Updated: Jun 22, 2020
If someone asked me about American Power Metal and about my favorite band within the movement, it would take me too long to formulate an answer. Worse yet, I'd feel like I'd betray my own tastes by picking a band over another for it is an incredibly diverse movement. Indeed, during my long journey into discovering the realms of american power metal, I have come to notice that there was indeed two distinct "main" categorizations of american power metal.
On one hand, you have bands playing a rawer, grittier, muscular & stripped-down form of power metal that goes to the throat and brings mental images of chest-pumping, sword-wielding warriors going into combat with the intent to crush their enemies, to see them driven before them and to hear the lamentations of their women. Examples include Jag Panzer, Manowar, Liege Lord, Brute Force, Blind Assassin, Manowar, Omen, Manilla Road & Warlord.
On the other hand, you have bands going for a more polished sound, a tendency to put further emphasis on soaring vocals and harmonious guitar work that occasionally dips its feet into the realms of progressive metal, complemented by a more introspective and romantic approach to the lyrics. The early works of Queensryche (EP/Warning Era) are quintessential US power metal when it comes to this subcategory, but the works of Crimson Glory, Fates Warning, Screamer, Oliver Magnum, Lethal, Titan Force & Steel Angel also perfectly exemplify this movement.
If you wish to read more about these two categories of US Power Metal, I recommend taking a look at this article which Marco from Ride Into Glory wrote some time ago. He will explain it way better than I do. Point is, I have come to appreciate both categories equally myself and often I searched for a band that could play both sides. There is one band that I can think off that plays within all the numerous boundaries of american power metal and which combines these elements seamlessly. Now I must stress out that they are not by any means my #1 personal favorite band birthed out of this movement, but I wouldn't hesitate to classify them as one of the pinnacles of this "scene" for they bridged the gap between these two categories and created a sound of their own at the same time. Enter Prodigy : an elite Floridian quartet from Jacksonville.
Comprised of future members of Iced Earth, Prodigy played American Power Metal with the ferocity of Jag Panzer and Liege Lord, the melodicism of Heir Apparent, the groove of Sanctuary, the constant shredding and aggressive thrashiness of Helstar, the occasional proggy flourishes of Leviathan & Fates Warning and the inhuman neoclassical lead guitar capabilities of fellow Shrapnel Records guitar heroes Vinnie Moore and Apocrypha. Despite all this, the band doesn't exactly sound like any of these bands that I just name-dropped. Usually, you can always tell who the band drew their inspiration from, especially the US bands. For example, you can easily tell Crimson Glory drew inspiration from Queensryche and Fates Warning, whom heavily drew inspiration from Iron Maiden. Not Prodigy. Their sound is so varied, their style so polished, you can only make comparisons that won't go beyond surface level.
As I understand it, the band took many years to write what would be their first release titled "As Darkness Reigns". It's pretty understandable as these songs are all extremely well crafted, demanding and lengthy. One simply does not write and record material of this caliber overnight. "As Darkness Reigns" was released as a demo tape in 1992 and the band's release was circulated within the sprawling Floridian Heavy Metal scene thanks to tape-trading which apparently was still going strong even in the early 90s. Florida was after all an hotbed for talented metal bands of all sub genres and the capital of metal within the USA and so the true underground still continued to thrive despite the arrival of Grunge music. Amazingly enough, this demo eventually found itself within the hands of German label Massacre Records, whom coincidentally released Forte's face-melting debut album Stranger than Fiction the same year. It was evident that whoever ran Massacre Records had a huge hard-on for American technical power metal and so "As Darkness Reigns" was re-released as a full-length album while Prodigy renamed themselves "Oracle" for this occasion. The band toured with Sanctuary (right before they evolved into Nevermore) and shortly after, forever vanished into obscurity.
Despite their short lived existence, the band was able to give us this masterpiece, this one album, rich in contrast, emotion, dynamics and of course, guitar acrobatics that could put even the most skillful players in modern technical metal to shame. Seriously, these baroque-influenced guitar solos are so well composed, they sound like songs within songs. I encourage you to take a listen to this colossal effort by this Floridian Quartet, which I see as a true cornerstones of American Power Metal as it exemplifies the genre perfectly and combines all elements of this movement into one cohesive package.
Written by Phil Tougas // The Vault
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