Welcome to the third part in our ongoing series of Heavy Blog Is Heavy’s “Best Of” selections where we explore a genre of music and each of our dedicated authors picks a favorite album to share a personal experience with. For our third round, we have once again chosen a genre that is somewhat controversial—Power Metal. This time, the boundaries of the genre are much clearer but the genre itself tends to get a lot of heat.
To be sure, the golden age of Power metal is possibly over. The 90’s brought a slew of bands into what was then a young genre, born from a freaky combination between heavy metal, glam and the emerging emphasis on speed and technicality that was sweeping over the metal world. In that sense, Power Metal is one of metal’s responses to the the 90’s and all that they brought to western culture and aesthetics. However, how relevant is the genre today? Well, we’ve recently had two brilliant releases that are definitely well within the boundaries of this style, so we thought we’d shed some more light on the great albums that can be found in Power Metal among the less…tasteful examples. Without further ado, here is Heavy Blog’s Best Of Power Metal!
Edguy – Hellfire Club
I am literally dancing as I’m writing this. Hellfire Club is one of my all time favorite albums, and an important way-stone in the long career of Edguy, exactly because of its commitment to groove and dynamics. Sure, you’ll find plenty of glass shattering screams and screeching solos but this album is, at heart, one about making you move. Whether it’s Sammet’s insanely infectious vocals or simply the composition, this album kicks, punches and damn right pops. Taking classic power metal elements and infusing them with the iconic Edguy approach, it’s simply one anthem after the other. ‘The Piper Never Dies’ is a perfect example of this: Tobias is insanely varied, the guitars are emotion-laden and the bass is so on spot that it alone is what Edguy is all about: power filled, electrified music punching right into your heart.
Recommended track: The Piper Never Dies
Keep of Kalessin – Reptilian
In case no one has noticed, I like to push the boundaries with these lists. I like including bands that are on the fringe of the genre, with a unique take on the sound. Keep of Kalessin are a progressive black metal band with heavy power metal influences, with Reptilian being the album that these influences are most obvious. Powerful choruses, lyrics about dragons and fantasy lands, unashamedly cheesy riffs – they’ve got all the staples. But they also bring in elements of their black metal background, with blast beats, screaming, darker tones and tremolo picking. The resulting mix is a perfect blend of all these elements. The songs are full of memorable riffs that progress beautifully, taking the listener up and bringing them down in a rollercoaster of emotions. Guitarist Obsidian Claw’s insane fast-paced riffing is instantly recognizable and catchy, and his style is what defines this album. Reptilian is a unique gem full of great moments and is one of my favorite albums of all time.
Recommended track: The Awakening
Lost Horizon – A Flame to the Ground Beneath
Lost Horizon are a band that few people have heard of, and that’s a terrible crime. Even if you’re not a power metal fan, Daniel Heiman’s absolutely jaw-dropping vocal performance on A Flame to the Ground Beneath is something anyone can appreciate. The rest of the band don’t just go through the motions, either, injecting a progressive vibe into what could otherwise easily have been just another stale power metal album. The highlight of all of this, however, is the nearly 12 minute track Highlander (The One), that features some of the most impressive falsettos ever put to record near the end. It’s a real shame that this band, and especially the lineup that recorded this album, didn’t stick around to grace us with more music, but what we have is simply amazing, and that’s why I think A Flame to the Ground Beneath is not only an album every metal fan should hear, but the best of the genre, period.
Recommended track: Highlander (The One)
Blind Guardian – A Night at the Opera
Dan “Dan” Wieten
Power metal is a strange genre for me because there aren’t any standout bands that I consistently follow. I tend to like random albums or songs that somehow have a profound impact on me. Blind Guardian was always a band that my role playing friends jammed while we had drinking parties, but nothing stuck out much until I heard the Sepultura infused opening and intense chorus of ‘Precious Jerusalem’ from A Night At The Opera. I was floored. I’d never heard such a bombastic and epic vocal production like that, and I had also never heard the band sound so progressive. I immediately bought the album and immersed myself in the storyline and melodies, each chorus making the hair on my arms stand up with a nostalgic call to attention. I found it fascinating that they named the album after the Queen album, because the impact Queen had on Blind Guardian is super apparent here. The ambition they had with the composition and sheer amount of layers is astonishing, and in my eyes they haven’t lived up to it since. How could they? They set the bar so high for power metal with this album that not even they could surpass it.
