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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VICIOUS RUMORS Welcome To The Ball

Album · 1991 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"Welcome To The Ball" is the 4th full-length studio album by US, California based power/heavy metal act Vicious Rumors. The album was released through Atlantic Records in July 1991. It´s the successor to the eponymously titled album from 1989 and features the same lineup who recorded the predecessor.

"Welcome To The Ball" features a slightly harder edged sound and style than it´s direct predecessor, and although the majority of the material are still power/heavy metal, there are a couple of more thrash metal oriented parts found on the album too (an example is album opener "Abandoned"). The darker and heavier sound production also contributes to the feeling, that "Welcome To The Ball" is the heaviest Vicious Rumors album up until that point. The softer and in the case of the latter, more commercially oriented "Children" and "When Love Comes Down" pull in the other direction though, and "Welcome To The Ball" is a pretty diverse album within the confines of the US power/heavy metal genre.

The material on the 11 track, 45:03 minutes long album are overall well written, catchy, and memorable, but the real strength of Vicious Rumors is the brilliant musicianship. They are an incredibly well playing band, and each note and rhythm are played with great conviction and passion. Lead vocalist Carl Albert deserves a special mention as he is a singer extraordinaire and his performance here is among his strongest. He hits the perfect balance between raw and powerful heavy metal vocals and more melodic and paatos filled ditto. Upon conclusion "Welcome To The Ball" is another high quality release by Vicious Rumors and to my ears it would make a great starting point to newcommers to the band. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

METAL CHURCH The Dark

Album · 1986 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"The Dark" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US power/heavy metal act Metal Church. The album was released through Elektra/Asylum Records in October 1986. The 1984 eponymously titled debut album was initially released on the band´s own label Ground Zero Records before being picked up by Elektra Records for a re-release in 1985. So Metal Church were on their way towards the stars at that point (major label deal, positive responses from fans and critics, and a fairly well selling debut album under their belt). All was not well within the Metal Church camp though, and this would be their last album to feature the original lineup who recorded the debut album.

"The Dark" continues the US power/heavy metal sound of its predecessor, but the change to a major label has pushed the band in a slightly more polished direction. It´s still predominantly a hard edged heavy metal album, and tracks like "Ton of Bricks", "Start the Fire", and "Line of Death", should please most fans of US power/heavy metal. The musicianship is strong and the listener is treated to high level performances from all involved. Lead vocalist David Wayne has a strong voice and a commanding delivery, which is the icing on the cake of the already strong instrumental part of the music.

"The Dark" features a powerful and well sounding production and upon conclusion it´s a quality US power/heavy metal album and a worthy follow-up to the band´s now classic debut album. "The Dark" doesn´t quite reach the heights of the debut, and there are a couple of tracks on the album, which are slightly unremarkable, but overall it´s a both powerful and memorable release. a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

PHARAOH (PA) After the Fire

Album · 2003 · US Power Metal
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siLLy puPPy
PHARAOH seems to be a popular band name but this US power metal act emerged from Philadelphia in 1997 and is best known as the band that scored the incredible vocal talents of Tim Aymar who had dazzled the world with his strong vocal performances with Death’s Chuck Schuldiner in Control Denied which unfortunately was Schuldiner’s last project before his untimely passing. This PHARAOH (as opposed to the New Jersey sludge metal band) has also been fortunate to have worked with other metal greats such as Chris Poland (OHM, Megadeth) and Mike Wead of King Diamond fame.

This band has kept a fairly stable lineup since its inception and still cranking out albums over two decades later. This debut AFTER THE FIRE was released in 2003 and found the band hitting the ground running as a fully fueled power metal band that hit its stride right from the start. This debut didn’t exactly reinvent the power metal wheel and certainly wasn’t the most innovative or forward thinking album but where the originality lacks, the quartet of Tim Aymar (vocals), Matt Johnsen (guitars), Chris Kerns (bass) and Chris Black (drums) succeeded in generating nine exquisite tracks of heavy metal inspired power metal.

Lurking somewhere between the classic metal traditions of Iron Maiden, Dio, Saxon and other progenitors of the melodic metal of yore along with the more energetic power fueled metal bands such as Angra, Helloween and Running Wild, PHARAOH hit all the right notes on its debut AFTER THE FIRE and continues to deliver satisfying returns to the present. After proving himself with the more progressively infused power metal with Control Denied, Aymar effortlessly delivers some of the best power metal vocal performances of the genre and all of that includes this debut album despite this album remaining a bit overlooked and under appreciated int he band’s overall discography.

