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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ICED EARTH The Dark Saga

Album · 1996 · US Power Metal
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martindavey87
Iced Earth's fourth release, 'The Dark Saga', is a concept album based upon the story of comic book character Spawn. It's a bit of an odd release in the bands discography, as they stripped down their sound a quite a bit, and as a whole nothing here reaches the intensity, aggression or complexity of anything we'd heard before.

I'm probably one of the very few who didn't like previous release 'Burnt Offerings', which is held in high regard by fans, and while 'Dark Saga' is somewhat a step back in the right direction, it still fails to truly connect with me. I feel like the Spawn storyline is also a detriment to the music. As a huge fan of the character, it seems like halfway through the album the lyrics and music don't seem to relate to the source material anymore. Or perhaps I'm just struggling to pay attention.

Musically, it's standard power metal, but the band have slowed down a lot, with only a couple of songs reaching the same speed as past compositions, but there's still that unmistakeable Iced Earth sound to it. Mostly in part thanks to vocalist Matt Barlow, who, with this release, is the first singer to make it to their second album with the band. With that said, his vocals are fairly disappointing here. I'm not sure if it's the hackneyed songwriting or the uninspiring lyrics, but his delivery just doesn't seem to work.

Even the guitar solos on this album are unremarkable. Most of them just being slow, melodic lead breaks with the occasional harmony. I'm all for solos suiting the songs and not playing speed for speed's sake, but there's just nothing truly memorable happening here.

Complaints aside, there are a handful of moments that save this release from being a complete abomination. The title track, as well as 'I Died For You', 'The Hunter' and 'The Last Laugh' are all decent tracks. But none of them hold up well compared to Iced Earth's other (burnt) offerings, and while it's certainly not the worst album I own, it's probably not one I intend to go back to very often. If ever.

LETHAL Your Favorite God

EP · 1995 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"Your Favorite God" is an EP release by US progressive/power metal act Lethal. The EP was released through Massacre Records in 1995 and bridges the gap between the band´s debut and second full-length studio albums "Programmed (1990)" and "Poison Seed (1996)". There´s been one lineup change since the debut album as guitarist Dell Hull has been replaced by David McElfresh. The original version of the EP featured 5 tracks, while the 1997 reissue features the bonus track "Balancing Act".

The music on the EP continues the progressive US power metal style of "Programmed (1990)" but adds a more heavy and dark edge to the band´s sound. Progressive metal had changed rapidly in the years between the band´s debut album and "Your Favorite God", and while Lethal still sound like themselves (guitar/vocal driven progressive power metal rooted in 80s heavy metal), they´ve clearly also listened to the contemporary version of progressive metal and developed their own sound with it. Hard edged chugging riffs weren´t exactly the order of the day on "Programmed (1990)", but you´ll find plenty here.

The musicianship is on a very high level, which is no surprise if you´re already familiar with "Programmed (1990)". Lead vocalist Tom Mallicoat is still a great asset with his high pitched singing style, but he is actually a bit more varied on this release using lower registers and a more raw singing style too. Lethal is a very sophisticated band in the way they arrange their tracks and in how they incorporate details, but structurally this is still pretty basic vers/chorus based tracks, with the rare excursion into more progressive territories. The first four tracks on the EP are heavy and dark, but "The Real", which closes the original version of the EP, is a power ballad type track, which is slightly lighter in mood.

"Your Favorite God" is a well produced release with a dark and heavy sound, which suits the heaviness of their "new" style well. While I´m not completely sure that I prefer this new heavier progressive/US power metal sound to the more melodic US power metal style of Lethal´s debut album, I understand the need to change with the times and add some heaviness to their sound. Not that it did anything for them commercially, and artistically they still lack a 100% unique sound to elevate them to a higher level. Still a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

ICED EARTH Burnt Offerings

Album · 1995 · US Power Metal
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martindavey87
After two strong releases and a firm standing as one of power metal's more prominent bands, 1995 saw Iced Earth unleash their third album, 'Burnt Offerings', which many fans consider a career highlight, thus making it all the more confusing that I just can't seem to get into it.

What makes this album notable is the debut of new vocalist (their third in three albums) Matthew Barlow, a man who would go on to become the voice of Iced Earth for years to come, and while his powerful, operatic vocals would certainly help define the band on later releases, here, they come across as rather uninspired, oftentimes feeling out of place or forced.

