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

ICED EARTH The Glorious Burden

Album · 2004 · US Power Metal
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martindavey87
Eight albums into their career, and Iced Earth’s output was proving to be very hit-or-miss with me. Sure, they’d released some absolute masterpieces, such as their self-titled debut, its follow-up ‘Night of the Stormrider’ and 1998’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’, but they’d also put out some very sub-par stinkers, such as ‘The Dark Saga’ and ‘Horror Show’. And so, with their ninth studio album, 2003’s ‘The Glorious Burden’, the rollercoaster ride continues, as the American power metal quintet once again are on top form.

Most notable here is the addition of new vocalist ‘The Ripper’ Tim Owens. Recently ousted from Judas Priest, this was a huge score for Iced Earth after the departure of long-time singer Matt Barlow. Owens’ powerful voice is not only a great fit for the group without copying his predecessor, but it sounds like it sparked a few creative juices for band leader Jon Schaffer, who was probably as motivated by the new recruit as he was by his passion of the albums theme; military history.

Musically, this is classic Iced Earth and very typical power metal; lots of fast guitars and harmonies, galloping bass lines and rich orchestrations. But the song-writing is solid and very inspired, and Tim Owens’ vocals are absolutely perfect for this band, replacing Barlow with ease and really giving this album an identity of its own.

With highlights including ‘Declaration Day’, ‘The Reckoning (Don’t Tread On Me)’, ‘Greenface’, ‘Attila’ and the epic three-part ‘Gettysburg (1863)’, this is a banger of an album that furthers Iced Earth’s erratic discography, but shows that when the right pieces fall into place, this band rocks seriously hard.

VICIOUS RUMORS Soldiers Of The Night

Album · 1985 · US Power Metal
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siLLy puPPy
VICIOUS RUMORS is one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s longest lived classic heavy metal / US power metal bands having formed as far back as 1979 in the North Bay city of Santa Rosa. This band has been the baby of guitarist / vocalist Geoff Thorpe for its multi-decade existence and as one could expect has gone through various lineup changes and stylistic shifts as time goes on. While many of the Bay Area metal bands of the era gravitated towards the up and coming thrash metal scene, VICIOUS RUMORS was more interested in the anthemic metal of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and even KISS as a point of inspiration.

SOLDIERS OF THE NIGHT is the debut album that was released in 1985 and is the only album to feature both vocalist Gary St Pierre and guitarist Vinnie Moore. Moore would depart the band soon after this debut’s release and enjoy a fruitful solo career as one of the 80s most accomplished neoclassical shredders. Although his guitar talents are displayed on this debut they are a bit tamped down in comparison to Moore’s solo works such as “Mind’s Eye” which emerged the following year. St Pierre would hang around until 1987 before being replaced by Carl Albert who would join the band during their peak “classic” era which includes the three album run from “Digital Dictator” to “Welcome To The Ball.”

The band was quite active from 1981-85 on radio shows and playing live gigs locally with some of the early thrash bands like Death Angel, Exodus and Possessed. All of this exposure landed them on the Shrapnel Records label which was famous for signing guitar shredders who released solo material but also equally infamous for its dreadful production quality therefore SOLDIERS OF THE NIGHT suffers from a dismal production and mixing job with a weak almost monotonic overall effect. Fortunately the music is engaging enough to not diminish the overall effect but a modern remastering job is very much in need if even possible at this point in the game.

Very much in the style of the era, VICIOUS RUMORS was very much a typical sounding band of the day with galloping guitar riffs, bantering bass and drumming prowess with operatic vocals that narrated classic epic metal themes of going to battle and kicking ass. Vinnie Moore delivers some outstanding soloing however it is obvious that his talents were tamped down on SOLDIERS OF THE NIGHT. I can’t say St Pierre’s vocals are quite up to the task either as he had a goofy yelp turned into operatic screams. Not bad most of the time but sometimes he doesn’t quite hit the notes properly and after all this early era of metal was still about melody and harmony as dissonance and atonality were far from the norm at the time.

