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 (shared with US Power Metal & Neoclassical Metal):
  • DippoMagoo (leader)
  • adg211288
  • Sisslith

power metal top albums

Showing only albums and EPs | Based on members ratings & MMA custom algorithm | 24 hours caching

HELLOWEEN Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II Album Cover Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II
HELLOWEEN
4.50 | 116 ratings
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JUDAS PRIEST Painkiller Album Cover Painkiller
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4.48 | 121 ratings
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SABATON Heroes Album Cover Heroes
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4.80 | 7 ratings
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HELLOWEEN Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I Album Cover Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I
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4.44 | 95 ratings
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ORION'S REIGN Scores of War Album Cover Scores of War
ORION'S REIGN
4.85 | 5 ratings
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SEVEN KINGDOMS Brothers of the Night Album Cover Brothers of the Night
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4.72 | 7 ratings
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NIGHTMARE The Dominion Gate Album Cover The Dominion Gate
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4.80 | 5 ratings
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ARMORY Empyrean Realms Album Cover Empyrean Realms
ARMORY
4.68 | 6 ratings
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TRIOSPHERE The Heart of the Matter Album Cover The Heart of the Matter
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4.67 | 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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3 INCHES OF BLOOD Fire Up the Blades Album Cover Fire Up the Blades
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4.53 | 9 ratings
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power metal Music Reviews

SABATON The Great War

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Kev Rowland
The Swedes are back, doing what they do very well indeed, providing bombastic power metal with lyrics pertaining to their favourite subject, war. This time around we have two versions to choose from, namely a standard release and the “History Edition”. The difference between the two is the former has just the music, while the latter has some spoken explanation between each piece so that the listener has some of the background. I was somewhat surprised to see they had done this, as I would have thought the History Edition was the way to go, but I guess there are some who just want the music, and others who will have to buy both so in terms of sheer commerciality it makes good sense.

The narrator is Bethan Dixon Bate, and she provides just the right amount of gravitas to the role, not adding any excitement as there is no need – as soon as she finishes peaking the war machine which is Sabaton are there to take over. This is another band who always produce a huge sound, with singer Joakim Brodén both at the head of the band and also at the helm as he is tasked with ensuring the sound is just right. I note with interest that one of the supporting singers is Floor Jansen, I bet she had a blast. Multi-tracked backing vocals makes one think that at times they have a huge choir supporting them, and they would need to be big indeed to cope with the over the top (boys we go!) approach. But even though it is a huge sound there is always a tremendous sense of melody, and music which really grooves along. This is metal with purpose, not a direct assault to the sense but rather one that ensures the listeners keep turning up the volume so the neighbours can also join in the fun.

The guitars are quite intricate, while the rhythm section keeps it nailed to the floor, and all one can do is smile even though the subject is no laughing matter whatsoever. Sabaton have long set out their stall, as they play a certain type of metal with a certain type of lyric, but there is no-one in this particular field who can live with them. Sabaton continue to deliver the goods some 20 years on, and long may it continue.

BROTHERS OF METAL Emblas Saga

Album · 2020 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
DippoMagoo
Whenever a band makes a truly impressive debut, it’s very exciting, and yet it can also raise the stakes for any future releases the band makes, as fans hope for them to build on their successes and potentially come up with something even better. The single best debut I’ve heard in recent years was Prophecy of Ragnarok from Swedish power metal band Brothers of Metal, who self-released the album in April 2017, before being signed to AFM, who gave the album a much deserved worldwide release in November 2018. The release was as perfect as a debut can be, with the band presenting a fully fleshed out collection of songs, stylistically falling somewhere in between the epic power metal of Sabaton, and the “true metal” attitude of Manowar, tying it all together with Viking themed lyrics and imagery. I was simultaneously blown away, yet also curious to know if it would even be possible for the band to match such a strong debut, let alone top it. With their much-anticipated sophomore release, Emblas Saga, set for release this coming January, and after giving it several listens, I now have the answer I was looking for: I’ll go into full detail below, but the short of it is, YES, the band has done it!

