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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 (Melodic 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. 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 GenresMelodic 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:
Album · 2014 ·
Back From the Edge (2014) is the second full-length album by US metal act MindMaze. Having released their debut album Mask of Lies (2013) independently the band have moved up in the world and Back From the Edge is released through Inner Wound Recordings. The band have also added bassist Mike LePond to the line-up, a notable musician best known for none other than the mighty Symphony X among others. Additionally the band has garnered some high profile guest appearances such as Jens Johansson of Stratovarius adding a keyboard solo to Moment of Flight and Matt Johnsen of Pharaoh adding a guitar solo on The Machine Stops.
I'm going to take a little time out from my usual review structure to apologise to my readers, as I had made the promise to try and cover some other genres for a time after realising that a good majority of my current group of 2014 release reviews were for power metal albums. A follow-up to the excellent MindMaze debut Mask of Lies was always high on my personal hype list for the rest of this year, but I thought I'd be safe with my promise when a promo for the album came my way, as in my opinion Mask of Lies was mainly a traditional heavy metal album with power metal and progressive metal leanings, more so the latter than power metal. Turns out though that Back From the Edge is not a heavy metal album, but a progressive power metal album. So sorry readers, the promise is going briefly on hold.
Wait...I'm really not all that sorry about that, for in Back From the Edge MindMaze have produced an album that is possibly the best case of genre evolution I've ever heard, changing the band from a good heavy metal band to an excellent power metal band.
While there are some moments on Back From the Edge that are more like straight-forward power metal songs, such as the lead single Dreamwalker, the album is mostly made up a perfect blend of power and progressive metal ideas so while you'll be getting plenty of those speedy power metal riffs to propel the music along the guitar playing by Jeff Teets in particular has a tendency to veer off into more complex ideas, with the occasional use of keyboards adding another layer to the sound, though the band usually stick to a typical song structure, with most on the album clocking between the four and six minute marks.
At the other end of the spectrum though there are a couple of longer tracks, namely The Machine Stops and Onward (Destiny Calls II). The latter is obviously a follow-up to the closing track from Mask of Lies. It's these longer songs of course that really bring the progressive side of the music out, and Onward (Destiny Calls II) is especially impressive, even including some flute usage that gives the song a very slight folksy vibe. This is the most progressive song on the album and is probably the only one here that I'd call a progressive metal song over a power metal song and despite being the power metal maniac I am, it's also my favourite.
Back From the Edge is quickly impressive for the same reasons that made Mask of Lies such an great debut, but the difference is where Mask of Lies seemed a little unsure about what the band wanted to be, Back From the Edge is a focussed piece of work with strong musicianship all round, amazing energy, and powerful vocals by Sarah Teets. MindMaze have been a pretty unknown entity on the metal scene up until this point, but Back From the Edge is the album that sets out to change that, and will if there is any justice in the world.
I mentioned earlier about trying to leave off power metal reviews for a while because of the large amount I've done this year, but what I neglected to say is that only one of those albums was awarded a top tier score, and folk-power metal albums like that one (Elvenking) are nearly always more recognisable as folk metal releases so really Back From the Edge is the first power metal from 2014 that is a power metal album before it is something else (in this case progressive metal) that I've felt the need to go up to the top tier for. Back From the Edge is really everything fans of female voiced power metal could want, and I don't feel like I'm overhyping it by putting up a perfect score. Consider me blown away by the massive progress MindMaze has made in such a short time since their debut.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/mindmaze-back-from-the-edge-t3734.html)
Album · 1984 ·
As I said before, Helstar is an extremely underrated band. Straight from their debut to their new 2014 album, they haven't failed to please me. I find it interesting that this debut was the first album I heard by them. A few years ago, I was on YouTube and thought there was a band called Burning Star for some reason. When I searched I didn't find a band, but I did find this excellent album by a band that would become a favorite of mine.
Even though today Helstar has been leaning more towards Thrash, their debut shows real power and speed that reminds me of Anthrax's 'Spreading the Disease' album. Both albums sound raw and ready for the mosh-pits.
