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Power Curious #1

helionprime

Power metal is very under-covered and overlooked in the metal scene. Not enough blogs give attention to it, so we’re going to cover it in its own dedicated space.

In this first installment, we’re going to take a look at some of the bands and albums from 2016 you might have missed.

-Kevin Zecchel

Eternity’s End – The Fire Within
While Christian Muenzner, Hannes Grossmann, and Linus Klausenitzer are most known for their work in the tech-death scene with Obscura and Alkaloid, here they have decided to work on something a bit different; power metal. Keyboardist Jimmy Pitts (Pitts-Minneman Project, Equipoise) and vocalist Ian Parry (The Consortium Project) round out this supergroup. The songs on The Fire Within come fast, heavy, and dark, not at all like the general stereotypes of power metal. Parry’s powerful mid-range voice can deliver on the grit when it is called for, almost reminiscent of Dio and his background in progressive metal means his delivery has more versatility than others can. The overall quality of the playing is as good as one would expect from the musicians involved. Muenzner brings his neo-classical influences, and Pitts is a perfect compliment for him.

Primal Fear – Rulebreaker
Sometimes it feels like there are more Germans among the great power metal bands than were on the western front of World War I. Germany happens to be rather good at power metal; see Primal Fear, whose heavy speed metal sound is much closer to Judas Priest than it is to Stratovarius. Guitarists tom Naumann, Magnus Karlsson and Alex Beyrodt throw out melodies, harmonies, and fist-pumping riffs like a heavier and more modern version of Priest, such as on on “In Metal We Trust”, backed up by vocalist Ralf Scheepers, who actually auditioned for Priest once. His range eclipses 99% vocalists in music, metal or otherwise, and he uses his gritty lower end just as much as his upper register. Songs like “The End is Near” and “Rulebreaker” showcase how powerful and anthemic the band can really be.

Helion Prime – Helion Prime
The American version of power metal relies less on keyboards and high-pitched vocals, and focuses more on the actual “power” side of the genre tag. A comment left on Helion Prime’s Bandcamp page reads: “I don’t listen to Power Metal, I don’t listen to Sci-Fi themed stuff. But when you’re just that good, you transcend all bias. Helion Prime, ladies and gentlemen, is just that good.” This young American band’s debut album blends powerful guitar riffs, ear-worm melodies, and science fiction themes into a package that’s palatable for all tastes. Vocalist Heather Michele delivers a fist-pumping melodic performance on some very catchy and cheery choruses such as on “Into the Black Hole” or “Apollo (The Eagle Has Landed)”. Helion Prime is still a young band and has a lot of growing to do, but if this is any indication, they should be a name to watch for in the future.

Twilight Force – Heroes of Mighty Magic
If you’re lactose intolerant, I would suggest skipping this one. Twilight Force is not at all a band that is meant to be taken seriously, and their music shows it. Heroes of Might Magic clearly comes from the minds of those who spend their time playing Dungeons and reading high fantasy novels and is a love letter to all the cheesiest things about the genre from the lyrics to the melodies, to the use of narration. It’s a gimmick, sure, but they’re having fun with it and it’s hard to begrudge them for that. The singer, Chrileon, is the higher register kind most people associate with power metal but he has charm and a hell of a powerful voice to his credit.

Hammerfall – Built to Last
Built to Last takes a couple songs to warm up, the first track is pretty bland and the second is only okay, but then we get to “The Sacred Vow” and we’re into the glorious Hammerfall that we all knew al loved. I always forget Hammerfall are Swedish, because their brand of power metal plays closer to the German style, with heavier guitars and ballsier riffs. Joacim Cans’ voice exudes power and personality and he manages to craft some very nice melodies. The guitar leads are quite excellent as well, adding texture to the songs without going overboard. Hammerfall aren’t surprising anyone by this point, they’ve established their sound and are sticking by it but they do it well and on Built to Last, they have come up with a solid power metal album

Almanac – Tsar
Almanac is the second supergroup on this list, albeit one that doesn’t quite have the pedigree that Eternity’s End has. Comprised from members of Mind Odyssey (Germany), Lingua Mortis Orchestra (also Germany), Brainstorm (surprise! They’re German) and a few other underground bands from around the world, Almanac released their debut album, Tsar, last year. It’s typically German-styled power metal, heavy, fast, and gritty. There are some keyboards here though they are downplayed, adding mostly light orchestral textures and piano parts. The band also makes use of three different vocalists, each of whom has a distinct sound. They play off each other well as evidenced in songs such as “Self-Blinded Eyes” or “Children of the Future”.

Wardrum – Awakening
While their previous effort, Messenger, was a solid effort in the progressive power metal style, Wardum’s newest album Awakening sees them improving by a wide margin. This Greek band plays power metal that emphasizes the power part of power metal, eschewing keyboards and using heavier musical themes. Vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos is powerful, biting, and soaring all in equal measure, notable especially on songs such as “The Unrepentant” or at the final chorus of “Baptised in Fire” where he lets out a hair-raising power scream. The guitar work from Kosta Vreto and J. Demian doesn’t break any molds, but it does the job of conveying power and triumph, filling the album with neck-breaking metal anthems.

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