Like its predecessor, Emblas Saga has a very distinct feel to it, with a base sound that falls somewhat in line with epic power metal bands like Sabaton and Powerwolf, but with a greater emphasis on symphonic arrangements, some folk elements, and a much more ambitious vocal setup. Musically, there’s a wide variety of tracks, just as on the debut, with a good mix of slow, powerful heavy metal, some more mid-paced melodic metal, some very speedy power metal, some more folk-infused tracks, and a couple of ballads. The one thing this album has that wasn’t found on the debut is a slightly longer, near-epic length title track, which is far more complex and ambitious than anything the band had previously attempted, and I’ll describe it further below, but needless to say, it delivers! While everything sounds perfect musically, with the guitars being suitably intense and melodic when needed, the folk melodies being beautiful, the symphonic arrangements being epic, and the production sounding powerful and crystal clear, the strongest aspects of the release are still the vocals and overall songwriting.

As before, the band has three vocalists, with Mats Nilsson largely being relegated to some incredibly epic backing vocals, as well as some of the best narration I’ve ever heard on a metal album, while Ylva Eriksson and Joakim Lindback Ericksson share lead vocal duties. Both leads are as impressive as ever before, with Joakim sounding wilder and more intense than ever, sometimes coming pretty close to death growls, while still sounding smooth, and Ylva’s deep, powerful yet also very smooth and accessible vocals are every bit as strong as on the debut. If anything, the latter is given more room to work with on this album, as Joakim is used more for harmonies a lot of the time (which are every bit as awesome as before), while Ylva tends to take the lead throughout most of the tracks, where she gets to shine, as she’s allowed to experiment a bit with different vocal styles, at times, including some far more aggressive vocals than anything we heard from her on the debut. Just like before, both vocalists are amazing on their own, but sound at their absolute best when paired together, and as talented as they are, credit must also be given to the material they’re working with, as some of the vocal melodies on this album are absolutely out of this world good, and quite a few tracks already left me stunned after just the first listen.

I’ve already hinted at it enough, so I’ll just get to the point and say: The songs on Emblas Saga are all perfect, as the album manages to have both some of the most diverse songwriting I’ve heard on a recent power metal album, as well as some of the most consistently catchy, melodic, epic and most memorable overall.

There’s a little something for everyone here, but more than that, there’s almost certainly something you may not think you’ll want until you hear it and then wish other bands could do something like it. The album opens with an epic intro track, titled “Brood of the Trickster”, which has some great cinematic orchestral arrangements, to go along with some awesome narration, which introduces the overarching concept of the album. I generally dislike narration on albums, but it’s handled perfectly here, only appearing on the intro and then briefly during a few later tracks, and it’s very dramatic and epic, while also being very well performed.

Following that epic intro, the first full song is “Powersnake”, a slow, hard-hitting track, which starts with some epic symphonic arrangements, heavy riffs, and epic chanting vocals, before settling into a nice rhythm for the opening verses, with pounding drums and awesome vocals by both leads. The track has some wonderful melodies, with the chorus being equal parts catchy and very melodic, and then in the second half, there’s a beautiful softer, folk-infused section, followed by awesome choral vocals and an amazing guitar solo. The track didn’t blow me away at first, but over time it’s become a favorite, and it gets the album off to an amazing start. Next is “Hel”, a fairly heavy, guitar-driven track with some insanely epic chanting early on, before speeding up for the opening verse. The track alternates between heavy, fast-paced verses, and a slow, beautiful chorus, with wonderful vocal harmonies, and while it’s another track that took a few listens to grab me, once it did, it sure never let go.

Being honest, the first song that blew me away on my initial listen was “Chain Breaker”, another speedy, hard-hitting track, which has a very classic metal feel to it. Joakim takes the lead with some wild, intense vocals during the verses, and then the chorus is frantic, heavy and by far the wildest moment the band has produced so far, with even Ylva coming close to screaming, and it very much has a classic heavy metal feel to it, awesomely. At the same time, the band manages to fit in some very nice melodic passages, both instrumentally and vocally, to help contrast the more intense moments, and so it ends up being an insanely addictive track. While that track is awesome enough, the real magic begins with “Kaunaz Dagaz”, one of the most wonderfully melodic and beautiful power metal tracks I’ve ever heard, while still being intense and fast-paced. It opens with a wonderful soft section, complete with some very beautiful vocals from Ylva, before speeding up and then giving way to some wonderful melodic guitar work, which falls close to the folk territory, except played entirely on guitar, and both the tone and melodies performed here are incredible. The track continues to pick up momentum with some epic harmonies during the verses, and then the chorus is absolutely beautiful, catchy, epic and just plain amazing in every possible way, all while being upbeat and fairly fast-paced, and the guitar solo in the second half is technically solid and quite nice sounding, while the sped-up final run through the chorus is pure gold. Overall, it’s an incredible track, and it certainly sounds unlike pretty much anything I’ve heard from a power metal band before. It’s hard to put into words what sounds different about it, but there’s just a little something to it that feels somewhat familiar, yet unfamiliar at the same time, and I love it.