VICIOUS RUMORS delivered a fairly typical speed metal / early US power metal album with SOLDIERS OF THE NIGHT having been similar to bands like Metal Church, Liege Lord, Jag Panzer, Helstar and Armored Saint. Musically the eleven tracks are excellent with the instrumental guitar solo “Invader” showcasing Moore’s virtuoso guitar techniques. This album may not have been the band’s peak of creativity but certainly opened the doors for them to have a successful decade that found them enjoy a bit of success starting with the following “Digital Dictator.” Really the only thing not to like on this one is the crappy production. True the band’s sound was a bit generic in many ways but competent enough to thoroughly enjoy if you love the 1980s heavy metal style of playing. On the lower side of excellent but a solid debut.

MANOWAR Highlights from the Revenge of Odysseus

EP · 2022 · US Power Metal
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Vim Fuego
It’s been an epic journey. There have been many times when the battle looked lost, but the Kings of Metal triumphed. The final swansong, Manowar’s Armageddon, the ultimate final confrontation approaches. How will these mighty warriors fare?

To unnecessarily answer a rhetorical question, fuck knows. And at this stage, how many metal warriors still care? Manowar knows not and cares not, and on they soldier in the fight for metal!

OK, enough cliché and war themed metaphor. Let’s get down to plain talking. Manowar are nearing the end of their musical career. There’s one more album coming. There’s a song on it about the Greek hero Odysseus, which promises to be over 30 minutes long. “Highlights from the Revenge of Odysseus” is supposedly a sample from the song.

Achilles was afforded the same treatment in 1992 in “Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts” on the album “The Triumph of Steel”. “Achilles…” is a sprawling but flawed progressive power metal operetta, incorporating both bass and drum solos, and overblown theatrics. How has Odysseus fared?

Not particularly well on first appearances.

First track “Athena’s Theme” is a quasi-operatic, over-dramatic intro”. It follows into the clichéd stormy night and ominous horns of “Telemachus, Pt. 1”. It sounds like a rehashing of “The Warriors Prayer”. Except it’s in fucking Greek. If you don’t speak the language you’re buggered without a translation. It segues into a power ballad duet (“Where Eagles Fly”) so sappy even Meatloaf would have been too ashamed to sing it. Yes, Eric Adams still has a great voice, as does Chiara Tricarico of Italian symphonic power metal band Moonlight Haze, but metal fans want to hear him belting out massive war anthems, not warbling away in limp pseudo-operatic insipidity. And then there’s another Greek interlude called “Odysseus and Calypso - The Island of Ogygia”, which sounds ever so dramatic, but is still meaningless if you don’t speak the language. It’s enough to make frustrated Mano-warriors hang up their rusty battleaxes and dented codpieces.

But then Manowar do what they’ve done for their entire pompous, pretentious, unintentionally self-parodic 40+ year career. These arrogant, self-important bastards make all the bloated theatrical bullshit worth wading through by knocking out an anthemic, monstrous blast of good old fashioned heavy fucking metal with final track “Immortal”.

Ominous, ethereal choir? Check. Thundering Drums of Doom? Check. Relentless militaristic guitar riffs? Check. Joey De Maio’s unbelievable bass gymnastics? Check. Eric Adams calling brothers to arms? Check. The recipe is all there, all laid out plain and to see. It should sound tired and rehashed because this is a 40-year-old recipe, but it doesn’t. It still feels crisp and vital as it did when “Battle Hymns” first blasted out of speakers worldwide in 1982. It’s comfortingly metal without being over-comfortable. It’s over-blown without being overbearing. It’s just quintessential Man-O-fucking-War.

Whether the rest of the forthcoming album lives up to the standard set by this EP remains to be seen. And that’s exactly what this is supposed to do – pique curiosity and set out expectations. So fuck you Manowar, for who you are, you arrogant grumpy old bastards. But also thank you Manowar, for the music which has been, and possibly for what remains to come. There’s still a bit of wear left in the old codpiece yet.

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.

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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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