What makes good power metal is all here in abundance, namely frenetic high speed tempos, thundering guitar and bass riffing, powerful percussive drive and highly melodic epic compositions that recount battle scenes fueled with fantasy and fury. The band does an excellent job at balancing the elements of instrumentation with vocals and the metal of yore tributes are updated to reflect the energetic flow of the era it was released. In many ways this album reminds me of what a Dio album would’ve sounded if the band accompanying Ronnie James happened to be Helloween or Lost Horizon. The tempos rampage throughout with only small respites of acoustic guitar and slower moments for contrast’s sake.

While i personally prefer originality to cookie cutter songwriting, i have to admit that when a band does such a stellar task in crafting music that nails a style of music on all fronts then i’m a true sucker for its gravitational pull and while a lot of power metal can become a little cheesy when taken to extremes, somehow PHARAOH succeeded in keeping that metal grit in place while offering some of the most instantly addictive melodic ear worms the power metal universe has to offer. So all in all definitely not the most original metal album of all time especially coming from the excellent short-lived Control Denied standpoint but a satisfying perfectly executed US power metal album for sure.

METAL CHURCH Metal Church

Album · 1984 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"Metal Church" is the eponymously titled debut full-length studio album by US power metal act Metal Church. The album was released through Ground Zero Records in July 1984. Ground Zero Records was the band´s own label and "Metal Church" is the only album ever released on the label. "Metal Church" saw a more widespread release, when Elektra Records picked it up for a 1985 reissue. Metal Church was formed in 1980 under the Shrapnel monicker but changed their name to Metal Church in 1982. The band released no less than four demos (the first was released under the Shrapnel monicker) before releasing their debut album. The band was originally located in San Francisco, California and was therefore a seminal act on the burgeoning speed/thrash metal scene in that area, but guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof moved to Washington State in 1981 and found new members for the lineup.

Stylistically the music on the album is US power/heavy metal. Some tracks are traditional heavy metal tunes while others are slightly more hard edged US power metal tracks, featuring some occasionally thrashy riffing. The musicianship is brilliant and the listener is treated to an organic and hard pounding rhythm section, hard edged heavy metal riffs and blazing guitar solos, and a strong vocal performance by lead vocalist David Wayne. While the instrumental performances are high class on all posts, it´s Wayne who elevates the music to excellence. He has as strong voice and a powerful delivery. Able to sing both raw and more melodic when that is required.

The album opens with four high quality tracks in succession. "Beyond the Black" and "Metal Church" are both hard and heavy US power metal tracks, "Merciless Onslaught" is a short and fast-paced instrumental, and "Gods of Wrath" is a power ballad type track (which is strongly influenced by Led Zeppelin). At this point in the listening process everything just reeks high class and my jaw has hit the floor a couple of times during those opening tracks. The remaining part of the album (four originals and a cover of "Highway Star" by Deep Purple) are high quality tracks too, but to my ears they don´t quite reach the brillance of the first four, so the album is frontloaded with the best tracks.

"Metal Church" features an organic, raw, and powerful sounding production, and it is one of those rare albums where almost everything just feels right. Everything fits together seamlessly, and considering that this is a debut album the quality of the musicianship, the sound production, and the songwriting are of a much higher quality than you could possibly expect from an act releasing their first album. This is a case of the demo years spend in rehearsal rooms paying off big time. The only minor issue here is the slight inconsistency in the songwriting department, but that is a minor issue, and as all tracks on the album are high quality material it doesn´t matter that much. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

HELSTAR Nosferatu

Album · 1989 · US Power Metal
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LightningRider
Helstar reached a creative peak with their third studio album, A Distant Thunder" which was quirky and diversified much like "Deep Purple in Rock" was. The follow-up, Nosferatu, was different. It focused on the brutality of speed metal and US Power Metal, and the album was much darker because of its vampyric lyrics and more well-produced, as well as more technical. Some of the band's most incredible solos are featured on this album, notably on "Baptized in Blood" and "The Curse Has Passed Away."

Having said that, I prefer A Distant Thunde" because the album was more diverse and unpredictable. Many of the songs on "Nosferatu," while brilliantly played, sound the same. Their overall goal is shared: be a dark and well-produced metal album with neoclassical technicality.

Ironically, this is considered to be Helstar's best album because of the technicality. To say that this isn't one of US power metal's greatest technical achievements would be a fallacy. There are plenty of moments of sheer brilliance in Nosferatu that many guitar players can only hope to compose. If this artistry was paired with the variety featured on A Distant Star, it would have been US power metal's crowning achievement.

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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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