Back to the more common, but still awesome territory, “Theft of the Hammer” is a rather comical tale, with hilarious lyrics, while the track moves along at a nice pace, not overly fast but still quite upbeat. Joakim takes lead again during the verses and delivers some intense, yet rather comedic vocals, which fit the track perfectly, while the chorus has more excellent harmonies, and is very catchy and extremely fun, while the second half has an excellent harmonized vocal section, and more epic narration. Overall, it’s a very fun track. Next is the first ballad, “Weaver of Fate”, which is largely driven by some wonderful acoustic guitar work and some nice, epic symphonic arrangements. It’s the quieter of the two ballads and has Ylva singing at her softest and most beautiful, which of course works perfectly, as she delivers a powerful, emotional performance, especially during the amazing chorus, while the guitar work gets pretty epic in the second half. While it’s only my second favorite of the two ballads on this album, it’s still an amazing track, for sure, and it’s just a testament to how good the second ballad is than any knock against this one. The first single from the album is “Njord”, a slow, but heavy and intense track, with some nice folk melodies, epic symphonic arrangements, stomping riffs, and a wonderful chorus, with excellent vocal melodies. The two leads both do a wonderful job throughout, and it’s a fun, epic and very catchy track.

The biggest surprise on the album is the title track, which begins with some wonderful chanting vocals from Ylva, which give way to some epic narration. The song is fairly slow-paced but does a great job of alternating between heavy parts, with some great riffs, and some melodic sections with wonderful melodies. The verses have alternating lead vocals, with both vocalists doing a terrific job, and they perform in a way that feels more like a musical, leaning heavily into the storytelling, while the chorus is epic, melodic, and extremely catchy, as usual. The track has some complex arrangements and takes some surprising turns in the second half, with plenty of memorable moments, including an extremely epic final run through the chorus, and while the band attempts a lot here, they manage to pull everything off perfectly, so it’s up being both their most ambitious track to date, as well as one of their absolute best. Moving towards the end, “Brothers Unite” is a rather laid back, though still upbeat track, with some very epic drum work, as well as more amazing symphonic arrangements, and some very triumphant sounding melodies.

It’s a very fun, catchy and wonderfully melodic track, with some of the best-harmonized vocals on the entire album, as Joakim gets quite intense at points, while the choral vocals towards the end are stunning, and t’s a wonderful track, overall. The second ballad on the album, as well as the second single, is “One”, and this is a much more epic, cinematic ballad compared to the earlier ballad, starting with some epic vocals from Joakim during the verses, which give way to possibly the single best chorus I’ve heard this year, and the band goes all out with some incredible vocal melodies and uplifting lyrics, for one of the most emotional, powerful, epic, and just overall beautiful choruses I’ve ever heard on a ballad. It’s an unbelievably epic track from start to finish, with everything from the symphonic arrangements to the vocals, to the lyrics, to the dramatic narration and the guitar solo in the second half all being incredible. In another review, I mentioned “Where the Wild Wolves Have Gone” by Powerwolf being possibly my favorite metal ballad in recent years, and this track is right up there with that, as it’s an absolute masterpiece.

Moving back to the speedy territory, “Ride of the Valkyries” (which has nothing to do with Richard Wagner) is a heavy, intense track with some of the best guitar work on the album, both from the riffs and excellent melodic solo work in the second half. It charges along at a frantic pace and has more intense vocals and epic melodies, as well as one of the most fun, catchy choruses on the album. It’s one of the most energetic tracks, for sure, and is another instant favorite. Closing out the album is “To the Skies and Beyond”, another mid-paced, but very upbeat track, with triumphant lyrics and melodies, as well as more epic symphonic arrangements and beautiful folk melodies. Early on, there are some beautiful softer passages, and the verses are very light and melodic, while the chorus has some vocal melodies that are just so damn emotional, epic and beautiful, they feel too good to be of this world. The track gets more upbeat and epic as it goes on, with the end sequence, in particular, being stunning, with Ylva giving an incredible vocal performance, while Joakim continues to provide some outstanding harmonies.

