Welcome to Pt. II of my III part series on United States Power Metal! In Pt. I of my guide, “Marco’s Guide to USPM Part I: The Basics, Essentials, and Modern Heroes”, I discussed the essentials and modern champions of the genre. My goal with the previous section was to provide a solid introduction and base into USPM while also providing the best new releases to sink your teeth into.
In this section of the guide, I aim to shed light on some of the 80s bands underneath the fold. There’s a huge assortment of bands that are nearly as good as the leaders of the genre, but didn’t quite get the same recognition for one reason or another. I’ve also included Canadian bands here in the mix – the Canadian scene developed closely with the US scene with many bands easily fitting under the umbrella sound of USPM. There are some European bands that would fit the criteria as well (Cloven Hoof, Defender, Trojan/Talion, etc.), but given the scattered locations and lack of regional scenes I’ve decided to exclude them from the guide here.
I’m ONLY discussing full lengths and EPs here. Below you will find a list of such bands and releases along with a quick description of the band to help you find something you’ll enjoy!
Pt. III of my guide will discuss USPM demos in detail – stay tuned!
You can find the full playlist included above: here at this link! All bands are included in the playlist in the order they appear below (starting with the author’s picks).
Author’s picks and infographic:
There’s a lot of bands in this guide, so to help focus everyone’s time you’ll find my personal favorites below! I created a quick infographic for reference above with the bands and release names.
Black Knight: Master of Disaster
Black Knight are a band that I hold very dear to my heart. They’re a Canadian band with a female singer, but their sound, timing, and proximity are so close that they’re effectively part of the original USPM movement. They were one of the very first bands I got into once I started breaking beneath the surface and I still love them to this day. Powerful vocals and no-frills riffing. Must listen!
Dark Age: Dark Age
Dark Age managed only one EP before vanishing, having received very little attention. This EP is a shining gem in the rough, a perfect example of what USPM is all about. Each song is killer and filled to the brim with character. Dark Age is a high energy affair that leaves you wondering why couldn’t this band just have more material?? I come back to this EP regularly and it never gets old.
Damien Thorne: The Sign of the Jackal
Damien Thorne sound exactly like you would expect from looking at their cover. They’re on the most aggressive side of the USPM spectrum with a flurry of speed metal attack. Sign of the Jackal has as much bite as you could ever want and then some. Essential for fans of the genre’s more aggressive champions such as Jag Panzer and Metal Church.
Deadly Blessing: Ascend from the Cauldron
Ascend from the Cauldron is a Deadly Blessing indeed… (ok I’ll stop with the dad jokes). Considering Cauldron Born, there must be something about USPM bands with cauldron imagery that instantly propels them to classic-level. Deadly Blessing play an aggressive and technical mix of thrash metal and us power. Imagine if early Helstar embraced their bits of thrash metal further or bands like Toxik and Watchtower decided to throw in some power metal influence. Killer album with no shortage of riffs.
Deaf Dealer: Journey into Fear
You can find my full review of Deaf Dealer’s Journey into Fear here
Deaf Dealer are yet another Canadian band who were active during the height of USPM. Their sound and imagery slots very nicely with the rest of our USPM outfits. Their debut is very solid, but there’s something utterly magical about 1987’s Journey Into Fear that puts it at another level. It was written and recorded in 1987 but the label refused to release it due to predictions of it being unprofitable. Assholes. Well, this album was officially released in 2014 and it’s a wonderful thing for the world that it’s more accessible to us because USPM fans will find plenty to sink their teeth into.
Emerald: Armed for Battle
One of the rarest and most expensive USPM releases ever, Armed for Battle brings us a collection of classic power metal vocals and riffs. With strong vocals and mid-paced riffs, you’re bound to remember this one – just don’t expect to own it anytime soon!
Glacier’s self-titled EP is without a doubt one of the best of the genre. With undeniably memorable riffs, catchy melodies, and some of the best vocal lines around this EP is a must for all USPM fans. The band has a number of demos that are just as killer and worth checking out as well!
Heathen’s Rage: Heathen’s Rage
Blistering fast, power infused speed metal fans of Savage Grace and Helstar need to pay attention to this one! The entire Heathen’s Rage EP is pure and raw energy focused into a 12 minute onslaught of metal. Almost comes close to “Knights of Steel” with riffs that are bound to be stuck on replay in your head for days to come.
