Power Metal

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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. Most such acts are usually placed under power metal on MMA, although a few are also placed under symphonic metal on account of those artists being more widely associated as a symphonic metal act over a power metal one. Nightwish are an example of this.

Heavy Power Metal: Not to be confused with USPM, which is close to traditional heavy metal to begin with, this is 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, have utilised folk influences in their music without ever truly becoming folk metal acts.

Power-Thrash: A hybrid of power metal and thrash metal, which can be considered sister genres due to both coming 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.

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. Anubis Gate is an example of such a progressive power metal act, one whose power metal elements have receded on more recent releases. Kamelot also adopted a less power metal orientated sound on Ghost Opera (2007) but returned to playing power metal with Silverthorn (2012). Almah 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 neo-classical acts are typically placed under traditional heavy metal.

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 on MMA.

- Written by adg211288 (April 2013)

Sub-genre collaborators:
  • adg211288
  • IMPF2112

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power metal Music Reviews

LORD SYMPHONY The Lord's Wisdom

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
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adg211288
The Lord’s Wisdom (2014) is the second full-length album by Indonesian power metal act Lord Symphony. It’s been quite a few years since the release of Bharatayudha Part 1 (2010), and in that time the band changed vocalist. Given the title of the debut perhaps a Bharatayudha Part 2 is still somewhere down the line for Lord Symphony, however this second full-length is a reworking of an earlier demo of the same name. As a bonus track the band have recorded a cover of Helloween's Kings Will Be Kings, taken from the album The Time of the Oath (1996).

The music on The Lord’s Wisdom is a heavily symphonic take on melodic power metal that in some respects sounds exactly as you’d expect an album from this genre to sound. But Lord Symphony are something more than that. I mentioned that the band are Indonesian. Well according to them power metal isn’t exactly a well represented style within the country’s metal scene, so while this does make their origin a little unusual it’s actually their incorporation of the native Javanese gamelan music into their own that really does it. It’s not only this that sets them apart though. The band has an unusual focus on instrumental sections for a power metal act, which lends them a progressive flair. This is quite evident during the early stages of the album in that it's not until three tracks in that Lord Symphony introduce vocals to their music; while Prelude: Enter the... is a fairly typical brief opener the following Gate of Lord, instead of being the hook-laden symphonic power metal belter you'd usually find is actually a progressive influenced instrumental.

Where they’re let down though is their vocalist Arif "Monk Bodhi" Hartoyo. I'd be willing to put his vocals down to being an acquired taste rather than outright bad since I have seen other reviewers praising his performance on The Lord’s Wisdom but that doesn't change the fact that I find him to be rather sub-par here, with a style that is a far cry from the pure and melodic tones that singers of other symphonic power metal acts (or simply power metal acts) employ. During my earliest experience with the album my issues with the vocals weren't so noticeable as the music itself really is that impressive but as I got more and more familiar with what Lord Symphony are all about the singer started to bother me some. I've heard much weaker vocals than this of course, but I can't help but take note of them here more because with a more impressive voice to carry the songs we may have been discussing a top tier record in The Lord’s Wisdom.

But even with this issue, The Lord’s Wisdom is still an easy four star range rating for me. The band show that they have plenty to offer the symphonic power metal genre, particularly their embracing of gamelan within the sound provides a few unusual touches, although they ultimately serve to add to the symphonic flavour of the release and may easily be missed if only heard with a casual ear. It'd be an interesting thing to hear Lord Symphony explore further. I love power metal, especially symphonic and progressive power metal, but this is a genre that could use a few upcoming acts that bring that something new and different to the table. The Lord’s Wisdom suggests to me that Lord Symphony are an act to make that happen and a more powerful presence behind the mic would be a massive first step.

76/100

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/lord-symphony-the-lord-s-wisdom-t3433.html)

VAN CANTO Dawn of the Brave

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
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Gallifrey
Novelty Music, Part II

This is the first Van Canto album I have heard, and it’s likely to be the last. I found Van Canto through In Legend, a band who they have been closely involved with, even collaborating on one track, and a band who share the same novelty appeal that Van Canto have. You see, In Legend are a ‘piano metal’ band, replacing all guitars and bass with piano, whereas Van Canto do their ‘a cappella metal’ shtick, with the weird vocals and dumb ‘soloing’. But the reason I came here wasn’t because of the novelty factor, it was more because I actually thought that Dawn of the Brave might house some decent music. Ballads 'n' Bullets certainly did, and In Legend proved that it wasn’t just the ‘piano metal’ factor that made them stand out, they were legitimately talented songwriters, and the songs on that album were legitimately good. But I honestly can’t say the same about Dawn of the Brave.

