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

CAGE Darker Than Black

Album · 2003 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"Darker Than Black" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, California based power/heavy metal act Cage. The album was released through Massacre Records in April 2003. It´s the successor to "Astrology" from 2000 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as guitarist Eric Horton has been replaced by Anthony Wayne McGinnis.

The three years since the release of "Astrology (2000)" have been spend well, because while both "Unveiled (1998)" and "Astrology (2000)" are good quality US power/heavy metal albums, "Darker Than Black" is in a whole other league. Cage were always a skilled and very well playing band, and lead vocalist Sean R. L. Peck is an outstanding singer with a strong voice and a commanding and passionate delivery. That haven´t changed on "Darker Than Black", but the quality of the songwriting and the production values have increased significantly compared to the preceding releases.

Stylistically Cage play a heavy and relatively dark type of US power/heavy metal on "Darker Than Black". Think Judas Priest when they are most heavy and aggressive ("Painkiller") and you are half way there. There´s great intensity and energy on display here and paired with the powerful and raw vocals by Peck, the heavy and fast-paced riffs, the blistering guitar solos, and the energetic and powerful rhythm section, "Darker Than Black" comes off a high quality release in the genre.

"Darker Than Black" is through and through a high quality release, and there´s not a single sub par track on the album. It´s consistent in quality and style, but still relatively varied. Including both an English- and a Spanish language version of "Chupacabra" is a small curiosity, but since the band are from San Diego, where a large part of the population are latin country immigrants or descendents of immigrants, it makes perfect sense (and of course the tale/legend of "Chupacabra" is a Latin America tale).

Upon conclusion "Darker Than Black" has been a positive surprise and definitely a recommendable US power/heavy metal album. High level musicianship, intriguing and effectful songwriting, and loads of heavy metal attitude and passion. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

METAL CHURCH Blessing in Disguise

Album · 1989 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"Blessing in Disguise" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US power/heavy metal act Metal Church. The album was released through Elektra/Asylum Records in February 1989. It´s the successor to "The Dark" from 1986 and features a couple of lineup changes since the predecessor as lead vocalist David Wayne has been replaced by Mike Howe (Heretic) and guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof has been replaced by John Marshall (although Vanderhoof is still credited with playing additional guitars). The band had many problems with Wayne, so a change on the lead vocalist position was natural, but losing one of the band´s principal songwriters and driving forces behind the band in Kurdt Vanderhoof probably felt like a greater loss to the remaining members of the band.

Having built a solid reputation with their first two albums, Metal Church and Elektra/Asylum Records fired on all cylinders on "Blessing in Disguise", to try and elevate the band to a higher level of commercial success. While the album did sell fairly well and was the band´d highest charting album at the time, it ultimately didn´t satisfy Elektra/Asylum Records, and "Blessing in Disguise" ended up being Metal Church last release on the label.

The Terry Date (Soundgarden, Pantera, Dream Theater...etc.) produced affair, is a professional sounding album, and it´s obvious it wasn´t a cheap album to record. The band also put on a skilled and convincing performance, and new lead vocalist Mike Howe is also a relatively good replacement for David Wayne. The latter is missed here though, as he is a world class singer, and while Howe is a great singer with a strong voice too, he doesn´t have an easily recognisable voice and singing style like Wayne has. It´s like the difference between Championship and Premier League Football.

"Blessing in Disguise" features 9 tracks distributed over a 54:33 minutes long playing time. Stylististically the material is US power/heavy metal and the quality of the compositions is generally high. Hard rocking heavy metal riffs and rhythms, well played guitar solos, and Howe´s raw and melodic singing on top. Upon conclusion "Blessing in Disguise" is a quality release by Metal Church and the next logical step in their career, but it doesn´t exactly burn through like the debut (and to a lesser extent "The Dark (1986)") did. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

ASHES OF ARES Emperors and Fools

Album · 2022 · US Power Metal
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siLLy puPPy
A metal supergroup of sorts, ASHES OF ARES hosts three bonafide talents in the world of US power metal with not one but two former Iced Earth members, namely lead vocalist Matt Barlow who has also gigged with Cauldron, Pyramaze and We Are Sentinels along with guitarist Freddie Vidales also of Iced Earth and Infusion fame. Add to this stellar duo the percussive talents of ex-Nevermore drummer Van Williams and ASHES OF ARES immediately caught the attention of the power metal hungry fanbase with its eponymously titled debut which cemented the band as a major tour de force in the 21st century US power metal scene and luckily these guys have gelled enough to keep up their excellence to last an entire decade!

