Power Metal

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Introduction

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).

- Written by adg211288 (April 2013)

Sub-genre collaborators:
  • DippoMagoo (leader)
  • adg211288

power metal top albums

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HELLOWEEN Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II Album Cover Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II
HELLOWEEN
4.52 | 113 ratings
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JUDAS PRIEST Painkiller Album Cover Painkiller
JUDAS PRIEST
4.49 | 117 ratings
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HELLOWEEN Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I Album Cover Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I
HELLOWEEN
4.47 | 92 ratings
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BLIND GUARDIAN Somewhere Far Beyond Album Cover Somewhere Far Beyond
BLIND GUARDIAN
4.48 | 51 ratings
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LOVEBITES Awakening from Abyss Album Cover Awakening from Abyss
LOVEBITES
4.61 | 11 ratings
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SEVEN KINGDOMS Brothers of the Night Album Cover Brothers of the Night
SEVEN KINGDOMS
4.72 | 7 ratings
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3 INCHES OF BLOOD Fire Up the Blades Album Cover Fire Up the Blades
3 INCHES OF BLOOD
4.68 | 8 ratings
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NIGHTMARE The Dominion Gate Album Cover The Dominion Gate
NIGHTMARE
4.80 | 5 ratings
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SABATON Heroes Album Cover Heroes
SABATON
4.70 | 6 ratings
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ARMORY Empyrean Realms Album Cover Empyrean Realms
ARMORY
4.68 | 6 ratings
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DARK MOOR The Gates of Oblivion Album Cover The Gates of Oblivion
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4.50 | 12 ratings
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MINDMAZE Back from the Edge Album Cover Back from the Edge
MINDMAZE
4.52 | 11 ratings
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power metal Music Reviews

CIRCLE OF SILENCE The Crimson Throne

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
DippoMagoo
Power metal is often known to be a very melodic and lighter genre compared to most types of metal, but there are some bands out there who like to play a more aggressive, thrashier version of the genre, most notably coming out of Germany. One of the better bands to emerge from this side of the genre in recent years is Circle of Silence, who impressed me a lot with their previous release The Rise of Resistance, a very in your face kind of album, loaded with tons of punishing thrash riffs, speedy power metal rhythms, and great choruses. After taking a long break in between albums, the band is finally back almost five years later with their third full-length album, The Crimson Throne. With this album, the band has picked up where they left off, giving listeners some of the most brutal and intense power metal possible, while still managing to mix in a ton of great melodies and vocal sections.

For those who’ve never heard Circle of Silence before, they play a very rough brand of power metal, with a ton of thrash elements in their music, as well as some very aggressive vocals at times. They do a good job of varying the tempos, with a nice mix of faster tracks and more mid-paced tracks, as well as occasionally changing things up partway through a song. For the most part, The Crimson Throne feels very similar to their previous album, though a couple tracks felt surprisingly lighter to me at times, with some heavy metal style melodic guitar leads at points, which add a bit of extra flavor, and these are quite effective. At the same time, this is definitely a very hard hitting album overall, and the heavier, speedier passages are definitely when the album is at its best. For the most part, it’s a consistently engaging album, with no weaker tracks to be found, though it doesn’t quite have anything that matches the masterpiece “The Architect of Immortality” from their previous album.

One element that took time for me to get used to the first time I heard a Circle of Silence album was the voice of vocalist Nick Keim. He fits the band quite well, to be sure, but he has a very deep voice and rough voice that’s a bit atypical for the genre, and he can at times be very in your face with his vocal delivery. He certainly delivers some fiery vocals that match the intense thrashier portions, though, while being able to rein himself in a bit and deliver some big vocal melodies during the chorus. While his vocals took some time for me to get used to, I now think he’s a great singer and he fits the band’s sound -perfectly, with this album especially doing a good job of letting him showcase both his more aggressive vocals and his smoother, more melodic vocals.