Hellion: Screams in the Night
With speed metal undertones and a powerful female vocalist, Hellion fit right in with Chastain, but perhaps the closest comparison is Germany’s Warlock. Ann Boleyn’s bombastic vocal perform is certainly worth being compared in the same breath as Doro and Leather. The 80s Judas Priest inspired riffs and strong rhythm sections are worthy companions for her vocals and the end result is a classic worthy album!
Malice: In the Beginning…
With heavy influence from classic hard rock and early Judas Priest, Malice aren’t quite as evil and aggressive as their name might initially let on. To me, this sounds like a US power version of Defenders of the Faith and it certainly would have served as a better follow up to that legendary album than what we got with Turbo. Fans of the early 80s era of Judas Priest will love this one!
Medieval Steel: Medieval Steel
Medieval Steel is the very definition of epic. Mid-paced, triumphant vocals, and choruses that are 1000% guaranteed to be stuck in your head. This is a classic through and through and one of the most revered EPs in USPM for a very good reason. Seriously, just take a look at this live video here – the energy is unreal! The track “Medieval Steel” is undoubtedly one of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard – absolute must listen.
Messiah Force: The Last Day
Messiah Force’s only full length offering is far and away my personal power metal release from Canada. Imagine for a moment that John Cyriis of Agent Steel was replaced by a graceful woman and Agent Steel adjusted their sound accordingly. Given that bands fronted by a woman are so scarce let alone at such a high quality, this release is a pleasant surprise. The riffs are so unbelievably good and Lynn Renaud’s vocals are spectacular. She has the necessary power in her voice but retains her femininity. I have visited this album regularly since discovering it and never am I bored of it.
Mystic Force: Take Command
Progressive power metal ala Fates Warning with a dash of Queensryche and Crimson Glory. Mystic Force are on the same level but have tragically never received the proper attention they deserved. Their first demos came in the late 80s when the USPM movement was already starting to lose steam and Mystic Force never received traction as a result. “Awakened by the Dawn” is such a kick ass tune that Eternal Champion covered it on one of their EPs!
Nasty Savage: Nasty Savage
Nasty Savage live up to their name like no other. Their self titled album is a slab of dirty metal. With aggressive and sleazy vocals over a power-thrash frenzy, this album is certain to keep you hooked. Imagine a grimy version of Jag Panzer or Agent Steel. There’s plenty going on here and Nasty Savage always keep it interesting to say the least.
Oliver Magnum: Oliver Magnum
Ignore the dumb cover and name. Does it look stupid? Yes. Is this one of the best power/speed albums around? Yes. I promise if you don’t judge this book by its cover then you’ll find a flurry of riffs that blends all different kinds of sounds found in USPM unlike any other band. You’ll find progressive elements, speed, soaring vocals, heavy bass – you name it. Imagine Geoff Tate over a speed metal influenced version of Queensryche. Lizzy Borden, Savage Grace, Fates Warning, Queensryche – it’s all here. Brilliant record.
Original Sin: Sin Will Find You Out
Fast paced, unrelenting, speed metal with killer female vocals. The original bad bitch speed metal band! Touted as an all female act, the band’s music was written by those behind the band Exorcist. Original Sin feature Edward Pursino, guitarist of Virgin Steele and Danae DeFeis, the sister of David DeFeis (also Virgin Steele) on vocals.
Sacred Blade Of the Sun + Moon
Another Canadian band that I would be remiss to not include. Sacred Blade play progressive metal mixed with that classic US power base. Image if Crimson Glory’sTranscendence was taken to an even more progressive place. The vocals aren’t quite like you’d find in the rest of the bands here. Instead of that furious, falsetto-laden style that came to dominate USPM, Sacred Blade opt for a more monotone style of vocals that would have been more at home in a progressive rock band. The instrumentation is absolutely out of this world and quite varied, so if those vocals don’t sound like your kind of thing I still suggest you give this one a go!
Sacred Oath: A Crystal Vision
With galloping and aggressive riffs, dual guitar leads, a hearty amount falsettos, and progressive touches to round it all out, A Crystal Vision is a unique record to say the least. Somehow Sacred Oath manage to find themselves at a strange crossroads between Metal Church and Fates Warning. Sacred Oath are just off kilter enough to feel weird but rooted deeply enough in the core power metal sound to still feel familiar. Really awesome stuff!
