Unearthing The Metal Underground: The ProgPower USA Power Metal Edition
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we'll be putting a few quality underground bands in the spotlight in an attempt to get the word out about them. With the ProgPower USA festival still fresh in my mind, this week I will take on the festival's “power” metal side.
Most people think that the majority of what you see and hear at ProgPower USA is just the bands on stage. Of course, this is true, but there are also many other avenues at the festival in which the metal connoisseur can explore and discover new bands. For one, the merchandise area at "Vinyl" is just about the greatest record store you can ever find in the world (see my first reaction to that in my op/ed piece “The ProgPower USA Experience From The Eyes Of A Newbie” over at this location). However, there are times where this is almost too much to take in, so while you are at the festival its best to make time for many trips to the merch area.
Despite the onslaught of material at the merch area, the first place any attendee should check is the free promotional CD that the festival itself gives out each year (see full track listing at this location). For 2012, the giveaway was expanded to three CD’s and all are chock full of power and progressive acts from all over the world. Now I pride myself on knowing thousands of metal bands, but I was shocked at how many I hadn’t heard of on this triple CD. The bands showcased here all appear on the promotional CD, though did not perform at the festival: Seven Kingdoms (USA), Siren’s Cry (Austria) and Draekon (USA).
Perhaps the most visible of the bands that didn’t perform at the festival, was Florida’s Seven Kingdoms. Not only did the band attend, but it sponsored the bags for the promotional CD and festival program. This would have proved visible enough, but on top of all that, the band premiered its new music video for “After the Fall” at the festival following Pretty Maids’ set and prior to headliner Symphony X’s performance on Saturday, September 15, 2012 (well, actually, Sunday the 16th). The premiere caused the video to go viral to the tune of nearly 350,000 views on YouTube, much to the shock of the band (see my interview with guitarist/composer Camden Cruz on Metal Underground.com coming soon). Even now, the band remains still a bit underground, though a North American tour with Blind Guardian in 2010 did much to open the eyes of U.S. fans. Originally a side project of then This Broken Vow vocalist Bryan Edwards and guitarist Camden Cruz, Seven Kingdoms began as a melodic thrash metal act with harsh vocals on the self-released debut “Brothers of the Night” in 2007.
However, after positive reviews, the band decided to take the band more seriously and changed direction to full on power metal. As Cruz explains in my upcoming interview, the band wanted to play metal in the style of an era they didn’t get a chance to grow up in, as a way to spur on a new generation of U.S. power metal bands and fans, but with much better musicianship and production than that of the original heroes. While Edwards stayed on to assist in writing, the band tapped an unknown singer, who was a also a newbie to metal in general, Sabrina Valentine. In the meantime, the band caught the attention of famed producer Jim Morris and in 2010, released the sophomore self-titled release, which was dubbed the “rebirth” of Seven Kingdom’s sound. Valentine’s powerful vocals were now the centerpiece of this now power metal act with themes and lyrics by former vocalist Edwards centering around the written works of George R. R. Martin who penned “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, which led to the modern “Game of Thrones” TV series.
Now the band will release the third album “The Fire is Mine” (review pending), the second for Nightmare Records. With much fervor surrounding the premiere of “After the Fall” at ProgPower USA, the band stands to make a huge splash domestically and internationally. Vocalist Sabrina Valentine has really come into her own on the new album and the band should turn many heads. Valentine will also take part in the “Female Metal Voices Festival” in Belgium this weekend.
For more info on Seven Kingdoms, check out the band’s Facebook Page.
Following in the footsteps of bands like Serenity (see Metal Underground.com’s recent interview with Serenity from ProgPower USA) and Xandria, symphonic power metal band Siren’s Cry appeared on the ProgPower USA compilation with the track “Oratory & Sins.” Siren’s Cry hails from Vienna and had self-released the debut LP “Scattered Horizons” this past January. The band has been around since 1999, with only guitarist/founder Phillip Porter (also of power metal band Dignity, of which Jake E of ProgPower USA performing act Amarante also was a member) remaining. The band also features Dragony drummer Frederic Brünner.
The band describes its sound as “An immaculately balanced fusion of complexity and symphonic finess.” I describe them as a “epically enhanced symphonic power metal band with a sound steeped in gargantuan orchestrations with influences too numerous to reference.” Anchoring the band’s bold fresh sound is Sebian born Katarina Bilak, who also provided guest vocals on Dragony’s 2011 debut LP “Legends.” Her family’s history is steeped in music and entertainment, with her grandfather an orchestra violinist and her father a ballet dancer at the Volskoper in Austria.
The band is currently working on songs for the follow up to “Scattered Horizons.” For more information on Siren's Cry, check out the band’s Facebook Page.
Hailing from Indianapolis, Indiana, Draekon plays a “dark symphonic power metal” in the vein of Kamelot. In fact, the similarity is pretty striking. The band features, among others, Lorenguard keyboardist Alec Biccum. With his dark gothic overtones along with guitarist Joshua Simpson’s gorgeous bold riffs, vocalist Chad Barnes’ kicks in his soaring but smooth vocal melodies, which are just as endearing as that of former Kamelot vocalist Roy Kahn.
In 2011, the band issued its debut EP “Prelude to Tragedy,” which was a tremendous debut for a new act, filled with a passionate melancholy of beautiful melodic power/progressive metal. The band featured the track “Winds of Anguish” from the release on the ProgPower USA compilation CD. The band has all the makings of being labelled the “next big act” in the genre, but I did find it odd that for a band of this caliber they feature such little biographical information on all its official sites (Facebook, Reverbnation, Official Website). The EP is available through iTunes and the band’s Official Website.
Certainly there are more quality power metal bands featured on the ProgPower USA compilation CD. So if you attended, or heard the compilation for yourself and would like to recommend some other good power metal bands, please feel free to discuss them in the comments below.
Check back every Monday as we delve into different scenes or genres to unearth some new underground metal bands.
Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.
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