Monday, November 9, 2015

Heavy Metal Monday: Absolute Power

Cover art for the Manowar album Gods of War.
Hail! Hail! Hail and Kill!

Introduction

Power Metal is a subgenre of Heavy Metal that combines characteristics of traditional Heavy Metal with the fast tempo of Speed Metal and symphonic elements. Power Metal bands are characterized by clean vocals, an epic, sometimes movie-like sound.




Power Metal's origins can be traced to three sources. The lyrical themes originated from Ronnie James Dio, who wrote sci-fi and fantasy themed lyrics for the band Rainbow, and Rob Halford of Judas Priest was the inspiration for the genre's clean, high vocals. The instrumental style was influenced by Iron Maiden, who concentrated on providing an epic and uplifting sound to their songs.

Style

Two distinct styles of Power Metal emerged in the 1980s.

American Power Metal is characterized by a fast tempo and more energetic style, driven more by guitars than by keyboards. This style originated from the band Manowar. However, this style is not exclusive to the US, as a few European Bands choose this style to stand apart from the traditional Helloween-inspired sound.

European Power Metal is characterized by a heavy focus on the keyboards and an even faster tempo than American Power Metal, with a more uplifting sound, sometimes to the point of sounding "happy." The German band Helloween was the originator this sound. A few European bands choose to go with bariton vocals and darker themes, such as Germany's Grave Digger and Sweden's Sabaton, while still retaining the fast tempo and epic sound of traditional Power Metal.

Lyrical Themes

Power Metal has a common lyrical theme shared by the bands within its genre, and is the only subgenre other than Death Metal to do so. While a lot of Heavy Metal lyrics tend to be dark and pessimistic, Power Metal lyrics focus heavily on comraderie and hope. Many Power Metal bands choose a theme and focus on it: fantasy is the most popular, though science fiction, Vikings and mythology are common as well. Concept albums are often found in this


Prominent Bands

Manowar
Manowar was founded in New York by Bassist Joey Demaio. The band's guitar driven, bombastic sound and strong focus on fantasy, Norse Mythology and Frazetta-styled art has drawn a cult following. The band has achieved the Guinnes World Record for loudest performance on three separate occasions. They are also known for their slogan: "Death to all False Metal!"



Helloween
Helloween was founded in 1984 in Hamburg, Germany by guitarist Kai Hansen and Ingo "Mr. Smile" Schwichtenberg. The band's second album, Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part 1 was considered to be the birth of European Power Metal.




Blind Guardian
Blind Guardian was formed in 1984 in Krefeld. Along with Helloween, this band is considered a pioneer in the field of European Power Metal. Blind Guardian was influenced by Helloween initially, but added elements of Thrash Metal after listening to Bay Area Thrash Metal (yes, it has its own style distinct from other Thrash Metal) as well as Progressive Metal. This amalgamation of styles is similar to Iced Earth.






Gamma Ray
Gamma Ray was founded in 1989 by Kai Hansen after he left Helloween. Gamma Ray continued the style of Helloween, but with a wider variety of lyrical themes.



Iced Earth
Iced Earth was founded by guitarist Jon Schaffer in Tampa Florida in 1985. This band's muscial style is a combination of Power, Progressive and Thrash Metal, but the band's style and lyrics have an overall bias toward Power Metal on most albums, especially in recent years.


Lesser Known Bands


Iron Savior
Iron Savior was a side project by Kai Hansen with a core concept about a self-aware spaceship called the Iron Savior. In recent years, the band has deviated from this concept and sung generic sci-fi.



Demons and Wizards
Demons and Wizards is a collaboration between Blind Guardian vocalist Hansai Kürsch and Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer. The band's name comes from the Uriah Heep album of the same name.




Sabaton
Sabaton was formed in 1999 in Falun, Sweden. The band started singing generic fantasy, but changed to war with Primo Victoria in 2005. Since then, the band has released seven albums, two of the concept albums. The band is as well known for vocalist Jokim Bröden's baritone, sometimes growly vocals as much as war.



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