Hammerfall – “Built to Last” (Song Premiere)
Swedish power metal giants Hammerfall will release their tenth album in twenty years, Built to Last, tomorrow, 11/4, via Napalm Records. You can stream the title track from that release at the bottom of this post and pre-order the record here. First, though, a thought:
The metal press ignores power metal to its detriment.
One of metal's oldest and most readily identifiable subgenres, power metal gets frozen out of glossy print zines. The last three bands to appear on the cover of Terrorizer, excluding their annual secret histories issue, are Darkthrone, Devin Townsend and Mastodon. For Zero Tolerance it's Opeth, Inquisition and Grand Magus. Decibel? Superjoint, Meshuggah and Neurosis. Each band either released a new album this year, or embarked on a headlining US tour. Arguably not a power metal band in sight with the possible exception of Grand Magus.
Let's take a look at their relative popularity with a simple numerical analysis. Here are those bands' numbers of followers on Facebook at the time of this writing, rounded to the nearest thousand.
Devin Townsend: 261,000
Grand Magus: 45,000
Superjoint: 44,000 (for reference Pantera has 8,943,000 and Down has 738,000)
In comparison, here's the Facebook followers of some power metal bands (in a broad interpretation of the genre) who have released albums or headlined US tours in 2016.
Primal Fear: 115,000
Rhapsody of Fire: 526,000
Blind Guardian: 711,000
Facebook followers make for an imperfect yardstick, but regardless the numbers speak one thing loud and clear: power metal commands a huge segment of metal as a market. Putting this music front and center, at least some of the time, even if only to get Nightwish fans to read the name Horrendous, seems both smart and ethical.
More importantly, a lot of this music is really good. I rarely listen to power metal myself, but when, for example we review a new Blind Guardian album, I find myself thinking "this is so much fun, why don't I read more about this stuff?"
So why don't these bands land on the covers of glossy magazines (or get covered on sites like IO with more frequency)? I don't have an answer, but I have a few hunches:
Power metal's audience is mainly European, while the metal press is mainly American? Possibly. This is a gut assumption. My only evidence is that five of those nine magazine cover artists hail from North America, but every headlining power metal band I found was European, with four of the nine (Avantasia, Primal Fear, Blind Guardian, Helloween) hailing from Germany. All three magazines publish in English which may mean that they aim for an American audience, not a European one.
Power metal is so big that it doesn't need ad space or news coverage? Also possible, though not likely. The power metal bands command larger followings overall but only Nightwish approaches Slayer's following (around 4 1/2 million) and Slayer still engages in press.
Power metal's fantasy lyrics and images do not play well with the masses? No. Not in 2016. Not after Peter Jackson's 'Return of the King' won best picture. Not while 'Game of Thrones' is the most popular show on HBO. Not in a world where "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" is the post popular episode of 'Community'.
Power metal is so unlike black, death, thrash and doom metal that covering it will scare away reliable readers these publications already have? Also possible but not likely. Metalheads are fickle, but if, say, Terrorizer were to shift to a power metal focused strategy, theoretically they would stand to gain more readers than they would lose. I think you could roll the salient truth in this theory up into my best guess...
Power metal operates on a completely different emotional basis from extreme metal? This feels right. Most of the bands in those magazines, and most of the bands on Invisible Oranges, evoke feelings like disgust, sadness and extreme anger. Those emotions seem right and powerful because the world and daily modern life is sad, worth disgust and evokes often righteous anger. Power metal plays with triumph, bravery and the glory of possibility. Even when Hammerfall play songs about Lucifer and killing things with swords, they do so in the affirmative. So even if press outlets stand to make gains following power metal, they just aren't staffed with people who care enough about the genre to cover it.
Those differences don't hold weight to me. My life needs righteous anger, but it also needs affirmation. Power metal has more in common with extreme metal than one might think. "Built to Last" still deals in palm-muted chugs and furious double bass. More importantly it's just a kick-ass song. It's got a confident swagger that much more extreme music lacks. Hammerfall write songs that will stick with you for the rest of your lifetime and they know it. For all of its earnest goofiness and sheer disconnection from modern life, power metal has the capability for real staying power.
Follow Hammerfall on Facebook. Invisible Oranges is looking for a writer willing to cover the power metal beat for us. email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com if interested.