A Beginner's Guide To Power Metal
Why do I listen to Power Metal? I could probably just put
it down to the fact that it's an uplifting kind of music that basically makes
you feel good. So what is power metal? Well this heavy metal genre could most
easily be labeled as speeded up metal music, but then again so could thrash
metal and other genres. Power metal isn't that easy to describe while it does
contain significant speed at times, many cross styles in their recording and
power metal predominately features clean vocals. The instruments used do vary as
some groups include a mixture of keyboards and guitars, where as others prefer a
more guitar focused sound, and brisk dual kick drumming is featured highly,
though some players do get quite technical and mix it up more than the usual
Power metal's influences can be heard with bands that
also play symphonic, thrash, death, epic, progressive and neo classical metal.
Since its early days power metal has evolved so much, and it's getting to the
stage where it is harder to distinguish what kind of band you are listening to.
You also find as power metal bands are spread over the globe distinct styles
shine through, like the epic and speed fuelled music of many Italian bands or
the technical colorful music of Brazil's Angra complemented with ethnic touches,
then there's the heavier style of some US bands like Vicious Rumors.
a look at any list of power metal bands and you soon realize how diverse the
genre is, and why at times arguments could erupt over which bands belong to what
specific genre. For instance take a band like Children Of Bodom; they combine so
much into their albums from death metal, neo classical to power metal, so how do
you possibly define their music? Iced Earth and Helstar are others that are
difficult to label as they delve into heavier power metal territory, but with
other genres like thrash and speed metal in the mix.
Some say power
metal started with the like of Judas Priest and then evolved with others, I
suppose many of those earlier metal bands, Rainbow being another helped
influence what was to come. Back in the 80's the German band Helloween was the
first largely successful Euro power metal band thanks to the excellent Keeper Of
The Seven Keys albums, being THE power metal releases of their time and with
good reason. Helloween were vastly influential as they introduced their style of
power metal to the world. With higher ranged vocals, a harmonious dual guitar
assault and spirited drumming were combined, and their songs were also quite
epic in scope at times, the success of Helloween spawned many others. Grave
Digger was also an early pioneer of power metal and of course the German band
Blind Guardian who went on to become one of the biggest names in metal, with
their blend of speed/power metal.
Bands such as Gamma Ray, Rage, Primal
Fear, Kamelot, Masterplan, Stratovarius, Vision Divine, Hammerfall and Heavenly
continue down similar paths today. While some keep changing like Labyrinth who
after two quite different albums have now returned to a sound more akin to their
earlier releases, and also Sonata Arctica who surprised many with their release
titled Unia as they explored different avenues. Sonata Artica's style has
changed over time and even though they never liked being referred to as a power
metal band, it's hard to deny especially given the style of their earlier
material on Ecliptica and Silence. Then there's Edguy who went from releasing
the fine power metal that made them famous, to churning out more straight
forward melodic music like on their last two studio releases. And to a lesser
degree Avantasia a project by Edguy's vocalist Tobia's Sammet which features
many guest performers, as Avantasia has progressed over the years Tobia's has
taken other influences onboard besides power metal.
If you're looking
for something different and lots of fun then there is pirate power metal,
pioneered by the long running Running Wild, I still remember the first time I
heard "Under Jolly Roger" it was a live version with cannons blazing and sounded
very cool indeed, and we also have the newer band Alestorm flying the flag for
heavy metal pirates everywhere.
Power metal has continued to grow thanks
to those like the very popular band Nightwish, who incorporated power metal with
their symphonic style and female operatic vocals as they took the genre to new
exciting places, then you have other European groups like Rhapsody Of Fire, Dark
Moor, Thy Majestie and Fairyland who play symphonic power metal of the epic
variety. Rhapsody Of Fire are sometimes referred to as Hollywood metal, probably
due to the fact their music would fit right into an epic movie like Lord Of The
Then there is the term "cheese metal" which is often directed at
power metal bands such as Hammerfall, Dream Evil, Rhapsody Of Fire and Manowar
no doubt due to lyrics about the mighty power of the steel and dragons, plus all
their associated attire and artwork, but it's all part of the act and what the
fans want to see and hear.
A heavier ballsy and very catchy side of power
metal has evolved thanks to exciting bands like Brainstorm, Mystic Prophecy and
Firewind who have all recorded some excellent material. While proving once again
that power metal can easily adapt and absorb different styles while still
sounding great, Wuthering Heights and Elvenking are two groups that have added
folk music to their metal with fine results.
The outlook for power metal
is bright with exciting newer bands like Hibria and more recently Sinbreed, and
numerous older acts like Helloween and Gamma Ray still releasing enticing
albums, there is good reason why power metal is still so popular. Those
mentioned are a selection of the bands that play power metal, and part of the
fun is discovering groups for yourself of which there are plenty to be found.
Lastly if you are new to power metal or want to increase your collection
some albums well worth considering are listed below, of course there is a
virtual mountain of others out there waiting to be heard. A lot of which you
will find has been reviewed here at Sea Of Tranquility, as power metal is one of
the genres which many of us enjoy.
Helloween – Keeper Of The Seven
Keys Part 1 or 2 - Helloween's classics, yes they have many other top albums
but these are the most praised that inspired so many others.
– Land Of The Free - Gamma Ray's finest album and I never have to think
twice about that, as the band delivered with Land Of The Free and despite good
efforts they haven't matched it since.
Edguy – Theater Of Salvation
- Many say the prior release Vain Opera Glory is the better Edguy album, but
there is just something about Theater Of Salvation that blew me away and in fact
still does, it's a classic with the lot. A great addition to any metal
Brainstorm – Soul Temptation – With songs like
"Shiva's Tears" this is heavy and wickedly catchy power metal from a great band.
Dark Moor – The Gates Of Oblivion – Wonderful epic power metal.
Kamelot – The Fourth Legacy – One of Kamelot's best with many great
tunes like "Nights Of Arabia".
Sonata Arctica – Silence – Terrific
European power metal release which has it all, for me their recent albums just
Nightwish – Oceanborn - Nightwish's second album is
always the first one that comes to mind if anyone asks which of their release
should they get, even though the band was much younger they really impressed,
and it's still such a great symphonic power metal album.
– King Of The Nordic Twilight – Luca's stellar solo debut is so very good,
always a great listen.
Blind Guardian – Nightfall In Middle Earth
– A must buy for fans of powerful epic concept releases, regarded by many as one
of if not the best Blind Guardian release.
By Scott Jessup