Power Metal

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Power Metal is one of the sub-genres of heavy metal music that first appeared during the 1980's, drawing influence from traditional heavy metal, especially the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and speed metal. The term power metal actually refers to two different but closely related metal styles, nowadays known as US/American Power Metal (USPM) and European Power Metal (or Melodic Power Metal), named after the geographic regions in which the styles originated. Artists from either place are not tied down to playing that particular kind of power metal of course, such as the US band Kamelot who play the European style, while there are also artists from other countries who play power metal such as Brazil's Angra and Japan's Galneryus. These days power metal bands come from many places and have many different styles, documented further on. This page primarily deals with the European brand of power metal, with USPM placed under its own child sub-genre.

European Power Metal

Though it developed a little later than USPM, in the late 1980's, specifically Germany, the European, melodic power metal sound is no doubt what most first think of when the term power metal is mentioned. Indeed it is more distinct in sound than USPM, but features the same basic influences, with the key difference to USPM being that European power metal draws more heavily on the speed metal influences rather than traditional heavy metal ones. Indeed in the late 1980's power metal was instead referred to as melodic speed metal.

European power metal is widely credited to have been started by Germany's Helloween in 1987 with the release of their Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I album. Prior to that, Helloween had been a speed metal band. Blind Guardian, another popular German power metal act, had similar roots while other bands such as Grave Digger started more in the traditional heavy metal vein. Others like Running Wild blended both before becoming power metal bands later in their careers. Compared to USPM European power metal acts often feature keyboards, catchy lyrics and are generally less hard hitting, though the German scene is quite notable for its additional heaviness. Popular power metal acts from other countries include Italy's Rhapsody of Fire, Finland's Stratovarius and Sweden's Sabaton.

Sub-genres of Power Metal

Aside from the standard USPM and European power metal styles, there are a number of different sub-genres, or hybrid genres in some cases, of power metal that have since developed.

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.

Extreme Power Metal: This particular sub-genre combines power metal with 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. Extreme power metal 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. The genre is sometimes also called Power-Death.

Power Metal Inclusive Genres

Melodic Metal is sometimes included under Power Metal but usually under Traditional Heavy Metal. Melodic metal features a presence of melody akin to European power metal but lacks the focus on speed. Many melodic metal releases tend to use some actual power metal elements as well as hard rock and sometimes other genres. An example of a melodic metal release that is placed under power metal instead of traditional heavy metal is Arven's Black is the Colour (2013).

Neoclassical Metal is sometimes included under power metal dependent on the direction of the riffs in the music (see Neoclassical Power Metal description above). Neoclassical metal artists can also be commonly found under the Traditional Heavy Metal and Progressive Metal sections of the MMA.

- Written by adg211288 (April 2013)

Sub-genre collaborators:
  • adg211288
  • DippoMagoo
  • Unitron
  • 666Sharon666

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PHARAOH The Longest Night Album Cover The Longest Night
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NIGHTMARE Genetic Disorder Album Cover Genetic Disorder
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SABATON Carolus Rex Album Cover Carolus Rex
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BROCAS HELM Defender of the Crown Album Cover Defender of the Crown
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KELDIAN Journey of Souls Album Cover Journey of Souls
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power metal Music Reviews

BLAZON STONE No Sign of Glory

Album · 2015 · Power Metal
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No Sign of Glory (2015) is the second full-length album by Swedish power metal act Blazon Stone. Even if you have never heard of the band before their name may still be familiar to you - Blazon Stone (1991) was the title of the sixth album by Running Wild. The choice of the Blazon Stone band name goes beyond the taking of a name they liked, the music of the band is pure homage to Running Wild as well.

While the term clone act can often be seen as harsh, it's a bit difficult to avoid using it when listing to No Sign of Glory. But in defence of that this is still a better album than Running Wild themselves have made for a long time. It's actually not inaccurate to say that Blazon Stone sounds more like (classic) Running Wild than Running Wild does at the moment, as Running Wild have largely left behind the power metal sound of their most popular records by this point. So yes, clone/homage act they may be, but short of the real thing returning to the sound of classics such as Death or Glory (1989) or Black Hand Inn (1994), No Sign of Glory is most definitely a very good substitute.

