USM: Silver Step Child CD Balance of Power members. Hard Rock, Metal, Prog. Check samples (all songs)


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United Kingdom (Brighton)
Tony Ritchie – vocals, bass (Balance of Power (Gbr))
Pete Southern – lead guitar (Balance of Power (Gbr))
Lionel Hicks – drums (Kid Wicked, Lady Luck)

USM stands for United States Of Mind and features the Balance Of Power members Tony Ritchie on vocals and bass, Pete Southern on guitars and Lionel Hicks on drums. Tony was the original singer of Balance Of Power, then left and came back as bass player. Perhaps he didn’t want to cause anxiety in his main band, so he decided to form a side project to realize his ideas as singer. And what he and his partners present with “Silver Step Child” is a very good melodic metal album. The CD was produced by Pink Cream 69s Dennis Ward, you can hear some slight PC 69 influences, for example during the chorus of the opener “Beneath The Low”, which reminds me of some tracks from the last two PC 69 albums. But since I admire the Pinkies, I am happy to hear these influences! On it goes with the title track “Silver Step Child” which starts with a very atmospheric intro, only to explode with the fierce guitar riff. Due to the very intelligent chorus, I love this song! “Believe It Or Not” starts with a heavy riff and verse, but the chorus is a real singalong. A hit! “The Times Of Our Lives” is the perfect combination between heaviness and melody. “Kiss The Sun” sounds like Crimson Glory. There is not one weak track on this album; it is a really huge album! The missing link between Pink Cream 69 and harder bands like Pretty Maids. A must for all melodic metal fans. They are also very versatile with their style, and have equally good slow and mid-tempo songs, as fast ones. Also very notable is the fact they combine several styles together: a tight, American style rhythm section (drums, bass and rhythm guitars), European style melodies (guitars and keyboards) and rock style vocals. This mix is very successful and all the songs are very interesting, because in each one, one of the elements is stronger than the other. This balance between their styles is their strength.

1. Beneath The Low
2. Silver Step Child
3. Believe It Or Not
4. The Time Of Our Lives
5. Its All Over Now
6. Kiss The Sun
7. The Weird And The Wonderful
8. Terrorphobiac
9. The Other Side Of Paradise
10. That Paranoia Thing

This is one of the most unique CDs in my collection. It somehow successfully blends elements of prog and metal with some very catchy hooks. It is also very full sounding considering the fact that the band is a trio. I don’t necessarily agree with the description which compares them with Kings X, however if you like a little pop sensibility with your prog you can’t go wrong with this album.
The tracks from the new CD have come from many influences, anything from deep within to far out there, theres no doubt that Tonys lyrics are drawn from a unique perspective. Tony offers some background to the songs.

1. Beneath the Low
We opened the album with this track because it comes straight to the point. A very concise, no frills cool riff with a hooky chorus. Its about all the bad feelings we have inside and how it talks to you sometimes.

2. Silver Step Child
This one is a very positive song, even the title suggests “second place”, it reflects doing or making something that you love then setting it free or “the ugly duckling becomes a swan”. When writing the lyrics I wanted to portray my hopes and dreams for USM so I guess its almost autobiographical.

3. Believe it or Not
Imagine, if you will, two children playing hide and seek. The boy loves the girl who is completely unaware. She hides and he can never find her! Years pass and the young man still follows the woman. Feeling neglected and regardless, he carries his love for her with him. Classed a stalker, she is unaware of her pursuant. How far will he take this? Does he seek revenge or acceptance? Who knows?

4. The Times of Our Lives
This is the very first song I wrote when I left BoP. I had found a new way of looking at life, not just from a vocalists perspective, but one with all these new possibilities. A strange euphoria set in, and this song offers what I felt at the time.

5. Its All Over Now
One day someone realises that the only reason they ended a bad relationship was because they were too afraid to walk away. This song expresses the relief from a weighty burden being lifted from your shoulders followed by the excitement of something new about to happen.

6. Kiss the Sun
We had a version of this song in Kid Wicked several years ago. Pete, Lionel, Bob Duffy and myself wrote it a few years ago and we promised ourselves that one day we would make something of this one. Co-written with Pete, Lionel came up with the intro piece in the studio giving it an epic feel. Its great to see this song finally taking its place on an album instead of being left to memory.

7. The Wierd and the Wonderful
For this song, you have to imagine a small movie. Enter the circus freak in the trailer; hes sad and depressed. He asks himself, “Who is the fool, him for looking stranger or the paying customer?” Just every other human being except Mother Nature made him look different. What is second nature to the Freak is certainly not to others. For doing nothing of effort, hes paid by the others, who is the weird and who is the wonderful?

8. Terrorphobiac
If theres a kind of person that enjoys fear and the thrill it should be labelled a Terrorphobiac. Being one of the heaviest pieces, this song gets to the point, good for “Air Guitarists” everywhere.

