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Power metal is a sub-genre of heavy metal music created during the 1980’s. The term refers to two related but distinctly different styles of metal, commonly known as US power metal (USPM) and European power metal, after the geographic regions in which they originated. The stylistic origins of the genre can be traced back to the 1970’s, where artists such as Ronnie James Dio and Judas Priest laid down the groundwork for what would become staples of the power metal sound, including the lyrical themes, vocal style and use of twin lead guitars. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWoBHM) is considered to be an important influence on the European power metal sound in particular. The musical forerunners of power metal are considered to be traditional heavy metal and speed metal. As both USPM and European power metal refer to the regional origin of the styles it is perfectly possible for artists to come from one region and play the style of the other, such as Kamelot, a US band who plays European power metal, while artists from other regions such as Angra (Brazil) and Galneryus (Japan) also play power metal.
US power metal developed first, during the early 1980’s. It is much closer in sound to traditional heavy metal than the later European power metal, but typically played faster. High register vocals are common and artists put emphasis on melodic guitar leads, making it distinct from thrash metal, of which there can be some crossover with, such as Iced Earth. The music features a relative lack of keyboards compared to European power metal. USPM bands can be categorised into two groups, known as blue collar USPM and white collar USPM. Blue collar features a harder hitting thrashy sound while white collar is more melodic and progressive. Popular USPM bands include Jag Panzer, Vicious Rumors, Helstar and Virgin Steele.
European power metal (also known as melodic power metal) developed a bit later and was pioneered by the German band Helloween, who started as a speed metal band. The turning point for Helloween from speed metal to power metal is considered to be between their first two full-lengths, Walls of Jericho (1985) and Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I (1987) and so 1987 is considered to be the starting point of the European power metal genre. The style is much more distinct from its roots than USPM, drawing much more on speed metal, and is perhaps the sound most people think of when presented with the term power metal. European power metal is characterised by fast percussive like guitar riffs, and strong focus on melody, with artist line-ups often including a full time keyboardist. The sound is regarded as more uplifting compared to the many other sub-genres of metal music. Popular European power metal bands also include Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian (both German), Stratovarius (from Finland). Rhapsody of Fire (from Italy) and Sabaton (from Sweden).
Power metal has developed several different variations in addition to the USPM and European standards, mostly in the form of hybrid genres:Symphonic Power Metal
: A style of power metal typically only applicable to the European sound, symphonic power metal increases the use of keyboards to create a symphonic backing, drawing on classical music. The use of symphonic elements in such bands can vary greatly with some artists using them as a main element of their sound, such as Rhapsody of Fire, while some merely use symphonic elements to flavour their music, such as Avantasia. Symphonic power metal releases are always placed under power metal on MMA.Heavy Power Metal
: Not to be confused with USPM, which is closer to traditional heavy metal to begin with, this refers to a hybrid of European power metal with traditional heavy metal. Bands are typically less speed orientated than pure melodic power metal acts. HammerFall is a heavy power metal act from Sweden while Nightmare are from France. Some artists which fall into this category featured a harder hitting, more aggressive sound, such as Grave Digger of Germany, but are still considered to belong to the European power metal genre rather than USPM. They are included under power metal on MMA, although some such artists have also made albums more directly rooted in traditional heavy metal and have those tagged accordingly. Some of the older heavy power metal acts, including Grave Digger and Nightmare, started as heavy metal acts before adding power metal into their sounds later in their careers. Folk Power Metal
: The folk metal as a genre can take its metal elements from almost any other metal genre going, including power metal. Elvenking and Falconer are folk power metal bands. They are typically included under folk metal on MMA, but with cases such as Falconer where folk influences are normally minimal per album, they are included under power metal instead. Additionally some power metal artists, especially Blind Guardian but also Grave Digger, have utilised folk influences in their music.Power-Thrash
: A hybrid of power metal and thrash metal, which can be considered sister genres due to both evolving from speed metal. The so called blue collar USPM can also be considered to be power-thrash but the term typically refers to European power metal mixed with thrash metal, although the early work of Iced Earth is considered to be power-thrash. The mix of elements can vary even within the same artist with some being primarily power metal and others primarily thrash metal. As well as Iced Earth, Dark Empire and Paradox have also released power-thrash albums, while some power metal bands have included thrash metal elements in their sound in smaller amounts, such as Seven Kingdoms and Persuader. Power-thrash artists are treated on a case by case basis on MMA, for example Tales of the Weird (2012) by Paradox is placed under thrash metal, but The Fateful dark (2014) by Savage Messiah is placed under power metal. Progressive Power Metal