Blazon Stone have changed vocalist since the release of their debut album Return to Port Royal (2013). This is my first encounter with Blazon Stone though so I don't know how new singer Georgi Peychev compares to Erik Nordkvist, but he's definitely one hell of a singer who handles the Running Wild style power metal sound well. Running Wild happens to be a favourite band of mine, but I think I'll have to grudgingly admit that Georgi Peychev is a stronger vocalist than Running Wild's Rock 'n' Rolf.

All this said I don't personally find this album to be on the level with Running Wild's classics despite all the good things it has going for it. It's fun and catchy power metal with a bit of speed metal on the side with several great tracks such as No Return from Hell, but Blazon Stone aren't on the same level as the masters when they were at their best, and I do think that in the song writing department they are relying a bit too much on similarly titled stuff to Running Wild's originals, such as Stranded and Exiled instead of Branded and Exiled, or Fight or be Dead which is quite similar to Win or be Drowned. And of course just by putting the word glory in the title they are instantly bringing mind to Running Wild's Death or Glory album. Still, I don't think you'll find a better candidate to continue the legacy of Running Wild.

SERENITY Codex Atlanticus

Album · 2016 · Power Metal
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The year 2016 is off to a strong start, with January featuring new releases from some of my favorite bands like Avantasia, Rhapsody of Fire and of course Dream Theater. However, the album I was most excited for going into the year was not one of those but Codex Atlanticus, the fifth full length release from Austrian symphonic power metal band Serenity, who I discovered back in 2011, with their incredible third album Death & Legacy, which over time become one of my top 5 favorites albums. That album marked somewhat of a turning point for the band as before they had played a more complex and progressive style of power metal, and they delivered two excellent albums in that style, where on Death & Legacy they took a turn to more of a cinematic symphonic metal sound, with a major focus on orchestras and huge vocal melodies, and it also had a few nice duets featuring three guest female vocalists. This approach was taken further on War of Ages, with the addition of Clementine Delauney as a co-lead vocalist, but in between then and now the band decided they had gone as far as they could with that sound and decided to part ways with Clementine, leaving Georg Neuhauser as their lone vocalist. This and the departure of longtime guitarist Thomas Buchberger left me curious as to how Codex Atlantcus would sound, but suffice to say Serenity has blown me away once again and delivered an album roughly on par with War of Ages and just barely behind Death & Legacy.

While the lineup changes led me to expect a major overhaul in their music, I’m surprised to report that Codex Atlanticus instantly feels familiar but with a few nice twists to make it stand out. Like its two immediate predecessors, it is a concept album dealing with historical themes, this time focusing specifically on Leonardo da Vinci. The lyrics are quite interesting and well delivered, as always. Musically this feels in some ways like a continuation of their previous albums, especially Death & Legacy, with a few little surprises thrown in. For the most part, it’s the vocal melodies and orchestras that dominate the tracks and these elements are just as prominent and as impressive as ever, but new guitarist Chris Hermsdörfer has acquitted himself very well here and fits in perfectly with the band. On most tracks he’s more limited to helping with the rhythm and serving as a backdrop to the main elements, but there’s a few parts throughout where he gets to fully let loose and he does an impressive job.

Of course, one of those main elements is vocalist Georg Neuhauser, who has become one of my favorite melodic metal singers over the past few years. He has a very warm voice that sounds similar to Sonata Arctica vocalist Tony Kakko, but with a much lighter tone and a smoother, less over the top delivery. He’s one of the best I’ve heard when it comes to getting everything he can out of huge vocal melodies, which of course the songs provide a ton of, and while he sounds very calm throughout, when he’s asked to reach for bigger notes, especially towards the end of tracks when the choruses pick up, he delivers big every time.

