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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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LETHAL Poison Seed

Album · 1996 · US Power Metal
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"Poison Seed" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Kentucky based progressive power metal act Lethal. The album was released through Massacre Records in 1996. Despite being formed as far back as 1982, Lethal´s output had been relatively sparse, and it took the band five years to release something new (the 1995 EP "Your Favorite God") after the release of their debut full-length studio album "Programmed" from 1990. "Poison Seed" being released only a year after "Your Favorite God (1995)" could have been a sign, that Lethal would increase their release cycle, but it ended up being the last studio recording by the band in their initial run.

"Programmed (1990)" was a high quality US power metal album with progressive leanings, and fans of artists like Queensrÿche, Fates Warning, Heir Apparent, and Crimson Glory should feel right at home with that one. "Your Favorite God (1995)" displayed a slightly more progressive contemporary heavy rock/metal sound, and that tendency is continued on "Poison Seed".

Although at the core the music on "Poison Seed" is still 80s oriented US power metal, Lethal have injected huge amounts of alternative heavy rock/metal elements to their sound, which ultimately makes it a bit of an odd combination of musical styles. Think what it would sound like if you combined the sound of Queensrÿche/Fates Warning with the sound of Soundgarden/Alice in Chains. It definitely could have been an interesting experiment, but it does end up sounding a bit directionless. It feels like the band are trying to hold on to their roots while adjusting to the contemporary musical climate, and in the end it sounds forced and calculated. Another issue here is that the songwriting is a bit uninspired and very few tracks stick after the album has finished playing.

...and it´s really too bad, because the elements for success are there in abundance. High level musicianship, a professional and detailed sound production, and musicians who are obviously capable of writing effectful music. They just hit the buttons wrong here. When that is said "Poison Seed" is still a quality release on many parameters and a 3 star (60%) rating may be in the low end if you take the positives into consideration, but the songwriting and the awkward mix of musical styles just don´t work and end up dragging the rating down.

ICED EARTH Horror Show

Album · 2001 · US Power Metal
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American power metal band Iced Earth had managed to carve a bit of a niche for themselves at this point in their career. Having established themselves as one of the more notable and prominent bands of the subgenre, it’s surprising that their discography has been drastically hit-or-miss. Unable to truly capture any momentum over a string of consecutive releases, one album could be amazing, while the next could be pretty average. There really was no predicting how each release could be received, and 2001’s ‘Horror Show’ follows on with that trend.

After a bit of a lull had been rectified with 1998’s critically acclaimed ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’, the band followed this up with, uh, a pretty mundane themed release focusing on horror characters and stories. While one or two tracks could be acceptable, an entire album seems a bit uninspiring and not overwhelmingly promising.

And so here we have it, another pretty average release. Iced Earth’s sound by this point is what it is, and while they aren’t looking to branch out and explore new styles, the quality of songwriting could still benefit from a bit more focus and enthusiasm. This feels slightly by-the-numbers. An abundance of the usual speed metal trappings and powerful, operatic vocals, this is undeniably Iced Earth, but the songs just don’t have the same exuberance and determination that the band have shown with past releases.

Still, it’s not all terrible, as there are a couple of decent tracks on here. ‘Wolf’, ‘Damien’ and ‘Jack’ are alright, though mostly forgettable compared to the bands stronger material. Admittedly however, a cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘Transylvania’ is actually fantastic and the true highlight of this album. The band truly stamp their identity all over this instrumental track, and, most notably for me, it’s the song that served as my introduction to the band (how ironic that it was a cover, a fact I didn’t find out until years later).

Overall, ‘Horror Show’ isn’t by any stretch a terrible album, it’s just not overly memorable, and considering that Iced Earth have shown the ability to put out some incredibly strong releases, it just fails to truly stand out in any way other than being “that horror album”.


Album · 1989 · US Power Metal
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"Oliver Magnum" is the eponymously titled debut full-length studio album by US, Oklahoma based heavy/power metal act Oliver Magnum. The album was released through New Renaissance Records in 1989. Oliver Magnum were formed in 1983 and released a 1986 demo before being signed for the release of this album. It turned out to be their sole studio album as they disbanded in 1997 without releasing any further albums.

Stylistically the music is a combination of traditional heavy metal and US power metal. A combination of "The Warning (1984)"-era Queensrÿche and 1982-1985 Iron Maiden is a fairly valid description of what the music sounds like. Oliver Magnum are very well playing musicians with tons of skill, and every note is delivered with great conviction and passion. While the instrumental part of the music is powerful and tight, the vocals by James Randel take the music to a higher level. His predominantly high pitched delivery is powerful but he can also sing more raw type vocals, which brings nice variation to the vocal part of the music.

