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

FATES WARNING Awaken The Guardian

Album · 1986 · US Power Metal
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SilentScream213
For their third album, Fates Warning followed mostly the same sound of their acclaimed sophomore album, The Spectre Within. The band’s highly melodic and often progressive yet deceptively simple music offers accessible entertainment. Most of the power metal influence from their last album is gone unfortunately, resulting in a slower and more sustained delivery.

John’s vocals, while never outstanding, are certainly stronger here than ever before, and his passionate delivery accompanied by the somewhat neoclassical musicianship add a flavor of theatrical atmosphere to the music. The long songs are never boring, containing multiple movements and layered with harmonies. While I miss the speed of their previous release, they certainly check every other box of 80’s Heavy Metal very well.

HEIR APPARENT Graceful Inheritance

Album · 1986 · US Power Metal
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SilentScream213
A mesmerizing album crafted with intense care and attention to detail. Every single instrument is easily audible, and each are following their own patterns, adding to the main mix without trailing mindlessly behind a set melody or rhythm. While the music isn’t incredibly technical, it is definitely rather progressive, and include a lot of changing qualities that sustain interest throughout the 13 track album (that was A LOT of songs for a metal band in ’86.)

I don’t agree with the Power Metal label on this one, as only the speedy Nightmare has the chops to back that title up. However, it’s very evident this album fosters a genuine medieval feel to it, from the lush but cheesy keys down to the slow gallop riffs that certainly would be Power Metal if played at double speed. It’s amazing how melodic this album is, and sounds a lot like what Savatage would later become (Savatage themselves popularized the whole piano and operatic elements in metal, but these guys were doing it way earlier!).

Overall, a fantastically complete package with no weak points, plenty of variety and precise craftsmanship.

FATES WARNING The Spectre Within

Album · 1985 · US Power Metal
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SilentScream213
Fates Warning did something incredible on their sophomore album; they took two metal subgeneres that hadn’t even begun evolving yet and combined them to create an even more unique sound that would be mimicked forever. Of course I’m talking about Progressive Power metal.

Now, this album isn’t true Progressive Power Metal, but it’s absolutely clear this is where it started, and some moments in their songs actually delve completely into this territory. The songs are speedy, complex, long and changing, and feature some nearly operatic vocals about space and stuff. There are no weaknesses whatsoever to this album. Of course things could be improved, as hundreds of bands have done since, but at the time it was released, absolutely nothing could have touched this in this realm of metal.

Keep in mind, their debut album was a very, very generic Heavy Metal album with absolutely nothing substantial about it at all.

HEIR APPARENT One Small Voice

Album · 1989 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"One Small Voice" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US Power/heavy metal act Heir Apparent. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in June 1989. It´s the successor to "Graceful Inheritance" from 1986 and features a couple of lineup changes since the predecessor as lead vocalist Paul Davidson has been replaced by Steve Benito and keyboard player Michael Jackson has been added to the lineup as a fifth member. "Graceful Inheritance" generally received positive reviews at the time of release, but as it took the band three years to release "One Small Voice", their window of opportunity had closed, and they had a hard time fully capitalizing on their otherwise promising career start. Heir Apparent split-up in 1990.

The music on "Graceful Inheritance (1986)" is melodic US power/heavy metal, with the occasional (although very rare) nod towards progressive metal. Some of the elements of that style is continued on "One Small Voice", but they have turned up the progressive part of their sound considerably, making this album a melodic US power/progressive metal release. Having included a permanent keyboard player, the presence of keyboards are obviously more dominant in the soundscape than on the predecessor, but they aren´t the focus of the music. That would still be the hard rocking riffs, melodic solos, the pounding rhythm section, and the helium high pitched vocals by Steve Benito. Benito has a strong voice and a convincing delivery. Some of his vocal sections are crazy high pitched and technically very difficult to perform, but he pulls it off with ease.

So the musicianship is on a high level on all posts, but unfortunately the songwriting doesn´t quite follow suit. There are both weak moments and strong moments on "One Small Voice", but the album is overall fragmented and inconsistent, and it´s a bit hard to know exactly what it is Heir Apparent are aiming at. The sound production is also a bit thin and doesn´t really help the compositions shine, but neither the songwriting nor the sound production are downright awful, just not as interesting or as well sounding, as they could have been. "One Small Voice" features 10 original tracks and a cover of "The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel. A cover which Heir Apparent manage to put their own spin on, but still it´s nothing too special.

Heir Apparent are as mentioned obviously a well playing band, and new lead vocalist Steve Benito is a welcome addition to the group, but upon conclusion "One Small Voice" is simply a bit directionless and unremarkable. It´s progressive but not full-on progressive, and it´s not the type of progressive metal, which would probably satisfy the Dream Theater loving progressive metal fan, but rather those who enjoy the more melodic oriented material by 80s Queensrÿche. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

LETHAL Poison Seed

Album · 1996 · US Power Metal
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UMUR
"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.

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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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