After the expected but very nice orchestral intro track, the first proper song “Follow Me” enters in slowly with some nice piano work, before Hermsdörfer is allowed to show off his skill with a pretty killer riff, and the song picks up the pace and turns into the kind of fun up tempo symphonic power metal opener they excel at, except with occasional bursts of heaviness that only add to the already excellent track. Between the guitar work, the orchestras and the chorus, it’s definitely one of my favorites on the album. Next is the more surprising “Sprouts of Terror”, another fast paced track where the guitars are even more prominent and sound a bit thrashy at points, this feeling further enhanced by the more aggressive sounding secondary male vocals, though Georg eventually comes in to bring some melody in to the song, and it ends up being another instant winner. Fans will have already heard “Iniquity” a slower more orchestra and vocal driven track, which features some excellent choir vocals as well as some really nice backing male vocals during its impressive chorus. When I first heard the song I wasn’t overly impressed with it, but over time it has grown on me and I’ve become quite fond of it.

Around this point, the album settles in to more usual Serenity territory, with “Reason” in particular feeling like it would have fit in perfectly next to some of the speedier tracks on Death & Legacy, and it once again features a truly phenomenal chorus that instantly made it one of my favorites. The last rendition of it is especially breathtaking. This feeling of familiarity continues somewhat on both the mid tempo track “Caught in a Myth”, and the slightly faster and heavier track “Fate of Light, but on both tracks the guitar work is impressive and helps them stand out. The latter in particular has a really awesome shredding solo in the middle. Closing track “The Order” is another speedy track that opens with piano and features a slow opening verse, before speeding up for the chorus and it doesn’t let up from that point on.

The album features two ballads, which are both excellent. First is “My Final Chapter”, a slightly folk infused track that fully focuses on the orchestras and serves as an excellent showcase for Georg’s voice, while “The Perfect Woman” has more of a rock opera feel to it, and features some slightly upbeat though very light sounding parts, as well as some excellent guest female vocals during a very memorable part in the middle. Lastly, we have “Spirit in the Flesh”, another heavier, somewhat speedy track which once again features a second male voice (I can’t tell if it’s the same one as on “Sprouts of Terror, but he does sound a bit similar.) He leads during much of the chorus and his delivery is a bit more raw compared to Georg, but it has a certain charm to it and adds some energy to the track. My favorite part of the song is the final chorus, where Georg does an absolutely beautiful rendition of it, before the other singer comes in to finish it off.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, due to the key lineup changes, but in the end Codex Atlanticus is yet another exceptional album from Serenity, that continues with the ultra melodic, somewhat theatrical style they began on Death & Legacy, while adding in a bit of extra heaviness and some other nice touches to make it stand out. It serves as an excellent showcase for vocalist Georg Neuhauser while still feeling like a true team effort, and it contains 10 incredibly catchy songs sure to remain stuck in my head for some time to come. Obviously it’s a must hear for fans of the band, and I also highly recommend for fans of symphonic power metal and melodic metal in general.

(originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2016/01/17/serenity-codex-atlanticus-review/)

RHAPSODY OF FIRE Into the Legend

Album · 2016 · Power Metal
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It’s always exciting when a new album from a beloved band in their field that had seemed to be on the decline, ends up being a huge return to form, and that is what we have here with Rhapsody of Fire and their latest effort Into the Legend, their second full length album since the band split into two in 2011. I’ve had an up and down history with the band and its various forms, initially being unimpressed by their later albums, before suddenly falling in love with From Chaos to Eternity and then digging deep into their earlier albums and loving those as well. I had been a bit nervous going into Dark Wings of Steel, their first album with keyboardist Alex Staropoli taking full reins as lead songwriter and my worries somewhat came true as while it was a solid enough album on its own, it failed to live up to classic works like Legendary Tales and Dawn of Victory, and proved to be a huge step down from the aforementioned From Chaos to Eternity. My expectations were fairly low for Into the Legend, but thankfully it has proven to be not only a return to form but perhaps one of the best albums in their entire discography.