I know this review has been repetitive in praising the vocal harmonies, melodies and overall epic feel and awesomeness of this album, but that is because words fail to do the music justice, at this point, and I’m pretty much at a loss on what to say, except that this album and band are just absolutely incredible! Brothers of Metal immediately left their mark on the genre back in 2017 with their debut, and Emblas Saga builds on that release, presenting another diverse collection of songs, which further explores everything that made the band’s debut so special while going even further and at times showing new sides to the band. Fans of the debut, as well as fans of Sabaton or Powerwolf, are highly recommended to give this a listen, and anyone looking for the next big thing in power metal should pay attention, as I don’t see how any other new or upcoming bands can match this! Brothers of Metal have already proven themselves more than worthy of entering Valhalla, but hopefully, Odin allows them to stay on Earth for a while longer yet, so they can give us mere mortals more wonderful music to enjoy!

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/12/14/brothers-of-metal-emblas-saga-review/

LOVEBITES Clockwork Immortality

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Warthur
Awakening From Abyss, Lovebites' debut album, instantly established the power metal credibility of an act whose stage attire initially seemed more appropriate to a poppier context (though they've been evolving that more recently). This second album isn't quite the intense power metal hit which the debut was, and I get the impression the band are taking the opportunity to spread their wings stylistically.

In particular, there seem to be a few more symphonic-esque moments, a few more ballad-esque moments, and in particular a few more pop hooks. Make no mistake, though, they've not abandoned their power metal roots in the slightest and the compositions here are always at least nine-tenths that - they're just experimenting a bit with that last tenth. The end result is an album which is solidly performed and varied enough in its sound to stay interesting, but doesn't quite offer anything as eye-opening as the original. Still, with their music clearly evolving here, I hold out hopes that Lovebites will continue to evolve and refine their sound in future.

HUMAN FORTRESS Reign of Gold

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
DippoMagoo
For the first time in a while, it seems safe to say German power metal band Human Fortress have fully settled down, and stabilized their lineup. To say the band had some struggles following their acclaimed second album, Defenders of the Crown, would be a massive understatement, as that led to a massive lineup change, followed by the widely reviled Eternal Empire. Following that, the band was on hiatus for a while, before returning with the excellent comeback album, Raided Empire, with a largely changed lineup. They then released Thieves of the Night three years later, which followed suit, and now three more years later, the band is set to release their sixth full-length album, Reign of Gold, which marks the first time the band has ever gone three straight albums with the same lineup. With all that said, I was expecting great things from the album, and for the most part, it delivers.

Fans of past albums from the band should have a good idea of what to expect, as Reign of Gold very much falls in line with the previous two releases, especially, while at times showing traces of some of the more experimental work on their first two albums. Musically, this is at times some very hard-hitting power metal, while at other times being remarkably restrained, with the tempos varying greatly from track to track. Songwriting is great, for the most part, with a few tracks being especially amazing, while a couple of others fall a bit short. For the most part, it’s largely a guitar-driven album, with duo guitarists Torsten Wolf and Volker Trost providing some excellent riffs, solos, and melodic guitar work, while Dirk Liehm’s keys are largely in the background, setting the mood and adding to the atmosphere for most tracks. Performances are strong across the board, with Gus Monsanto sounding as powerful, yet smooth as always, and while a couple of tracks have some weak choruses, he still does the best he can with them, and shines through on many other tracks, sounding suitably intense at points, while also using his awesome, soaring power metal vocals at other points. My one complaint about the overall sound is that the production seems a bit weaker and less polished compared to what I’m used to hearing from the band. It doesn’t sound bad, but guitars don’t quite have the same crunch as normal, and drums are barely audible, at times.