9. The Other Side of Paradise
The original idea for this song could well have been on the latest BoP offering “Ten More Tales of Grand Illusion”. This one didn’t make the album and I felt it needed another shot. Even though it sounds different, the feel and the lyrics is taken from a BoP viewpoint.

10. That Paranoia Thing
This one started with a guitar riff. It inspired me to think weird, like a Marylin Manson kind of feel. This brought me to the paranoia idea and the voices some people hear. In short, its a song in praise of the Paranoid!!
POWERPLAY magazine

very highly recommended

The unusually titled Silver Step Child is the debut recording from Tony Ritchie, former vocalist, current bass player and chief songwriter of UK based Balance of Power. Joining Tony on this album are fellow band mates Lionel Hicks on drums and production and Pete Southern on guitars, so in essence its BoP away from their day jobs – or is it?? On first listen to this album it is immediately clear that they have for the most part stayed away from the Balance of Power sound, although when you have most of the band and the main songwriter involved it is only to be expected elements of their sound will appear at various stages throughout the recording.

‘Beneath the Low’ is an aggressive up-tempo number with down-tuned guitars and operates somewhere in Bad Moon Rising territory circa ‘Opium for the Masses’ or Warrant circa ‘Ultraphobic’ – you know, that dirty, gritty guitar sound with an edgy vocal leading into a very sing-able chorus.

Next up is the title track, silver Step Child’ which again is an up-tempo aggressive number, this time not a million miles away from label mates PC69 but showing all the hallmarks of a band confident in its writing and musicianship. A major bone of contention on the first BOP album was that the vocals were not up to scratch – well let me tell you that although it is the same vocalist, it is hard to believe because Tonys performance on this album is nothing short of fantastic. Sure, he is not in the Steve Perry league, but he has improved so much its unbelievable, a testament to the mans ability and belief in himself even after being relieved of the mike stand in BoP.

‘Believe It Or Not’ and ‘Time Of Our Lives’ are as close to debut album Balance of Power as you will get, although still massive in terms of arrangement. The songs are altogether more accessible and less complex than the last BoP offering while still retaining that progressive element.

‘Its All Over Now’ is a big, ballsy ballad with huge layers of multi-tracked vocals accompanied by an orchestra, and sees Pete Southern shredding like a lunatic during his main solo before he gives us another little taste of his fret board prowess as the song builds to a crescendo and a very cool finale.

‘Kiss the Sun’ is another class track, as is the very heavy ‘Terrorphobiac’, although despite the heaviness of the numbers, the band never loses sight of its roots and the melody and vocal harmonies are never forgotten and cleverly interwoven with the thunderous back-line while Pete Southern puts the icing on the cake with a fevered show of dexterity as he rips up and down the fret-board with consummate ease.

‘The Weird and the Wonderful’ and ‘The Other Side of Paradise’ show us the band are not entirely riff merchants as they can combine power with subtlety and exchange aggression for passion during the slower moments on the aforementioned songs, the latter in particular, if performed by Ozzy Ozbourne, would be absolutely massive.

Final track is ‘That Paranoia Thing’ which starts off with a mono-vocal intro before getting down to the nitty gritty and again the band have their heavier side on show, however as good a song as it may be it is not of similar standard to the remainder of the album and lets the side down a little right at the death.

For the past few years the moaners have complained that the UK no longer produces bands capable of competing with the mainland Europeans in the melodic/hard rock stakes and the only scene thats left is slowly dwindling away before our very eyes, not true!! Here is a band that is not only from the UK, but who can be, and in some cases are, far better than much of what the continent has to offer. So to all self respecting UK rock fans, please go out and buy this if only to prove to yourselves that along with Ten, Balance of Power, Bob Catley, Heartland and the rest, there is not only a scene but a resurgent one and USM are right up there at the forefront.


VOLTZ Magazine
very impressive

USM is the brainchild of Balance of Powers first vocal incumbent (and continued lyric writer) Tony Ritchie, on which he is joined by BoP cohorts, Lionel Hicks on drums, and the excellent Pete Southern. Always a thought-provoking lyricist, Ritchie has crafted a set of songs combining classic influences with a modern approach.

Opener “Beneath the Low” being a prime example with its Slipknot with a touch of melody riff, and darker vocals, all of which combine to launch a huge chorus, whilst “Silver Step Child” with its Alan Rickman sound-bite and Pantera-esque melodic crunch and BoP-esque chorus emphasises the point.

Ritchie sound a good deal happier and more relaxed than he did in BoP, delivering vocals that have more bite, assurance and precision, equal at home with the brooding “Terrorphobiac” or the melodic overload of “Believe it or Not” or “Its all over now”, and Pete Southern just confirms his class, his ability, and simply makes you wonder why he is not more lauded. This was a surprise, and a pleasant one.

Given a fair crack, USM could carve themselves out a considerable future, partly because of their willingness to acknowledge the current whilst maintaining a sight of their influences. Massacre have a good one on their roster, lets hope that they give it the push it really does deserve.


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