Where Dark Wings of Steel fell halfway between being a somewhat successful attempt at bringing back the classic Rhapsody sound and a half-hearted attempt at modernizing their music into something heavier and less grand, Into the Legend feels like a deliberate effort to bring back the glory days of their first few albums and in this it greatly succeeds. For the most part this is a return to the epic fast paced power metal of their early albums, complete with epic choirs and the use of a real orchestra, which is used to great effect throughout the album. This album is both much more symphonic and faster paced than Dark Wings of Steel, largely ditching the slower, heavier tracks from Dark Wings of Steel and replacing them with the kind of epic symphonic power metal longtime fans would expect from the band.

Right from the very beginning it’s clear this is a Rhapsody of Fire album: “In Principio” kicks things off with the kind of epic orchestral intro you’d expect, featuring choirs singing a rather ominous sounding tune, that will be returning to later in the album. Proper album opener “Distant Sky” feels like classic Rhapsody at its very best, and includes everything one would hope for, including fast riffs, very powerful sounding drums, epic choir vocals and orchestras, a huge chorus, the unmistakable voice of frontman Fabio Lione, who sounds as amazing as ever, and yes, some impressive guitar work. This time around guitarist Roberto De Micheli brings some of the neoclassical flourishes found on their early albums, and delivers some impressive shredding during the opening track as well as throughout the album. The one time member of Thundercross (Rhapsody’s original name) proves to be a great fit for the band on this album.

The impressive start continues with the title track, which features some heavier riffs but otherwise maintains the fast tempo, huge choirs and epic melodies of the opening track, delivering another unforgettable chorus. Fans missing speedier tracks on Dark Wings of Steel have plenty to enjoy this time around, including “Rage of Darkness” and its epic neoclassical shredding, “Realms of Light” with its epic keyboard solo and chorus that only gets better near the end when sped up and perhaps my favorite of the bunch, “Valley of Shadows”, a much darker and heavier track where the choirs are really in full force, including some epic soprano vocals during the verses, and then in the middle section the tune from “In Prinicipio” returns in full force.

As good as these faster songs are, though, my personal favorite has to be “A Voice in the Cold Wind”, a track which adds in some medieval folk metal elements, especially during the verses where it’s all folk instruments and Fabio singing beautiful in a very relaxed voice, before picking up big time with its huge chorus. All in all, it feels like a call back to “The Village of Dwarves” from their classic album Dawn of Victory. One last highlight is the ballad “Shining Star”, which serves as a nice showcase for Fabio. There’s only one song here I’m not overly fond of, and that is “Winter’s Rain”, a track which plods along with rather boring guitar work during the verses and drags on a bit too long, though its chorus is fantastic and it features more varied choir vocals, featuring pretty epic male voices, plus the orchestra is in full force, so even this track has its memorable moments, even if it doesn’t stand up to the rest of the album.

Perhaps the most interesting track on the album is 16 minute epic “The Kiss of Life”. I find Rhapsody’s epics to be a bit uneven more often than not, and that is somewhat true this time, but I must admit the song has grown on me a lot over several listens. During the early verses the symphonic elements remind me of Nightwish for reasons I can’t quite put a finger on, but it’s the one time on the album where I feel that way and it’s very noticeable. The track is entirely slow paced, but features incredible vocals from both Fabio and a soprano during the chorus, and the acoustic section which features a reprise of the chorus. In fact, it feels like the majority of the song is a reprise of the chorus, and as impressive as it is, I prefer my epics to be a bit more dynamic and varied than this. At the same time, everything sounds great and the guitar solo near the end is epic. So to sum it up, I think everything here is great, but it would have been more effective if the track was only 8-10 minutes, to make up for the lack of dynamics. Still, I’d gladly take this over the excessive narration of past Rhapsody epics, one thing I’m glad they didn’t include on this album or its predecessor.

