Power Theory – An Axe to Grind (29 June 2012, Pure Steel Records)
So who out there is heading out to the Warriors of Metal Open Air Festival today (or tomorrow, or both days)?
Well, I suppose if you were going today, you’d be there already. But I dunno, maybe you’re heading out later in the afternoon, or maybe you’re catching up on the latest Valley of Steel updates in between bands or something…
Myself, although I’ve been reporting about it for months, unfortunately I’m stuck here at work, which is pretty shitty because it sounds like it’s going to be an awesome time! (Although the heat and humidity are forecasted to be pretty brutal this weekend — hell, when I left home at 5:30 this morning the air was already difficult to breathe — so anyone who’s attending, have fun, but be sure to drink lots of water!)
Although it sucks I’ll be stuck inside a boring office all day with no throngs of screaming metalheads (and no alcohol), at least I can try to make myself feel better by listening to some heavy tunes. No matter how high I turn the volume on this computer, I know a pair of headphones will never compare to a huge stack of speakers on an outdoor stage, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Anyway, when I was trying to decide exactly what I should be blasting into my ears today, the perfect choice suddenly became obvious: the brand new Power Theory album! Not only is German label Pure Steel Records releasing An Axe to Grind today, but the band will be celebrating that release when they take the stage at WOM this evening!
Maybe I won’t be there to see it live, but I can at least experience it vicariously through the studio version — and for all those readers out there who are also unable to make it to the Frontier Ranch in Pataskala Ohio, I’ll tell you where you can hear some Power Theory too, and where you can get your own copy of this album.
On the strength of 2010’s independently-released self-titled debut, Power Theory were offered a contract with Pure Steel, who then re-released that first album in spring 2011 under the title Out of the Ashes, Into the Fire… and Other Tales of Insanity. Now, just over a year later, the follow-up is being unleashed. Like its predecessor, An Axe to Grind presents the listener with a trip through time back to the glory days of traditional heavy metal, also incorporating plenty of influence from NWOBHM, thrash, and power metal — but (just like recent albums by 3 Inches of Blood or Accept‘s triumphant come-back records) always managing to stay fresh and new, without ever seeming dated or like they are just re-treading the same old material we’ve heard hundreds of times before.
On listening to these songs, the first names that come to mind are Accept (especially with the vocal delivery, singer Dave Santini brings to mind that Teutonic powerhouse’s classic as well as contemporary line-ups) and Metal Church, in the way that band’s material straddled the transition from earlier NWOBHM and traditional heavy metal sounds into the era of thrash).
These guys are pretty good at channeling classic shout-along metal anthems, on tracks like “Pure Steel” which seems formulated specifically for the purpose of working a crowd into a frenzy, using gang-shouted lines including “raise your metal fist!” and of course the repeated “pure steel!” in the chorus. Another fine example would be the title track, which frequently employs audience-participation-friendly shouts.
However, they also tend to draw influence from some of the giants of NWOBHM; “The Seer (in Dreams),” for example, could almost have been a Judas Priest cover, right down to the title and the concept behind the song (although both the harmony and lead vocal parts on the chorus sound a bit more Molly Hatchet than Halford). “Deceiver” also makes me think of Priest, although admittedly it might have less to do with the actual sound of the song, than just a mental association with their song title “Dreamer Deceiver” — particularly when Power Theory break out their rhyming dictionary for the chorus (“I am deceiver, believer, conceiver,” and so on).
Likewise, there seems to be plenty of Iron Maiden worship happening here, especially when bassist Jay Pekala pulls his Steve Harris impersonations on “An Axe to Grind” (which also has a guitar part that resembles the intro to “Run to the Hills”) and the galloping “On the Inside” (although vocally, this latter track makes me think of Manilla Road at times).
Although the album does have a fair share of uptempo numbers (“A Fist in the Face of God” and “On the Inside,” to name a few), the overall vibe here is a bit more laid-back. At least as far as speed is concerned; I wouldn’t say that there’s any lack of energy here! Rather, this is music for people who have perhaps had a couple beers and are starting to feel pretty good, but not slurring and knocking things over.
As is clear from the various bands cited here, Power Theory seem to have quite a few musical points of reference, but obviously they’re all excellent sources of inspiration — and they never draw too heavily from any one source, to the point where they could be accused of ripping anyone off. They seem to digest all the classic touchstones of hard rock and metal music, and synthesize it into something that sounds instantly familiar and comfortable, yet never tired and clichéd.
Here is a video preview for An Axe to Grind:
Blistering.com is offering an exclusive stream of the opening track “Edge of Knives” — click here to listen!
Furthermore, Metal Rules! TV posted an interview with the band (in three parts), which you can check out below:
And finally, for those of us not lucky enough to be in attendance at this afternoon’s WOM performance, you can buy the CD from Pure Steel here.
The label is also selling a t-shirt featuring the album cover (here), as well as debut album Out of the Ashes, Into the Fire on CD (here).
And on their own website, Power Theory has a different t-shirt design (with the “Raise Your Metal Fist” slogan), here.