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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us power metal Music Reviews

VICIOUS RUMORS Vicious Rumors

Album · 1990 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"Vicious Rumors" is the eponymously titled 3rd full-length studio album by US, California based power/heavy metal act Vicious Rumors. The album was released through Atlantic Records in February 1989. It´s the successor to "Digital Dictator" from 1988 and features the exact same five-piece lineup who recorded the predecessor.

Stylistically Vicious Rumors continue to play the US power/heavy metal style of their first two albums and the material on this album are a natural successor to the music on especially "Digital Dictator (1988)". It´s hard rocking pounding heavy metal with the occasional thrashy edge and a lead vocalist in Carl Albert who are among the elite contemporary singers on the scene. The man is an absolute joy to listen to as he sings, screams, and snarls his way through the album. He has both the voice and the skills to pull off all vocal styles he tries his hand at. He is backed by a very well playing band too (I´d especially mention the really strong lead guitar playing), and the musicianship is overall on a very high level.

While most tracks on the album are hard rocking heavy metal tracks (some mid-paced and heavy and some a little faster), there is especially one track featured on the album which is more dynamic and adventurous. "Ship of Fools" features a slightly progressive edge to it (and a strong Queensrÿche influence), and is generally quite the interesting track. The opening trio of tracks "Don´t Wait For Me", "World Church", and "On The Edge" are also strong material too, and I´d also mention the fast-paced "Hellraiser" and the heavy "Down to The Temple" as standout tracks. It´s when the band cater to a more commercial audience on tracks like "Can You Hear It" and "Axe And Smash", that they are least interesting. All material on the 10 track, 39:44 minutes long album are well written and memorable though.

The album features a powerful, sharp, and detailed sounding production. It´s reverb laden which is a time-typical feature, but it´s well sounding and brings out the best in the material. Upon conclusion "Vicious Rumors" is a strong release by Vicious Rumors despite a couple of less remarkable tracks, but they are outweighted by the remarkable ones. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

HELSTAR Nosferatu

Album · 1989 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"Nosferatu" is the 4th full-length studio album by US heavy/power metal act Helstar. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in September 1989 (which is less than a year after the release of "A Distant Thunder" from November 1988). The lineup who recorded the predecessor is intact, which was a first between two Helstar albums at that point. It wouldn´t last long though, as Helstar went on a hiatus after the release of the album, until reforming again in 1995 with a new lineup.

The tracks featured on the first half of "Nosferatu" form a concept piece following the storyline from the Bram Stoker novel "Dracula". Some tracks feature audio samples of Frank Langella's performance in John Badham's film adaptation of "Dracula" from 1979. Stylistically the material on the album continue the US heavy/power metal style of "A Distant Thunder (1988)", but with a few additional thrash metal leanings. And I emphasize a few here, because this is predominantly US heavy/power metal and not thrash metal.

The musicianship is strong, with two guitarists playing powerful riffs, blistering guitar solos, and the occasional neo-classical influenced harmony lead part, a powerful pounding rhythm section, and James Rivera´s distinct sounding voice and commanding delivery in front. I can hear why some people would call his vocal style an aquired taste, but he has got a powerful set of pipes and a personal style that are hard not to find at least a little charming. Or in the case of the fans awe inspiring and praise worthy.

"Nosferatu" features a raw and organic sounding production, which suits the material on the 11 track, 42:50 minutues long album well. The rhythm guitar tone could have been a bit more powerful, but it´s not a major issue, and the production is generally of a good quality. The material are well written too with decent variation and intriguing moments throughout the album, so upon conclusion "Nosferatu" is a strong release by Helstar. This particular lineup may only have recorded two albums, but both are strong releases worth investigating for fans of US heavy/power metal. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

PHARAOH (PA) The Powers That Be

Album · 2021 · US Power Metal
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adg211288
The Powers That Be (2021) is the fifth full-length studio album by US power metal act Pharaoh. It has been almost a whole decade since we last got an album from Pharaoh, that being Bury the Light (2012), so The Powers That Be is very much a comeback release even though the band has never been officially inactive during that time. The same band line-up is still in place as well, that of Tim Aymar (vocals), Matt Johnsen (guitars), Chris Kerns (bass) and Chris Black (drums). Pharaoh have been rocking this same line-up since before their first studio album, After the Fire (2003).

When a band falls off the radar for whatever reason, there must surely be a lot riding on their comeback. No band wants to go almost ten years without new material for their fans to say something like 'we waited this long, for this?' There should be no danger of this happening to Pharaoh however, as they haven't just delivered a great album with The Powers That Be, they've got something here that may just be their best album to date.

The sound of the album is unmistakeably that of Pharaoh, but this is a Pharaoh that feels somewhat rawer and harder than we've heard previously. They have always existed more on the melodic end of the USPM genre, with plenty of Iron Maiden-esque classic heavy metal influences also coming into play, while Bury the Light also saw them referencing seventies hard rock, but The Powers That Be seems to exist to make a big impact: riffy USPM, hitting hard and fast across the duration of the nine new tracks. There's a progressive sensibility and complexity in there as well, blended with aggressive playing to perfection to result in an album that not only seems like Pharaoh are screaming 'we're back!', they're screaming 'we're back, bigger and better than ever before'. To top this off, the changes in sound seem to suit the voice of Tim Aymer more than ever.

The Powers That Be is an album that was well worth the wait and a tremendous pay off for Pharaoh. That said, I really hope it also marks a return to some sort of regularity for them, since based on this, we definitely need this band to stick around. An album of the year 2021 contender for me.

SANCTUARY Into The Mirror Black

Album · 1989 · US Power Metal
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SilentScream213
Back in 1990, making a sullen, introspective USPM album was certainly new ground in itself. Sanctuary’s small dosages of technicality and prog along with a pinch of Thrash in both the vocal delivery and riffs further make this a standout release for the time. Indeed, you could certainly call this thinking man’s metal, with its more philosophical approach to the genre.

Underneath all that though, it’s not pretentious in the slightest. It’s just very competent USPM with some fantastic riffs and melodies, good vocal performance and lyrics, and always interesting rhythm section. It’s not exactly mind-blowing music, but everything comes together here quite perfectly, and it has a very fresh sound to it even now. Every track is top quality, not a minute of wasted space, what more could you want.

ICED EARTH Night of the Stormrider

Album · 1991 · US Power Metal
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SilentScream213
Iced Earth’s sophomore album is where they aced their style of epic, thrashy Power Metal. The album is a concept about a man fed up with religion who receives power from the devil and leads a sort of crusade against humanity, plunging the world into darkness, before finally losing his mortal soul to the devil after all is done. It’s a well written story with a decent variety of songs that back up each chapter. None of the musicianship or songwriting is mind-blowing, but it’s certainly very strong, and the rhythm section puts down some quite unique (for the time) beats.

I feel I should enjoy this album more than I do, but despite the awesome concept and genre being right up my ally, it just doesn’t strike home. The riffs are very rhythmic and unmemorable, somehow they are missing both the edge of Thrash as well as the melody of Power Metal. That aside it is very great stuff, a strong concept album played in a style unique at the time.

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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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