The most important part of any album is, of course, the songwriting, and for the most part, Reign of Gold delivers in that area. Following a nice, brief intro track, “Thunder” kicks things off in fine form, with an epic tease at the chorus, followed by a fairly mid-paced opening verse, with nice drum beats and powerful vocals. The song moves along at a nice pace and has one of the strongest choruses on the album, as well as some of Monsanto’s most powerful vocals, and it sets the bar very high for the rest of the album, while the melodic guitar solo in the second half is brief but quite nice. Next is the title track, which moves at a faster pace during the verses, with more intense drumming, nice rhythm guitar work and some nice keys leading the way. The chorus is when things pick up, though, as what sounds like a second vocalist takes the lead, with some very wild and intense vocals, to go along with some outstanding lyrics and vocal melodies, which help make it easily the best chorus on the entire album. The solo in the middle is very melodic, somewhat classic heavy metal style, and is much more extended than the one on the opening track. Overall, it’s one of the best tracks on the album.

Next is one of the more experiment tracks, “Lucifer’s Waltz”, a darker, slower-paced and more atmospheric track. Aside from a heavy main riff, this track is quite restrained, instead opting for a more laid back, atmospheric approach, with a strong focus on keys and symphonic elements to set the tone. The verses are nice, with a foreboding feel to them, but the choruses fall quite flat and just don’t have to do anything to grab attention, as one would expect. Overall, it’s not one of my favorites, but it’s an interesting track, for sure, and I can see some people loving it. Next is “Bullet of Betrayal”, another slower paced track, though this one has a more upbeat feel to it, with some rather uplifting folk melodies. Verses are slow but fun, and the instrumental work is great throughout, but again, the chorus falls a bit flat, as the vocal melodies just aren’t very strong, and it’s the one time on the whole album where Monsanto sounds a bit forced. He more than makes up for that on “Shining Light”, though, a beautiful piano ballad with nice use of symphonic elements. The verses are fairly calm and do a great job of setting the tone, while the chorus is also fairly restrained the first time through, but becomes more epic later on, and Monsanto’s performance is equal parts emotional, powerful and just phenomenal all around, while the lyrics and melodies are also fantastic, so it just ends up being an amazing ballad, overall.

Pushing towards the end, another personal favorite is “Surrender”, the heaviest track on the album. It starts with some slow, brutal verses with crushing riffs and intense vocals, before speeding up for an all-out power metal assault during the chorus, with some of Monsanto’s most intense and powerful vocals I’ve ever heard, and the instrumental section in the second half is extremely epic. Next is “The Blacksmith”, which is a bit of a frustrating track. The verses have a slight hard rock edge to them, and the track alternates nicely between speedy and mid-paced passages, while the vocal melodies are strong throughout. However, I find many albums I’ve reviewed lately have had that one track or two where the keyboards bother me, and that’s the case for this track, as the keyboards during the chorus are very distracting, sound awful when mixed in with everything else, and just completely ruin an otherwise great track.

Thankfully, it’s all uphill from there, with all three remaining tracks being fantastic. First up is “Martial Valor”, a slightly folk-influenced heavy metal track, with some pretty heavy riffs during the verses. The track moves along at a slow pace and has some rather intense verses, to go along with an excellent, very melodic chorus, with some fantastic vocal melodies, and it’s one of the catchiest songs on the album, while the folk melodies throughout are quite wonderful. The first single for the album is “Legion of the Damned”, a speedy, hard-hitting symphonic power metal track, which moves along at a frantic pace throughout, with Monsanto showing both his soaring vocals and some more intense, near screaming vocals in equal measure, with everything sounding great, especially during the outstanding chorus. Closing out the album is “Victory”, a mid-paced track with a slight folk feel to it, especially during the chorus. There’s some wonderful melodies throughout the track, as well as some nice riffs, and the chorus is particularly awesome, and one of the catchiest on the album. It’s an excellent track, overall, and a great way to end the album.

Human Fortress has been going strong for these past six years, with their previous two albums being some of their best work ever, and while Reign of Gold hits a couple of speed bumps along the way, it largely follows suit, with an excellent mix of power metal, heavy metal and some symphonic and folk elements sprinkled throughout. Longtime fans of the band should be pleased, while anyone else looking for some great, slightly hard-edged power metal, with a diverse collection of tracks, is also highly recommended to give this a listen. With their lineup seemingly stabilized, at this point, one can only hope the band keeps delivering more and greater albums in the future.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/11/30/human-fortress-reign-of-gold-review/

