US Power Metal

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United States Power Metal, USPM for short and sometimes alternately called American Power Metal is one of the two main types of heavy metal music to use the term power metal, the other being European Power Metal. Like European Power Metal, the United States in the name refers to the genre's origins, rather than any specific requirement for artists to be from the US in order to play the style, though most USPM acts are, indeed, American.

USPM first appeared in 1983. It's development could be described as the American reaction to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. US bands wanted to go one better than their UK counterparts and so the sound that would become known as USPM began to take shape. They played faster and more aggressively, albeit not to the levels of thrash metal, though some artists would cross over with thrash as well as speed metal. Generally USPM bands were closer in style to their traditional heavy metal roots, especially when compared to the later European power metal sound, which is commonly called just Power Metal without the European prefix, with USPM used just to differentiate. It is because of these vast differences that some metal fans have trouble with recognizing the two forms of power metal as the same genre. They're not wrong either, but also not entirely correct. The best way to describe power metal as a whole is that it's a cross between traditional heavy metal and speed metal. US power metal acts kept the genre closer to traditional heavy metal while European power metal acts kept it closer to speed metal. The idea was to add power to the music that other heavy metal bands at the time didn't have. USPM acts just did it a different way to what is now more widely accepted as the (European) power metal sound.

Typically, the USPM term is used to label artists that sit somewhere between traditional heavy metal and thrash metal, with some artists leaning more towards one or the other and often completely crossing over with the other style. USPM vocalists tend to use high register singing, something which is also heard in European power metal, though it is not considered an essential ingredient in the USPM sound, with some vocalists taking the music in a rougher direction.

There is quite a level of variance within US power metal. Some artists are more hard hitting and thrashy, while others take the music in a slower, more melodic and progressive direction. The two types of USPM are commonly known as Blue-collar USPM and White-collar USPM respectively.

Blue-collar USPM artists feature the harder, thrashy sound. The artists Helstar (who eventually adopted a more thrash metal based sound), Jag Panzer and Riot are some of the more well known blue-collar USPM acts. Some artists in this style of USPM have been known to take the genre quite close to the European power metal sound, such as Iced Earth, further demonstrating the relation between the two types of power metal music.

White-collar USPM artists are less hard hitting, adding more melody and progressive elements to the USPM sound. The band Crimson Glory is considered a prime example of this type of USPM, while others would be Pharaoh and Heir Apparent. Certain acts more commonly known as progressive metal acts such as Fates Warning are also considered to be a part of USPM.

- Biography written by adg211288.

Sub-genre collaborators (shared with Power Metal & Neoclassical Metal):
  • DippoMagoo (leader)
  • adg211288
  • Sisslith

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ICED EARTH Enter the Realm

Demo · 1988 · US Power Metal
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martindavey87
‘Enter the Realm’ is the 1989 demo EP for American power metal band Iced Earth. It was remastered in 2002 for the ‘Dark Genesis’ box set. Offering just six tracks, four of which would go on to feature on the groups self-titled debut album, the quality of this demo is remarkable, considering the year it was originally released, the bands budget and the music in which they played. It’s no wonder they were signed and went on to have the level of success that they did.

So why the two-star rating, you ask? Simple, really. This is a demo and really not all that worth owning unless you’re a fan who must own everything. The songwriting is pretty polished for such a young band (or songwriter, since pretty much all the credit goes to guitarist/leader Jon Schaffer), and the playing is of a high quality, but ultimately Iced Earth’s debut album would see these all get slight improvements in sound and in some cases arrangements and vocal melodies.

An impressive demo, which is certainly a collectable for fans if you can find an original cassette tape from 1989, but otherwise, just get the band’s debut album.

ICED EARTH The Melancholy E.P.

EP · 1999 · US Power Metal
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martindavey87
Fresh off of an outstanding album, 1998’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’, which sees Iced Earth fight back from a string of disappointing releases, the band give us this short EP, which was originally intended as a promotional tool for radios, but ended up getting an official release for fans to get their mitts on.

While its chillingly emotional verses and catchy chorus makes ‘Melancholy’ an understandable choice for a single, in my opinion there’s much better songs on the ‘Something Wicked...’ album that could have been used. It’s a good song, don’t get me wrong, and it nicely shows the new direction Iced Earth were headed in with their sound. But it just pales in comparison to some of the other potential tracks.

Still, along with ‘Watching Over You’ (another strong number from the same album), there’s three covers, all of which I find pretty disappointing. I’m either not a fan of the band being covered, vocalist Matt Barlow’s voice doesn’t quite suit the song, or I just flat-out don’t really care.

Overall, as is always the case with EP’s, I find them pretty hit-or-miss, and serve more as little collectable items for fans than as serious releases. ‘The Melancholy EP’ is no different. It’s alright for what it is, but not anything worth checking out unless you’re a huge fan of the band.