Sacred Rite: Sacred Rite
Sacred Rite are perhaps one of USPM’s best kept secrets. Hailing from Hawaii, they were one of the very few metal bands that were active in the gorgeous island state. You’ll hear plenty of Iron Maiden influence at the core of their sound, but they’re far more than just another Maiden clone. Compared to other bands, Sacred Rite utilize their bass to an extraordinary degree and this helps them stand out. There are often times where melodies are driven by the bass work rather than the guitars. The riffs and leads are to die for – they’re incredibly varied and catchy without compromising any quality. You won’t hear any crazy high vocals from Mark Kaleiwahea, but his midrange register fits the pacing and structure of the music here. Really the only thing holding these two albums back are poor production, but that is a small price to pay for metal so damn good.
Serpent’s Knight: Released from the Crypt
Coming out in 1983, Released from the Crypt is one of the first examples of pure USPM and the first musical output of legendary Sanctuary and Nevermore vocalist Warrel Dane. To me, Released from the Crypt stands as Warrel’s strongest musical output. Serpent’s Knight managed to create a dark, occult, and rifftastic affair. Released from the Crypt is an evil, mid-paced, metallic journey that Dane guides us through with his shrill falsetto. I will say however, that this sounds like an album length demo and even for 1983 standards the production is about as bad as it comes. It’s not just bad, it’s absolutely horrendous for an album but the music farm ore than makes up for it here. You’ll also find a cover of “White Rabbit” on this album which just goes to show how much Warrel Dane loved that damn song!
Slauter Xstroyes: Winter Kill
I legitimately do not know how I can even begin describing Slauter Xstroyes. They are as weird and unique as their name might suggest. Imagine the strangest blend of Fates Warning early Mercyful Fate with dashes of Manilla Road and Tyrant. I need to reiterate – there isn’t a single band out there that sounds like them. Slauter Xstroyes’ approach to songwriting and riffs is so unbelievably abstract that sometimes I struggle to call them USPM despite the fact that their core sound is rooted in the progressive side of the genre. Winter Kill is a monstrous album and a necessity for all seasoned USPM fans, but this is one that needs a lot of time and many listens to really appreciate.
Stormtrooper: Armies of the Night
Stormtrooper’s Armies of the Night is undoubtedly one of my favorite EPs of the USPM scene. It’s bare bones and straight forward power metal – nothing more. Stormtrooper have a serious bite that reminds you why the genre is even called power metal in the first place. Vocalist Damien Black has one of the best snarls I’ve heard, but be warned – you won’t find any nice vocal melodies or falsettos here. Stormtrooper lie somewhere between Tyrant and Jag Panzer and if that’s how you like your bands to sound then you are in for a treat!
Street Child: Street Child
Street Child were just another one of those bands that were a little too late to really make an impact. Their mid-paced, epic style of USPM just didn’t quite fit in 1989 and they were put to the side. Their self titled debut EP is more known for its rarity than anything else with good condition copies fetching huge, huge dollars. While even the reissue may be difficult to locate, I still recommend listening to the band if you’re a fan of that mid-paced sound!
I just can’t help but keep adding Canadian bands to this list. Sword’s debut album, Metalized is perhaps the strongest USPM-esque album to come from our neighbors in the north. There isn’t anything strikingly unique about this album, in fact it’s about as vanilla as USPM comes. What is really astounding about Metalized is the execution – everything is stellar and not a single moment is wasted on this album. Sword to me sound sound like a cross between Jag Panzer and Armored Saint – the band certainly has a hard-rock type of spirit (they did start as a KISS cover band after all…), but there’s way more bite and variety on Metalized than the rest of the hard-rock inspired USPM bands. The sheer quality of this album makes it a must listen.
Titan Force: Titan Force
Titan Force just barely missed my cut for the first portion of my guide – they’re known for being another one of Jag Panzer vocalist Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin’s projects. Anyone who is familiar with the Tyrant knows how damn talented he is – just mentioning his name should be reason alone to give this band a shot! Unlike Jag Panzer, who are unbelievably aggressive and balls-to-the-wall, Titan Force are on the exact other end of the spectrum. They place a very progressive and bass-heavy take on USPM similar to acts like Crimson Glory and Heir Apparent. The stark contrast in sound to Jag Panzer just helps demonstrate how killer of a vocalist Conklin really is. The instrumentation is certainly up to the standard the Tyrant sets and if you’re able to put aside that horrid album cover then you’ll discover quite a pleasant surprise!
