Ken Jacobsen of Unleashed Power
Reviewed / Interviewed August 13, 1997 by EvilG
Unleashed Power are an aggressive power metal band based out of New York. U.P. are not at all new to the metal scene. Below is a summary of their background from their bio.
Unleashed Power, now U.P., had it’s origin way back in the mid-eighties where the Danish band, Avalon, recorded an LP called “Unleashed Power”, produced by Metallica renowned producer, Flemming Rasmussen. Guitarist, Ken Jacobsen and vocalist, John Mathias were the corner stones of that band. Avalon dissolved with the forming of Unleashed Power in 1989 when Ken Jacobsen and Ed Owen (Drums) joined together. The band now had it’s foundation in New York and was on it’s way to record the first demo “Blindfolded” in 1991, followed by the critically acclaimed demo “Quintet of Spheres” in 1992. Members changed when singer, Joe Karavis, decided to part ways due to musical differences after the demo recordings in 1992. However, the decision to proceed with the full length album “Quintet of Spheres” had already been made, so John Mathias received the call to fill the vocalist position anew. The now transatlantic lineup had a massively impressive response to their 1993/94 debut album “Quintet of Spheres”. After a string of shows in the northeast of the United States, tragedy struck in the summer of 1994 with the untimely death of bassist, John Lievano. Ed Owen’s disillusionment with the destitute prospect of finding a replacement and recording another album sans label, culminated with his departure. Enter J?rg Michael, renowned German drummer, whose credentials include: Mekong Delta, Stratovarious and Rage. Bassist, Tony Spagone joined for the album to fill the vacant position and last, but definitely not least, vocalist, Brian T. Chaffee received the call, as he and U.P. exchanged demos awhile ago. John Mathias had left the band in 1995 feeling unable to do justice to the new direction the group had undertaken, which requires a heavier approach.
U.P.’s new CD ‘Mindfailure’ is a power metal fan’s dream come true. Not many bands write this style of music any longer, and few of those that do (besides Nevermore) can play it with as much finesse. Most songs clock in at well over the five minute mark. However, on most of the songs you don’t notice that the song is long or dragged out. The intricate song structures make for an enjoyable listen. Some of the riffs in different songs do sound similar to one another but I guess when the entire CD is written and produced by one person (Ken Jacobsen) this can happen.
The strengths of this band lie heavily in the lead guitars and to a lesser degree the vocals. Lead guitarist Ken Jacobsen has definitely been influenced the flashy technically orientated playing school. Such shredders as Yngwie Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen come to mind during some of the the lead sections. When asked what he thinks of being mentioned in the same breath as players of this caliber Ken says its a “Very flattering comparison, indeed. I don’t think I represent the same school as the above mentioned guys. My style is more rhythmical (right hand) and considerably heavier as well. My main influences are Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, Rush, old Ozzy etc. We all grew up with the NWOBHM and early 80’s stuff.”
The entire CD has a very professional layout with full color band pictures and lyrics. As you can see the album cover art for ‘Mindfailure’ is phenomenal! “The artwork was done by my friend Frans Theis Jensen. It represents the brain, personified with faces. Mindfailure is about stress and Gateway [the first song on the CD] is about sins (greed, jealousy & wrath). Those are the songs that’s been emphasized on the cover. It was also done on a computer which was a new method tried.”
Last time I spoke to Ken (July 1997) he was in Europe promoting ‘Mindfailure.’ “The Promo tour went alright. I went to Germany, Denmark and Holland. The album is only out in Europe so that’s the reason why we are doing promo there. There was quite a good response in Europe on the ‘Quintet of Spheres’ album and we wanted to target those people who gave us attention then, first.”
It is of no surprise that Europe has been more open to progressive power metal with the likes of Helloween, Gamma Ray, Mercyful Fate, etc.. Why is there is a larger European craving for power metal? “I think that you have a point, but there seems to be a major buzz in North America for metal at the moment and I think that metal will be stabilized by that. The scene in Europe is very crowded by tons of bands. Power metal is gaining momentum in southern Europe and will go through a change in Northern Europe. “
My favorite song on “Mindfailure” is the title track. I really like the introduction with the intense drumming, comparable to something Slayer could write (Check out the MP3 clip of this intro below). Ken’s favorite song on ‘Mindfailure’ is Gateway. “It represents a quantum leap in song writing for me. Intensity is the key word here. I also feel I’ve accomplished to make a 8 minute long song sound like a much shorter song, it has a very high difficulty level and it was a great challenge to get the lyrics to flow properly. It was something I had planned out in my head as far as the arrangement is concerned, so all in all it represents the pinnacle of riffing, melody etc.”
The band’s tour schedule for now will be concentrated mainly on Europe. “It looks like we will play a festival in Belgium (Mindview) and some shows in Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and we are waiting for some shows in Germany. We hope to play the Powermad festival in Baltimore as well, in November. We will fill in some more shows in the Northeastern part of the States.”
Don’t expect to see any videos from U.P. yet. ” We can’t justify the expense.” However, Ken has been “…learning about multimedia and there is a good chance that we’ll put some kind of CD-ROM together if we have the time.” That could be quite interesting!
When asked about U.P.’s hopes to have a single picked up by mainstream radio Ken had this to say. “I think that radio in the States has serious merit, but is of secondary importance in Europe. We seem to get good response from radio in the States on this album, but it’s very early and there has not been any real promotion done yet. We have special versions of some of the songs for radio. Our hope is to have a label make a radio CD that will be distributed to all the radiostations. But touring and word of mouth is the most solid method.”
So what then distinguishes U.P. from the other power metal acts? “We don’t use any triggering or sampling because it makes the drums sound the same. When all is said and done, music is about expression, so why spoil it by using synthetic methods. It takes a lot more work to do, however. We try to have some positive messages and speak about trying to better yourself by not getting over on other people, have faith and know right from wrong. Last but not least, practice.”
Recently Ken was in the studio to record drums for a few new songs scheduled for European release this winter. The EP tracks are: A New Me, Stasis, Calendar, Perpetrator of Dreams & …..at the Lowest Point. U.P.’s future goals include: “#1. to get ‘Mindfailure’ released in North America & South America. #2. To get the EP released in Europe this winter after a tour in Europe. #3. I’m planning to go back into the studio this winter to record another album that I hope will be out next spring. #4. We will also try to get gigs going in the States.”
Lastly on the title of this page, (Metal Rules!!) I asked Ken if he agrees…his response? “It rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” In a time when metal is to some a dirty word lets be glad for bands like U.P. who aren’t afraid to use it!
For more information on Unleashed Power and details on how you can pick up your own copy of “Mindfailure” visit their webpage at www.unleashedpower.com