EMPERORS AND FOOLS is the band’s third release and pretty much continues the US power metal ecstasy as any true fan of the genre would expect. While nothing new under the sun, ASHES OF ARES delivers a competent slice of modern US power metal in the classic Iced Earth demeanor with all those recognizable attributes heard in virtually any Iced Earth album with Barlow at the helm. Is that good or bad? Well like all these things, that is in the eye of the beholder. Musically EMPERORS AND FOOLS delivers all the US power metal goods without flinching however if anyone is expecting any sort of renaissance in this energetic metal style, well maybe you need to look elsewhere. This is pretty much US power metal, Iced Earth style by the numbers but when things are this excellently executed you can’t really go wrong!

This album features 12 tracks with a couple cameos. Sacred Reich guitarist Wiley Arnett and Charlie Mark (no friggin idea who this is) deliver guest solos on “The Iron Throne” while ex-Judas Priest vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens lends his vocal skills to the closing 11 1/2 minute monstrosity “Monster’s Lament” with another guest guitar solo from Bill Hudson of Jon Oliva’s Pain fame. So all in all EMPERORS AND FOOLS is quite a stellar album of classic US power metal sounds echoing into the future but really there’s not one iota of evolution taking place on this album. In fact if you told me this was an Iced Earth album i would probably believe you! There seems to be a creativity blockage in these department at the metal music supermarket and perhaps it needs to find a way to become relevant in the 2020’s.

It’s really hard to fault any given artists for wanting to continue what has worked so well for them in the past especially if it’s their passion but evolution is a reality and whether we like it or not certain sounds have an expiration date. While i would love to hear a US power metal styled album that takes things to the next level, certain bands like Darkology haven’t had a lot of commercial success in doing so therefore other bands like ASHES OF ARES just sort of keep repeating all those sounds of yore. If this doesn’t bother you then by all means, EMPERORS AND FOOLS is an excellent album of US power metal that dishes out all those classic sounds in perfection but if you’re seeking something more modern sounding then i’m afraid this will only appeal to the retro crowds. Nothing wrong with that but this is not something i’ll be returning to. Let me re-emphasize that although i’m disappointed in any kind of wow factor here that the delivery of US power metal is fucking awesome!

CAGE Astrology

Album · 2000 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"Astrology" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, California based power/heavy metal act Cage. The album was released through Omega Records in September 2000. It´s the successor to "Unveiled" from 1998 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as drummer Damian Arletto has been replaced by Mikey Niel.

Stylistically the material on "Astrology" is US power/heavy metal (with the rare nod towards progressive metal on the longer tracks) and Cage thererfore pretty much continue with what they started on "Unveiled (1998)" (early Fates Warning is valid reference if one is needed). The musicianship is one of the great assets of the album. The instrumental parts are performed with great skill. The rhythm section are well playing and the two guitarists churn out one powerful heavy metal riff after another and spice it up with some well played melodic solos. It´s lead vocalist Sean Peck who steals the show though, as he is an incredibly talented singer with a strong voice.

The material on the 13 track, 69:07 minutes long album is well written and relatively memorable, but "Astrology" is not exactly a unique sounding US power/heavy metal album and at that point Cage still hadn´t forged a sound they could call their own. So the lack of an original sound is a slight issue and the fact that the sound production isn´t perfect either is of course a slight issue too (the guitars are little low in the mix and lack a bit of punch, and the vocals are placed a bit too high). Those are however minor issues when evaluating the full album, as there are still some great tracks ("Final Solution", "Echelon", and "Vandalize" are among the highlights) and strong performances featured here. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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.

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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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