Villain: Only Time Will Tell
Villain were managed by the mighty Geoff Thorpe of Vicious Rumors and as you’d expect, their sound is quite similar to Vicious Rumors. Imagine the early aggression of Vicious Rumors combined with the melodic, chorus driven approach of early EUPM like Heavens Gate, Scanner, and Helloween – you’ll get Villain’s Only Time Will Tell. At 30 minutes, this really feels more like a short album rather than an EP as it was advertised – but either way it’s certainly worth the half hour of your time to listen!
The Remaining Bands:
Abattoir: Vicious Attack
As the name of their debut album might suggest, Abattoir are an incredibly aggressive USPM band. They play a power tinged speed metal style similar to Agent Steel or Savage Grace meets Exciter.
Amulance: Feel the Pain
Amulance are yet another power/speed band with similarities to the masters of metal, Agent Steel. Unlike Abattoir listed above, they don’t have quite as much of a dangerous bite . With a healthy amount of Iron Maiden influence and mid-tempo sections, Amulance give you moments for you to catch your breath.
Apocrypha: The Forgotten Scroll
Apocrypha are the first project of Tony Fredianelli, a guitarist known for his work in alternative rock band Third Eye Blind. Don’t worry though – you won’t find any alt-rock here. Apocrypha’s first album is a thrashy USPM affair ala Metal Church. There’s plenty of shred guitar here too, so if you’re a fan of early Yngwie Malmsteen and the likes, you’ll find yourself right at home here.
Apostle: Chariots of Iron
Apostle are one of many Christian power metal bands that found themselves wrapped up in the USPM movement. The empowering nature of power metal made it a draw for these type of lyrics. Regardless of what you might think about the lyrical content, the music speaks for itself. Straightforward and catchy power metal with a powerful vocalist who can hit his highs. Fans of Crimson Glory will enjoy this one!
Banshee: Race Against Time
Rockin’ power metal in the vein of Lizzy Borden, Shok Paris, and Fifth Angel, Banshee’s Race Against Time is a fun listen. This album has a lot of variety on it with some songs like “Drive like Hell” being more speed metal oriented and others such as “Desire” being more AOR/glam influenced in the vein of Lizzy Borden.
Blacklist: The Sign of 4
Heavy riffing with a healthy dose of rocking, these guys bear similarities to acts like Malice and Grudge. This EP is only 4 tracks long and is definitely top heavy as the first two tracks stick out clearly above the remaining two. Fun listen with interesting coarse vocals that aren’t standard for USPM.
Blacksmith: Fire From Within
Blacksmith play a brand of thrash/power similar to Vicious Rumors and Metal Church. Like their name suggests, Blacksmith strike while the iron is hot – Fire From Within is a banger all the way through with few moments of reprieve.
Black Virgin Most Likely to Exceed
With an album title like Most Likely to Exceed, Black Virgin were priming themselves for success. Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case here as the band didn’t make the splash they were hoping to. Black Virgin’s only full length effort is jam packed with aggressive riffs, blazing solos, and extremely gruff vocals.
Cerebus: Too Late to Pray
What’s this, another USPM album by the name Too Late to Pray? Although this doesn’t quite stack up to Tyrant’s monster of an album, Cerebus’s Too Late to Pray is fantastic in its own right. There’s plenty of speed metal influence here and enough grit to satisfy a fat US southerner.
This is a band with an interesting history behind them. Cities play a straightforward style of USPM that is deeply rooted in the early NWOBHM. They were a side project of A.J. Pero, the drummer of Twisted Sister. He played with Cities early on, left for Twisted Sister, and then returned to record the Annihilation Absolute full-length. HOWEVER, the EP I mention here with the same name does not feature Pero and is-in fact a slightly higher quality recording.
Commander: High and Mighty
Commander play a style similar to early Liege Lord with a dash of Queensryche – pure power riffs with a talented vocalist that possesses an admirable. There’s lots of catchy riffs and melodies here for you to sink your teeth into.
Cruella: Vengeance is Mine
Catchy and fast, Cruella play in the style of bands like Riot. There’s a laid back, fun approach to the songwriting that reminds you of the classic late 70s/early 80s era of heavy metal. There’s lots of sing-along choruses here similar to the Riot’sThundersteel which further help build those similarities.
Crypt: Stick to Your Guts
One of Canada’s forgotten sons, Crypt only managed to release a lone album in 1987. Stick to Your Guts is a rough around the edges, bass heavy, and thrashy approach to power metal similar to acts like Metal Church and at times Savage Grace. Although the production does Crypt no favors, it can’t hide the masterful riffs.