Another area where I’ve sometimes struggled with the band is in the songwriting, though thankfully that has proven to be an area where they’ve improved a lot over the years, with their debut The Blackened Halo being very inconsistent, while The Rise of Resistance was a mostly consistent album with one huge highlight, and now The Crimson Throne is their most consistent album to date, to the point where it’s hard to pick a favorite, not because there aren’t any great tracks, but because every single track is in very good to great territory, with nothing quite on the level of the best track from its predecessor, but the majority of the tracks here are slightly better than most other tracks on that album.

The band does a great job of letting listeners know exactly what to expect within the first few tracks, as following a brief but nice intro, the first three full songs all cover different elements of the band’s music quite nicely. The first of these is “Race to the Sky”, the most classic power metal sounding track here, though with a slight edge to the riffs. Still, compared to most tracks on this album, it’s both speedy and melodic in ways fans of the genre would expect, with some great riffs, nice melodic leads and an excellent chorus. The extended solo section in the middle is amazing, and overall it’s an excellent track. Next is “Destroyers of the Earth”, one of the hardest hitting songs out of the bunch. It immediately charges out of the gate with some pummeling riffs, and this keeps up throughout the verses, where Nick delivers some of his most fiery vocals. There are some great melodies during the pre-chorus section, but then the thrash edge kicks in again and the chorus is short but intense, and the most melodic section of the track is during the solo section, which is quite good. After those two faster tracks, the pace slows done a bit for the first time with “The Chosen One”, a slightly heavier metal influenced track, which moves along at a decent pace, with some great melodic leads and some of Nick’s smoother, lighter vocals. It has one of the most epic choruses on the album and is definitely another great track.

While I enjoy all elements of this album, I especially prefer the thrashier tracks, as these are more unique for a power metal band and Circle of Silence has always excelled at them. After the first group of songs, the next real hard hitter is the title track, a slightly more mid-paced affair, which nonetheless brings back some of the powerful thrash riffs from “Destroyers of the Earth”, and it again has a nice melodic vocal section leading into an intense chorus, though this time around even the instrumental section is quite vicious, and overall it’s a very hard hitting and satisfying track. Right after that is “Into the Fire”, a more upbeat song with an epic and more melodic chorus, though it too has some excellent thrashy riffs, and is quite a heavy track overall. In the same vein as the title track is “A Kingdom Divine”, another more mid-paced track with some very hard hitting riffs, though it has a slightly more modern sound to it, and well as occasional points where the vocals come very close to death growls. It has an insanely epic and catchy chorus, as well as a great solo section, and it’s definitely one of my favorites on the album. The last real heavy track here is “Possessed By Fire”, where the verses start off a bit slow but pick up speed as they go along, all while being heavy and intense throughout, while the chorus is frantic and intense right from the start, with some great gang vocals. It’s definitely another great thrash infused power metal track, which delivers exactly the kind of sound I want from the band.

On the more melodic side, we have “Lionheart”, which starts off with a great melodic guitar section, before speeding up quickly, and it actually starts off feeling like it’ll be another power/thrash hybrid track, but it actually get much lighter and more melodic as it goes on, with the second half being almost entirely instrumental and having some classic heavy influences. The chorus is a bit weak, but otherwise, it’s a great track overall. A few tracks after that is “Endgame”, which starts off with some beautiful guitar melodies, before picking up the pace and turning into a more mid-paced power metal track, with an excellent chorus, featuring some of Nick’s best vocals on the album. The closing track is “Wild Eyes”, a mostly mid-paced track, with another excellent chorus, though its highlight comes in the second half, during a speedy instrumental section which gives way an epic final run through the chorus, to the end the album in an extremely epic way.

