Power Theory – Out of the ashes, into the fire 3.5/5
1. Prevaricator 2. This madness is mine 3. Heart of darkness 4. Nightmare crawling 5. Never surrender (Terror time) 6. When the rain comes down 7. Insane (Metal’s part of my brain) 8. Out of the ashes, into the fire 9. Uriel’s tears 10. Revelation 11. Slay the beast within
This must be my month to pull my best Phoenix impression, and rise from the ashes. By sheer coincidence, I ended up reviewing 2 different CDs entitled ‘Out of the ashes’ this time around. What are the odds? Pretty slim, actually. In my entire collection, I have only 3 CDs with the phrase “out of the ashes” in the title (the 3rd being Warlord’s ‘Rising out of the ashes’). In fairness, Power Theory’s CD title is a bit more involved and decidedly non-generic, with the full moniker being, ‘Out of the ashes, into the fire… and other tales of insanity’. In any event, this quartet from Pennsylvania burst on the scene in 2011 when their debut CD was released by Germany’s consistently outstanding Pure Steel Records. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Meat and potatoes. That’s a perfect 3-word review of Power Theory’s debut CD. These guys have no interest in being cutting edge, hopping on any trendy bandwagons, or trying to wow you with technical proficiency or fancy parlor tricks. Instead, ‘Out of the ashes, into the fire’ is an unadulterated double-barrel shotgun blast of pure U.S. heavy metal, unfiltered and undiluted. Rugged midtempo riffs, simple shoutalong choruses, and gravelly (potentially off-putting to some) vocals are the order of the day. Old-school bangers like me wouldn’t have it any other way. Throughout the 45-minute running time, I am consistently reminded of bands like latter-day Metal Church, Ravage, Beyond Fallen, and Meliah Rage in their less thrashy parts. Really the only moments where subtlety and nuance factor into the Power Theory attack are the beautiful 2-minute clean guitar instrumental “Uriel’s tears” and the subdued intro to the mixed-bag ballad, “When the rain comes down”. Otherwise, this band is all about the crunch and the grit. If Power Theory were a professional football team, the centerpiece of their offense would be a smashmouth running game, sending the ball straight up the gut in the hands of a running back built like a brick outhouse. There’s value in that. It works.
A side effect of Power Theory’s uncomplicated approach is that ‘Out of the ashes’ is a grower. You likely won’t be dazzled the first time you hear this CD. At least, I wasn’t. But given time, these songs sink in effectively. Sure, some tunes still feel a touch generic, but overall the riffs are cool, the hooks are there, and the 3-4 minute duration of most of the tracks ensures that they do not overstay their welcome. Opener “Prevaricator” rides a wicked riff and a snarling vocal into a hypnotic chorus. Whoever this song’s about, he pissed off the band something fierce! “Heart of darkness” has a nifty ominous, almost doomy main riff, and more lyrics about a person who has fallen out of Power Theory’s good graces. How could you not love a song called “Insane (Metal’s part of my brain)” which could pass for a Manowar anthem, both musically and lyrically: “Do your work! Sit up straight! Or you’ll never go far! I just sat in my room and played my guitar!” The title track is perhaps the most overtly catchy song on display, with singer Dave Santini channeling his inner Mike Munro (ex-Meliah Rage). And this CD saves the best for last with “Slay the beast within”, which summarizes everything good about this band in 3 minutes and 18 seconds.
It’s easy to see why Power Theory caught Pure Steel Records’ eye. As shown by the American-dominated rosters of Keep it True, Headbangers Open Air, and Swordbrothers festivals year after year, the Germans love that pure U.S. Metal style. Power Theory are proud flagbearers of that timeless sound. This summer, Power Theory will be lighting up the Warriors of Metal festival stage in Ohio, so don’t miss the chance to witness living proof that true U.S. metal is alive and well in 2012. And be on the lookout for Power Theory’s forthcoming sophomore CD, which is to be entitled ‘An axe to grind’ and features some of the coolest cover artwork you’ll see this year. If the performances and writing can be dialed up a notch, ‘An axe to grind’ could be mandatory metal indeed. For now, though, Power Theory can hold their heads high as emissaries of U.S. metal for their work on ‘Out of the ashes, into the fire‘.