Damien: Every Dog Has Its Day
Rooted in mid-era Judas Priest, Damien bring us a brand of power metal that sounds like it’s a cross between Hall of the Mountain King and Hell Bent for Leather that is just as badass as it sounds.
A bass-heavy USPM album that shares many similarities with the early Germany scene. Don’t let this album’s silly cover fool you, complete with buzzing guitars and a powerful bass Dammaj are the real deal. Interesting fact about this band is that the two guitarists and bassist are brothers – better to keep it in the family I suppose!
Divine Rite: Divine Rite
Divine Rite is a mid-paced, straight-forward, tried and true power metal album. It lies somewhere between early Savatage and Armored Saint. It’s a simple, but effective approach that always makes for a good listen.
Drive: Characters in Time
Drive firmly place themselves in the progressive camp of USPM, fitting in comfortably with peers such as Queensryche, Crimson Glory, and Heir Apparent. The vocals are very Geoff-Tate like and fans of The Warning will find themselves quite happy with this one.
ESP: The Future is Now
ESP stand firmly on the progressive side of US power metal but with quite a bit of bite. To me, The Future is Now combines various aspects of USPM and it ends up sounding like the more aggressive side of Crimson Glory* and Savatage. On paper this sounds like a recipe for success – in reality it’s just as good as it sounds.
Exxplorer: Symphonies of Steel
Aggressive and straightforward, Symphonies of Steel very much lives up to its name. With its dual guitar leads, epic vocals, and banging riffs fans of Omen and Jag Panzer will find themselves at home here.
Final Axe: Beyond Hell’s Gate
Final Axe are known for their involvement with Stryper drummer Robert Sweet, but their best material came without any of his involvement at all! Final Axe were one of the many Christian power metal bands that arose in the US during the mid 80s and stylistically Final Axe fit right in the middle of the spectrum. They’re not particularly rough, but they aren’t quite on the softer or progressive side of things – if you’re looking for a mid-paced, thumper this will hit the spot.
Thrashy with a soaring vocalist – there are some comparisons to be drawn to the mighty Vicious Rumors. This album suffers the issue of being spotty, but its highs (like the linked song here) are certainly worth exploring. The guitars are the highlight here and there’s still plenty of worthy riffs.
Grudge: Barbarians of the New Earth
This is definitely on the weirder end of the spectrum! There is very little NWOBHM influence here and a plethora of tempo changes will keep you on your feet. It’s an incredibly unique album and I wouldn’t expect anything less from the suspected main band of Lords of the Crimson Alliance.
Hades: Resisting Success
Despite the name of the album and the band’s unfortunate status, they certainly were not trying to resist success with what they managed to put out here. Hades’ debut album is incredibly thrashy and shows a high level of musicianship. Their power/ technical thrash nature is incredibly reminiscent of legends such as Metal Church and Flotsam and Jetsam.
Halloween: Don’t Metal With Evil
Yes Halloween is the right band, don’t get them confused with HELLOween! Halloween’s debut is a horror-themed affair filled with catchy vocal lines, choruses, and rockin’ riffs. The closest comparison is of course Lizzy Borden!
Hawaii: One Nation Underground
One of the earliest USPM bands around, Hawaii (and their various incarnations as Vixen and Aloha) are known for being guitar virtuoso’s Marty Friedman’s first band. With Marty Friedman you can guess how this is going to be – blistering fast speed metal of course! Think Agent Steel and Vicious Rumors. Perfect driving music.
Havoc: The Grip
Not Havok, but Havoc. Just one album released for this power-thrash outfit from California. The Grip features the straight-forward thrash attack you would expect from a band in this style complete with the occasional melody and power metal vocals.
Heretic: Breaking Point
I know I compare a lot to Metal Church here…really I know. I can’t help doing it even more – Heretic’s Breaking Point is the effective stepping stone between Metal Church’s The dark and Blessings in Disguise as Heretic’s vocalist, Mike Howe, went on to join Metal Church. Super solid power/thrash!
Heavy with the slightest touch of progressive – think The Warning and EP era Queensryche with just a dash of Crimson Glory. The song structures are relatively simple and you know what you’re going to get from each song, but they hit the spot well. Hittman’s self titled debut is a must listen for fans of this style!
On the outside, Icon look like just another hard n heavy band with little more to them other than big hair. However, just one listen makes you realize why this isn’t necessarily the case. From my quick description you can glean the style of metal you’re getting here – Lizzy Borden, Fifth Angel, and especially Dokken.