ICED EARTH Something Wicked This Way Comes

Album · 1998 · US Power Metal
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martindavey87
After two of power metals finest works, 1990's 'Iced Earth' and it's follow-up, 'Night of the Stormrider', the quality of Iced Earth's work dropped substantially. Two studio albums and a compilation of re-recorded songs followed, none of which impressed me, and I wasn't so sure if vocalist Matt Barlow was deserving of all the praise that was being heaped upon him. I'd all but given up on Iced Earth, until 1998's 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' finally put the band back on track.

Maintaining all the qualities of the bands earlier albums, but with a more slick, accessible and mainstream sound, 'Something Wicked...' is a pumping, high-energy album that highlights all of the bands strengths, and none of their weaknesses. With a wide variety of heavy and softer songs, everything here is consistently well-crafted. The guitar riffs are intense and full of energy, while the ballads are hauntingly beautiful and passionate. There's plenty of tasty guitar solos and harmonies, and the very slight change of direction in the band's sound actually does wonders for Matt Barlow's voice, who truly shines on this album and has finally clicked into place.

The production is also spot on. While early albums had a gritty feel to it that suited the music perfectly, the last few releases, and in particular, 'Days of Purgatory', sounded overproduced. The fast guitar picking sounded muddy, and wasn't as tight as it should have been. But here, everything is perfect! The guitars have a big sound, while still accentuating the accuracy of the playing. And with a thumping bass and a pounding drum, this is probably the best Iced Earth have ever sounded.

With hits such as 'Burning Times', 'Watching Over Me', 'Stand Alone', 'Melancholy', 'Disciples of the Lie', 'Consequences', '1776', 'Blessed Are You' and the awesome 'Something Wicked Trilogy' (so basically, every song), this is easily one of the bands best albums, with every track flowing effortlessly into the next. 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' is a heavyweight album that firmly establishes Iced Earth as heavyweights of the genre.

ICED EARTH Days of Purgatory

Boxset / Compilation · 1997 · US Power Metal
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martindavey87
'Days of Purgatory' is a two-disc compilation of Iced Earth songs remixed and rerecorded with then current vocalist Matt Barlow. At the time, it was intended as somewhat of a greatest hits album, with the goal being to give new fans a taste of the bands older material, while giving older fans "improved" versions of classic songs.

As a whole however, I find this album pretty pointless, and continues a downhill trend the band had been on over the last couple of years. While their first two albums, 'Iced Earth' and 'Night of the Stormrider' are absolute classics of the power metal genre, I find the two albums prior to this compilation, 'Burnt Offerings' and 'The Dark Saga' to be hugely disappointing.

The honest truth is that I just prefer the original recordings. Gene Adam and John Greely's voices suited their material better, especially with the overall sound and production of their respective albums. I find all the new arrangements uninspiring, and more often than not, where Matt Barlow has recorded new vocal lines, I find his ones don't really suit the music as well as his predecessors.

It's not all bad though, I mean, Iced Earth still release some outstanding music, and even though they're not as good as the originals, the songs here are still decent efforts. 'Iced Earth', 'When the Night Falls', 'Angels Holocaust', 'Burnt Offerings' and 'Colors' are among some of the bands best works, as well as a reworked version of 'Written on the Walls' titled 'Cast in Stone' (though I'd stick to the original, myself).

Ultimately, 'Days of Purgatory' is a mostly irrelevant release. Personally I'd recommend the original versions of all these songs. And thankfully, judging by later compilations, these recordings are somewhat "non-canon", so they've not really replaced the originals, but merely become novelty re-recordings for fans and collectors.

HEIR APPARENT Graceful Inheritance

Album · 1986 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"Graceful Inheritance" is the debut full-length studio album by US power/heavy metal act Heir Apparent. The album was released through Black Dragon Records in January 1986. Heir Apparent were formed in 1983 and released a 1984 and a 1985 demo tape, before being signed by French independent label Black Dragon Records for the release of "Graceful Inheritance". "Graceful Inheritance" generally received positive reviews at the time of release, but as it took the band three years to release their sophomore studio album "One Small Voice (1989)", their window of opportunity had closed, and they never managed to fully capitalize on their good career start. Heir Apparent split-up in 1990.

It´s too bad, because they hit at just the right time with just the right music style. A type of US power/heavy metal with clear references to artists like Crimson Glory, Fates Warning, and especially Queensrÿche, who were all fairly popular contemporary artists (some more popular than others...). The material on "Graceful Inheritance" is in the melodic end of the US power/heavy metal scale and the tracks are generally quite accessible and hook laden. Hard rocking riffs, melodic lead guitar work, a solid rhythm section, and a high pitched and clear vocal performance by Paul Davidson in front. High level performances on all posts.