Recommended Track: Precious Jerusalem DUH
Turisas – The Varangian Way
Embedded with the symphonic side of power metal rather than the speedier characteristic, this Turisas debut really has more to do with folk metal, yet it remains a valid and important touchstone to finding the true heart and soul of the genre. Like those other albums listed here, it’s without doubt a pure celebration of metal. It’s uplifting and, actually, quite oddly amusing. I defy anyone who hears this for the first time not to smile. Throughout, it bubbles with orchestral instrumentation. There’s the utter joy and mesmeric, dancing accordion of ‘In The Court Of Jarisleif’ and the bright and sparkling ‘Fields of Gold’. It all flows beautifully and comes hard-wired with a steady rhythmic underscore, pulsating drums and sweeping keys. Of course, the bonus is the fact it tells the 11th century tale of the Vikings’ (or rather the Varangians’) journey through the Baltic, so it really is the most fun you can have while learning history.
Recommended track: To Holmgard And Beyond
Alestorm – Back Through Time
Pirate Metal: The bastard child of Power Metal and Folk Metal. With songs about swashbuckling, drinking and wenches, the genre just can’t help but be adored by anyone with an eyepatch and a penchant for pillaging. The kings of this genre are without a doubt the almighty Alestorm, who travel from port to port slaying all within earshot with their tales of sexual conquests, sea monsters and drunken nights. Back Through Time finds the band in a slew of new adventures, such as fighting vikings that have traveled through time and stating that even though they have told all of their tales, they will continue to scrape the barrel for album four. With choruses that you can’t help but chant, impressive accordion sections and riffs that make you go “ARGHHHH” Back Through Time is a trip well worth setting sail for.
Recommended Track: Midget Saw
Machinae Supremacy – REDEEMER
Machinae Supremacy is one of those bands that has been with me for many years, influencing many of my listening habits and bringing loads of happiness to listeners worldwide. Though their discography is lengthy, having just released their sixth studio album alongside countless other helpings of a massive discography, 2006’s REDEEMER reigns as their most special album, at least to me. As a follow-up to their 2004 debut in Deus Ex Machinae, you could hear the growth in the songwriting from the first to the second full album, as the bands explore instances of battle, dealing with life and death, inner struggles of various sorts, and offer several fantastic story vehicles with which to create imagery.
Recommended Track: “Rogue World Asylum”
Judas Priest – Painkiller
I don’t know much about power metal, but I’ll be damned if much of the genre itself wasn’t spawned from this classic heavy metal album. Power metal vocalists seem to channel Rob Halford’s imitable shriek in their own styles, and the legendary guitar duo of K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton left their mark on power and speed metal arguably more so on Painkiller than on any other album Judas Priest put out. As the album opens and Scott Travis’ thundering drum fill carries into the main riff of “Painkiller”, you can’t help but bang your head and pump your fist. The speed, the double bass drums, the buzzsaw rhythms and of course, the over-the-top vocals make Painkiller a worthy precursor to power metal, and that it’s a fantastic, addicting and above all, timeless album makes it a surefire choice for my personal favorite power metal album.
Recommended Track: “Painkiller”
After a longer list last time, we kept this one short and sweet. To be sure, there many more terrific albums in this genre and we’d like to remind you of one thing: this is our list and by no means an objective ranking of the best of any genre we choose. These are simply the albums that gives most joy or have stuck with us throughout the year. That being said, sound off in the comments below with your own selections! We’d love to hear them. Lastly, stay tuned of course for more lists! We’ve got a special one planned for next time. See you then!