MAGIC KINGDOM MetAlmighty

Album · 2019 · Power Metal
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DippoMagoo
For the last 20+ years, Belgium guitarist Dushan Petrossi has been a very productive, very reliable musician/songwriter, releasing several excellent, somewhat under the radar, power metal albums between his two main projects, Iron Mask and Magic Kingdom. While the second Iron Mask release, Hordes of the Brave, remains his most highly regarded work to date, nothing he’s released (aside from perhaps the ill-fated Magic Kingdom debut, The Arrival) has been anything less than solid, while most of it has been excellent, and so I always look forward to hearing new music from him. In recent years, he’s been alternating between his two main bands, with the excellent Magic Kingdom album Savage Requiem in 2015, and then the very strong Iron Mask release Diabolica in 2016, and so it’s no surprise to see him back three years later with the fifth full-length Magic Kingdom release, MetAlmighty. While I’ve enjoyed all albums I’ve heard from both bands, MetAlmighty is easily my favorite in recent years, and may have even surpassed Hordes of the Brave to become my all-time favorite!

For fans of either band, this album won’t be much of a surprise, as while Petrossi’s style has evolved a lot over the years, he’s settled down quite a bit on his most recent releases, with each of them striking a nice balance between the many different aspects of his music, and MetAlmighty is no exception. In fact, it may just be his most varied, dynamic release to date, with everything from classic, in your face power metal, to some of his heaviest material to date, to some fun, folk-infused heavy metal, to some epic symphonic power metal, traces of his classic neo-classical power metal sound, some nice melodic metal, and even a very nice ballad. There’s a little something for everyone on this album, and while there’s nothing overly new or original, everything is executed wonderfully, with no less than an excellent song on the entire album. The only criticism I could make against the album is that the production is weaker than I’ve come to expect, with the overall mix feeling a bit muddy. The guitars and vocals still sound excellent, but drums lack a bit of impact, and the overall sound isn’t quite as powerful as I’d like, though it’s still decent. While all musicians do a great job, Petrossi is the star of the show, as always, and his guitar work is as outstanding as ever. He does a bit of everything, from some of his hardest sounding riffs to date, to some classic neo-classical shredding (though it’s limited to quick bursts, for the most part), to some classic heavy metal style galloping riffs, to some excellent solos, as well as some of his softest, most melodic guitar work ever. There’s a lot of variety to the album, and he does a fantastic job with everything he attempts. While the album is very guitar-driven, there are some keyboards here and there, and they’re used nicely as well, and some tracks have some epic symphonic arrangements, as usual.

One thing which has always been true of either Magic Kingdom or Iron Mask is the constant change in vocalists, and so it’s no surprise that MetAlmighty once again has a different voice behind the mic. This time around, Obsession/ex-Loudness vocalist Michael Vescera has lent his voice to the album, and he does an excellent job, as usual. He’s been around for close to four decades, now, singing in many different bands, and so it’s no surprise he sounds comfortable on this album and has given easily my favorite vocal performance on any Dushan Petrossi release to date. He has a deep, powerful voice, and while he has been known to get a bit animated and over the top at times, he’s fairly restrained here, mostly singing very smoothly, and carrying the many epic choruses flawlessly. His voice is naturally very powerful, and so even without going over the top, he’s capable of delivering an intense, fiery performance, and for someone who’s been around as long as he has, he still sounds very energetic, and his voice is still holding up as well as ever.

As amazing an album as MetAlmighty is, it’s somewhat surprising that Petrossi decided to put the absolute best track, right at the beginning. Indeed, opener “Unleash the Dragon” is stunning, from its epic opening orchestral section to its extended instrumental intro that lasts just over three minutes, and then hitting a peak with its glorious chorus and awesome solo section in the second half. This track is perfect from start to finish, with some epic symphonic arrangements, energetic verses with some pummeling rhythm guitars and great vocals, and of course Vescera excels with some epic, soaring vocals during the chorus, and then Petrossi slays during the late instrumental sequence. Everything about the song is just incredible.

While nothing else can top that opening, the remaining tracks don’t leave much behind, either. Next is lead single “Wizards and Witches”, a fairly upbeat, mid-paced power metal track, which falls on the more melodic side of Petrossi’s music. It still has some nice riffs, and fun verses, but the chorus, in particular, is very melodic, very catchy, and the track is quite restrained compared to many of his other tracks, while still being tons of fun, especially the chorus. Slowing things down further is “In the Den of the Mountain Trolls”, an epic folk-infused heavy metal track, which has some very nice folk melodies throughout, and almost feels closer to tavern music than metal for most of its duration, though has a nice rhythm to it, as well as some fun verses, a very catchy chorus, and an excellent solo section, where the tempo briefly picks up, with epic results. I initially wasn’t too sure about the track, but it has grown on me a lot over several listens and is certainly one of the more unique tracks on the album.

