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It can be plainly stated that the 80s was a time of excess, be it in the realm of partying, of image, but more importantly of music. The music of the 80s was in all respects excessive, be it the technical prowess, the lyrical subject matter, and the overall musicality. Bands of the highest caliber poured their heart and soul into the music and injected the belief that in order to be a star, you had to earn it with a talent in your field. The guitar players were obligated to fulfill and even surpass their potential, drummers were demanded to sound loud and thunderous, bassists had to be rock solid, and singers had to be able to cover the better part of both the masculine and feminine ranges with an almost neurotic sense of drama and intrigue.
This album came in at the height of those excesses, 1988, the year that Iron Maiden put out the most musically ambitious album of their career and Judas Priest kicked it up a serious notch with “Ram it Down”. Although it resembles the latter more than the former, “Power Metal” has the spirit of Iron Maiden on full display. This is a band that was not only hell bent for technical intrigue and high octane power metal, it was raging for an audience, and unfortunately they would not get the level of attention that most of the bands that influenced them did.
Although ever member of the band is amazingly accomplished at their instruments, Phil Anselmo and Dimebag (then Diamond) Darrel steal the show from start to finish. Phil has an absolutely astonishing range, and although the true versatility of it would be shown on the more thrash-oriented “Cowboys from Hell”, we can tell that he is the singer’s singer. Most of the time he sounds like a combination of Rob Halford/Udo Dirkschneider but occasionally during his brief mid-ranged singing we hear a bit of Axel Rose. Darrel’s solos and riffs are absolutely amazing, as he is clearly modeling the Van Halen approach to solo effects and technical flair. His riffs are more reminiscent of Judas Priest and other of the NWOBHM, but the spirit of the songs has an LA tinge to it.
This release is not your typical 80s glam LP, it can easily be listened to all the way through without the need of the skip button. It is well paced and switches smoothly between the mid-tempo rock tunes and the speed metal. “Rock the World” and “Proud to be Loud” are obviously Twisted Sister influenced, containing fairly straight-forward riffs, although I must say that the solos are quite a cut above anything that those guys ever attempted. “P.S.T. ‘88” (pussy tight) is a bit humorous, but still loaded with some excellent guitar work. “We’ll meet again” and “Hard Ride” are the obligatory ballads, but damned if you can’t tell by all the loud guitars and crazy vocals. “Over and Out” and “Down Below” are heavily trash oriented and give the older guard like Metallica and MegaDeth a good run for their money.
However, the two clear winners on this release are the two fastest speed metal tracks on here. “Power Metal” carries the same name as the genre of metal that is my absolute favorite, and for good reason to. From start to finish it is a massive double bass driven assault with a riff that would seem more at home with a band like Overkill rather than a band with a glam image. “Burnnn” is pure Judas Priest/Riot worship, sounding actually a lot like the title track to “Ram it down”. Great lead and back up vocals on this, particularly during the highly catchy chorus.
In conclusion, this album represents all that was great about the 80s, and its treatment by the band that produced it in the early 1990s is a clear indication of what was wrong with that time. A lot of amazing bands suddenly got this idea into their heads that they should feel guilty for creating fun and amazingly technical music. If you want to know why the 80s died the way they did, look not only to the garbage producing “Grunge” acts that replaced them, also look to how willingly they gave up their thrown and how pathetically some actually went out of their way to join ranks with inferior musicians. This album comes recommended to fans of late 80s speed/power metal, as well as people who love great shred style guitar playing that rivals that of George Lynch and Yngwie Malmsteen. Unfortunately this album is probably destined to go out of print, and the surviving members of the band still seem to feel guilty over their former greatness, so if you manage to find a copy of it I would suggest clinging to it for the rest of your life.