Inner Sanctum: 12 A.M.
Inner Sanctum’s lone claim to fame is the fact that they were one of the earliest projects by drummer Mike Portnoy of former Dream Theatre glory. This album has little bits of all types of US power – you’ll find some speed, thrash, progressive, and hard n heavy here.
Iron Cross: Iron Cross
Dark, evil, and occult. The imagery and atmosphere is the opposite from what you would expect from power metal, yet here it is. With strong riffs all around – Iron Cross’s self- titled is an essential listen.
Ironhawk To the Point
Ironhawk’s lone EP, clocking in at just 17 minutes, is early USPM at its finest. Having come out in 1983, To the Point, is well… to the point! It exhibits everything that you would expect such an early power metal release to have – riffs and melodies deeply rooted with the NWOBHM sound becoming ever so popular. Don’t let it’s short length turn you off – this EP packs plenty of punch!
Ivory Tiger: Metal Mountain
Look at that motherfucking giant ass white tiger at the top of the fucking metal mountain. The music is just as triumphant as that glorious cover. It’s very, very straightforward heavy metal with the strong and exaggerated vocals that we’ve come to love from USPM. It’s a true shame that all we got is 13 minutes of pure heavy metal from these guys, they deserved to be able to do so much more.
Lazarus Sin: Intracranial Mass
Lazarus Sin are yet another mainstay of the Christian power metal scene that sprung up within the USPM movement. Progressive and downright weird at times, this release reminds me of Queensryche meets Slauter Xstroyes.
No one loves Leatherwolf like Leatherwolf do. How much does Leatherwolf love Leatherwolf? Well let’s just say they have 3 major releases all titled Leatherwolf, two of which with similar covers. They’re all good, but it can make for a confusing time trying to hunt them. Leatherwolf plays a hard n heavy style of metal with a bit of an edge to them – think Liege Lord meets Lizzy Borden.
With strong riffs and catchy choruses one could say M.A.R.S. is well… out of this world! There’s an old school hard-n-heavy slant here that’s reminiscent of Fifth Angeland Shok Paris, but to just confine them to that style would be silly. There’s a lot going on in the entirety of Project:Driver with plenty of aggressive moments and faster tracks such as “Nations on Fire”.
Majestic Ryte: Majestic Ryte
Powerful and epic, Majestic Ryte trucks along at a strong mid-pace. There’s a lot of grit in Greg Tsaknakis’s vocals and he helps add character to the bass-heavy riffs found on this EP. The general pacing and approach to the songs reminds me of early Manowar and Omen at times.
Madd Hatter: Madd Hatter
Madd Hatter is deeply rooted in the NWOBHM style and is the perfect example of what that early power metal sound is really like. There’s a core sound coming from the British legends, but with an extra bit of oomph and bigger vocals. There’s no frills to be found on this album and you get exactly what you expect, but there’s something nice about that.
Matakopas: Coming Out Ahead
Matakopas were a short lived band that managed only a single album in the late 80s – Coming Out Ahead. With deep roots in the NWOBHM, Matakopas took a more melodic approach on their debut effort. The riffs, song structures, and vocal deliveries put them in a similar category to Fifth Angel and Shok Paris – not a bad place to be!
Max Lynx: Take One
Despite receiving virtually no attention and dissolving right after their 1983 debut, Max Lynx are one of the earlier examples of we now consider USPM. Take One is an easy going affair with more than its fair share of memorable vocal lines and jammin’ riffs.
Meliah Rage: Kill to Survive
Meliah Rage are very much on the thrashier side of things, but their debut effort provides a glimpse into a more power metal side of the band. Their approach on Kill to Survive is akin to that of Metal Church, Flotsam and Jetsam, Jag Panzer, Vicious Rumors, etc. It’s the band’s finest moment and a must-listen if you enjoy the more aggressive side of power metal!
Messiah: Final Warning
As you can probably glean from the name, Messiah were a mainstay in the Christian sub-set of USPM. Unlike some of the other bands that fit this description, they weren’t as in your face and didn’t throw bible verses at you. Final Warning is a unique take on power metal as it moves along at a mid-pace with big vocals, memorable melodies, and ample use of keys. It reminds me quite a bit of Sweden’s legendary Heavy Load.
Militia: The Sybling
Aggressive as all hell, Militia’s The Sybling is a prime example of the kind of bite that USPM can have. Mixing elements of speed, thrash, and US power – The Sybling has lots to offer with its insane riffs, solos, and banshee vocals. The production is pretty crappy here, but it’s well worth a listen.