The material on the 8 track, 38:56 minutes long album is well written, relatively catchy, and above all highly energetic. While most tracks are hard edged heavy metal tunes played in a fast pace, there are also both mid-paced heavy parts, and some atmospheric clean guitar parts featured on the album. "Evilution" is for example quite the epic track, which features clean guitar parts. The album is well produced featuring a powerful, detailed, and clear sound. The snare drum has a bit of a "thin" sound, but other than that, this is a very well sounding release.

Upon conclusion this is probably an album that came a bit too late to make any real impact on the scene. This type of metal wasn´t exactly in fashion in 1989 (had this been released just a few years before it would probably have received quite a bit more praise), but it´s actually a real shame, because it´s a high quality release through and through. It doesn´t feature anything you haven´t heard before and in that respect there is a lack of originality, but on the other hand Oliver Magnum are both skilled musicians and composers who know how to write and play a great heavy/power metal track, so I´m gonna let the lack of an original sound pass this time around. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

HERETIC Breaking Point

Album · 1988 · US Power Metal
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"Breaking Point" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Los Angeles, California based power/heavy metal act Heretic. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in August 1988. Heretic was in their original run a rather short lived act who formed in 1985 and disbanded in 1988. They released the "Torture Knows No Boundary (1986)" EP and "Breaking Point" before disbanding. The material on "Breaking Point" was re-released in 1991 as part of the compilation album "The Don't Turn Your Back!! & Breaking Point". There´s been one lineup change since the release of the "Torture Knows No Boundary (1986)" EP as lead vocalist Julian Mendez has been replaced by Mike Howe. The latter would soon depart again though to become a member of the more prolific Metal Church. A departure which in part resulted in the end of Heretic.

Stylistically the music on "Breaking Point" takes the traditional heavy metal style of "Torture Knows No Boundary (1986)" and twists it in a darker and more heavy US power metal oriented direction. Julian Mendez was a skilled vocalist with a strong voice, but Mike Howe is arguably a more distinct sounding and powerful singer. He has the right raw butch bark, but can also hit the high notes when that is called for, and always with a melodic sensibility to his delivery. The rest of the band are well playing too, delivering hard edged heavy metal riffs and blistering solos, and pounding energetic mid-paced rhythms.

The production is raw, powerful, and relatively well sounding for the time. The rhythm guitars could have featured a bit more bite and a more fat tone, and the drums didn´t need all those reverb effects, but the bass, and the vocals, sound pretty good in the mix. I especially enjoy how loud and clear the bass is heard and how active it is in the music.

The material on the 10 track, 44:43 minutes long album shift between traditional heavy metal oriented tracks like "Heretic" and "Evil for Evil" and US power metal oriented tracks like "And Kingdoms Fall" and "The Circle", so to my ears "Breaking Point" isn´t a 100% US power metal album. In fact it´s often closer to traditional heavy metal than to power metal. To my ears Heretic are best when they play US power metal because they sound a bit more generic and old fashioned when they play the more traditional heavy metal parts. In addition the the power/heavy metal tracks on the "Breaking Point", the album also features the instrumental "Pale Shelter", which is placed about mid-way through the album. It´s a nice atmospheric breather featuring acoustic guitar and some keyboards. It´s quite the beautiful little piece, and could seamlessly have been worked into a ballad type track if a vocal melody had been added to it.

Upon conclusion "Breaking Point" is a quality US power/heavy metal release by Heretic and especially fans of Metal Church should take notice and check this one out. Personally I think the songwriting is a bit up and down and the production could have been slightly better sounding too, but the high level musicianship makes up for some of that and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is fully deserved.


Album · 2019 · US Power Metal
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Once in a while, a band might get a total makeover, where they change their sound to the point of becoming nearly unrecognisable. The latest band to have this happen is American heavy/power metal band Steel Prophet. I was introduced to them with their 2014 release, Omniscient, which left me with mixed impressions, as musically it was quite a dynamic, varied and complex US power metal album, but it was dragged down by some rather nonsensical lyrics (it seriously had a track called “Aliens, Spaceships and Richard M. Nixon”, for example) as well as a rather inconsistent performance by longtime vocalist Rick Mythiasin. Almost 5 years later, the band is back with a new vocalist, and while the lineup largely consists of longtime members, their sound has changed quite a bit on their ninth full length release, The God Machine, to the point where I can see some longtime fans of the band being disappointed, though for anyone approaching it with an open mind, it’s certainly a thoroughly entertaining album.

Steel Prophet has been around since the early 80’s, and their classic sound was rooted in US power metal, being very raw and hard hitting, while also being quite complex at times, with strong prog elements. The God Machine is a whole different monster, being a mix between a much more modernized power/thrash sound, as well as classic heavy metal. Obviously, the most immediately noticeable change is vocals, with Mystic Prophecy’s R.D. Liapakis taking over the mic, and delivering his usual mix of gritty, powerful vocals, with some more soulful moments on the couple of softer tracks, but even musically, things have changed quite a bit.

