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.

US Power Metal

The first kind of metal to be called power metal was USPM. Developed during the early 1980's, USPM is closer in style to traditional heavy metal compared to European power metal, but typically is a bit faster. It features a hard hitting guitar driven approach and could be said to sit between traditional metal and thrash metal, with which some bands have been known to cross over with more closely, such as Iced Earth. USPM vocalists tend to use high register singing, something which is also heard in European power metal, though it is not considered an essential ingredient in the USPM sound.

USPM acts are sometimes separated into a further two sub-categories:

Blue-collar USPM artists feature a harder, thrashy sound. The artists Helstar, Jag Panzer and Riot are some of the more well known blue-collar USPM acts.

White-collar USPM artists are less hard hitting, adding more melody and progressive elements to the USPM sound and tend to cross over with progressive metal a lot more, with even acts better known as progressive metal acts also belonging to the USPM scene, such as Fates Warning and Queensrÿche. Other white-collar USPM acts would be Crimson Glory and Pharaoh.

European Power Metal

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

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

Sub-genres of Power Metal

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

Symphonic Power Metal: A style of power metal typically only applicable to the European sound, symphonic power metal increases the use of keyboards to create a symphonic backing, drawing on classical music. The use of symphonic elements in such bands can vary greatly with some artists using them as a main element of their sound, such as Rhapsody of Fire, while some merely use symphonic elements to flavour their music, such as Avantasia. Symphonic power metal releases are always placed under power metal on MMA.

Heavy Power Metal: Not to be confused with USPM, which is closer to traditional heavy metal to begin with, this refers to a hybrid of European power metal with traditional heavy metal. Bands are typically less speed orientated than pure melodic power metal acts. HammerFall is a heavy power metal act from Sweden while Nightmare are from France. Some artists which fall into this category featured a harder hitting, more aggressive sound, such as Grave Digger of Germany, but are still considered to belong to the European power metal genre rather than USPM. They are included under power metal on MMA, although some such artists have also made albums more directly rooted in traditional heavy metal and have those tagged accordingly. Some of the older heavy power metal acts, including Grave Digger and Nightmare, started as heavy metal acts before adding power metal into their sounds later in their careers.

Folk Power Metal: The folk metal as a genre can take its metal elements from almost any other metal genre going, including power metal. Elvenking and Falconer are folk power metal bands. They are typically included under folk metal on MMA, but with cases such as Falconer where folk influences are normally minimal per album, they are included under power metal instead. Additionally some power metal artists, especially Blind Guardian but also Grave Digger, have utilised folk influences in their music.

Power-Thrash: A hybrid of power metal and thrash metal, which can be considered sister genres due to both evolving from speed metal. The so called blue collar USPM can also be considered to be power-thrash but the term typically refers to European power metal mixed with thrash metal, although the early work of Iced Earth is considered to be power-thrash. The mix of elements can vary even within the same artist with some being primarily power metal and others primarily thrash metal. As well as Iced Earth, Dark Empire and Paradox have also released power-thrash albums, while some power metal bands have included thrash metal elements in their sound in smaller amounts, such as Seven Kingdoms and Persuader. Power-thrash artists are treated on a case by case basis on MMA, for example Tales of the Weird (2012) by Paradox is placed under thrash metal, but The Fateful dark (2014) by Savage Messiah is placed under power metal.

Progressive Power Metal: Drawing influences from progressive rock and metal music as well as power metal of either the European or US variety, these acts are typically included under power metal on MMA, such as Pyramaze and Kamelot. The exception is when an artist’s progressive influences become the most recognisable thing about their sound. Illusion Suite is an example of such a progressive power metal act. Vandroya and Wuthering Heights are progressive power metal bands, the latter of which also being classifiable under folk power metal.

Neo-classical Power Metal: Melodic power metal that uses neo-classical guitar playing for its lead guitar parts. Magic Kingdom and Concerto Moon are neo-classical power metal acts, while other power metal acts such as Amberian Dawn and At Vance have incorporated aspects of neo-classical metal into their sounds. As there is no neo-classical metal sub on MMA all such acts are placed under power metal by default, while non-power metal based neo-classical acts are typically placed under traditional heavy metal, or sometimes progressive metal, with which there can also be crossover, as with Symphony X.