One of the biggest problems I have with this album is that there's so many time changes and riff transitions that just seem jarring. Like they're just thrown together with no real effort to make it feel organic. The musicianship itself is of a high quality, with incredibly tight guitar playing and atmospheric keyboards. But while 'Iced Earth' and 'Night of the Stormrider' are both fantastic records that have stood the test of time, 'Burnt Offerings' just feels so disjointed.

If I had to dig out any highlights, 'Last December' is a good song, and the title track has its moments, though it suffers from the aforementioned issues. It does have one hell of an intro though, arguably one of the bands heaviest songs. The rest of the album just doesn't work for me, though. The 15-minute 'Dante's Inferno', which is regarded by fans as one of the bands finest pieces, bores the hell out of me. Seriously... what am I missing???

Iced Earth are one of my favourite power metal bands, and while they've built up a solid discography over the years, countless attempts to get into this album have done nothing but made each listen more laborious. It's a shame, because the high reverence it gets from fans makes me feel like I'm missing out on something. But whatever that something is, I'm not hearing it.

LETHAL Programmed

Album · 1990 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"Programmed" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Hebron, Kentucky based progressive/power metal act Lethal. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in October 1990. Lethal was formed by the Cook brothers Eric (on guitars) and Glen (on bass) in 1982 and after a couple of lineup changes and the release of the 1987 "Arrival" demo, they got signed to Metal Blade Records for the release of "Programmed". A promotional video was released for the "Immune" track.

The music on "Programmed" is a guitar/vocal driven type of progressive power metal, not far removed from the 80s releases by acts like Fates Warning, Crimson Glory, and Queensrÿche. In addition to the artists mentioned above I´d also add a slight Iron Maiden influence when describing the music.

The 10 track, 46:54 minutes long album is loaded with well written material. Each track is intricate, relatively catchy, and melodic yet heavy when that is called for. Lead guitar themes and solos are a major part of the band´s sound as well as a tight and well playing rhythm section. It´s mostly the very high pitched vocals and ornamented vocal melodies by Tom Mallicoat, which are in focus. With a vocalist like that fronting the band it´s nearly impossible to focus on anything else when he sings. A passionate and very convincing vocal delivery throughout. The instrumental part of the music is also very well played and it´s clear from the opening notes of album opener "Fire in Your Skin", that we´re dealing with a professional and talented band.

I called the music progressive power metal above, but in this case the word "progressive" doesn´t mean complex song structures or demanding instrumental sections, but rather just that the compositions are quite intricate and played with a rare sophistication (although most tracks do feature some pretty demanding playing). When examined a bit closer most of the tracks are actually pretty regular vers/chorus structured.

Overall "Programmed" is a high quality debut release by Lethal, and while they never broke through commercially and is seldom mentioned as one of the seminal progressive power/heavy metal acts from those days, the album is still highly recommendable to fans of the genre. Definitely a high quality release deserving more attention. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

SAVATAGE Sirens

Album · 1983 · US Power Metal
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The Crow
Savatage's debut album will not appeal the prog or symphonic metal lovers, but is still a very enjoyable NWOBHM album.

In addition, some of the band's most recognizable virtues are yet present, like the crystal clear Criss Oliva's solos, Jon Oliva's piercing vocals and an overwhelming ability to create catchy riffs, a clear heritage of the brother's admiration for the early Black Sabbath. Maybe the in the text of the title track we can guess the love of this band for fantastic and bombastic themes, but it's really impossible to imagine that this band is the same that after a few years would make masterpieces like "Gutter Ballet " or "Streets".

Sirens starts with a strong riff and catchy vocals, while Holocaust shows the fiercest side of the band, both lyrically and musically. The good level of the compositions is maintained in the splendid I Believe and the powerful Rage, where the drums of Steve "Doc" Wacholz gain protagonism. On the Run, Twisted Little Sister, Living for the Night and Scream Murder are not so good, but nevertheless very listenable, while Out on the Streets flirts with AOR, with a moderate success.

Conclusion: Sirens is not an album for late Savatage fans, because it lacks the complexity and diversity of the grandiloquent rock operas of the 90's. Nevertheless, if you like the New Wave of British Heavy Metal of bands like Judas Priest of Saxon, you should give this record a chance. The Oliva brothers were able to show their ability on vocals and guitars, and of course, the title track is a little classic of the 80's today, while the rest of the album is also pretty good.

I miss you, guys! I still hope that Savatage will come back with full force someday... Call me a dreamer.

Best tracks: Sirens, Holocaust, I Believe.

My rating: ***1/2

us power metal movie reviews

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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