But let’s compare these two bands, because I really think that In Legend have made one of the best ‘novelty’ records I’ve ever heard, and yet this is a pretty embarrassing affair. There’s obviously going to be some bias, because you can be proficient at piano and it will sound great, yet try being proficient at imitating rhythm guitar with vocals and you’ll get laughed out of the room. And I did laugh, regularly. Some of the sounds they sing to imitate guitars are just fucking hilarious, and there’s literally no way I could ever take any of it seriously. The way they intercut the ‘tense’ intro track with “bum bum bum bumabum bum” just makes me crack up. And yes, I know that Van Canto’s music is hardly to be taken seriously, but In Legend do the same style of hilarity with their ‘palm muted’ octave power chords, but at least some of the tracks on that record have soul, I’m not just laughing at them

But I completely realise that I’m barking up the wrong tree in a way – Van Canto are a joke band and they make that incredibly clear. This is not music to be taken seriously, and the band knows that and makes their music in a bit of a joke-ish way to make sure no one does. I mean, “Badaboom” (named after what the rhythm guitars are singing) is a completely laughable song, ridiculous in every way. I’m sure some people would chuckle at it, or enjoy it realising that the band had lots of fun making it (which I don’t deny), but when I hear it, I want to crawl up in a cocoon and die of embarrassment. Even worse is “Steel Breaker”, one of the most uncomfortable and cringeworthy songs I have ever heard, mostly due to the rhythm guitars’ “BREEEE DOOM A NOM NOM NOM” that comes during the intro and chorus, combined with the general tough-guy 80’s hair metal styled lead vocals. I honestly would put “Steel Breaker” down as one of the few tracks that have physically made me ill out of how embarrassed I feel for the band. And yes, cue hordes of fans saying “you’re taking it too seriously!!11!”, and they would be right. Bands are allowed to have fun, and I shouldn’t laugh at them or feel embarrassed for them because they do. But I guess all this could be forgive, if the music here was actually good.

I’m not talking about the rakkatakkas or the bum bom bum bom or the breeedooms, I’m talking about the melodies and the songwriting, the core of this music. In my review of Ballads 'n' Bullets, I talked about how that was what made In Legend such a fantastic band, because underneath all the PIANO METAL, it was actually great music. The melodies were great, the progressions were great, it would still be great music if it were done on guitars with a hurdy-gurdy in place of the bass. But here, on Dawn of the Brave, I can’t say the same at all. Replace the ‘fake’ guitars and bass with real ones and you’ve got a generic power metal album that I would likely give the same rating to. Yes, the rating here has certainly been lowered due to the horrible singing and bad covers and the fact that this has zero of the energy encased in power metal due to an empty shell production (the sole reason I sometimes enjoy power metal), but none of the original songs even have a shred of decency to them, they’re just so incredibly bland. And when they’re not being bland, they start being cringeworthy to try and make up for it.

I think the final straw of “we’re being ridiculous to make up for the fact that we can’t write music” is the cover of The Final Countdown here. I mean whose bloody idea was that, to cover one of the most infamously infuriating and overplayed songs in the English language and make a fucking rakkatakka version of it? It basically screams “LOOK WE’RE A JOKE HAHA” in every way, a last sigh of desperation in an attempt to make this album interesting. I’ll give it to them though, “The Final Countdown” is a better song than anything original on this album, and that’s really saying something. But on the flip side, the “Into The West” is actually pretty good, but if you’re going to do an a cappella cover of a song, at least pick one that had instrumental backing in the first place. The cover has more or less the same structure as the original, but with singing instead of strings. It could actually be great, if they hadn’t included the syllabic backing vocals, which completely kill the piece. The enormous hook line is glorious, but I’m really crediting the songwriters here, aren’t I, not Van Canto (although the lead vocal performance here is admirable).

This is the first Van Canto album I have heard, and it’s likely to be the last. I guess that some may argue that my distaste towards this band could stem from Dawn of the Brave being one of their less qualified and musically interesting outputs, but having given this style of music a bit of thought, I’ve really come to the conclusion that in order for a great album to come out of this style, some sort of miracle would have to happen. Van Canto themselves state that people either love or hate them, I’m not really either, I just laugh at the fact that they think this style will ever get anywhere.

3.4

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

SONATA ARCTICA Pariah's Child

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
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arcane-beautiful
Sonata Arctica have a been a band I have admired for a very long time. During a period of power metal popularity, these guys where very much in the background doing their own thing. The band have very much gained a cult following over these past few years with no real mass popularity.

The band's consistency in material has been all over the place in the past few years. Since 2007s very dark “Unia”, the band have had a rather confusing string of albums. While their past few albums have been interesting listens, it does almost sound like the band have had an identity crisis (could be due to the bands ever changing line up).