Extreme Power Metal: This particular sub-genre combines power metal with melodic death metal and covers artists such as Children of Bodom, the first album of Wintersun and to a lesser extent the first album from Seven Kingdoms. Extreme power metal typically features power metal music but with primarily growling vocals rather than power metal’s traditional clean singing. Such artists are treated with a case by case basis as to their placement on MMA. The genre is sometimes also called Power-Death.

Power Metal Inclusive Genres

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

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

- Written by adg211288 (April 2013)

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

power metal top albums

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FALCONER Among Beggars and Thieves Album Cover Among Beggars and Thieves
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HELLOWEEN Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2 Album Cover Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2
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PHARAOH The Longest Night Album Cover The Longest Night
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4.87 | 8 ratings
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ANCIENT BARDS Soulless Child Album Cover Soulless Child
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4.69 | 11 ratings
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SABATON Carolus Rex Album Cover Carolus Rex
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WUTHERING HEIGHTS Far From The Madding Crowd Album Cover Far From The Madding Crowd
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4.60 | 17 ratings
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power metal Music Reviews

DRAGONFORCE Valley of the Damned

Album · 2003 · Power Metal
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aglasshouse
DragonForce is a band that will bring the experience of fantasy and sprawling lands of adventure, all with the power of, well, power metal. Based in the early 2000's, DragonForce's first release of Valley of the Damned has all of the elements of a DragonForce album: long epics that conduct the music in an almost orchestral way and show off every piece of majesty that they can, lyrics speaking of realms far beyond our own, and of course the rage of smashing speed metal to accompany it all.

The one problem that can happen in a DragonForce album such as this is a sense of great repetition, especially in the drumming area. Every song, give or take one or two, have the same beating, insane drum beats. These are of course enjoyable, however it can get slightly stale when the time comes around to listen to the whole album. Because of this you'll probably end up looking for more variation in the vocals from Theart, who is fantastic. His voice fits perfectly in the songs. Even if they all follow the same general composition, he makes up with it for his different styles. Disciples of Babylon, Valley of the Damned, Black Fire, and on several of the other tracks Theart makes everything sound unique, especially on the first song I listed.

In simple terms, Valley of the Damned is a fantastic first effort from DragonForce. Even though much repetition is noticeable, it is something that was cured in the later releases to be sure. A great start to an awesome metal journey.

SANCTUARY Refuge Denied

Album · 1987 · Power Metal
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adg211288
Refuge Denied (1987) is the debut full-length studio album by US power/traditional/thrash metal act Sanctuary. These days Sanctuary is probably better known as the previous (and recently reactivated) band of Nevermore's Warrel Dane and Jim Sheppard, which is a shame, because at least in my opinion Sanctuary is the stronger outfit. It's all a matter of taste of course though. Refuge Denied was produced by Megadeth's Dave Mustaine, who also gets a guest slot on the album.

If there's one thing I see people complain about Refuge Denied, it's Mustaine's production work. I'm not sure I understand what the problem is though, as it seems fairly standard for the genre in question which is the US style of power metal. We're talking strong traditional heavy metal roots compared to the more speed metal influenced European power metal style that was starting to emerge around the same time with Germany's Helloween, as well as quite the thrashy edge. Warrel Dane's vocals on the album are very much in the high register most of the time. It's a singing style that is very much in your face and full of power. Sure, I guess Mustaine's production may seem a little rough and under-polished if you're more used to European power metal, but for a USPM record, this works for me.

