 31) and Room Thirteen will be there bringing you reviews from across the day.

This year's event is the second PPUK after its successful debut one year ago. To read coverage of the 2006 event click here.

Read on for a preview of this year's line-up, however if you're set to be a first timer or hadn't given this event a second thought until now, R13's Terry Broadhurst gives his verdict on the 2006 event as well as a few hints on how to get the best out of your visit to the Cheltenham Centaur.

The Venue, The Event, The Music: what can you expect from PPUK?
When I heard that Prog Power was coming to the UK I was quite surprised and excited, the UK isn't really known for its power metal following as it's more of a mainland Europe thing. I checked the line-up and found I hadn't heard of most of the bands, I knew Therion and I had at least heard of Threshold but the rest was a mystery.

Therion sold me on this as it was the only chance I was going to get to see them without a plane ticket, Cheltenham is under two hours from where I live, so I set off expecting to be crushed in a smallish hall all day, being sold lukewarm hamburgers and beer for a huge sum of money killing time until Therion turn up. I was completely wrong.

The first surprise was turning up at the venue to find that it had free on-site parking, I kept waiting for a man in a yellow coat to demand 5 from me. The venue building is almost new and seems like you may have turned up at the wrong place, it's far too nice to cram over 1000 heavy metal fans into.

Then comes the second surprise, on entering you are given a free CD with sample songs from the line-up of the day plus other bands' material, you then walk slightly stunned into a huge hall, this is the performance area with tiered seating along the rear of the standing area, you could probably seat a few hundred people there and due to the fact that the hall is very wide rather than deep you can sit in comfort if you're old like me and not be too far from the stage, also due to the seating being tiered you can see over everyone's head.

It turned out to be a day of surprises all of them good, the main hall is separated from a second room by a short path, inside you will find the metal market containing the largest collection of metal CD's known to man, if you think you know your metal think again as there are row upon row of bands you've never heard of. One seller who had traveled from Germany must have had a couple of thousand CD's alone.

There's also clothes, guitars, strings, other festivals advertising their show and even the odd band promoting themselves with a stall. You'll find the bands from the day's line-up wandering about as they aren't mega stars in this country so they can mix with the common folk and not get swamped. They were more than happy to sign stuff and chat, enjoying the attention in a country they had never played in before or maybe even visited.

The first band hits the stage and it's early afternoon, the strange thing is because it's indoor it's fairly dark so you quickly forget that you're watching a band in the middle of the day. The line-up as mentioned earlier was a little unknown to me and each band would come on and announce that this was their first time playing in the UK and they were happy to be here etc etc. The thing is, they were almost all a pleasant revelation especially Orphaned Land who stunned people with their eastern flavoured metal and left me wishing they were playing for much longer than they had. I saw a few people at the merchandise stand buying their CD's just as I was as soon as they finished their set and if it wasn't for Prog Power I may never have known they existed.

The day passed comfortably, each successive band a new and interesting experience and this just added to the whole event, it made a change from going to somewhere like Download and knowing what you were going to get for 90% of it.

Top of the bill and playing a fascinating combination of metal and opera were Therion and what a brilliant show they did, I'm not that big a fan of their CD's but live I couldn't take my eyes off them.

So all in all a great day out at a comfortable and well appointed venue that due to being inside doesn't have to clash with all the other festivals clamouring for space in the two weeks of summer we get each year. It's within easy walking distance of Cheltenham town centre if you fancy a Subway sandwich before the day kicks off though you'd have to miss a band if you wanted to go during the event as the turnaround time for the bands was surprisingly short. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone with a prog or power metal bone in their body and the 2007 line-up is something a bit special too.

2007 Line-Up Preview
Given the nature of this event and its desire to bring artists to the UK that may never have played here before, this preview is slightly different from the sort we've done for bigger events as we only have previous coverage for around half of the line-up.

You can click links below for reviews we have and where not, the band name will lead you to their own website.

Jon Oliva's Pain 'Maniacal Renderings'
Kamelot - 'One Cold Winters Night'
Leaves' Eyes 'Legend Land'
Leave's Eyes at London Electrowerks in 2005.
Communic 'Conspiracy In Mind'

You can also click here for the PPUK running order and more about each band.

PPUK, The Behind The Scenes Interview
As part of our build up to Prog Power UK 2, Room Thirteen spoke to the man behind the event. Jon Hoare told us about how the festival works, the reasons for choosing the bands they do and the venue it's held in, why they've been keen not to follow in the footsteps of Bloodstock, what the future holds for PPUK and his advice for anyone thinking of starting their own mini festival.

The interview has already been up on our Myspace site, but now you can read it here on Room Thirteen.
Click here for the full interview.