In Pt. I of my guide, I discussed the essentials and modern champions of the genre. My goal there was to provide a solid introduction and base into US power metal while also providing the best new releases to sink your teeth into. In Pt. II, I dove deeper into the scene and shed light onto lesser known albums and EPs. Here in Pt. III, I’ll be highlighting demos from the scene.
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).
Much like pt.II, there’s a lot of bands in this guide, so to help focus everyone’s time you’ll find my personal favorites below!
Apollo Ra – Ra Pariah
See full review here
This one feels like cheating – Apollo Ra released what is essentially a full length album as a demo. The band was signed to Shatter Records who funded the album, but the label went bankrupt and Apollo Ra were forced to self-release the record after failing to secure anymore deals. Poor timing (4-5 years earlier and this would have been a hit!) and shitty lucky left the band forgotten. Musically, Apollo Ra are Crimson Glory with a bit more bite to their sound, but with just as much quality. This release is the epitome of a tragedy – of what could have and should have been. Even at demo quality, I would put this album right up there with greats as some of the absolute best that US power metal has to offer.
Blind Assassin – Put to the Sword comp
Blind Assassin are triumphant and mid-paced with epic vocals of the Manowar variety. The riffs are crunchy and the Kevin Jackson cuts right through the mix with his monstrous pipes. Now do they live up to the masters of steel? It’s not quite Into Glory Ride, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t really fucking close.
Baron Steele – Minotaur’s Lair comp.
Baron Steele’s only recording consists of just two songs and about ten minutes of music, but what a wonderfully haunting and epic ten minutes. The vocals bring to mind Mercyful Fate, but the overall song structure and riffing is very similar to early Manilla Road (particularly The Deluge). This is absolutely essential demo for anyone into epic heavy metal.
Chalice – One Final Sin
One Final Sin is characterized by a meaty guitar tone, unstoppable riffs, wide ranging vocals, and mystical lyrics. From the Middle-Eastern inspired “Egypt” to the grandiose “Seven Seas of Rhye”, these guys are masters of the riff. This is one that you really just have to listen to for yourself – truly a masterclass in songwriting. The only major downside to the demo here is the garbage can production, but the 2014 demo compilation by Stormspell Records is a tiny bit more merciful in this regard.
Cyperus – Blow it Out Your Ass Comp.
Progressive and even thrashy at times, Cyperus’s self titled demo delivers everything I could possibly hope for from a USPM demo. Bruce Roderick’s chaotic vocal performance (in the best way possible) brings to mind the likes of Glen May from Tyrant. To top it all off, the production on this demo is surprisingly clean and it really makes you forget that it’s a demo in the first place. Cyperus put out another demo a bit later titled Blow it Out Your Ass and, horrible title aside, it’s almost as good as the self titled. They later put out a full album but completely abandoned their USPM style in favor of some really watered down sell-out level thrash. Stick to the demo compilation (also titled Blow it Out Your Ass) for some of the best and most unrelenting USPM.
Enchanter – Defenders of the Realm
A unique take on USPM, Enchanter played a no-frill version of progressive power metal with plenty of epic touches. Imagine if early Fates Warning decided they wanted to lift influence from Jag Panzer – the result would be what we see here! Enchanter later became Longings Past, and released a brilliant, Manilla Road like debut titled Meadows of Maseilya. If you like what you heard here, I highly suggest checking that one out too!
Glacier – 1988 Demo
Catchy, yet still centered in riffs, Glacier’s entire catalog has earned them cult status in the underground community and with good reason! Although more known for their 1985 self titled EP, their 1988 demo is one that certainly shouldn’t be skipped. Glacier up the melodies on this one and make it very clear that they’re huge fans of Iron Maiden’s Somewhere in Time.
Prodigy/Oracle – As Darkness Reigns
Thrashing riffs, complex song structures, neoclassical touches, and powerful vocals – As Darkness Reigns combines the best of both the progressive and aggressive sides of USPM. This album truly has a bit of everything for you to sink your teeth into. Fans of the more technical side of the genre, think bands like Cauldron Born and Helstar, are sure to enjoy this. The band’s ambition is unfortunately their only major flaw as well. The demo clocks in at just over an hour long and at that length it overstays its welcome a tiny bit.
Oblivion – Quest for Power
Oblivion come in at 100% and don’t let go. Fast, powerful vocals, totally unrelenting riffs and solos – this is aggressive USPM at it’s absolute best. Patrick Brown, the vocalist, is the highlight here. You name it and he can do it; range, energy, power, and grit – he has it all. The only real drag on this release is the obviously abysmal production, but considering that it’s a demo, that’s to be expected. “Battle Warrior” is truly one of my favorite songs around and bands can only hope to write something this mighty.