Aside from a fun but slightly uneven epic and one mildly disappointing track, Into the Legend is an amazing album and represents a return to form for Rhapsody of Fire, bringing back memories of their early works throughout. The guitar work is much stronger than last time, the faster paced tracks are as awesome as always, and on the whole I think this is an album longtime fans will be very pleased with, and for fans of power metal who somehow haven’t heard any form of Rhapsody yet, I think it would be a very good starting point.

(originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2016/01/24/rhapsody-of-fire-into-the-legend-review/)

BRAINSTORM Scary Creatures

Album · 2016 · Power Metal
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Prior to their 2014 release Firesoul, Brainstorm was one of the few better known German power metal bands I had not been a big fan of. I had previously thought their brand of extra heavy power metal mixed with elements of traditional heavy metal had potential to be very good but found their songwriting to be a bit inconsistent. That changed a bit when I heard Firesoul and was instantly impressed by how they managed to add more melody and a bit more speed to their music, without taking away any of the heaviness and while sticking true to their usual sound, resulting in easily my favorite album of theirs up to that point, as well as one of my favorite albums of 2014. I have since become a fan of the band and enjoyed most of their releases, though that one and Soul Temptation stand out as my two clear favorites. Not quite two years later, the band is set to release their eleventh full length album, Scary Creatures, and I was instantly struck by the rather unique and colourful, kinda creepy cove art, and wondered how the album itself would sound.

Well, the resulting product shouldn’t be too surprising for longtime fans, as it contains their trademark heavy riffs and powerful vocals, and largely feels like a logical followup to Firesoul, but with a few nice twists here and there to make it stand out. Production wise and sound wise it feels very similar, which should be no shock as Achim Köhler was once again in charge of mixing and mastering. The album continues with the focus on more melody compared to some of their older albums, though I find overall it is slightly more aggressive than its immediate predecessor and I think part of that has to do with the overall darker tone of the album, which is especially noticeable on tracks like “How Much Can You Take”, “Take Me to the Never” and the title track. The last of those is especially noteworthy, as it contains orchestral elements throughout, adding to the overall atmosphere of the epic and rather slow paced track, and in the middle section the orchestra is fully unleashed and sounds pretty impressive. It certainly stands out as my favorite song on the album, though aren’t any real duds here.

Other surprises pop up throughout, some of which can seem disruptive and weird at first, but ultimately end up working out. For example, the slow paced, brooding heavy metal track “How Much More Can You Take” initially surprised me with its use of tough guy sounding gang vocals, which seemed a little bit off putting at first, but once I got used to them I found they fit the song rather well, and go together fine the always outstanding lead vocals by Andy B. Franck. This style of backing vocals is also used on the more melodic and slightly calmer but still dark “Take Me to the Never”, and I find they are used to slightly better effect on that track. Elsewhere, “We Are…” starts out seeming like a typically solid, crushing mid tempo Brainstorm track but with an exceptionally strong chorus, before a youth choir shows up in the middle and it turns into something much more epic, and ends up as another big standout.

In more traditional Brainstorm fare, after a nice orchestral intro, the opening track “The World to See” is a fun mid paced track with the excellent mix of heavy riffs, strong vocals and big melodies you’d expect from Brainstorm. It’s a great track, and one that will instantly feel familiar to longtime fans. Likewise, the excellent closing track “Sky Among the Clouds” is a slower, very melodic track where Andy’s vocals really get to shine, and it feels like it would have fit in perfectly with some of my favorite tracks from Firesoul.

One thing I noticed about this album is that while it still has the huge melodies and choral vocals you’d expect from power metal, it doesn’t have very many speedier tracks. In fact, aside from a couple bursts here and there, the only songs I would consider to be fast throughout are “Where Angels Dream” and especially “Twisted Ways”, which has a very Euro power metal feel to it the whole way through and is another one of my favorites. Fans hoping for more up tempo songs may be disappointed, though I find the overall songwriting strong enough and I find the album has enough surprises that it ends up flowing nicely anyway.