Apparently according to the band, this album is supposed to be the follow up to “Reckoning Night” (my personal favourite Sonata album) and it is noticeable. Now this statement is a bit of a stretch, with obvious sounds from “The Days Of Greys” and “Stones Grow Her Name”, but it is one of the most recent Sonata albums which bode well to their original sound.

One of the bands biggest attractions has to be Tony Kakko's fun word play in his lyrics. Edging on great storytelling, interesting humour and beautiful poetry. Musically the album jumps between hard rock based power metal along with more progressive and darker moments. But, the album is a lot more joyous than previous albums, going back to a more carefree moment in Sonata's career.

The opening track and first single “The Wolves Die Young” is pretty much a return to form for the band. Catchy chorus, nice melodies and a cheesy music video.

One of my personal favourite songs is “Take One Breath.” Slightly mad in it's arrangement, Tony shows off a wide versatile range to his vocals, going from the harshest of shrieks to the calmest of tones in the drop of a heartbeat. The sci fi inspired lyrics and fun wordplay are also enjoyable.

One of the bands most interesting songs on the album has to be “Blood.” With a rather sporadic arrangement harkening back to the material heard on “Unia.” With a lot of musical twists and turns, it's a very interesting moment on the album. This song also teaches you the exact definition of blood....cause metal isn't just for fun. You can learn stuff too.

The rather cheesy but fun power ballad “Love” is a rather interesting moment on the album. Even though it does have some rather cheesy moments, the statement and song is still very pretty. It's good to see these guys showing a more sensitive side.

The albums closer and longest track “Larger Than Life” is a mad explosive rollercoaster. Being mixed with a power ballad and an almost musical and operatic feel, the song is a very interesting piece, with great over layered vocals by Tony. Great ending to the album.

In conclusion, after a few confusing years of weird experimentation, Sonata Arctica seemed to have finally put their feet more firmly on the ground with a rather 'return to form.' A mixed blend of all of the bands strongest sounds, the album is definitely on par with their more classically renowned releases.

8.2/10

PERSUADER When Eden Burns

Album · 2006 · Power Metal
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Primeval Scum
Powerful songwriting from one of the most promising modern power metal bands. They traded a bit of their aggresiveness for more melody on When Eden Burns, but they still have a very prominent thrash metal influence and focus more on riffs than the stereotypical sing-songy power metal band. Persuader's biggest strength is their vocalist Jens Carlsson. He has a powerful distinctive voice and consistently produces catchy choruses that will stick in your brain.

The highlight of the album is "Judas Immortal", so don't quit listening until you get to that song. Complete with an acoustic section, an excellent solo and a spine-tingling outro, this song is truly an epic that any power metal fan will love. However, just about all of the songs are catchy and brimming with energy. Highly recommended.

PERSUADER The Fiction Maze

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Primeval Scum
On Persuader's fourth album The Fiction Maze, the band ups the heaviness big time. The guitar riffs are thicker and meatier than ever before. You could even list Thrash as a primary genre for many of these songs. The production is magnificent and lends the band's sound a certain depth to it that was lacking before. Jens Carlsson's vocals are absolutely superb as always, and are Persuader's biggest strength. With his pipes, Persuader could make any song sound good. The playing is solid and tight throughout the album on every instrument.

However, I can't help but feel that Persuader lost a bit of the amazing knack for melodies that made When Eden Burns so memorable. There are some great tracks, but on the whole I found the songwriting on The Fiction Maze to be slightly weaker than their last outing. There aren't any "wow" moments on this album comparable to say the outro to Judas Immortal. All of the songs are good and enjoyable, but not enough of them take the step up from good to great. That said, it's still a strong addition to Persuader's discography and by no means a disappointment.

Rating: 3.7/5

Highlights: One Liftetime, The Fiction Maze, Son of Sodom, Sent to Grave

power metal movie reviews

ICED EARTH Festivals of the Wicked

Movie · 2011 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
666sharon666
There's a lot of value for your money in this DVD package. Three full festival appearances are included, two with singer Matt Barlow and one with singer Tim "Ripper" Owens. There's also the seemingly customary documentary and all the band's music videos with the exception of the older Desert Rain back from the Night of the Stormrider era, as well as the advert for the Ten Thousand Strong video and photo slideshows. For the price this seems to retail at (I bought it for just £9.99), this is a very worthwhile package for any Iced Earth fan. The one catch is that it in reality looks more than it is, as both the Barlow fronted shows feature a completely identical setlist. It's still a very good value package to get despite this, but 4 stars is all I feel inclined to award it because of the amount of repetition. Still for the very reasonable price, if you like this band, buy it anyway.

(I originally posted this hastily written review here: http://bit.ly/pafvQh )

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