Overall, The Crimson Throne is another great album from Circle of Silence, which delivers more of their hard-hitting brand of thrash infused power metal while mixing in a few more melodic sections every once in a while. I’d say it’s slightly better than their previous album overall, and I’d definitely recommend it to fans of the band, as well as any power metal fan who prefers the heavier, more guitar-driven side of the genre, with no presence of keyboards whatsoever.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/03/31/circle-of-silence-the-crimson-throne-review/

SABATON Heroes

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
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DippoMagoo
Some albums are challenging and complex, meant to force the listener to spend several hours of their time with them, before fully opening themselves up. On the other side of the spectrum are albums which immediately engage the listeners from the first play, but do little to keep them interested over a long period of time. And then there is the rare masterclass album that manages to instantly impress on first listen, while still proving to be just as addictive and mindblowing as ever some 30 listens later. Honestly, I don't usually get to the 20 listen mark with most modern albums, not because I don't enjoy them enough, but because I spend so much time listening to various new albums every year, finding the time to go beyond that point is tough, and yet one such album that has managed to not only pull that feat, but go further and approach the 35 listen mark in less than four years, is Heroes, the sixth full length album from Sabaton, which also happens to be the last of their albums I have left to review, at least until their inevitable next album is released (and as of the time of this review it's already said to be in the works.) While the band has always been one of my favorites, with The Art of War in particular standing out as an exceptional album, Heroes is by far my most played of all their albums, and is also by far my most played overall since I started tracking that stat back in 2013.

Following the comparatively more complex and ambitious Carolus Rex, Heroes is a very simple, very quick and to the point kind of album, clocking in at just under 37 minutes (excluding bonus tracks,) and it's definitely the kind of album that works best when played around 3-5 times in sitting, so the songs have enough time to pound their way into your head and never let up. I've always found Sabaton's music to be extremely fun and catchy, even as far as power metal goes, but Heroes is by far their catchiest and most addictive album ever, with only two songs going past the four minute mark, and every song on the album is designed to kick in, impress with their fun riffs, melodies and choruses, and then end before even beginning to drag on. This is an album that's all about the flow, as it moves seamlessly from highlight to highlight, with no less than amazing moments on the entire album, and not even a single second is wasted. It does somewhat continue trend Carolus Rex started, of Sabaton moving more towards slower songs, but unlike its immediate successor, The Last Stand, which reaches a point where I get a bit tired of all slower songs after a while, on this album the track placement is so perfect, I'm always getting exactly what I want at every point of the album, with the faster songs being spaced out enough and slower songs kicking in exactly when they should, with even “The Ballad of Bull” kicking in at the absolute perfect point just past the halfway mark. While it's not a full scale concept album like Carolus Rex or The Art of War, the album does have a over arching concept, with each track being focused less on battles and more on individuals and squads who performed some particularly heroic deeds in battle. This leads to a very cheery tone to the album overall, which fits the music perfectly, and when you combine these lyrics with the catchiness, epic melodies and pure fun of a Sabaton album, you know you have an instant classic on your hands. I don't even need to give a full paragraph for vocals at this point, as my thoughts are obvious, as once again Joakim Brodén is absolutely perfect and the accompanying choirs are also amazing and help makes the choruses even more than they already are.

Moving on to songwriting, then, and that's where this album absolutely knocks it out of the park, without a single less than perfect song to be found. I already mentioned the album having a perfect flow, so it's no surprise that things get off to an explosive start with the super hard hitting, incredibly addictive opener “Night Witches” quickly pounding its way into your head. This track is of course about an all women military squad, which is pretty cool. After a brief tease at its chorus, the riffs kick in quickly and the track speeds up, moving at a frantic pace, with Joakim and the choirs leading the way, bringing us to one of the catchiest and most pure fun choruses I've ever heard, and every time it appears throughout the track I just get more and more into it every time. There's a really nice guitar solo in the middle, and overall it's simply a super fast, heavy and just plain ass kicking opener, that ranks right up there with “Ghost Divsion” and “Lion from the North”.

