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:

  • adg211288

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us power metal Music Reviews

SAVATAGE The Dungeons Are Calling

EP · 1984 · US Power Metal
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martindavey87
After the release of their 1983 debut, Savatage were quick to follow up with this EP, 'The Dungeons Are Calling', that consists of songs that were originally recorded for 'Sirens', but left off due to time restraints.

Overall the selection of tracks is good, but these are pretty much leftovers from the bands previous release, and that's exactly what they sound like. 'City Beneath the Surface' and the title track are standout songs that prevents this EP from being a complete waste, but the rest of the songs are pretty average, especially when compared with Savatage's later material.

As with their first record, the production could be better, but it's raw, grittiness suits the music perfectly, giving it a distinctive 80's metal sound.

'Dungeons' has since been released with 'Sirens' on one CD, "how it was meant to be", according to Savatage mastermind Jon Oliva, which is probably just as well, because as a stand-alone release, I don't think there's much worth picking up here unless you're a dedicated member of the Savatage Legion.

HELSTAR Burning Star

Album · 1984 · US Power Metal
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Warthur
Helstar's debut album finds them bursting straight out of the gate with a solid selection of early 1980s-style US power metal songs. Were it not for the cheesy, rudimentary cover art of a spooky wizard on the front cover of the original Combat issue of the album, you'd be hard-pressed to guess that this was just their first album rather than the release of a seasoned, experienced band who'd mastered their craft. (The wizard artwork was replaced by the far superior spaceship illustration on most editions.)

Musically, we're talking catchy, raucous celebrations of pop culture, hedonism, and a bit of "Leather and Lust" - classic 1980s metal subject matter, in other words. The great thing about Helstar is that they can take that well-trod material and make it sound just as awe-inspiring and exciting as it was when you first heard someone singing about it, and even at this early stage of their career they'd already got the hang of that trick.

ICED EARTH Night of the Stormrider

Album · 1991 · US Power Metal
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martindavey87
'Iced Earth' was a solid debut album that set the bar pretty high for this band very early in their career, but they've managed to take what worked before and build upon it, with this, 'Night of the Stormrider', an equally solid follow-up.

Most of what we have on this album is identical to its predecessor with just a few tweaks. Most notably is the acquisition of a new vocalist (a position that will change many times in this bands history) in John Greely, who replaces Gene Adams. While Adams did a great job with his fairly limited ability, Greely has a much more powerful voice which suits the more symphonic and operatic elements which have been implemented into the groups sound with this record.

Guitarist, songwriter and all-round band leader Jon Schaffer takes charge once more with lightning-fast riffs that puts most thrash metal bands to shame. With songwriting so polished and precise, this sounds like a band who have been around for a long time. If their debut album didn't convert any fans, then tracks like 'Stormrider', 'Desert Rain', 'Travel in Stygian' and the true gem of this release 'Angel's Holocaust' will surely win you over.

Whilst I personally prefer ‘Iced Earth’ to ‘Night of the Stormrider’ (personal preference), strong songwriting and beefed up production make this a worthy successor to a strong debut. It no doubt helped establish Iced Earth as one of power metals heavyweights, and deserves its place in the genres history.

ICED EARTH Iced Earth

Album · 1990 · US Power Metal
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martindavey87
Iced Earth’s quest to become one of the most popular bands in the power metal genre began back in 1990 with the release of their self-titled debut album which combined elements of the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) with thrash metal to produce songs which are crammed with intense, galloping riffs, interesting harmonies, and epic vocals.

Power metal has long been the ginger-haired stepchild of metal, but anyone expecting a complete cheese-fest is solely mistaken. Are the lyrics a bit daft at times? Absolutely! But the music here is top-notch. The songwriting, most of which is handled by guitarist and band leader Jon Schaffer, is very well-structured and mature, and although the band would go on to release much better records in the future, their debut still contains some of their best work, such as ‘Iced Earth’, ‘Written on the Walls’, ‘Colors’, ‘Funeral’ and the awesome ‘When the Night Falls’.

The production is far from perfect, but that actually benefits the record greatly, as it gives the music the exact sound these riffs need. If anything, the only real detriment to the album is vocalist Gene Adam. At times his voice powerfully suits the music, at other times, it comes across as quite forced, annoying, and almost embarrassing.

Other than that, this is a pretty stellar release, and a key moment in power metal history. Worth checking out for fans of all subgenres.

ICED EARTH Incorruptible

Album · 2017 · US Power Metal
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adg211288
With their last album Plagues of Babylon (2014) having, let's be fair, a rather lukewarm reception (especially following the praise heaped on Dystopia (2011), current vocalist Stu Block's debut with the band), a lot is riding on US power/heavy/thrash metal act Iced Earth to really hit one out of the park with Incorruptible (2017), their twelfth main studio album. Four singles have been released prior to the full album, each showing the band in a bit of a different light. Seven Headed Whore was an immediate thrashy headbanger. Raven Wing was initially a disappointment but turned out to be one of those slow burn type of tracks. Great Heathen Army proved to be highly addictive, with this reviewer streaming the song off of Spotify about two dozen times in the run up to Incorruptible's release. Finally Clear The Way (December 13th, 1862) turned out to be long, fast, epic and catchy piece that it was impossible not to be instantly won over by.

Four tracks out of a total of ten from the album. Had Iced Earth showed their hand too early and served up all the album's best cuts as singles? Well, yeah, they kinda did, but I guess that's one way to sell your album. The rest of the material here has been a bit like Raven Wing in respect to the tracks being slow burners, requiring a few listens to open up before they can really be appreciated. There's a few of the remaining tracks that have come to stand out over the others, such as Black Flag, which could easily be a Running Wild song thanks to its pirate theme, and also Defiance, but the trinity of Great Heathen Army, Seven Headed Whore and Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862) have remained untouchable. These three are Iced Earth gold.

Incorruptible is a very balanced album from Iced Earth with several faster and hard hitting USPM tracks and some more mid-paced and melodic heavy metal orientated material. Seven Headed Whore is the only really thrashy number, though Great Heathen Army also hits bloody hard and fast. The production on such tracks is really beefy and heavy in the riffs and it sounds really pummelling. The lead guitar work from new guy Jake Dreyer is crystal clear though and sounds excellent. Iced Earth have found a great addition to the group in him. His solos really stand out across the whole release. Stu Block is also on great vocal form, delivering a mix of aggressive clean vocals and high register notes. The opening scream of 'Valhalla' in Great Heathen Army is absolutely insane.

Incorruptible is overall an extremely solid Iced Earth album. It could probably do with another really hard hitting USPM track to really knock some socks off, but even with the whole slow burn thing taken into consideration I'd judge this to be the band's best album since Stu Block took over as lead vocalist. Unlike Plagues of Babylon there's no loss of steam in the second half and I think it even edges one up on Dystopia, though that's a real close call.

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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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