Overall, Scary Creatures is a very high quality heavy/power metal album and while I wouldn’t quite rank it up there with my two favorite Brainstorm releases, it isn’t too far behind. It continues what they started on their previous album by adding more melody to their typically hard edged sound, and also adds in some surprises as well as an overall darker tone, to help make it stand out from previous releases. Fans of the band should be very happy with it, and I recommend it for fans of the more aggressive side of power metal and heavy metal, but with the one warning that they shouldn’t expect too many overly fast paced tracks.

(originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2016/01/04/38466/)

FATES WARNING Awaken The Guardian

Album · 1986 · US Power Metal
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"Awaken the Guardian" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US heavy/power/progressive metal act Fates Warning. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in November 1986. A lineup change has taken place as guitarist Victor Arduini has been replaced by Frank Aresti. "Awaken the Guardian" would be lead vocalist John Arch last album with the band before he too would depart.

Listening to "Awaken the Guardian" it very much feels like the natural successor to "The Spectre Within (1985)", just featuring a more sophisticated songwriting approach and an even more skillful performance of the music. Stylistically the music is on the border between traditional heavy/power metal and guitar/vocal oriented progressive metal (even bordering thrash at it´s hardest moments). In other words a very early example of progressive metal. A music style Fates Warning would further explore and develop upon on subsequent releases. The band are generally very well playing even though I´ve never found Steve Zimmerman´s drumming particularly tasteful. Instead it´s the melodic guitar leads and harmonies, the hard heavy metal riffing, and of course the high pitched and ornamented singing by John Arch, which elevate the band´s music to exceptional heights, along with the clever and intriguing songwriting.

Arch deserves a special mention and all the praise in the world for his performance here. He is gifted with one of the most unique and powerful voices on the scene but it´s how he uses his voice that makes him so special. Every note is sung to it´s limits and twisted and turned in every possible direction. Sometimes it sounds like he is improvising and if that´s true, it´s madness in this type of music. It speaks volumes of how great he is, that he has the energy to put on a performance like that in music this demanding. His performance is brilliant throughout but the highlight is his delivery on "Guardian".

All 8 tracks on the 48:04 minutes long album are very well written and performed though and it´s actually only the sound production that holds "Awaken the Guardian" back a slight bit. The guitars feature a thin sound, and the drums and bass aren´t that well sounding either. It´s not really a surprise considering the date of release, but on the other hand I´ve listened to quite a few better produced releases from the same year, so this one has always left me unimpressed. Thankfully the material and the instrumental and vocal performances are of such high quality (although the drumming doesn´t add much positive to the music), that the quality of the sound production doesn´t overshadow the fact that "Awaken the Guardian" is an excellent release on other parameters. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

power metal movie reviews

ANGRA Angels Cry: 20th Anniversary Tour

Movie · 2013 · Power Metal
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Angels Cry 20th Anniversary Live is a 2013 concert Blu-ray by the Brazilian Progressive/Power Metal band Angra. It features the line-up with Italian singer Fabio Lione (ex-Labyrinth, Rhapsody of Fire) on vocals performing material from all eras of the discography passionately – with some interesting guest appearances including Tarja Turunen (ex- Nightwish), Uli Jon Roth (ex-Scorpions), Amilcar Christófaro (Torture Squad) and the Familia Lima string section.

This set has quite high production values. Visually; the thing is an absolute gem. Top notch image quality, great camera work with tasteful editing, and the actual stage show contains interesting video screens with eye catching imagery. Its all just great for the eyeballs, which is why you’re getting a video recording and not an audio recording anyway, right? Well this is totally worth every penny in the visual department.

