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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HELSTAR A Distant Thunder Album Cover A Distant Thunder
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RIOT ThunderSteel Album Cover ThunderSteel
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VICIOUS RUMORS Digital Dictator Album Cover Digital Dictator
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us power metal Music Reviews

HEXX Entangled in Sin

Album · 2020 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"Entangled in Sin" is the 5th full-length studio album by US, San Francisco, California based metal act Hexx. The album was released through High Roller Records in September 2020. It´s the successor to "Wrath of the Reaper" from 2017, which was a comeback album for Hexx after a 26 years long wait since the release of their third full-length studio album "Morbid Reality" from 1991. There has been one lineup change on "Entangled in Sin" since the release of "Wrath of the Reaper (2007)" as bassist Mike Horn has been replaced by Don Wood.

Hexx have gone through different phases, playing very different musical styles from US power metal to technical death/thrash, so it was anyone´s guess which style Hexx would play on their comeback album. As it turned out the material on "Wrath of the Reaper (2007)" is a strongly Metal Church influenced US power/heavy metal style, and while the Metal Church influence isn´t as dominant on "Entangled in Sin", the material on the album is still a US power/heavy metal style, which is overall in a similar territory to the 80s legends. I hear a few nods toward the most hard edged Judas Priest material too, but Hexx aren´t copycats and can certainly hold their own, both when it comes to the songwriting and to the high level musicianship.

The instrumental part of the music is tightly performed, but still with a great organic touch and flow. This sounds like real people playing and the raw, powerful, and organic sounding production job further enhances that. Sharp and hard rocking riffs, great harmony themes and blistering guitar solos, a hard pounding organic playing rhythms section, and the attitude filled vocals by Eddy Vega in front. He has a strong voice and a fierce commanding delivery. Piercing screaming vocals, but also mid-range raw vocals. He adds a great personal touch to the music and his performance here is a great asset to the music.

Compared to the predecessor I hear a more personal sound on "Entangled in Sin", although all elements of the band´s sound are tried and true and you´ll find few surprises here if you´re familiar with the raw end of the spectrum of the US power/heavy metal style, Hexx manage and excel in one of the most important things when playing heavy metal, and that´s delivering your music with an attitude. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

HELSTAR A Distant Thunder

Album · 1988 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"A Distant Thunder" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US power/heavy metal act Helstar. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in November 1988. Prior to the release of "Remnants of War (1986)" almost the entire lineup was changed, and again on "A Distant Thunder", there have been a couple of lineup changes as guitarist Rob Trevino has been replaced by André Corbin, and drummer Rene Luna has been replaced by Frank Ferreira.

Stylistically we´re more or less treated to a natural continuation of the US power/heavy metal style of "Remnants of War (1986)". James Rivera´s strong vocals and commanding delivery is the main focus of the music (he sings both raw and high pitched screaming vocals), but the instrumental part of the music is skillfully delivered too. A powerful pounding rhythm section, hard edged heavy metal riffing and melodic lead guitar work are some of the ingredients of the band´s sound.

While most tracks on the 9 track, 43:13 minutes long album are energetic and hard edged US power/heavy metal tracks, the album also features a couple of more mellow melodic parts, and a cover of "He's a Woman - She's a Man" by the Scorpions. The latter closes the album and fits well with the rest of the tracks. Some of the highlights include "The King is Dead", "Abandon Ship", and the epic "Winds of War", but all material on the album are of a high quality. "A Distant Thunder" is well produced too, featuring a powerful, raw, and detailed sound production, which brings out the best in the material. Upon conclusion it´s a high quality US power/heavy metal release and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

MANOWAR Sign of the Hammer

Album · 1984 · US Power Metal
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Tupan
I never was a fan of Manowar. In fact, I despised them when I was younger, thought they were overrated. The only album I listened was their debut, which failed to impress me: some good songs, but most average hard'n'heavy rock.

I never cared to listen their other albums, until now...

...let's say I changed my mind a bit!

For example, this Sign of The Hammer, is actually a good album! Excellent songwriting, powerful tracks, and the band seems actually excited to play! This albums irradiates that raw energy who every headbanger loves to hear from an eighties album. Even the cheesiness of some lyrics is an inseparable part of that "thing" that makes this release one of the best from Manowar. There's no filler here, but tracks like Thor (The Powerhead), Mountains and the instrumental Thunderpick are my personal highlights. Check it out!

VICIOUS RUMORS Digital Dictator

Album · 1988 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"Digital Dictator" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, California based power/heavy metal act Vicious Rumors. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in February 1988. It´s the successor to "Soldiers Of The Night" from 1985 and features two lineup changes since the predecessor as guitarist Vinnie Moore has been replaced by Mark McGhee and lead vocalist Gary St. Pierre has been replaced by Carl Albert. Especially the latter change has a big impact on the music. Not that Gary St. Pierre isn´t a great vocalist, because he certainly is, but Carl Albert is just one of those "out of this world" singers, who bring something unique to the band they are fronting.

While the material on "Soldiers Of The Night (1985)" were mostly in a traditional heavy metal style and only occasionally touched a harder edged US power metal sound, the material on "Digital Dictator" are mostly in US power metal territory. In fact I´d say it´s the very epitome of the genre (think a combination of early Queensrÿche and early Savatage and you´re halfway there). Hard edged heavy metal riffs with the occasional thrashy edge, blistering guitar solos and skillful harmony work, a tight and hard pounding rhythm section, and Carl Albert´s expressive vocals in front (backed by the occasional riot gang shouting choir). He can sing both raw and aggressive (for the genre), and high pitched and melodic.

The material on the 10 track, 38:57 minutes long album are well written and memorable (and also relatively varied). So in addition to high level performances by all involved, the songwriting is top notch too. Add to that a powerful, raw, and detailed sound production, and "Digital Dictator" is a high quality release in all departments. It´s a step up from the debut album and the sound of a band coming into their own. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

VICIOUS RUMORS Soldiers Of The Night

Album · 1985 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"Soldiers Of The Night" is the debut full-length studio album by US, California based power/heavy metal act Vicious Rumors. The album was released through Shrapnel Records in May 1985. Vicious Rumors was formed in 1979 and released a demo cassette tape in 1982 and a second one in 1983 before being signed to Shrapnel Records for the release of "Soldiers Of The Night". Compared to the demo lineups only lead vocalist Gary St. Pierre and guitarist Geoff Thorpe remain. New in the lineup are guitarist Vinnie Moore, bassist Dave Starr, and drummer Larry Howe. The only track from the demos which has been re-recorded for "Soldiers Of The Night" is "In Fire" (which was actually featured on both demos). The rest of the tracks on the 11 track, 38:50 minutes long album are new original material.

The material on "Soldiers Of The Night" is in a traditional heavy metal style, which is fairly standard for the time and the genre. The quality of the material is relatively high and the tracks are generally catchy and powerful heavy metal. Vicious Rumors can arguably write an effective metal tune. The musicianship is also strong and especially the guitarists play some really well played guitar solos. Lead vocalist Gary St. Pierre has a strong voice and a convincing delivery too, so all in all the performances are a great asset to the album. The inclusion of a guitar solo instrumental in "Invader" may be a bit "old school", but on a release like this it works pretty well. The remaining tracks (save for the opening intro track "Premonition") are all relatively standard vers/chorus structured material with vocals.

The sound production is not the strongest production from that time, but "Soldiers Of The Night" is not a bad sounding release either. It just could have been better sounding. Overall "Soldiers Of The Night" is a good quality heavy metal release, which may not be the most original sounding release from those days, but which is still a solid and well played album. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) 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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