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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 · 1996 ·
1996′s Time Of The Oath is the seventh full-length studio album by the German Power Metal band Helloween. It was the second studio album with singer Andi Derris and drummer Uli Kush, and was dedicated to the memory of ex-Helloween drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg who passed away before the album’s release.
The cover artwork evokes the previous Helloween albums Keeper Of The Seven Keys and Master Of The Rings; which isn’t a bad way to think about the content within.
After the band’s classic and genre-defining Keeper Of The Seven Keys 1&2 albums, the band changed directions with Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon. Master Of The Rings saw the band stepping back a little to the direction the fans wanted while also trying new ideas as well and with Time Of The Oath, the band mix the best of the old and new styles and really nail down one of their best directions, performances and albums overall.
The album is absolutely chocked full of quality songs, some of the best in the band’s career.
There are some brilliant ragers like “We Burn” “Steel Tormentor” “Before The War” and the concert favourite “Power.” There’s the two great multi-part numbers “Mission Motherland” and the Title Track. Then of course there’s the bouncy and incredibly fun, (if a little silly) “Anything My Momma Don’t Like.”
If you like guitar solos, melodic vocals and speedy drums, then this album is really worth checking out. It may take a while to get used to, especially if you haven’t heard Derris-Helloween before, but it really rewards perseverance. No Power Metal fan should be without it.
Overall; Time Of The Oath is one of the best Helloween albums to date. It contains a good mixture of the band’s Thrashier, Slower and More Melodic material all in one package. It’s a real grower and gets better with each repeat listen.
Album · 2014 ·
"The Fiction Maze" is the 4th full-length studio album by Swedish power metal act Persuader. The album was released through Inner Wound Recordings in January 2014. Persuader released three albums in the years 2000 - 2006, but during that time experienced two of their labels declared bankrupt. Especially the bankruptcy of Dockyard1, that released the third full-length studio album "When Eden Burns (2006)", was a hard blow for Persuader, who lost momentum and the desire to carry on with the band. So the long pause between "When Eden Burns (2006)" and "The Fiction Maze" has a natural explanation. Thankfully for fans of the band, Persuader opted to continue despite past struggles.
The music on "The Fiction Maze" is power metal in the more hard edged vein. A reference to mid-nineties Blind Guardian is valid. It´s especially the voice and singing style of lead vocalist Jens Carlsson that are reminiscent of the voice and singing style of Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) but also the excursions into speed and thrash metal territories that Persuader often take, remind me of the prolific Germans. Persuader focus less on epic choirs and progressive song structures than Blind Guardian though and they are generally a bit more direct in their approach. The songwriting is still quite sophisticated though and the music doesn´t lack neither grand multi-layered sing along choirs nor epic atmospheres, which is pretty much a must in this genre of music.
Persuader successfully vary pace and style (within the boundaries of the power metal genre) throughout the album, from fast power/thrashing like "InSect" (if the vocals on that one had been growling, there are even sections that could be tagged melodeath) and "Falling Faster", to the slow and epic "Deep in the Dark" to the mid-paced heavy riffing of "Sent to the Grave". It keeps the listener entertained throughout and provide "The Fiction Maze" with a good dynamic flow.
The songwriting is simply top notch, but that´s not the only great thing about "The Fiction Maze", which also features high level musicianship and a powerful and edgy sound production, which suits the music perfectly. Regarding the musicianship the instrumental part of the music is very well performed with a focus on guitars, bass and drums. There are occasional use of keyboards, but they are seldom a dominant instrument in the band´s soundscape. It´s lead vocalist Jens Carlsson that takes the prize though. He is an incredibly powerful vocalist and he delivers his rusty vocal lines and choir vocals with great conviction and passion.
Although it´s not really his fault that he has a voice that sounds a lot like the voice of Hansi Kürsch, there is an inevitable clone factor that´s impossible not to notice and comment on, and when the music on the album is also somewhat in the same vein as the music of Blind Guardian, that clone factor grows even stronger. I know this is an issue to some people, and I can´t say it´s not a slight issue to me too, but objectively seen "The Fiction Maze" is quite a fantastic power metal release, and it deserves to be judged on that merit, and not the fact that it sounds a lot like the band who most likely influenced it´s makers. Therefore a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.
Album · 2013 ·
Empyrean Realms (2013) is the second full-length album by US power metal act Armory (although they actually belong to the so called European branch of the genre). It's been several years since Armory made their debut with The Dawn of Enlightenment (2007) and I gather that Empyrean Realms is one of those albums that has been in the works, and delayed, for quite some time before its eventual release towards the end of 2013. I didn't get to hear Armory's debut yet however, but I can certainly hear through Empyrean Realms how it must have been worth the wait for those listening to Armory for years (The Dawn of Enlightenment seems to be very highly regarded in certain power metal circles), as Armory have produced something special here in their second album.