Back to speedier power metal territory, second single “Fear My Fury” is a more classic feeling track, moving at a fast and furious pace throughout, with harder riffs than any of the previous tracks, as well as some very energetic verses, a very intense, epic chorus, and an awesome instrumental section with some nods to classical music, as longtime fans would expect. For the next while, the album alternates nicely between fast and slower tracks, with “Rise from the Ashes Demon” slowing things down again. The main melody has a nice Middle Eastern vibe to it, while the guitar work alternates between slow, heavy chugs during the verses and some nice melodic classic heavy metal style sections during the chorus. It’s a fairly laid backtrack, but again has a nice rhythm to it, and the chorus is very nice. Speeding things up again, the title track is one of the most straight-forward power metal tracks here, with some nice, melodic rhythm guitars, speedy tempos throughout, and a very fun, fast-paced chorus, as well as some excellent solo work in the second half. Unsurprisingly, the next track, “So Fragile”, is a return to softer, more subdued territory, and it’s one of the most laid back tracks here, falling closer to melodic metal than anything else. It has some nice symphonic arrangements, and some beautiful melodic lead guitar work, as well as an especially melodic, epic and very smoothly sung chorus, which stands as one of the best on the album. It’s a very nice track, overall.

While the second half isn’t quite as strong as the first half, overall, there are two big standouts to be found, the first of which is “Temple of No Gods”, another very classic sounding track, with a nice mix between slow-paced, intense verses with nice symphonic arrangements, a very fast, catchy and melodic chorus, and an excellent neo-classical influenced solo section. The lone ballad of the album is “Just a Good Man”, a very beautiful, heavily symphonic track, with epic arrangements, strong vocals, and some very beautiful guitar work throughout, especially in the second half, while Vescara gives a very smooth, emotional and powerful vocal performance.

The second big standout in the second half is “Dark Night, Dark Thoughts”, the most neo-classical influenced track on the album, where just the lead guitar work alone should bring back fond memories of some of Petrossi’s classic works, while the song overall has a frantic pace, with intense verses, a very catchy, melodic chorus, and some of his absolute best guitar work. It’s definitely an instant classic, and one I’m sure longtime fans of his are sure to love. Closing out the album is “King Without a Crown”, which alternates nicely between some slow, melodic verses and a speedy, epic chorus, with some excellent symphonic arrangements used throughout. While it’s not as intense as the previous track, it’s still very fun and enjoyable, overall, and it closes the album out nicely.

Dushan Petrossi never disappoints, and while Magic Kingdom seemed to have been pushed to the background for a while, that seems to have changed, with Savage Requiem being a nice comeback album, and now MetAlmighty is perhaps his absolute best album to date! It’s certainly one that should please his fans, as it has a bit of everything, with some excellent classic power metal, traces of his signature neo-classical guitar flourishes, some epic symphonic arrangements, some more melodic moments and bursts of heavy metal. It’s one of his most varied releases to date and has some of the best, most consistent songwriting to date. Any power metal fan is highly recommended to give this album a release, as enough is going on that anyone interested in the genre should at least find something to like, and everything is executed near perfectly. I always enjoy Petrossi’s music, and if anything, this may be my absolute favorite album he’s ever released, and so I hope he can keep the magic going for many more years to come!

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/11/21/magic-kingdom-metalmighty-review/

power metal movie reviews

HELLOWEEN United Alive

Movie · 2019 · Power Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
Imagine a Judas Priest show with both Tim Ripper Owens and Rob Halford singing together. No wait… Imagine a Sepultura show with both Max Cavelera and Derick Green singing. No wait, that’s not even it. I’ve got it… Imagine an Iron Maiden show with Paul Dianno, Bruce Dickinson and Blaze Bailey all singing. Well, maybe, if Dickinson had left after four albums and Blaze had been there ever since. Ok, Now swap out the zombie mascot for some comedy pumpkins and you’re approaching the situation here. Helloween, one of Germany’s biggest and most important bands, one of the most iconic Power Metal bands in history, with one of the most impressive family trees (Gamma Ray, Masterplan, Freedom Call, Unisonic, Iron Savior etc) make one of the most anticipated decisions in the history of the genre.