After that incredible opening, “No Bullets Fly” keeps the momentum going, moving at a reasonably fast, though slightly more relaxed pace, with some excellent melodic leads. This album on the whole strikes a nice balance between the heavier sound of their earlier albums and the really light, keyboard driven sound of The Last Stand, and this track is a perfect example of that, as it's not as heavy or intense as some of the band's work, but it still has some excellent guitar work, including an excellent solo and some nice riffs during the chorus, and it certainly has more speed and energy to it than most tracks on the latter album, while still having some excellent melodies and of course an absolutely epic and unforgettable chorus. Next is the unbelievably cheery and upbeat track “Smoking Snakes”, one of the most triumphant sounding metal songs I've ever heard, with some incredibly happy sounding melodies, while still hitting pretty hard with its riffs. It moves at a slightly faster pace than “No Bullets Fly”, though still not quite as fast as “Night Witches” and it's another super addictive track, with Joakim and the choirs completely stealing show during the chorus, where the title of the album appears, and it's possibly the very best chorus on the entire album, while the bridge section is only even more epic. This is a case where the song would easily be my favorite even on the absolute best albums by just about any other band, and yet here it's just one among ten masterpieces, which are pretty much all impossible for me to rank.

The pace slows down a bit with “Inmate 4859”, the darkest track on the album. It's a slower paced, more keyboard driven track, though keyboards take a more atmospheric sound to them than on most Sabaton tracks, and even the choirs are used to add a bit of a haunting feel to the song, with Joakim singing in an even lower pitch than normal. The track is very subdued, but still has some pretty heavy riffs as well some awesome melodies, especially during the instrumental section in the middle, and of course the chorus, while more laid back than usual, is still absolutely incredible. After that is the lead single “To Hell and Back”, which has a pretty upbeat and playful sound at the start, before settling into a nice groove, settling into a mid paced rhythm, with some fun verses where Joakim steals the show, before opening up for a huge, unforgettable chorus that stands as another one of the album's best. It's certainly energetic, fun and super catchy, making it the perfect choice for a single, and it only gets better during the final run through at the end.

Perhaps the most controversial track on the album is “The Ballad of Bull”, a track I've seen many people criticize, but it's actually one of my absolute favorites. It's a beautiful piano ballad, where Joakim's voice gets to shine throughout, and while the melodies, vocals, piano sounds and chorus already make it epic, the lyrics also help make it a big highlight. The track is about Australian Corporal Leslie “Bull Allen”, who saved twelve Americans during World War II, and hearing this amazing tale set to music and being sung so amazing by Joakim just makes all the more inspiring and epic. Plus, anyone who says it's out of place on the album clearly needs to look at the album name,“Heroes”, read the lyrics, and then understand exactly why the track fits in perfectly.

The pace picks up again after that, with “Resist and Bite” being another mid paced track that has a ton of energy to it, opening with a light intro with just Joakim and some lead guitars, before everything else kicks in over time. The verses are fun enough, but again it's the chorus that stands out for being super addictive, melodic and catchy, with an amazing use of choral vocals. It's a track like the title track of Carolus Rex, which uses minimalism in very effective ways, and is definitely another great pick for a single. The last speedy track on the album is “Soldier of 3 Armies”, a typically hard hitting speedy track from Sabaton, with a great mix of keyboards, lead guitars and vocals. The riffs hit hard, the melodies are great and the chorus is amazing, super melodic and catchy as always, making it another instant winner. After that is the slower paced but super epic “Far from the Fame”, which opens up with some nice drum rhythms, before settling into a nice groove. It again has some nice lead guitars, while also being one of the lighter, more melodic and more keyboard driven tracks on the album, with of course another stunning chorus, an amazing guitar solo in the second half. Lastly, we have “Hearts of Iron”, which opens up with a huge choral section that briefly teases at its chorus, before slowing down and settling into a nice groove, with some great drum work and awesome vocals from Joakim. It's another surprisingly laid back track for being the closing track, but then the chorus hits and is absolutely gigantic, with some incredible choir vocals, some insanely catchy vocal lines and an incredible performance from Joakim. In the middle of the track is an unbelievably epic choral section that brings the epic factor to its absolute maximum, and overall the track is the perfect ending to a perfect album.

