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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METAL CHURCH Metal Church

Album · 1984 · US Power Metal
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siLLy puPPy
After three demos of fully developed heavy metal heaven and a different band name Shrapnel, METAL CHURCH was ready for prime time and originally released their eponymous debut album independently on the Ground Zero label when it first came out in 1984. The album sold 70,000 albums and caught the attention of Electra albums who would sign them (due to James Hetfield coaxing them to do so) and then re-release it the following year. The band had gone through a series of lineup changes during the demo years but found a somewhat stable lineup for a while at least. On this debut all the elements the band had been developing had come together in perfect form and METAL CHURCH was one of the heaviest releases of 1984 rivaling Metallica’s “Kill Em All.” Musically they fall somewhere between the NWOBHM and the more powerful thrash that was in its nascent form. The name METAL CHURCH actually came from a nickname that Vanderhoof gave to his apartment in San Francisco before they moved to Aberdeen, WA and then changed their name.

The album kicks off with the thunderous attack of “Beyond The Black” which shows a distinct strain of Judas Priest bleeding though in heavy metal guitar riffs alongside a galloping bass and energetic percussive workout. David Wayne proves he’s the right man for the job on vocal duties as he has the range of a Rob Halford and the dirty metal grit of a James Hetfield mixing and melding the two styles freely throughout the album’s run. Lead guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof took the reigns as the primary songwriter and cranked out one satisfying track after another with killer fuckin’ lead guitar that tears the roof off the house. After the shit quality of the demos, the debut album sounds excellent as every instrument shines through delivering their powerful sounds that conspire to create a very unique metal album for the early year of 1984.

Everything about this album is almost perfect with heavy hitting metal tracks churning out riff after riff with brilliant ways of changing it up inserting guitar solos and alternating between the NWOBHM and thrash metal worlds. The tracks alternate from on fire feistiness heard on “Merciless Onslaught” to the slower clean guitar introduction of the mythic “Gods Of Wrath” which quickly changes into a crusty crunchy metal powerhouse and it’s not hard to hear how METAL CHURCH would influence other US power metal acts such as Crimson Glory along with fellow Washingtonians Queensryche although MC incorporated more thrash elements than any of their successors. This debut is super heavy and extremely catchy for a metal album of this era. It’s instantly addictive and despite not having the best production job in the world adds a little dirty metal grit to the overall sound. Not a bad track on the album but it does have a couple weaker tracks towards the ends but livens up again as the final closing track which is a super energetic cover of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” picks up steam and sizzles its way to finish the album. A mandatory metal addition to any collection.

METAL CHURCH Four Hymns

Demo · 1982 · US Power Metal
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siLLy puPPy
FOUR HYMNS was the third demo from METAL CHURCH before the release of their eponymous debut album in 1984. While the first two were entirely instrumental, on this one they added a fifth member vocalist David Wayne who would appear on the first two MC albums and then comeback for a couple more in the 90s before dying in a car crash in 2005. While the production quality is still quite shoddy at this point, the rampaging metal musicianship is on full fire and it was inevitable that the band would find a record deal at this point as they rivaled anyone else in the metal universe at this point with super speed induced guitar riffs, pummeling bass line and a healthy dose of drum attack.

Wayne was the perfect vocalist for the job as he was obviously steeped in NWOBHM influences with Rob Halford being the most obvious however Wayne had a dirtier and gritty vocal attack. It’s also true that the compositions themselves emanate from the British influences of the day with some Priest-ish and Maiden-esque riffs in the music.

Of the four tracks on FOUR HYMNS, only “Gods Of Wrath” and “Battalions” would find a home on the debut album but while the others are decently done they don’t match the beauty of the first few full albums. The production is still crap at this point and actually sounds worse than the previous demo but FOUR HYMNS remains a compelling listen at least once for historical value as the music is absolutely on fire and it’s apparent the musical mojo is steaming hot and ready to make its mark on the world. Far from essential but quite the speed metal attack for 1982.

METAL CHURCH Hitman

Demo · 1982 · US Power Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The second of three demos before the 1984 eponymous debut release. HITMAN was released independently and was another all instrumental release on cassette only with three tracks. The title track would go on to be featured on the debut album while the other two wouldn’t. These tracks aren’t as fast and furious as the “Red Skies” but the production has gotten much better although it still lies somewhere between NWOBHM and early proto-thrash. It’s obvious at this point the band is ready for a vocalist and talented enough to hang with the big boyz of the early 80s metal scene. Kurdt Vanderhoof has quite the unique style of lead guitar and the band while clearly influenced by many of the greats holds their own. This one isn’t as satisfying as the debut demo and could really use some vocals at this point. Still though not bad.

METAL CHURCH Red Skies

Demo · 1981 · US Power Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Before moving to their better known Aberdeen, WA a year later, METAL CHURCH was actually founded in San Francisco, CA as the band Shrapnel but soon changed it soon after the move to the more familiar name which founder and lead guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof took from a nickname he gave his apartment while living in SF. The band released three demos before their landmark debut eponymous album in 1984 and this first demo RED SKIES was the independent cassette release that them noticed fairly quickly due to the high quality musicianship on board. This was a totally different band at this point with members coming and going before finally releasing the first album with only Vanderhoof sticking around to see the band blossom into an early 80s metal powerhouse.

RED SKIES is a short three track demo where two tracks would never be released and only “Merciless Onslaught” finding a home on the debut album. This is all instrumental and sounds like a practice session for vocalists to practice. This is the typical early demo quality with crappy production and horrible mixing but what makes this shine despite irritating audiophiles is that the music is top notch even at this stage and the four musicians were more than ready for prime time as the riffs galloped only faster than anything short of Venom at this point in 1981 and straddles somewhere between NWOBHM and early thrash. Before you know it the short demo is over but it’s a satisfying historical reference to check out. I would hardly call this essential but it’s so well played despite the awful muddy recording that i have to give it at least 3 stars.

PHARAOH The Longest Night

Album · 2006 · US Power Metal
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Warthur
Pharaoh's The Longest Night finds the band wearing their Iron Maiden influence on their sleeve - but that's no bad thing, given that adding a pinch of Iron Maiden to the group's customary power metal style is hardly unwelcome. Similar enough to their inspirations to appeal to most listeners who with similar tastes (and what metal fan doesn't like Maiden?), but distinct enough in their own personality (they are a bit less progressive and a bit more inclined to all-out attack than Maiden), Pharaoh may well have crafted the best release of their career here, a release just as powerful and flashy as the explosive cover art suggests.

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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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