Sonically, the recording is crystal clear. You can hear every single note, every different drum and cymbal. Its like a Rush concert or something – brilliant clarity and definition. The only thing that’s not absolutely perfect is that in the stereo mix, the rhythm guitar is not as heavy as some of the studio versions, but it is still a brilliant mix nonetheless. Best of all; The performance is beyond stellar; Fabio nails it recreating the band’s different singers’ work well and injects some of his own flair into the proceedings. The guitar solos are out of this world and the tireless drumming of Ricardo Confessori sounds great. Listening to and watching the interesting music is an absolute joy.

Highlights include the fantastic renditions of ‘Evil Warning,’ ‘Nothing To Say’ and the fantastic set closer ‘Nova Era.’ The enthusiastic São Paulo audience seem really into it.

Overall; Its an absolutely great concert DVD on a technical level, and better still it’s a great concert in and of itself. The line-up is strong, the setlist is great and the guest musicians add an extra layer of interest. I highly recommend this to fans of the band, fans of this end of the musical spectrum, and fans of good quality concert recordings. It would be an unquestionable treat for existing fans but would also work really well as a first purchase for newcomers

STRATOVARIUS Under Flaming Winter Skies - Live in Tampere

Movie · 2012 · Power Metal
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Under Flaming Winter Skies, Live In Tampere is the first official concert Blu-Ray by the legendary Finnish Power Metal band Stratovarius. It was filmed in Tampere, Finland on the Jörg Michael farewell tour and as such the crowd interaction is in Finnish (with English subtitles) and Jörg gives the crowd a farewell speech. In part, the setlist is built around him, such as the inclusion of `Speed Of Light’ because it was the first song he ever played with the band… although to be fair they’d have probably played that anyway. The main feature lasts around 1hr 52mins and contains 22 tracks, which works out as 17 songs when you discount the intro, guitar solo, bass solo, keyboard solo and speech. There’s a Deep Purple (`Burn’) and The Who (`Behind Blue Eyes’) cover in there, as well as all the fan favourites you’d expect like `Eagleheart’ `Kiss Of Judas’ `Hunting High And Low’ `Paradise’ `Father Time’ `Black Diamond’ etc

The picture is absolutely fantastic, clear and sharp. Its helped a lot by a great but subtle stage show with intelligent use of lighting, and not too much dry ice as well as a tasteful and sensible editing job that is fast and contains enough movement to keep your interest but is slow and still enough so that you can appreciate the actual musicianship (of each member, as none are overlooked.)

The sound is even better with an absolutely crystal clear mix in which you can hear every stoke of every drum, each key get pressed (without the keys being too loud and overpowering the Metal) and every note the bass plays. The vocals are impressive and the crowd noise doesn’t overpower them, even though they sing almost every word and best of all, it all actually seems to be live and not obviously mimed or overdubbed (or indeed out-of-sync). In general, its just one of the best concert audio mixes that I’ve heard so far and very solid visually as well.

The biggest thing in this concert’s favour however is the sheer enthusiasm of the performance; the band are so into it and absolutely deliver on all levels. They are very interactive with the crowd, they interact with each other, Jörg twists and throws his sticks around, the guitars and mic stands are enthusiastically moved around and generally the band just look like they love being there.

In terms of extras; the booklet has a lot of high-quality photos and a little written interview with Jörg. The disc has a bonus 5.1 mix of the track `Elysium’ and there is a 29 minute documentary called `Rewinding From The Past To 2012.’ In terms of Blu-Ray Statistics; the screen format is 1080i/29,97/16:9(1,78:1) and the audio format is DTS HD MA 2.0/5.1 (although the documentary is only available in stereo), the disc format is BD-50 and the region code is: A/B/C.

Overall; this is an excellent, well made and masterfully performed concert Blu-Ray and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who’s into this sort of thing.

ICED EARTH Live in Ancient Kourion

Movie · 2013 · US Power Metal
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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.

HELLOWEEN Helloween - High Live

Movie · 1997 · Power Metal
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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

ICED EARTH Festivals of the Wicked

Movie · 2011 · US Power Metal
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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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