While The Art of War stands as the best, most cohesive and possibly the most varied Sabaton album to date, Heroes has overtaken it to become my favorite, due to its super addictive, quick and to the point tracks, which strike the perfect balance between immediately engaging and still holding up perfectly after 30+ listens. It's by far the most addictive album I've heard since I've been actively listening to metal, and it offers a perfect mix of speed, energy, heavy riffs, great melodies and incredibly catchy and epic choruses, while also taking it to the next level with some inspiring and uplifting lyrics. I doubt Sabaton will ever top this album for me, but that's okay, because it would take a Timeless Miracle for any power metal band to pull that off again, I think.

DRAGON GUARDIAN Ragnarok ~神々の黄昏~

EP · 2016 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Sisslith
With an extensive discography under their belt, Dragon Guardian self-released an eighth EP titled "Ragnarok ~神々の黄昏~" in 2016. This time, Arthur Brave, the founder and leader of the project, counted on the collaboration of guitarist Kouta and vocalist Manami, both members of the group Dragon Eyes, in which Brave also participates. Additionally, Leo Figaro lent again his fabulous voice to most of the songs.

First of all, the sound production of this album has been greatly enhanced and now is top-notch. Compared to previous works, Ragnarok ~神々の黄昏~ sounds extremely polished and all the different instruments are distinguishable and perfectly audible. This is thanks to Ryosuke Yamada, who had already collaborated with Dragon Guardian, and to Takahiro Hashimoto -widely demanded by established artists, such as Kelly Simonz's Blind Faith or Gunbridge.

Despite the recurring, fantastical and cheesy lyrical themes in Dragon Guardian's songs, the content of the ones included in this record revolve around deeper subjects, like self-improvement, a sense of bleakness and hopelessness..., yet without leaving a fantasy setting. It is especially noteworthy how countless Japanese lyricists use similar metaphors in their words, and Brave is no exception.

The level of musicianship displayed here is obvious. The whole line-up comprises professional and veteran musicians who clearly know what they are doing. Leo Figaro seems to be very comfortable with the vocal phrases of every song; he does not exert himself, but still delivers. Likewise, Manami manages to show her powerful vocal range, although she only sings in the closing track. Moreover, Brave and Kouta do a damn fine job. For instance, listen to the masterful guitar solo in '時空の旅', or the stunning guitar licks in the following piece towards the end, after an elegant neoclassical counterpoint. In short, the guitar work is simply first-rate. Conversely, the bass lines and (programmed) drumming are pretty standard: typical power metal structures which serve for rhythmic purposes, but never stand out. The keyboards and orchestral arrangements, however, are effectively used throughout the record and, at times, are even cinematic.

Interestingly enough, Ragnarok ~神々の黄昏~ seems to be quite influenced by Galneryus in a couple of songs. For example, the second track, 時空の旅, could have been featured in memorable albums like "Resurrection" and, above all, Leo Figaro sounds somewhat similar to Sho. On top of that, in ‘血塗られた聖職者’, there are several guitar parts that are reminiscent of Syu's wizardry too. Nevertheless, Dragon Guardian's own sound can be seen in the rest of the EP, e.g. the slightly progressive ‘鬼祟り’ or the appealing ‘古城への扉’.

Brave and his bandmates can be proud of this record. Even though it has some minor flaws and the formula has been used before, Ragnarok ~神々の黄昏~ is filled with high-quality symphonic power metal compositions as well as impressive performances.

DRAGON GUARDIAN Destiny of the Sacred Kingdom

Album · 2011 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Sisslith
Do you crave some great fantasy symphonic power metal from the land of the rising sun? Well, this album is everything you need!

Led by Arthur Brave, Dragon Guardian are quite a prolific band that have been around in the metal scene for more than a decade. They are not very well-known out of Japan, but they have collaborated with many artists from their homeland. Dragon Guardian's fifth record, "Destiny of the Sacred Kingdom", was originally self-released in 2011. The subject of this review, however, is the limited edition released the following year through the German label IceWarrior Records. This very album is a re-recording of their debut "聖邪のドラゴン", and let me tell you in advance that it is a complete improvement.