: Drawing influences from progressive rock and metal music as well as power metal of either the European or US variety, these acts are typically included under power metal on MMA, such as Pyramaze and Kamelot. The exception is when an artist’s progressive influences become the most recognisable thing about their sound. Illusion Suite is an example of such a progressive power metal act. Vandroya and Wuthering Heights are progressive power metal bands, the latter of which also being classifiable under folk power metal. Neo-classical Power Metal
: Melodic power metal that uses neo-classical guitar playing for its lead guitar parts. Magic Kingdom and Concerto Moon are neo-classical power metal acts, while other power metal acts such as Amberian Dawn and At Vance have incorporated aspects of neo-classical metal into their sounds. As there is no neo-classical metal sub on MMA all such acts are placed under power metal by default, while non-power metal based neo-classical acts are typically placed under traditional heavy metal, or sometimes progressive metal, with which there can also be crossover, as with Symphony X. Power-Death
: A less common hybrid style with no currently widely accepted term; MMA has adopted power-death (similar to the common use of power-thrash) to describe this particular sound. This particular sub-genre combines power metal with death metal (typically melodic death metal) and covers artists such as Children of Bodom, the first album of Wintersun and to a lesser extent the first album from Seven Kingdoms. Power-death typically features power metal music but with primarily growling vocals rather than power metal’s traditional clean singing. Such artists are treated with a case by case basis as to their placement on MMA.
- Written by adg211288 (April 2013)Sub-genre collaborators:
Album · 2004 ·
Burden Iced Earth’s seventh full-length studio album; 2004’s The Glorious Burden, saw the US Power Metal band trading in long-time vocalist Matt Barlow for former Judas Priest singer Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, when Barlow felt the call of duty to serve as a law enforcement officer.
Though my personal favourite singer Iced Earth has had is probably Matt Barlow because that’s who I heard first (usually how these things go), Tim Owens is a fine replacement with a wide range, a good attitude and some real power in those lungs. He’s clearly a very talented guy and fits the band well, matching the traditional high standard of Iced Earth singers.
The album was released via SPV records and was recorded in the famous Florida studio Morrisound, co-produced by Jim Morris and band–leader Tim Schaffer. Naturally, the album sounds fantastic. Crystal clear, grand, and yet still heavy.
The music itself on The Glorious Burden is fairly in line with what you would expect from Iced Earth, if perhaps focusing a little more on the mid-tempo aspects of their style. Mixing the sounds of Traditional Heavy Metal, early 80s US Prog Metal, USPM and a surprisingly high dose of Bay Area Thrash… Iced Earth have a definite identifiable, proudly Metallic sound and don’t deviate too far from it here. It you like melody, double kicks, guitar solos and a crunchy riffs its all here to be had.
The band do stretch their wings however on the fabulous, slightly progressive, three-part album closer “Gettysburg,” which is full of civil-war era music mixed with the band’s triumphant-sounding Metal music (even going so far as to make Metal versions of melodies from “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Dixie” and add them into the proceedings). This trilogy of songs is really worth checking out and practically worth the price of the album on their own.
In addition to that however, there are also an album’s worth of brief, well-written, masterfully executed Metal tracks on the disc too. Things like the memorable “Declaration Day,” “Valley Forge” and “Red Baron/Blue Max.” This is yet another consistent, filler-free effort from the band. If you are in the right mood, and give these songs the time to sink in, you can really grow to love this record.
Overall; The Glorious Burden is a strong and interesting album from the veteran band. Iced Earth fans should enjoy it. Tim Owens fans should enjoy it. Fans of a lot of Metal style should like it too (Heck; even if you have a prejudice about Power Metal due to the Keyboards, Goblins & Wizards stereotype, this should give you a new perspective on the possibilities). If you wonder whether this album is for you, take a listen to “Valley Forge” and judge for yourself.
Album · 1998 ·
Something Wicked This Way Comes is the fifth full-length studio album by the US Power Metal band Iced Earth. It was released in 1998 through Century Media records and was recorded at Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida with legendary producer Jim Morris.
This is a very tight, strong and consistent record which showcases the band at the top of their game, delivering some of the best examples of their craft to date. The first two tracks; the bouncy up-tempo “Burning Times,” and the grandiose mid-paced “Melancholy (Holy Martyr)” are two of my personal favourite Iced Earth songs.