Who is your favourite Helloween singer? Is it Kai Hansen, the heaviest singer and the original? Is it Michael Kiske, the most technically accomplished and the one from their most iconic record? Or is it Andi Deris, their best frontman and the singer on the most albums? – Turns out, now you don’t have to choose. United Alive, the live video from the Pumpkins United tour sees all three join the stage together, cracking out a career spanning mixture of material from the earliest thrashiest material to the modern gems, with all the iconic genre defining masterpieces from the peerless Keepers’ era sprinkled in too.

There are over 20 tracks here (some are intros and solos, and some are medleys/combinations, but still…) that’s a lot of Helloween. All three singers take it turns to sing. Sometimes not even a song each, but rather dividing it up section by section inside each song, or all at once. It is very welcome to hear them back on some of their own tracks like ‘Heavy Metal Is The Law’ after not hearing it on the other live videos, or ‘Dr. Stein’ after having heard only Deri’s take on it previously. Conversely it is very interesting to see Kai or Kiske sing on some of the big commercial ‘90s/’00s hits like ‘Perfect Gentleman’ or ‘If I Could Fly.’

There are often 7 members on stage at the one time (or 8 if you count the keyboardist, Eddy Wrapiprou). There’s Weikath and Grosskopft on guitar and bass as always. Sascha Gerstner and Daniel Löble on guitar and drums like the last several albums. And the three aforementioned singers (with Kai also playing guitar).

There’s a mix of footage, ranging from headline shows in Madrid, Spain to festival appearances at Wacken and in Brazil. Sort of like they did already on their previous ‘Legacy World Tour 2005/2006 DVD.

Normally I really prefer a concert DVD to come from one single show, rather than complied from a series of different dates in different places with different lighting, sound and camera work, but given that the band itself is now a compilation of past and present members and some of the songs included are medleys, I don’t know why but it just works here.

The band put on a great show. There’s a lot going on. There’s video screens, a big pumpkin stage set piece around the drum kit (which has 4 kickdrums for some reason, just to add to the over-the-top feel of it all), a light show, and a few cheesy moments like members coming out dressed in a top hat and cane, or raining pumpkin balloons.

Deris, ever the consummate front man is great at revving up the crowd, and then the different members get spotlights for certain tunes and join up on others, there’s prolonged solo segments, a tribute to late drummer Ingo Schichtenberg, its all very diverse and entertaining. They even do a stripped-down bare bones version of the ballad ‘Forever And One’ straight after a super heavy Walls Of Jericho/EP medley, which pretty much shows both polar opposites of the band’s varied discography.

There’s multiple different ways you can buy it. DVD, Blu Ray, combinations thereof. Versions with CDs. The version I got it two Blu Rays. One with the concert and one with a load of extra footage. There’s a few extra songs (Including the underrated ‘Kids Of The Century’ from the oft maligned Pink Bubbles Go Ape album). There’s a bunch of behind the scenes footage looking at various aspects of the tour and production. It comes in a nice shiny digi-book with some brief liner notes and a glossy photo booklet. You know, just as if it wasn’t value for money enough already with an almost three-hour concert of a Helloween fan’s wildest fantasy line-up.

As a concept you really have to hand it to them; its quite a clever move to reuinite with past members without losing current members as some fans never got over Kiske leaving the band or only ever even tried the Keepers albums. Some fans really love the Kai era and you never get to see Helloween play much material from it anymore (you only really get the chance if he chucks one in to a Gamma Ray show some time). Its a great idea to reel them back in and show them how great the Deris era can be too. Come for ‘Halloween’ and ‘Future World’ but stay for ‘Sole Survivor’ and ‘Power’ then learn to love the Deris era if you don’t already.

Thankfully though, its not just the concept that’s good. The whole package is good. The sound, footage, editing and bonus material. Most importantly though, the performance. It doesn’t come across as a novelty cash grab, it really feels like a jubilant celebration. As they say in the opening track ‘Halloween’ ”There’s magic in the air.” This may be cheesy to say (but hey, if you like Helloween, you better be used to cheesy) but it really is a heavy metal dream come true. Buy it!

BETO VÁZQUEZ INFINITY 15 Years Alive LTD Edition

Movie · 2016 · Power Metal
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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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