"Graceful Inheritance" features a clear and detailed sound production, which suits the material well, although by today´s standards it lacks some bottom end heaviness. While the quality of the material is generally high, Heir Apparent aren´t the most unique sounding act on the scene, and "Graceful Inheritance" therefore doesn´t stand out as much as the best releases fromt the contemporary artists mentioned above. It´s a solid release, featuring high level musicianship, and a professional and well sounding production, but a more distinct sound could have elevated the material to an even higher level. As it is "Graceful Inheritance" is still a quality debut album though and it´s recommendable to fans of the above mentioned artists. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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ICED EARTH Live in Ancient Kourion

Movie · 2013 · US Power Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
Live In Ancient Kourion is a live concert Blu-Ray from the American Power Metal band Iced Earth. It was filmed at the ancient Kourion Theater in Limasol, Cyprus (a site with a 6,000-year history according to the liner notes) in 2012, in support of the Dystopia album. The line up features Jon Schaffer, Brent Smedley, Troy Steele, Luke Appleton and then-new singer Stu Block.

The career-spanning set contains 27 songs from all eras of the band’s history, in a concert that lasts around 2 hours and 35 minutes. Its pretty great value for money in that regard.

The performance is very strong indeed, with all band members putting down solid performances with no weak links. Stu capably handles the material of previous singers Matt Barlow and Tim Ripper Owens in a suitable but distinctive way. He fits the band perfectly and is immensely talented. Elsewhere; the dual guitar lines and solos are sublime and the drumming is powerful and rock-solid. If you like Iced Earth then this is a really strong and representative example of what they are all about.

Highlights include strong performances of ‘Burning Times,’ ‘Wolf,’ ‘Declaration Day,’ ‘Days Of Rage’ and ‘Dantes Inferno.’ ‘Boiling Point’ and ‘Damien’ are also especially energetic and exciting here – if you were wondering if you’d enjoy this release, then I suggest trying those two tracks out.

The stage design and the simple, tasteful lightshow in conjunction with the well-integrated use of smoke and pyro perfectly complements the band’s meaty, honest approach to Metal music. The crowd get into it and both clap and sing along on many occasions. Sometimes not only singing the words but also the guitar melodies. The concert really shows a confident band delivering their best to an appreciative crowd.

The camerawork and editing are absolutely solid, the audio recording quality and live mix are spot-on and overall this is a very strong release on both the audio and visual fronts. Sometimes you’ll get a DVD with way too many flashy transitions and cheesy editing choices, or the bass guitar missing from the mix, but a lot of care has obviously gone into making this a tasteful and musician-friendly affair. Admittedly I have seen concert Blu-Rays with better picture quality (Sabaton, Gamma Ray, Stratovarius and Hammerfall spring to mind) and here it can be a tiny bit grainy, soft-focus or washed out at times depending on the lighting conditions in the venue at the time however just because better examples exist, it doesn’t mean the picture here is anything to complain about.

In terms of bonus features there are photo galleries (4 minutes of very high resolution photos of the band and the beautiful Cypriot landscape), a 9-minute world tour story (breaking down the logistics involved such as how many guitar picks and flights the band went through) which mixes photos and graphics with interview footage, as well as the 31-minute Documentary feature “The Making Of Live At Ancient Kourion.”

The version I got comes with a slipcase in a digibook-style box which contains booklet featuring photos, credits and liner notes from bandleader Jon Shaffer. It houses the Blu-Ray version, DVD version and CD version of the concert for maximum flexibility.

The Blu-Ray specs are as follows: Region 0, Format 16:9, Audio comes in a choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 or DTS HD Surround 5.1.

Overall; Live In Ancient Kourion, especially this edition, is a very worthwhile release and I whole-heartedly recommend it to fans of the band, or fans of Traditional Heavy Metal and Power Metal in general.

ICED EARTH Festivals of the Wicked

Movie · 2011 · US Power Metal
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666sharon666
There's a lot of value for your money in this DVD package. Three full festival appearances are included, two with singer Matt Barlow and one with singer Tim "Ripper" Owens. There's also the seemingly customary documentary and all the band's music videos with the exception of the older Desert Rain back from the Night of the Stormrider era, as well as the advert for the Ten Thousand Strong video and photo slideshows. For the price this seems to retail at (I bought it for just £9.99), this is a very worthwhile package for any Iced Earth fan. The one catch is that it in reality looks more than it is, as both the Barlow fronted shows feature a completely identical setlist. It's still a very good value package to get despite this, but 4 stars is all I feel inclined to award it because of the amount of repetition. Still for the very reasonable price, if you like this band, buy it anyway.

(I originally posted this hastily written review here: http://bit.ly/pafvQh )

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