Tramontane – MCMXCI
Tramontane’s riffs are punchy, but they’re still memorable enough to be stuck in your head days after listening. There’s a hint of atmosphere and swagger on MCMXCI that when combined with the band’s penchant for fast, aggressive riffs immediately brings to mind Liege Lord and Griffin. This is a must listen for fans of the harder hitting side of US power metal!
Using the expandable link here you’ll find a list of the rest consisting of other worthwhile USPM demos. In the cases where demos have been reissued and/or compiled together, I made sure to include the title of the compilation. Enjoy!
- Amulance – The Rage Within
- Angellic Rage – 1990 Demo
- Assalant – The Damage is Done
- Assassin – Metal Massacre
- Attaxe – Attaxe comp.
- Autumn Silence – Echoes in the Garden comp.
- Bad Heaven – Demo Anthology
- Bad Karma – Death Has No Calling Card
- The Beast – The Beast
- Beyond Reason – A New Reflection comp.
- Blackstorm – Twist of Fate comp.
- Black Reign – Legion
- Blakkout – Ignorance of Man
- Borrowed Time – Arcane Metal Arts comp.
- Brocas Helm – Demonstration of Might comp.
- Brute Force – You’ve Been Warned
- Chozzen Phate – Chozzen Phate comp.
- Cross – Metal from Above
- Czar – Black Sunday/Iron Curtain
- Dagger’s Edge – Deathwish
- Damascus – Forest of Dreams
- Damien Black – Dead of Winter comp.
- Deadly Blessing – An Eye to the Past comp.
- Deliverance – Sword of the Necromancer
- Demon Bitch – Demon Bitch
- Descending Fate – Castle of Ice comp.
- Disorder – 1989 Demo
- Draxxis – 1989 demo
- Dreemwich – Beyond Imagination comp.
- Eternal Champion – The Last King of Pictdom
- Ether Breather – Death Dream
- Enforcer – Classic Chicago Metal comp.
- False Witness – Crestfallen King comp.
- Fatal Violence – Ashes Tell No Tale comp.
- Forte – Dementia by Design
- Genghis Khan – The Awakening and The Passage comp.
- Genocide – 1988 Demo
- Ghost Story – The Image and the Reality
- Graven Image – People in Hell Still Want Ice Water comp.
- Graven Rite – The Summoner’s Pit
- Hammersmyth – In a Dark Dream
- Heathen’s Rage – Fight ‘Til the End
- Heir Apparent – Triad
- Helstar (and Vigilante) – The James Rivera Legacy
- Hirax – 1984 demo
- Ice Sword – 2015 Demo
- Iscariot – Arisen
- Jag Panzer – Shadow Thief comp.
- Invid – 1991 Demo
- Karian – 1984 Demo
- Lazarus – 1989 demo
- Legion – Nice Guys Finish Last
- Lethal – The Arrival
- Letching Grey – Seraphim
- Maelstrom – This Battle to Make History, yet History Never Comes
- Malibu Barbi – 1986 demo
- Malice – 1984 demo
- Matthias Steele – Matthias Steele
- Max Planck – Kill the Pain
- Mercury – 1989 demo
- Militia – Regiments of Death
- Myramainz – Myramainz
- Mystic Force – Shipwrecked with the Wicked comp.
- Nasty Savage – Wage of Mayhem
- Nemesys – Scarred for Life
- Oblivion Knight – Oblivion Knight comp.
- Oliver Magnum – 01986
- Overlord SR – Medieval Metal
- Outlander – Outlander
- Paramoure – For the Love of Death…
- Pontius Prophet – Rites of Hatred
- Powerlord – Evil Dead
- Radakka – Masquerade
- Rat Attack – Rat Attack
- Realm – Perceptive Inceptive
- Recon – Recon
- Rightful Heir – Wills of Iron (Blades of Steel)
- Rolen – 1989 demo
- Salem Spade – Witch Hunt comp.
- Sage Meridien – Whispered Tales
- Saharra – Time Forgotten Sands
- Salem’s Lot – 1989 Demo
- Scarlet Bride – Scarlet Bride
- Shadowcast – The Premonition comp.
- Sleepy Hollow – A Legend Retold
- Smokescreen – 1988 demo
- Solar Eagle – Charter to Nowhere
- Steel Assassin – From the Vaults
- Steel Prophet – Inner Ascendance
- Stone Dagger – The Siege of Jerusalem
- Stone Soldier – Invincible Metal
- Strychnine – No Escape…Live or Die comp.
- System – 1988 demo
- Syrus – Syrus
- Talisphere – Talisphere
- Twisted Tower Dire – Hail Northern Virginia
- Valkyrie – Choosers of the Slain
- Vatican – Metalmorphosis comp.
- Wicked Lester – The Resurrection
- Winter’s Bane – Winter’s Bane
- Witch Slayer – 1983 demo
- Wrathskeller – Eve of the End comp.
- Zaxas – White Room Life?
- Zillion – For Headbangers Only