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Positively Powerful, Not Just in Theory - 89%

lonerider, May 12th, 2016

Power Theory, a band formed as recently as 2007 but comprised of seasoned metal veterans, is kind of a dark horse in the metal realm. They aren’t particularly well-known but definitely turned some heads with their third and latest full-length album, which is titled Driven by Fear and surprisingly showed up on more than a few best-of-2015 lists across the internet.

Stylistically, Power Theory are relatively easy to categorize, meaning they probably won’t ever be lauded for reinventing the metal wheel and infusing the genre with any revolutionary ideas. However, when a band knows how to take some useful hints from various other bands and effectively concoct a tasty brew out of all those ingredients, a lack of innovation or adventurousness is not an issue, especially when a band offers sparkling musicianship to boot.

The foundation of the band’s sound is rather typical, rock-solid American power metal, invoking such illustrious names as, among others, Metal Church, Iced Earth or – perhaps the most obvious influence – the mighty Jag Panzer. Adding to that sound is a healthy dose of New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Accept (whose very own Peter Baltes is credited as executive producer and for co-writing “Truth Shall Set You Free”), as well as some bits and pieces of good old-fashioned hard rock. The latter come into play mainly on two tracks, the uplifting “Long Hard Road” and the stomping “Don’t Think Twice”. The first features some nice heavy riffing and infectious vocal lines, whereas the other must be considered the weak spot of the album, which is mainly due to an overly simplistic chorus that gets boring rather quickly. The instrumental “Break the Glass” seems rather pointless as well, but it’s short enough to not be a nuisance in any way.

Power Theory aren’t speed merchants, so thrash and speed metal elements are more the exception than the norm, even though album opener “Spinstress”, as well as the title track, are hard-hitting, more fast-paced tracks. But this lineup’s strength clearly lies in mid-paced compositions with imaginative and varied drumming, heavy riffing and intricate soloing (courtesy of the fabulous guitar duo of band leader and main composer Bob “BB” Ballinger and Nygil Hoch), and soaring and majestic choruses. The three songs best showcasing the band’s tremendous talent are the furiously epic title track, which is arguably the pinnacle of this record, the double-bass driven and galloping “Truth Shall Set You Free”, and the anthemic “Dark Eagle”. These three tunes alone are enough to justify purchasing this record, that’s how awesome they are. The slightly progressive-leaning “Cut & Run” and the crushingly heavy yet highly melodic “Beyond Tomorrow / After the Fall” conclude the album on a very high note.

The stellar musical content on Driven by Fear is enhanced by an expert production and mixing job so well-rounded that even bassist Alan D'Angelo gets plenty of room to shine. The guitar tone is awesome as well, giving the riffs plenty of crunch and highlighting the excellence of Ballinger and Hoch’s harmonized lead work. Last but not least, singer Jeff Rose prefers melodic mid-range vocals over high-pitched wails and shrieks, and he delivers them with skill and conviction.

To sum things up, the only aspects marring the final verdict are one somewhat bland track in “Don’t Think Twice” and the overall length of the album, which at under 39 minutes is a little on the short side. Other than that, Driven by Fear is as good an effort from a relatively unknown band as one could possibly hope for. For all those with a taste for melodic American power metal with balls, spending some of your hard-earned cash on Driven by Fear is a choice you likely will not regret.

Choicest cuts: Driven by Fear, Truth Shall Set You Free, Dark Eagle, Beyond Tomorrow / After the Fall