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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:
Album · 2014 ·
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.