Mixing elements of early Queensryche with Iron Maiden, then injecting a flavor of the Bay Area Thrash stylings of Testament and Forbidden into things here, Iced Earth release a crunchy, tasteful and thoughtful take on Power Metal that still delivers the triumphant atmosphere and enjoyable melody, but with some added ferocity.
There is a lot of emphasis placed on the dynamic and varied vocal stylings of the very talented Matt Barlow, as well as the solid riffing and enjoyable lead guitar work of band leader John Schaffer. If you generally like powerful Metal Front-men with wide ranges, or impressive guitar virtuosos, then there’s plenty to enjoy here.
Its not all about showing-off however. The band are quite skilled at mixing different moods and tempos into single tracks. Iced Earth can make liberal use of both acoustic guitars and full-speed-ahead double kick drums, and make both sound convincing. You may think one song is all about Thrash Speed and heaviness, but suddenly an atmospheric passage will take things in a whole other direction. You may think a song is going to be a ballad, but suddenly a grand Metallic guitar will ring out and signal the band to kick things up a gear. They do this without sacrificing succinct song structures, or compromising the logical flow of the material. It’s skilled, perfectly crafted songwriting in other words.
Highlights include the fierce, menacing “Stand Alone,” as well as the instrumental “1776” and the aforementioned opening duo. There’s also the “Something Wicked Trilogy” of the final three songs, which tell a story that would be continued on two full-blown concept albums later on in the band’s career.
Overall; Something Wicked’ is a very solid and well-written album from a very talented band. I think this is a fine album to start your Iced Earth collection with, and a must-have for any existing fans. I highly recommend it to fans of bands like Hammerfall, Sabbaton, Manowar, Nevermore, Queensryche, Savatage, Testament, Exodus, Forbidden, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon etc.
Album · 2014 ·
Return of the Reaper (2014) is the sixteenth full-length studio album by German power metal act Grave Digger (or seventeenth, if you count Stronger Than Ever (1986), which was released under the name Digger). Though Grave Digger have been going for over thirty years now and 2014 will mark the thirtieth anniversary of their debut album Heavy Metal Breakdown (1984) the band shows no signs of slowing down and as their last couple of releases in particular have proved they're still capable of putting out strong albums on a consistent basis. That's not a claim every artist whose career lasts this long can make. I'm looking at you Metallica...
Although they began as a traditional metal band from The Reaper (1993) onwards Grave Digger have belonged more to the power metal genre than anything, sometimes producing albums that were equally heavy metal and power metal and sometimes adding folk music elements to their sound. The group's last couple of albums have fallen into the folk influenced area, The Clans Will Rise Again (2010) more so than Clash of the Gods (2012), which was otherwise one of their power metal dominant efforts. On Return of the Reaper Grave Digger have returned to mixing both heavy metal and power metal in amount equal measures without folk influences. There's an appropriate intro of church bells, rain and melancholic piano in the form of the title track which then builds up into Hell Funeral and the album actually closes with a piano led ballad, Nothing to Believe (which definitely brings mind to Emerald Eyes from the Excalibur (1999) album), but the ten tracks in-between them really set about bringing the riffs with a vengeance. It's the classic Grave Digger sound in other words; not exactly innovative by this point in time, but some absolutely kick arse metal anyway.
The band have always been on the heavier end of the power metal genre and they continue to produce some really fast and aggressive stuff on Return of the Reaper, especially tracks like Hell Funeral, War God and Resurrection Day, which are early highlights. Tracks like this usually prove my personal favourites on a Grave Digger record and Return of the Reaper is no exception, but the strength of the more heavy metal orientated tracks like Season of the Witch shouldn't be overlooked either. This one has an almost doom feel to it; very dark and moody stuff. Later in the album come another couple of highlights in the form of Grave Desecrator and Death Smiles at All of Us. The latter has a more uplifting vibe to the music despite the name than the typical Grave Digger track, with quite the catchy chorus. The closing ballad I mentioned earlier is also very well done. Ballads tend to be very hit and miss on power metal records but Grave Digger have certainly scored a hit here and closing the album proves rather effective.