Regarding the lyrics, all of them were written by Arthur Brave. Leo Figaro, who was recruited for the vocals and would later become the band's frontman, translated them into English. This is understandable since the aim of it was to reach a wider audience, but it backfires. As numerous Japanese singers, Figaro's English pronunciation is not the best, and the booklet contains a lot of grammatical mistakes. Therefore, it would have been better to leave the lyrics untouched. Anyway, the theme of these lyrics is enjoyable yet full of clichés, such as dragons, magic, treasure islands, soldiers and so on –which is a common characteristic of the genre.

The music is a different story; it is without doubt the highlight of this work. Arthur Brave is a fantastic guitarist as well as a versatile composer. He is clearly the brain behind this album: he is responsible for all the songwriting process and arrangements, and plays both guitar and bass on it too. One thing that I particularly love about Dragon Guardian is the melodic quality of their records. This one is brimming with catchy and epic melodies, which is especially noticeable on tracks like ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Requiem’ or ‘Book of the Magic’. There is also a considerable amount of slower sections and bridges with emotional pianos and neoclassical orchestral interludes that contrast with the raging power metal parts, e.g. in the glorious piece ‘The Never-Ending World’. Moreover, the thorough use of majestic and often baroque-flavoured synthesisers in almost every song complements the music perfectly.

Furthermore, Destiny of the Sacred Kingdom features a high level of virtuosity. Not only does Brave demonstrate his insane fretboard prowess, but also Kouta, aka “Johann Sebastian Bach” (Thousand Leaves), whose mind-blowing guitar mastery can be seen at the start of ‘Mountain of Sword’ or in the speedy ‘Holy Dragon vs Evil Dragon’. And this connects with the main flaw of the album: several songs sound pretty similar and it may seem that one is listening to just a long track instead of eight different pieces. Perhaps Figaro, albeit having an impressive vocal range, sounds rather monotonous, or some musical structures are overused. Nevertheless, there are enough and fairly appealing variations throughout the whole record that may oppose this view, like in the eponymous ‘Destiny of the Sacred Kingdom’.

While not a perfect album, Dragon Guardian’s fifth offering is undeniably satisfying from start to finish and highly recommended to any fan of the genre. The melodious and tuneful power metal passages interwoven with gentle neoclassical interludes make up for any flaw it might present.

SABATON Carolus Rex

Album · 2012 · Power Metal
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DippoMagoo
There are some albums by my favorite bands that I respect as much, if not more so, than I personally enjoy them. While it's hard to say that about a band I love as much as Sabaton, where all their albums entertain me greatly, that is somewhat the case with their fifth full length album Carolus Rex, which many of their fans consider to be their all time best. Obviously, I love the album as well, and definitely understand why some folks would think of it as a masterpiece. However, as much as I enjoy the album, I have to admit that personally, I find it doesn't quite entertain me as much as most other Sabaton albums, with even its predecessor, Coat of Arms, ranking slightly ahead of it for me. It's hard to talk negatively about a band as great as Sabaton, though, so don't get me wrong: There's definitely quite a few incredible tracks here, including three of my all time favorites, and overall it's certainly an album I'd take over the majority of all other power metal bands, as well as being miles ahead of the band's own weakest effort, The Last Stand.

In terms of ambition, Carolus Rex is certainly an impressive release, as while the band had done a concept album before in The Art of War, this one is a full scale narrative concept, chronicling the rise and fall of the Swedish Empire, specifically focusing on King Charles XII, from whom the album gets its title. Lyrically, I find the album quite interesting, as instead of focusing on different themes or on one particular theme but scattered across different battles, this release tells a full story and does quite a great job of it, with some very emotional moments, and it even has the first ballad the band released since their demo days, which unsurprisingly manages to be one of the best and most powerful tracks on the album. Another interesting thing about this album is that the band actually recorded two separate versions of it, with a “full” English version and a full Swedish version. It's not too surprising when bands do multiple versions of one or two tracks, but to have two “full” versions of one album in different languages is pretty awesome (and yes, those quotation marks are deliberate and I will explain their presence much further into the review.) Musically, the album continued where Coat of Arms left off, except it feels even more epic, with the symphonic keys being more dominant than ever, giving quite a few tracks a symphonic feel, and the band uses choir vocals quite a bit, to excellent effect. It's also quite the varied release, having a good mix of speedy tracks and slower tracks, as well a few of the most unique tracks the band has done in quite some time. For the most part, the songwriting is amazing as always, but I find this release has two weaker tracks which stick out just a bit, and help prevent the album from reaching the heights it could have. One last thing that must be noted, is that this was the last album for the band in its original form, with everyone except vocalist Joakim Brodén and bassist Pär Sundström leaving to form Civil War. As a swan song for them, it's an excellent album and a great way to go out, even if I don't consider it to be one of my personal favorites by the band.