Mox Nix: Mox Nix
Mox Nix play the most barebones type of power metal possible. Their self titled debut is an exercise in excellence and variety – you’ll find everything from speed metal bangers to fist pumping anthems to rock-influenced melodic sections and everything in between. The closest comparisons would be something like Liege Lord’s Master Control. The guitars are impeccable here and propel the album forward with vocalist Johnny Duff working in perfect harmony with them. A must listen!
Nightcrawler: Soldier in Time
Soldiers in Time is a short, straightforward affair. Despite coming out in 1989, given its striking similarities to the Queensryche EP it sounds more like it came out in 1984. If you’re a fan of bands like Fifth Angel then you’re bound to find something interesting here.
Obsession: Marshall Law
First of all, as some who adores puns I have to commend Obsession on their album cover – a giant wall of Marshall speakers! Obsession’s small claim to fame is being the home of Mike Vescera, a vocalist who worked with Malmsteen and later worked with Loudness to help them break into the Western scene. This early example of US Power metal, similar to acts like Lizzy Borden and Armored Saint, is a must listen even if just for the absurdly good title track.
Phantom Lord: Evil Never Sleeps
Although named after a Metallica song, these guys sound nothing like them. Phantom Lord play a very straightforward mix of speed and power metal. Don’t let the low production value deter you, there’s more than enough killer songs here beneath the fuzz. This band features Jack Starr of Virgin Steele fame on guitars as well as John Leone (RIP) who performed vocals for Attacker’s second album.
Powerlord: The Awakening
Powerlord found themselves firmly on the most aggressive side of power metal possible with a healthy mix of speed and thrash thrown in. There’s not too much that sounds exactly like this, but imagine Agent Steel’s most aggressive moments or perhaps a more power metal slanted Exciter. I sometimes find people torn on this release, but love it or hate it there’s a lot of passion and aggression here. Personally, I find this one to be totally worth your time!
Powermad: Absolute Power
Light hearted mix of power metal and thrash metal that utilizes elements of both genres equally. These guys picked up a bit of traction back in the 80s because they were featured in a Nick Cage movie! Powermad share similarities with bands like Sanctuary and to a lesser extent Metal Church and Realm.
Purgatory: Tied to the Trax
Purgatory are a hard band to pin down. There’s some elements of thrash metal, speed metal, and the more aggressive side of power metal in the instrumentation but the vocals are very much thrash metal. They’re similar to the previously mentioned Powerlord in that sense.
Ruthless: Discipline of Steel
Ruthless indeed. Discipline of Steel and [Metal without Mercy] are aggressive, balls-to-the-wall USPM that mixes in a healthy dose of speed. This is closer to Jag Panzerthan anything else, with some similarities to Tyrant and Griffin. It’s a straightforward approach that reminds you why the genre is called power metal in the first place.
S.A. Slayer: Prepare to Die
Originally named Slayer, S.A. Slayer had a small controversy with the thrash metal legends of the same name. After a lawsuit and some legal troubles, the band eventually relented and changed their name. Prepare to Die is raw and dark compared to most us power metal especially when considering it came out in 1983. At just 17 minutes, this EP is jam packed and doesn’t disappoint.
Sacred Warrior: Master’s Command
Despite the band’s incredibly generic name, Sacred Warrior are anything but. Sacred Warrior belonged to the Christian submovement present in USPM and their lyrics reflect it as much. Musically, it sounds like the only album they’ve ever heard is Queensryche’s The Warning and that is perfectly fine! Master Command is a bit more progressive and ambitious in nature than the Queensryche debut although the execution isn’t quite up to the same standard. The production and mixing hurt the overall album here especially as this type of sound demands precision in this regard.
Satan’s Host: Metal From Hell
Dark and downright weird, there’s really nothing else that can compare to Metal from Hell. Satan’s Host are another one of Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin’s projects. If you dig his vocals in Jag Panzer then this is certainly worth your time. The production is poor and the song structures are unusual – be prepared for an odd journey through hellish power metal.
Scarlet Rayne: Theater Humanitarian
Scarlet Rayne are another one of the bands of the Christian metal scene in the US. Their lone album, Theater Humanitarian, came a bit late in 1989/early 1990 to really catch any proper hype. Stylistically, Scarlet Rayne fall right in line with the progressive side of USPM with similarities to acts like early Queensryche and Fates Warning. IF you’re looking for that progressive edge to your power metal, Theater Humanitariancertainly has it.