The opening title track is definitely a highlight, with it's pounding drums, menacing riffs at the start, and Rivera's flowing vocals. The riffs on this song really drive, and is a great example of early speed metal. I can't forget the great swirling guitar solo, really flows well. The song 'Towards the Unknown' is another favorite of mine, It has a more traditional metal feel to it. The chorus is very flowing and Rivera's lower vocals remind me a bit of Dio during this part. 'Witch's Eye' is one of the more crunching powerful tracks, and yet another favorite of mine. One of the songs that really stands out is 'Run With the Pack', with a very Iron Maiden-like beginning with driving drums and guitar. The finale 'Dracula's Castle' is a great closer. The acoustic beginning is very beautiful, with Rivera's vocals at a really strong moment. When the song builds up, it becomes a great speed metal track. The bridge has some great driving guitar complimented by the drums.
James Rivera's vocals are not the best on this album, with his high-pitched vocals coming in at awkward times. He would perfect his use of these on later albums, but here it just sounds out of place sometimes. Other then that, his lower vocals are very strong. 'Witch's Eye' is probably the song where his high-pitched vocals work the best.
Overall, it's a pretty solid debut, I recommend this album to fans of classic Power/Speed metal. If you're new to Helstar it would be best to start with 'Nosferatu' or one of their recent albums, but this wouldn't be a bad place to start if you happen to come across it.
Hope you found this review helpful
Feel free to comment!
Album · 2014 ·
If you haven't guessed it by now, I have an incredible soft spot for power metal. Now, I'm not a major fan, I do think some bands can be a bit stale and repetitive. I also believe that some bands can maybe be a bit too cheesy. Now Hammerfall are cheesy...but they are pretty great songwriters too and are band that are incredibly technically efficient and have a very underrated vocalist in the form of Joacim Cans.
Ever since their first hiatus, the band came back with a sound that was unparalleled and was even better than their early days. “Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” and “Threshold” would be up their with some of power metals best. But sadly the follow up “No Sacrifice, No Victory” was a slight let down. “Infected” was actually a step in a better direction but didn't see much acclaim from audiences, resulting the in the band going on another hiatus. The band are now back, showing promises and traits of their earlier days, proto and post first hiatus.
Musically the band show flickers of their old sound, but do now and then show off some of the dark moments which sprung up on their last 4 albums. In many ways, the band are still doing what they have always been doing. Some of the cheese which they tried to loose is back, but a bit of cheese never hurt anyone, especially when the songs are good, and proven on this album...they are.
I do admit, I did prefer the band whenever they had their classic line up. While Pontus is an absolutely astounding guitar player, I always think Stefan Elmgreen was and is more to my taste. The band have shown some experimental moments on this album too and it ends up being rather enjoyable at times...but it's all about the cheese.
Opening track “Hector's Hymn” is very much a return to form for the band. An anthem dedicated to their mascot, the song is pretty anthemic and would be perfect for opening live gigs off. The music video for this song is pretty cool, which pretty much builds a narrative around their old album covers.
The album's lead single “Bushido” is definitely one of the strongest on the album. With some pretty spellbinding guitar work, the song is carried well with a pretty great sing-along and powerful chorus. Anthemic and fun, how could you not like it.
Two very interesting tracks on the album would be “Ex Inferis” & “Evil Incarnate.” Taking a darker lyrical stance, the band talk about Satan and evil and stuff, which is a big step away from warriors and templars of steel. The songs musical styles have heavier riffs and “Evil Incarnate” even has some death growls spreading on it.
My favorite song on the album would probably be “Winter Is Coming.” Now, I am a big “Game of Thrones” fan so this is a little biased, but other than that, I do think this is one of the most unique songs in Hammerfall's catalogue. Showing off a great vocal performance from Joacim and a pretty cool slow arrangement, the song is pretty epic.
One of the cheesiest songs on the album and probably one of the most enjoyable songs would have to be “Tainted Metal.” A great sing along chorus with some cheesy moments and oddly funny lyrics, you gotta love the pure nostalgia of this tune. One of the fastest tracks on the album too.