Obviously, the vocals are not a problem, as Joakim Brodén sounds amazing as always, delivering his epic, deep, powerful and melodic vocals as smoothly as ever. The use of choir vocals is quite prominent and comes in many forms throughout the album, but these are always used to great effect and help enhance the choruses, which are of course outstanding as always.

One area that's almost never a problem for Sabaton is the songwriting, and as expected, that's largely the case with Carolus Rex as well, with the majority of the tracks offering up the same mix of heavy riffs, epic keyboard melodies, incredible vocals and huge choruses as always. The album certainly comes firing out of the gates, with a brief but nice orchestral intro giving way to “The Lion From the North”, one of the band's most symphonic influenced songs ever, with some pretty epic choral arrangements during the chorus. It charges along at a blazing fast pace, with heavy guitars and epic keys, and has a super fun and catchy chorus, further enhanced by those choirs, as well as an absolutely stunning section in the middle where the choirs fully take over, until Joakim briefly appears near the end to steal the show again. Overall, it's an explosive and stunning opening track that certainly sets the bar high for the rest of the album, and I'd even go as far as to say it ranks up there with “Ghost Divison” as one of my two favorite Sabaton openers ever.

The quality doesn't drop from there, though, with “Gott Mitt Uns”, being one of the band's most unique tracks to date, moving at a nice pace with some very smooth rhythms, while the guitars have a very folk feeling to them, which enhances the melodies and makes it more epic than it already is. Even Joakim attempts some slightly higher notes than normal and of course nails it, as always. The chorus is spectacularly catchy, and overall the track is another instant winner. Next is “A Lifetime of War”, an epic ballad enhanced by some symphonic elements, and of course dominated by an incredible, very emotional and powerful vocal performance from Joakim, with the chorus in particular being absolutely stunning. It's a beautiful track that really shows the potential in the concept of the album, and it only gets more and more epic and stunning as it goes along. it's definitely one of my all time favorites by the band, along with “Lion From the North”. Surprisingly, the quality still doesn't drop off much from there, with “1648” being the kind of super fast, hard hitting yet melodic and super addictive track the band specializes in, with energetic riffs and a very powerful, super catchy chorus.

Unfortunately, the quality does drop off a little bit on the next track, “The Carolean's Prayer”, the longest track on the album. It has an epic opening and it definitely has some great melodies and a pretty awesome chorus, as usual, but I find it to be one of the times where they tried so hard to recreate something like “Wolfpack” or “The Art of War” and came up just a tad short, with verses being a little bit on the boring side, at least by Sabaton standards. It's still a great track overall, with the symphonic elements enhancing it and the chorus really is amazing, but overall I find it to be just a bit below the usual Sabaton quality. One track that sure doesn't come up short is the title track, which starts off with some pretty epic drums, and only gets better from there. It's a bit unique, as it is one of their slower songs, but it has a more minimalist approach, throughout, dominated by vocals, drums and somewhat by keys in the background, but it doesn't have the full sound one would expect from a Sabaton track, instead slowing building up tension until chorus comes and completely blows your mind with how awesome and incredibly epic and badass it is. The vocal section near the end is also stunning, and overall it's a really awesome track, that stands as my third and last personal favorite on this album.

