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A Beginner's Guide To Power Metal

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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 standard patterns.

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.

Take 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 Rings.

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.

Gamma Ray 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 collection.

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 don't compare.

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.

Luca Turilli 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

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