One of the oddest tracks on the album would have to be “Wildfire.” With an odd and rather epic chorus with some pretty cool choir sections, the song has a rather symphonic approach to it. One of the most interesting tracks Hammerfall has ever made.
Overall, this is pretty much a return to form. The band still have a slight edge to their sound from their past releases, but the cheesiness and anthems are back. If you want to put on some leather, grow your hair and bang your fist into the air, this is an album for you.
Genres: Power Metal, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Fist, Speed Metal, Symphonic Metal
Country of origin: Sweden
Year of release: 2014
Album · 2014 ·
Going in to (r)Evolution (2014), the 9th full length album by Hammerfall, I was a bit nervous. Unlike most Hammerfall fans, I had been perfectly happy with their recent output. In fact, as much I liked the speed and energy of albums like Legacy of Kings (1998) and Renegade (2000), Infected (2011) quickly became my favorite album, due to its powerful sound, crushing riffs and the overall darker tone which felt like a welcome change from their typical cheesy fantasy themes. Of course, most of their fans completely disagree with me, and considered their last two albums to be by far their worst. So it's no surprise that they decided to return to their roots with (r)Evolution. The result is an album that would have fit in perfectly with the stronger albums from their middle period, especially Crimson Thunder (2002) and Threshold (2006), while still containing enough small elements of Infected to keep me happy.
(r)Evolution isn't the total return to the roots that the marketing and other reviews would make you think it is. While their first three albums emphasized the power metal elements of their music, and their last two albums switched to more of a heavy metal sound, this album is closer to their middle albums, which struck a fairly even balance between the two. So while fans of their early albums will find a few songs to be very excited about, I doubt they will like this as much as either Glory to the Brave (1997) or Legacy of Kings. If anything, the glorious, ultra speedy opener “Hector's Hymn” could cause fans to suffer from unrealistic expectations that the rest of the album can't quite live up to: It sounds like classic Hammerfall through and through, complete with lyrics that celebrate their earlier albums while worshipping the hammer wielding Hector, who appears on all but one of their album covers (his absence from the cover of Infected was another thing their fans criticized.)
While I tend to prefer for power metal bands to play really fast, I find Hammerfall pulls off their mid-tempo songs just as well, if not better than their speedy songs. When I first heard the single “Bushido”, my expectations shot up a bit, as it's exactly what I wanted: A strong main riff, mixed with epic vocal melodies and an absolutely spectacular chorus, that proves that even though Joacim Cans sounds a bit rougher than he did in their early years, he can still sing the epic melodies as well as ever. As always, he remains one of my favorite features of the band.
The rest of the album isn't quite as good as those two songs, but it's still excellent overall. Fans of their early albums have a few excellent speedy songs to enjoy, including “Live Life Loud”, “We Won't Back Down” and “Origins”, with that last one in particular reminding me a lot of Freedom Call, especially during the chorus. On the heavy metal side, songs like “Ex Inferis” and “Evil Incarnate” sound like they came straight from Infected, with a focus on slow, crushing riffs and the same dark and sinister tone that album had the whole way through. The former in particular is one of my favorites on the album. Elsewhere, the title track is simply a straight-forward and somewhat cheesy mid-tempo track, with rather silly lyrics, but it has so much energy to it that it still works anyway. On the weaker side, the ballad “Winter is Coming” doesn't really go anywhere, and the closing track “Wildfire” sounds like an experiment gone awry. While it is one of the fastest songs on the album, the slightly irritating main riff and electronic effects instantly threw me off, and while the repetitious chorus powered by choir vocals is something I'd usually like, on a Hammerfall album it simply sounds strange and out of place, even a bit annoying.
Despite that one big misfire, and the overall feeling that the band may be trying too hard to please everyone instead of just playing what they really want to play, (r)Evolution is another excellent Hammerfall album, that contains a perfectly even split between their two styles. I personally prefer Infected and their earlier albums because those were all more focused and cohesive compared to this one, but in the end (r)Evolution is a collection of 9 solid to excellent songs, one good song and only one misfire, which is certainly nothing to complain about.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/hammerfall-r-evolution-t3748.html)
Movie · 2013 ·
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.
Movie · 1997 ·
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