The album is not overly long, falling just shy of the forty minute mark with a total of nine tracks. Eight of the tracks are Sanctuary originals while track six is a cover. The cover, which is the track with Dave Mustaine playing guitar, is one of the more unusual choices for a metal artist to record in my experience, being of White Rabbit by US psychedelic rock group Jefferson Airplane. While I can't say I'm a major fan of the original band I do love White Rabbit. It's a classic and something quite far removed from Sanctuary's style. My initial thoughts were that it was going to suck. I couldn't have been more wrong. Sanctuary really make the song their own and it fits in with their original material perfectly. Speaking of which they serve up eight great originals here too. My personal favourites would have to be Termination Force and The Third War, but there are no letups during the album, even when it goes into a slower section such as White Rabbit. Simply put Refuge Denied is exactly like classic USPM should sound like. It's really, really powerful and energetic stuff, not to mention addictive. Every time it ends I want to start it all over again. That's the sign of a truly high class album in my opinion. 5 stars.

HELLOWEEN Better Than Raw

Album · 1998 · Power Metal
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adg211288
Better Than Raw (1998), also known as That Helloween Album with the Saucy Cover (Okay I might have made that up, but if it isn't then why the hell not?) is the eighth full-length album by German power metal act Helloween. It is the band's third album with the Andi Deris (vocals), Michael Weikath (guitars), Roland Grapow (guitars), Markus Grosskopf (bass) and Uli Kusch (drums) line-up. I know a lot of fans still pine for previous singer Michael Kiske but I have to say that this line-up of Helloween was probably the most consistently strong.

I'm not entirely sure what the album title is supposed to refer to, but in musical terms it's not exactly apt, as Better Than Raw actually has more of a raw sound than most power metal acts, especially melodic power metal acts opposed to USPM acts, are typically associated with. The music is not exactly under produced but sound of the guitars is heavier, grittier and overall less polished, especially on a track like Push, the first full song after the symphonic intro piece with a mouthful of a title, Deliberately Limited Preliminary Prelude Period in Z. A very guitar driven and extra aggressive track for Helloween is Push. Deris also delivers some really high register vocals on this one. I'd argue it's almost USPM. The album starts to deliver more of what you'd expect from Helloween after that, but overall Better Than Raw is still one of their heaviest releases. And that's certainly a good thing.

I'd also say it's right up there with their better known albums to be one of their best works. With great tracks such as Push, Falling Higher, Hey Lord!, Midnight Sun and the 8:24 minute Revelation it serves up a lot of highlights. It's a shame that Better Than Raw often seems to get overlooked even when the Andi Deris era of Helloween is being exclusively discussed. It's easily my second favourite with him as the band's vocalist, second only to Gambling with the Devil (2007), which coincidently is another of Helloween's heavier albums. I'd also say it was a massive step up after Master of the Rings (1994) and The Time of the Oath (1996). The more aggressive sound suits them better when Deris is up front in my opinion. They were of course absolutely awesome with Kiske on the two Keeper of the Seven Keys albums (1987/1988), but there's much more to Helloween than those two albums. The Deris era has some real gold too. 5 Stars.

CHRISTOPHER LEE Charlemagne: The Omens of Death

Album · 2013 · Power Metal
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adg211288
In tribute to Sir Christopher Lee (1922 - 2015).

Sir Christopher Lee will no doubt be (rightly) remembered as one of the greats of the big screen and not for his late life interest in metal music and release of his own metal albums, but that doesn't change the fact that it happened and all things considered I don't think it's really all that bad despite the largely negative reception I've seen from other metalheads, but it's music that really needs to be taken in context before any sort of appreciation can be found for it. So first of all, I think some history is in order.

Charlemagne: The Omens of Death (2013) wasn't Lee's first attempt at a metal release. There was another album before this one, Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross (2010). The two releases are essentially the same set of songs (tracks are renamed though, for example The Bloody Verdict Of Verden becomes Massacre of the Saxons) but The Omens of Death has a few new ones tacked onto the end. If this were a movie, you would call it a remake. And there's a good reason for that, the idea behind By the Sword and the Cross was to make a symphonic metal album. But that went wrong and Lee ended up with an album that sounded like a film score with occasional metallic guitars on it. Why did it go so wrong for him on the first go? Because for some reason Lee teamed up with an Italian composer called Marco Sabiu, who was previously known for working with pop artists such as Take That and Kylie Minogue and well, the moral of that story is to never get a pop guy to do a metal guy's job. I actually quite liked By the Sword and the Cross at the time it was released, but it is not primarily a metal release by any stretch of the imagination and I've since lost all interest in it thanks to this much more metal version.