As with most albums there are a couple of lesser tracks as well, namely Satan's Host and Dia De Los Muertos, but the quality of the album overall is some of the strongest stuff that Grave Digger have put out in the last ten years. I'd say that the album is their best since Rheingold (2003) even. And that's some achievement as their last few records have all been strong too, especially The Clans Will Rise Again. Return of the Reaper is the way any band should celebrate such a milestone year as 2014 is for them; in style. 4.5 Stars are easily deserved.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/grave-digger-return-of-the-reaper-t3626.html)
Album · 2014 ·
Omniscient (2014) is the eighth full-length album by US power metal act Steel Prophet. It's been ten years since the band's last full-length album Beware (2004). Beware looks to be a bit of an oddity in the group's back catalogue, as it is the only full-length not to feature usual lead vocalist Rick Mythiasin, who has returned to the fold for Omniscient.
Strangely, I hadn't actually heard of Steel Prophet until the promo of Omniscient came my way (maybe it's because of the ten year gap). It's certainly one of the more intriguing promos I've received this year though; not only is the cover art quite striking (though it screams technical death metal at me rather than power metal) but the song-titles tend to be eyebrow raising (666 is Everywhere (The Heavy Metal Blues), Aliens, Spaceships and Richard M. Nixon and 1984 (George Orwell is Rolling in His Grave) being the most prime examples) and there's a pretty big claim about the band thrown up as well - that they are the originators of progressive power metal. Not being familiar with them previously I can't really confirm nor deny such a statement, but it is a pretty bold statement to make and one that I think does not reflect the contents of Omniscient. This is power metal, sure, and it does have the occasional progressive twist to it, but occasional is the key word here. Still, albums not being what they say on the tin is nothing new, this is isn't necessarily a problem.
What is a problem though is the incoherent nature of the release. I can usually rely on the Cruz del Sur Music label to serve up gold in the fields of power, traditional and doom metal but this latest offering from Steel Prophet on their power metal roster sounds like a major mishit. Supposedly a concept album, the lyrics are marred by attempts at humour and seem too random in general to form any sort of story, with themes covering the September 11th 2001 attacks, science-fiction, and a cover of Queen classic Bohemian Rhapsody. Maybe it would come clearer if Rick Mythiasin's vocals were easier to follow, but the biggest killer of this record is that his performance is quite erratic. There are times when he shows himself capable of delivering some really kick arse USPM but at other times his delivery sounds more quirky and even irritating. The return of the more well known vocalist to a band is usually something to celebrate but having looked up a couple of songs from their earlier album Messiah (2000) I have to say that Rick Mythiasin sounded much better on those than he does on Omniscient.
While not enjoying vocals is the biggest killer on a power metal album for me, I can't lay all the blame for my lukewarm feelings for Omniscient at Rick Mythiasin's feet. The music itself tends to have the same inconsistency issues, though it is to a lesser degree. There's definitely some solid and enjoyable power metal here, in fact the on tracks 911 and Transformation Staircase everything comes together pretty well for the band, but most of the time the album just seems quite bland and restrained for the genre, with some parts even being boring. In fact their Queen cover proves the most consistent part of the release. I'm not particularly a Queen fan but honestly I've never heard anyone do something that Freddie Mercury originally sang justice and that's also true here.
I don't demand innovation in every power metal album I hear, but I do expect to the music to have a great energy to it and I rarely get to hear such on Omniscient. The album is inconsistent to the point of being messy. I'm going to settle on a totally middle of the road 2.5 stars range rating.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/steel-prophet-omniscient-t3628.html)
Movie · 2013 ·
Live In Ancient Kourion is a live concert Blu-Ray from the American Power Metal band Iced Earth. It was filmed at the ancient Kourion Theater in Limasol, Cyprus (a site with a 6,000-year history according to the liner notes) in 2012, in support of the Dystopia album. The line up features Jon Schaffer, Brent Smedley, Troy Steele, Luke Appleton and then-new singer Stu Block.
The career-spanning set contains 27 songs from all eras of the band’s history, in a concert that lasts around 2 hours and 35 minutes. Its pretty great value for money in that regard.
The performance is very strong indeed, with all band members putting down solid performances with no weak links. Stu capably handles the material of previous singers Matt Barlow and Tim Ripper Owens in a suitable but distinctive way. He fits the band perfectly and is immensely talented. Elsewhere; the dual guitar lines and solos are sublime and the drumming is powerful and rock-solid. If you like Iced Earth then this is a really strong and representative example of what they are all about.
Highlights include strong performances of ‘Burning Times,’ ‘Wolf,’ ‘Declaration Day,’ ‘Days Of Rage’ and ‘Dantes Inferno.’ ‘Boiling Point’ and ‘Damien’ are also especially energetic and exciting here – if you were wondering if you’d enjoy this release, then I suggest trying those two tracks out.
