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Harbingers of a Higher Power - 85%

bayern, March 18th, 2017

American power metal was the most condemned classic metal genre during the 90’s. A sad fact. Thrash received healthy support from some scenes (Germany, Holland, Russia), death metal was relatively favoured by the ruling groovy/aggro/alternative forces all the way to the mid-90’s; the German speed metal movement found its new heroes (Iron Savior, Primal Fear, Brainstorm, etc.)… It remained business as usual for quite a few of the old school “stuff”; but not for the US power metal powerhouses.

When Manilla Road folded after “The Circus Maximus” in 1992 as the last standing bastion, it was all over and done for the once glorious American power metal fraternity. Jag Panzer decided to give it a go two years later, but “Dissident Alliance” was such a horrible album that it ruined the style’s reputation almost beyond repair. The same year also saw Watchtower’s Alan Tecchio in team with the multi-instrumentalist Daniel Dalley, and it was this collaboration that brought US metal back on the map. The band couldn’t have chosen their name any more appropriately; this is pretty much the epitome of the whole movement summing up its finest moments within 40-min. When “Hands Over Time” starts stomping, following a short sinister prelude, with heavy crushing riffs, and Tecchio unleashes this inimitable soaring tenor one will instantly know that this would be a familiar territory, one that he/she likes treading now and then. “Firewalk” is a formidable epic speedster carrying with it the galloping delight “Rising Son (Through the Eyes of God)” before “An Evil Presence” establishes its “evil presence” as a short balladic romantic instrumental.

“Deceiver of Truth” speeds up again in a vigorous, sweeping manner Tecchio pitching it higher and higher, the band providing an operatic slowdown in the middle. “The Vision” is a melodic mid-paced “vision” with orchestral semi-balladic overtones; and the title-track is an encompassing progressive saga in an officiant doomy overtone initially before the guys start moshing quite impetuously with blazing leads and vitriolic riffage flying all around for nearly 9-min. “Eternally” is a 3-min lead-driven balladic instrumental, probably not very necessary as there were other quiet moments provided previously. The instrumental “Above & Beyond” “shoots” a few dazzling lead strokes into the aether which appear to be the leading tool here as Dalley exhibits his skills to the fullest with outstanding Shrapnel-like performance for over 7-min. The 3-min closer “Burning Desire” is in a similar vein, may be a tad more aggressive Dalley again taking all the space with his inspired pyrotechnics.

The last two instrumentals are added as bonus tracks missing Tecchio, but as this act was obviously a vehicle for Dalley’s dexterity one can’t complain with the several shredding passages that would attract also fans of guitar wizards like Tony Macalpine, Marty Friedman, and Jason Becker. It came as no surprise that there was no follow-up to this recording as this partnership was just a one-time spell. What’s more important is that it moved the dormant spirits of American metal spawning a wave of young/old talents that rose to the surface. New Eden were first to emerge from the newcomers alongside the veterans Helstar who attempted a comeback in 1995. Then Iced Earth abandoned their speed/thrashing aesthetics on “The Dark Saga” 1(996) becoming the flagmen of this resurrection campaign which also bore amazing outfits like Destiny’s End (with Helstar’s Rivera at the helm), Cauldron Born, Spirit Web...

The new millennium saw US power metal riding the wave again with hordes of bands, both new and old, practicing the good old sounds with power. Power that back in the mid-90’s was kept afloat thanks to obscure efforts like the one reviewed here.