So a few years later comes along The Omens of Death, the extended remake. The songs are the same up until a point, and the vocals were largely lifted from the original sessions. It's probably fair to call that lazy. The music though has been transformed by Judas Priest's Richie Faulkner into a traditional/power metal release. In all honesty the music is rather standard sounding stuff for these genres; if the two albums have anything in common, it's they're releases designed for the full attention to be on the vocals. The vocals are the area that most metalheads seem to have a problem with, and I can understand why, the album is done in such a way that it sounds like it should be performed in theatres rather than be on record. It's a metal opera; with Sir Christopher Lee playing the lead role, with a cast of guest vocalists. The theatrical singing style of the album applies to both Lee and his guests, at least on the songs originally from By the Sword and the Cross, the newer songs I think have a noticeably different vibe. There's even a growler on The Devil's Advocate. It might be true that the singing styles were more suited to what Marco Sabiu originally came up with on By the Sword and the Cross, but it's clear that The Omens of Death is the album that Sir Christopher wanted to make in the first place.

And taken in context, I think it's a pretty good album. Not exactly mind-blowing and certainly an acquired taste, but good. Lee sounded damn impressive as well despite being in his 90's (he was 93 at the time of his death), a real commanding presence on record just as he was in films. Considering Lee's still recent death, the lyrics of the songs are actually pretty thought provoking. He's singing about his own ancestor, First Holy Roman Emperor, King Charlemagne, and playing the ghost of the character, but it wouldn't take much to reapply the lyrics to himself, especially in a track like Let Legend Mark Me as the King.

Though it's not an album for everyone, I for one am pretty happy that Lee got to make it before his passing in 2015. Whether you like the music on not, Sir Christopher Lee proved something with this: that metal is for anyone and everyone and I at least am happy to have The Omens of Death in my metal collection. A four star rating is fairest objectively, I think.

Rest in Peace, Sir Christopher Lee.

BLIND GUARDIAN Somewhere Far Beyond

Album · 1992 · Power Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
Somewhere Far Beyond is one of those masterpiece must-own albums. The 1992 effort was German Power Metal legends Blind Guardian’s fourth full-length studio album and saw the band really hit their stride. Everything about this album is perfectly developed, finely honed and impressively delivered.

Opening with the beyond-catchy “Time What Is Time” the album kicks out powerfully with a brand of Melodic European Power Metal that owes as much to Bay Area Thrash acts like Testament, Exodus and Forbidden as it does to the Neoclassical and NWOBHM legends who usually inspired Power Metal bands of the same generation. People who worry that Power Metal may be too wimpy for them need a stat dose of Blind Guardian. Stylistically this isn’t the band’s most progressive release, but sees the band well on their way to heading in that direction, with a lot of song writing depth and efforts made not to just be straightforward or simplistic. Overall; Its kind of something like listening to Keeper Of The Seven Keys being covered by Kreator.

The album unleashed some of the band’s classic material, such as “The Bard’s Song” “Journey Through The Dark” and the aforementioned “Time What Is Time” and impressively the rest of the album holds up to that high standard; there’s no weak tracks and nothing worth skipping, its just all pure high quality, interesting and well written music filled to the brim with chunky riffs, blistering double-kicks, interesting melodies and catchy choruses.

Highlights include “Theater Of Pain,” “Quest For Tanelorn,” (featuring guest guitar by the legendary Kai Hansen) and the seven-minute title track.

I could go on; but really you just need to hear it for yourself. If you have any interest in Power Metal you either own this already or are probably about to own it soon, all I can really add is another happy convert’s voice to the list of many praising reviews. Give this classic a chance, you won’t be disappointed.

power metal movie reviews

ICED EARTH Live in Ancient Kourion

Movie · 2013 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Kingcrimsonprog
Live In Ancient Kourion is a live concert Blu-Ray from the American Power Metal band Iced Earth. It was filmed at the ancient Kourion Theater in Limasol, Cyprus (a site with a 6,000-year history according to the liner notes) in 2012, in support of the Dystopia album. The line up features Jon Schaffer, Brent Smedley, Troy Steele, Luke Appleton and then-new singer Stu Block.