Seduce’s sound incorporates the approach of hard-n-heavy bands like Dokken and Scorpions with the bite of Jag Panzer. The result is an album that grooves along and is catchy as hell but retains the edge that you’ll find in most USPM.
Sentinel Beast: Depths of Death
Sentinel Beast play a deadly mix of power, speed, and thrash metal complete with rabid vocals, unrelenting riffs, and abass so punchy you’ll feel like you just took a hit to the gut. They were one of the few really aggressive metal bands with a female vocalist at the time that managed to make it work. If you love thrashy power metal like Metal Church and Nasty Savage, then Sentinel Beast will be right up your alley!
Sinister Angel: Sinister Angel
Sinister Angel gave us just four songs and sixteen minutes to sink our teeth into with this EP unfortunately, but that is more than enough for the band to show off their chops. Sinister Angel play a simple, mid-paced, and bass dominant brand of power metal that has a Sabbath-like undertone to it.
Siren: No Place Like Home
Although often labeled a progressive band, Siren aren’t quite like the other progressive USPM acts such as Queensryche or Fates Warning. The musical approach is more straightforward than the previously mentioned bands and with vocalist Doug Lee’s style, Siren are more akin to early Savatage with the incorporation of additional acoustics. The songs here are interesting and if you’re looking to scratch that Dungeons… or Sirens itch this will do the job quite well.
Solar Eagle: Solar Eagle
Solar Eagle were a very short lived band that only managed to release one EP and demo in 1988 before ultimately fizzling out. These Canadians still managed to create something very special. Their sound is rooted in speed metal but they incorporate quite a few progressive touches that sets them apart from the rest of the crowd. Imagine a blend between Agent Steel and Heir Apparent – weird right? It sounds a little odd on paper, but I assure you that Solar Eagle make it work. One thing to note is that the vocalist, simply referred to as “Smash”, loves his highs and you’ll hear him in a virtually permanent state of falsetto. This type of vocal delivery can be off-putting for some so keep that in mind as you approach this band.
Taist of Iron Resurrection
Taist of Iron’s Resurrection is about as dark and gloomy as it comes for power metal. The song structures are relatively straightforward and the riffs are simple, but everything is constructed well. Taist of Iron’s conventional approach gives way to vocalist Lorraine Gill to shape the sound with her powerful and occult vocals. There are some obvious comparisons to be made to Chastain, but Taist of Iron’s overall atmosphere if distinctly different.
Tension: Breaking Point
The second album titled Breaking Point on this list! Tension play a rough around the edges brand of speed metal infused USPM that sounds like Riot’s legendary Thundersteel meets early Exciter. While the production holds this album back from its full potential, the music is just as great as it sounds!
Thrust: Fist Held High
Mid-paced, chest-thumping, power metal with vocals similar to Cirith Ungol’s Tim Baker – what’s not to love here? Thrust’s sound is fun to say the least!
Trauma: Scratch and Scream
Trauma are most notable for being Cliff Burton’s band before he joined Metallica. While not quite as popular or killer as Metallica, Trauma’s debut is certainly worth a look. They’re are a fast paced, Judas priest inspired power/speed band with riffs on riffs.
Valor: Fight for your Life
Valor are yet another one of the heavily Christian bands that arose with USPM. Unlike some of the other Christian bands who favored a softer and more progressive approach, Valor lie on the more aggressive side of USPM with plenty of thrash and speed metal influence. If you’re a fan of Helstar and Metal Church there’s plenty here for you to dig.
Warrior: Fighting for the Earth
Warrior are Fighting for the Earth with mid-paced, hard-n-heavy influenced power metal. Their brand fist pumping USPM fits right along the likes of Armored Saint, Lizzy Borden, and Fifth Angel. The highlight of this record to me is Perry’s powerful and equally charismatic vocal performance – his gritty voice makes the album really pop.
Wild Dogs: Reign of Terror
Wild Dog’s third and strongest album, Reign of Terror, is a hard-hitting, high energy, power metal journey. This album has an almost speed and thrash metal edge to it that is something of a mix between Accept’s Restless and Wild and early Helstar. This is Wild Dog’s most focused effort and there’s riffs aplenty here to keep you entertained!
Xcel: Deliver this Dream
Do you like Heir Apparent, Queensryche, and the likes? If so, then Deliver this Dream is right up your alley! It’s firmly in the progressive camp of USPM and fills that niche well.