The approach to songwriting in particular has changed a lot, with a switch to some much shorter, more straight-forward songs, with less complex arrangements and a less dynamic sound overall. There’s still a decent amount of variety to the songs, of course, with the heavier, speedier tracks generally being the best, but there certainly aren’t any long or more challenging tracks like some of those on Omniscient. This approach works well, though, with all musicians doing a great job, as always, and there’s certainly some excellent thrashy riffs throughout the album, with nods to classic thrash at times, as well as some classic heavy metal galloping riffs and melodic guitar work on some tracks. Obviously, a lot of the changes to the sound were made to help Liapakis fit in, as some of the tracks certainly do remind me of Mystic Prophecy at times, and he sounds as great as always on the album, taking no time at all to settle in and deliver some excellent vocals. Production is top notch, and everything sounds a bit more modern and polished compared to previous releases, which is another big change.

The band wastes no time in demonstrating their switch to more modernized riffs and more simplified songwriting, with the title track kicking things off at a furious pace, instantly launching into some very thrashy power metal riffs, which instantly bring Mystic Prophecy to mind (it most likely is one of the songs written by Liapakis, who split songwriting duties with longtime guitarist/keyboardist Steve Kachinski.) The song has fun verses and a very catchy chorus, and it’s a very fun, hard hitting track overall. Next is another speedy track in “Crucify”, the lead single for the album. It still has a modernized sound to it, though the lead guitars are a bit more melodic during the verses, before getting thrashy again during the chorus. It’s another hard hitting, fast paced track, with its biggest highlight being an extended instrumental section with some thrashy leads and excellent solo work that brings classic Metallica to mind. Next is the slightly slower, though still decently fast paced, “Thrashed Relentlessly”, another track with some great, heavy guitar work. It’s another modern sounding track, with powerful riffs and a strong, melodic chorus, with excellent vocals.

On the slower side, “Dark Mask (Between Love and Hate)” is a very classic heavy metal sounding track, with some nice melodic leads during the verses, as well as a very melodic and catchy chorus. Despite having a classic sound to it, the song still feels more polished and more simplified than most other songs I’ve heard from Steel Prophet, though it’s definitely a great track. Next is “Damnation Calling”, the first of two power ballads on the album. This track at times feels like an Iron Maiden ballad, with how it alternates nicely between very soft passages, and some darker, heavier passages. It opens calmly, before some heavy guitar work kicks in, and from there the song switches seamlessly between heavy verses, and a nice, melodic and very powerful chorus, with a particularly speedy section in the second half being the biggest highlight. After that is “Soulhunter”, my favorite on the album. It has some classic Maiden style galloping riffs, and is a fast paced track, with a mix between heavy riffs and some great melodies, with the chorus in particular having some incredible vocal melodies, as well as being very fun and catchy. The track has a great instrumental section in the second half, as well as an excellent speedy section near the end, which takes it to new heights.

The second ballad on the album is “Buried and Broken”, which starts off with more Maiden style guitar work, before slowing down and turning into a very soft, vocal driven track, only getting heavier during the chorus, and an intense sequence towards the end. It serves as a nice vocal showcase, with Liapakis alternating nicely between soft and powerful vocals. Next is another slower track in “Lucifer – The Devil Inside”. It has some great heavy riffs, as well as a nice groove, and a strong chorus. It has a slight doom metal atmosphere to it, though it does get more upbeat in the second half, with a fast paced and intense instrumental section. It’s a very good track, overall. Next is “Fight, Kill”, which begins with some soft, very epic guitar work, before turning into an excellent melodic heavy metal track, with some fairly fast paced riffs, and another fun, catchy chorus. It has an excellent instrumental section in the second half, and it’s a great classic heavy metal track, overall. Closing out the album is the weirdly named “Love = Life = God Machine” which, despite it’s unwieldy name, is actually a very good track, with more classic heavy metal style guitar riffs. It has a slight hard rock feel to it, with a fairly laid back sound, while still having some great riffs during the verses, which give way to a very melodic and powerful chorus. The instrumental section in the second half especially has a strong 80’s feel to it, and overall the track is a lot of fun, and is a great way to close out the album.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from The God Machine, as I wasn’t too thrilled by the previous Steel Prophet album I had heard, but the band has made quite a change on this release, switching to a more modernised sound, with some power/thrash elements, while still having strong influences of classic heavy metal, which takeover more and more as the album progresses. The songwriting is a lot more direct and satisfying, and R.D. Liapakis sounds as great as ever, so I think newcomers looking for some fun heavy/power metal are actually more likely to be pleased with this than longtime fans of the band, as I feel this album might be a bit too different to appeal to that crowd. Either way, though, it’s a strong album, and it certainly leaves me looking forward to seeing what the band does in the future.

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ICED EARTH Live in Ancient Kourion

Movie · 2013 · US Power Metal
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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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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: )

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