The career-spanning set contains 27 songs from all eras of the band’s history, in a concert that lasts around 2 hours and 35 minutes. Its pretty great value for money in that regard.

The performance is very strong indeed, with all band members putting down solid performances with no weak links. Stu capably handles the material of previous singers Matt Barlow and Tim Ripper Owens in a suitable but distinctive way. He fits the band perfectly and is immensely talented. Elsewhere; the dual guitar lines and solos are sublime and the drumming is powerful and rock-solid. If you like Iced Earth then this is a really strong and representative example of what they are all about.

Highlights include strong performances of ‘Burning Times,’ ‘Wolf,’ ‘Declaration Day,’ ‘Days Of Rage’ and ‘Dantes Inferno.’ ‘Boiling Point’ and ‘Damien’ are also especially energetic and exciting here – if you were wondering if you’d enjoy this release, then I suggest trying those two tracks out.

The stage design and the simple, tasteful lightshow in conjunction with the well-integrated use of smoke and pyro perfectly complements the band’s meaty, honest approach to Metal music. The crowd get into it and both clap and sing along on many occasions. Sometimes not only singing the words but also the guitar melodies. The concert really shows a confident band delivering their best to an appreciative crowd.

The camerawork and editing are absolutely solid, the audio recording quality and live mix are spot-on and overall this is a very strong release on both the audio and visual fronts. Sometimes you’ll get a DVD with way too many flashy transitions and cheesy editing choices, or the bass guitar missing from the mix, but a lot of care has obviously gone into making this a tasteful and musician-friendly affair. Admittedly I have seen concert Blu-Rays with better picture quality (Sabaton, Gamma Ray, Stratovarius and Hammerfall spring to mind) and here it can be a tiny bit grainy, soft-focus or washed out at times depending on the lighting conditions in the venue at the time however just because better examples exist, it doesn’t mean the picture here is anything to complain about.

In terms of bonus features there are photo galleries (4 minutes of very high resolution photos of the band and the beautiful Cypriot landscape), a 9-minute world tour story (breaking down the logistics involved such as how many guitar picks and flights the band went through) which mixes photos and graphics with interview footage, as well as the 31-minute Documentary feature “The Making Of Live At Ancient Kourion.”

The version I got comes with a slipcase in a digibook-style box which contains booklet featuring photos, credits and liner notes from bandleader Jon Shaffer. It houses the Blu-Ray version, DVD version and CD version of the concert for maximum flexibility.

The Blu-Ray specs are as follows: Region 0, Format 16:9, Audio comes in a choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 or DTS HD Surround 5.1.

Overall; Live In Ancient Kourion, especially this edition, is a very worthwhile release and I whole-heartedly recommend it to fans of the band, or fans of Traditional Heavy Metal and Power Metal in general.

HELLOWEEN Helloween - High Live

Movie · 1997 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
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

ICED EARTH Festivals of the Wicked

Movie · 2011 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
666sharon666
There's a lot of value for your money in this DVD package. Three full festival appearances are included, two with singer Matt Barlow and one with singer Tim "Ripper" Owens. There's also the seemingly customary documentary and all the band's music videos with the exception of the older Desert Rain back from the Night of the Stormrider era, as well as the advert for the Ten Thousand Strong video and photo slideshows. For the price this seems to retail at (I bought it for just £9.99), this is a very worthwhile package for any Iced Earth fan. The one catch is that it in reality looks more than it is, as both the Barlow fronted shows feature a completely identical setlist. It's still a very good value package to get despite this, but 4 stars is all I feel inclined to award it because of the amount of repetition. Still for the very reasonable price, if you like this band, buy it anyway.

(I originally posted this hastily written review here: http://bit.ly/pafvQh )

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