Armory's brand of melodic power metal may initially seem to be a textbook example with little originality; fast, melodic, often prominent keyboards (although they don't really step into full symphonic territory) and epic clean vocals. Even if that summed up Empyrean Realms, this would still be a highly worthwhile release, because it's instantly made clear with opener Eternal Mind that Armory are a bunch of guys who have studied the book of power metal at length and come top in their class. What makes Empyrean Realms special is that the start of this paragraph doesn't accurately describe what Armory sound like; their sound is further characterised by often overt progressive elements, particularly in their instrumental sections, as well as a good old classic heavy metal vibe.
This is especially good for a power metal album, because it is also one of those seemingly rare cases where the band doesn't feel the need to throw a ballad in. Armory aren't a power metal band who are all about speed, speed and a bit more speed, but they are always metal and that makes a defining difference. Too many excellent power metal albums have had their flow disrupted part way through because of a pointless ballad. The ironic thing is given their obvious talent Armory are probably the one in ten power metal band who could do a ballad the right way, but all the same I'm glad they didn't on Empyrean Realms, since this album is near enough the perfect power metal release at it is.
Aside from the highly skilled composition, instrumental and production work I'm greatly impressed by the band's lead singer Adam Kurland. It's very possible that Armory have the quintessential male voice for melodic power metal in this guy. His tone is pure with absolutely none of the rough edge heard from the singer's of acts such as Grave Digger or Iced Earth, but neither is he as high pitched as those heard in acts such as Heavenly or early Helloween. In fact although his tone is a bit different he reminds me of Bruce Dickinson more than anyone, the soaring notes, the power; the two are definitely in the same league.
Empyrean Realms is a rare kind of album, as few albums impress me as much as it did based on first impressions alone. Most releases that earn a top tier rating from me tend to require several listens to digest and open up to me, before earning such a regard. Others might make that excellent first impression and then fail to hang onto it after the initial wow factor has worn off. Empyrean Realms doesn't belong in either of these categories. It makes that excellent first impression and further listens set it in stone. I don't think I really need to say it at this point, but I will anyway just to round this review off, Empyrean Realms is a true gem of the power metal genre, right up there with classics such as Helloween's Keeper of the Seven Keys Parts 1 and 2 or Blind Guardian's Imaginations from the Other Side and a top tier, five star range rating, is easily deserved.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/armory-empyrean-realms-t3296.html)
Album · 2013 ·
Witching Metal Ritual (2013) is the debut full-length album by US power metal act Witches Mark. The group previously released an EP, A Grim Apparition (2009), from which a couple of songs have been carried forward to the full-length. Witches Mark have attracted a few guests to their debut album from the USPM scene, including Jack Starr (ex-Virgin Steele) and Ross the Boss (Death Dealer, ex-Manowar).
Witching Metal Ritual is a difficult album right from the start. Like with recent releases from artists such as Crystal Viper and Damnations Day it gets off to a pretty shaky start with its opener, Bringers of Heavy Metal Death, before starting to pick up into something a bit more praiseworthy, albeit still with an up and down sort of quality level. Bringers of Heavy Metal Death sets all the wrong first impressions however. The vocals sound completely sub-par at best and the instruments sound as if produced for a black metal record, which Witching Metal Ritual isn't.
This brings me around to the real problem with the album. The songs may start to pick up with Salem's Fire but it's like Witches Mark wrote the album without really knowing what they wanted it to be. There are elements of a lot of genres here, with the album being best described as US power metal or speed metal most of the time, but there's also forays into traditional metal, and even nods to doom metal in We Die and some extreme touches through harsh vocals, such as in Where None Can Follow, while it also sounds like they want to be both retro and modern at the same time. But where some artists can make such genre hopping work and feel natural, on Witching Metal Ritual it instead ends up sounding messy, something not helped by the abrupt quality jump between the first two tracks. The title track sounds the best of the lot and proves that Witching Metal Ritual could have been a much more enjoyable album, if the band could have just kept a consist level on the quality and direction of the music.
Witching Metal Ritual isn't exactly a recommendable release, but there are some positive aspects to it that deserve recognition, to the overall tune of a two stars range rating. The first track is completely expendable and there are definite moments where the album is simply frustrating because of poor production but when the band does deliver a good track, they do it well enough to suggest that they might have a good record in them, somewhere down the line.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/witches-mark-witching-metal-ritual-t3291.html)