The stage design and the simple, tasteful lightshow in conjunction with the well-integrated use of smoke and pyro perfectly complements the band’s meaty, honest approach to Metal music. The crowd get into it and both clap and sing along on many occasions. Sometimes not only singing the words but also the guitar melodies. The concert really shows a confident band delivering their best to an appreciative crowd.
The camerawork and editing are absolutely solid, the audio recording quality and live mix are spot-on and overall this is a very strong release on both the audio and visual fronts. Sometimes you’ll get a DVD with way too many flashy transitions and cheesy editing choices, or the bass guitar missing from the mix, but a lot of care has obviously gone into making this a tasteful and musician-friendly affair. Admittedly I have seen concert Blu-Rays with better picture quality (Sabaton, Gamma Ray, Stratovarius and Hammerfall spring to mind) and here it can be a tiny bit grainy, soft-focus or washed out at times depending on the lighting conditions in the venue at the time however just because better examples exist, it doesn’t mean the picture here is anything to complain about.
In terms of bonus features there are photo galleries (4 minutes of very high resolution photos of the band and the beautiful Cypriot landscape), a 9-minute world tour story (breaking down the logistics involved such as how many guitar picks and flights the band went through) which mixes photos and graphics with interview footage, as well as the 31-minute Documentary feature “The Making Of Live At Ancient Kourion.”
The version I got comes with a slipcase in a digibook-style box which contains booklet featuring photos, credits and liner notes from bandleader Jon Shaffer. It houses the Blu-Ray version, DVD version and CD version of the concert for maximum flexibility.
The Blu-Ray specs are as follows: Region 0, Format 16:9, Audio comes in a choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 or DTS HD Surround 5.1.
Overall; Live In Ancient Kourion, especially this edition, is a very worthwhile release and I whole-heartedly recommend it to fans of the band, or fans of Traditional Heavy Metal and Power Metal in general.
Movie · 1997 ·
High Live is a concert DVD by the legendary German Power Metal band Helloween, recorded in Milan, Italy (and Gerona, Spain) in 1996 on the Time Of The Oath tour.
The main feature is a scorching 84-minute concert, in which an energetic and totally on-form band blast through a lot of material from Master Of The Rings and Time Of The Oath to an enthusiastic crowd. Just going off the performance, this is an absolute 5-star live album.
Songs like “Sole Survivor,” “Before The War” and “Power” sound absolutely blistering here, and I’d highly recommend checking it out on that basis. Andi’s vocals on his own material are absolutely excellent on this release, and Uli’s powerful, understated drumming absolutely kills.
There are a few downsides to the overall product however, such as the picture being a little soft and not the sharpest. The sound is pretty great in one way, and you really get that “live feel,” but you have to turn it up fairly loud for it to become clear, as things can sound a bit muddy on low volumes. Nothing show-destroying though.
The other potential downside is that at the end of some songs, it stops, when they cut to the other concert (eg. from Italy to Spain) and the transition isn’t perfectly smooth, which may interrupt the flow a little. Luckily this never happens in the middle of songs or anything outrageous like that, and for the most part isn’t actually too disruptive.
Apart from that, this is a pretty great main feature all round, and shows the band proving why they are still one of the biggest names in Power Metal. In terms of bonus features: There is a text “History” feature, a discography feature and a photo gallery. All your standard ‘90s DVD extras that don’t add too much really, but look good written on the back of the box.
There is also a five minute “review” feature by Malcome Dome, which is a brief Metal Evolution style history lesson with a mixture of archive footage of the band and talking-head footage of Dome. The dialogue is a bit stiff and the audio is a bit muffled, but as a free extra its still worth a watch.
The track-listing for the main concert is:
1. We Burn 2. Wake Up The Mountain 3. Sole Survivor 4. The Change 5. Why 6. Eagle Fly Free 7. Time Of The Oath 8. Future World 9. Dr. Stein 10. Before The War 11. Mr Ego 12. Power 13. Where The Rain Grows 14. In The Middle Of A Heartbeat 15. Perfect Gentleman 16. Steel Tormentor
Overall; If you like the band, especially if you like the Deris era, then it’s a pretty worthwhile purchase. It shows the band at their Europe-conquering best, dripping with enthusiasm and playing like they mean it. The sound and editing are a tiny bit imperfect, but the band themselves more than make up for it. Comment