While the title track is the last absolutely incredible song here, the album doesn't lose much steam afterward, with “Killing Ground” being another winner, moving at a pretty fast pace and having some epic melodies, though it has its own unique feel to it, being a bit more of a harder hitting, classic metal feeling track compared to usual. The chorus is awesome, as is the big vocal section towards the end, and it's definitely another excellent track that stands out quite a bit. Next is “Poltava”, another speedy track that has some heavy riffs, excellent vocals and a great use of keyboards, as well as another super addictive and extremely catchy chorus. It's probably my favorite of the last few songs on the album. After that is a slow but very epic track in “Long Live the King”, which is pretty close to being a ballad, though it has just enough heaviness to not quite be one, I think. Either way, it's a slow moving track with some awesome melodies and another extremely powerful and emotional performance from Joakim, with the chorus being one of the highlights of the album, and overall it's an amazing track, for sure. Lastly, we have “Ruina Imperii”, which sadly ends the album on a bit of a disappointing note. Musically it just never did much for me, being the one and only Sabaton track where I find the keyboards to be slightly annoying and overdone, and while Joakim sounds great as always, it reminds me of “Wehrmacht”, in that the vocal melodies simply lack the kind of hooks and epic moments I expect from the band. It also feels odd that this the one and only track on the album to not be recorded in English, which is disappointing, because as someone who doesn't understand a word of Swedish, I can follow the entire rest of the album and then have no clue how the story ends, which is quite the letdown, indeed. Honestly, I think I'd go as far as to say that outside of their demos, this is my least favorite Sabaton track ever and it really brings the album down a bit. I haven't really been mentioning bonus tracks in these reviews, but one rather amusing one is here in the form of “Twilight of the Thunder God”, a cover of the Amon Amarth track, which officially confirms the theory I've always had, that if Amon Amarth were to ditch their growls and only use clean vocals, they'd essentially be a very hard hitting power metal band. Which would of course be awesome!

Overall, Carolus Rex is Sabaton's most ambitious album to date, being a full scale concept album telling the story of the rise and fall of The Swedish Empire, released in two languages. While one particularly weak track keeps it from being among my favorites from the band, it's a very entertaining album overall, with all the great melodies, choruses and epic war anthems fans have come to expect from the band, as well as some as their most emotional and powerful tracks. It'll never be my favorite Sabaton album as it is for some people, but overall it's still a must hear for fans of the band and it's an excellent album with three of my all time favorites by the band.

power metal movie reviews

BETO VÁZQUEZ INFINITY 15 Years Alive LTD Edition

Movie · 2016 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
m3g52
A year ago Beto Vazquez Infinity met its 15 years ... And gave us a feast with joy, good music and diversity. And now we have the fruit in a DVD accompanied with 2 CDs with all the live sound of this recital. The show presented in this DVD contains a section of his classics, then a middle section where all played more Prog Metal and left many open mouths and an end to all motor either energizing. The DVD and limited edition cd show impeccable quality. Everything is divided as follows: The first part of the show was the memories, issues conodcidos discography BVI, renewed and with new energy, with the voices of Caro Guedes, Vero Libre, Casti and Pereyra on a solid band. The band shows with ease, stressed this fact with good camera movements. The sound and picture quality gives a good sense of what was experienced in that reecital of celebration of 15 years. Then began the most difficult part in stage movement, instrumentation and personnel. Metal Prog most part, higher flight, which leaves more than one amazed. Flutes game, rhythm guitars, harp, saxophone and a chorus that vibrated in states of metal, prog and Ethnic ... The third part returns to the strength of metal with Devil Vision by Caro flawless interpretation of Guedes and choirs Nadia Mancini, a soprano who gives the exact support. A material that is worth having, especially if you want to discover Beto Vazquez Infinity, risky in a scene (the Argentina) where it is very difficult for independent bands to achieve, first that recital that is documented, much less achieve DVD + CD unsupported's the big distributors.

ANGRA Angels Cry: 20th Anniversary Tour

Movie · 2013 · Power Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
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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Kingcrimsonprog
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.

HELLOWEEN Helloween - High Live

Movie · 1997 · Power Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
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

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