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Power metal

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Power metal

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Power metal
Stylistic origins: Heavy metal, NWOBHM, Thrash metal
Cultural origins: Mid 1970s Europe Mid 1970s, United States
Typical instruments: Vocals - Electric guitar - Bass guitar - Drums - Keyboards
Mainstream popularity: Medium to Large
Other topics
Timeline of heavy metal

Power metal is a style of heavy metal music with the aim of evoking an "epic" feel, often within a fantastic or (less often) symphonic context. There is some dispute about the term, which can refer to two different, but related styles: one pioneered and largely practiced in North America, and one based in Germany and Scandinavia. In contemporary usage, "power metal" generally refers to the European style.


American power metal

American power metal, like European power metal, was influenced by Rainbow, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio, Queensr˙che, Plus Ultra, and Helloween. Some consider modern American bands like Iced Earth and Nevermore to be the descendants of this style, but others claim that the movement has ended, swallowed by better known styles such as Thrash and European power metal. Others consider the genre in America on the rise again, with fledging American power metal bands in places such as New York (home to Manowar, Zandelle, Gothic Knights, Twilight Odyssey, and pioneering NY band Virgin Steele). Kamelot, who originated in the state of Florida, has recently emerged as a forerunner in popular power metal bands with the release of their album The Black Halo (with guest appearances from Dutch Simone Simons, vocalist for the Dutch Symphonic metal band Epica, and the lead vocalist of Norwegian Symphonic Black Metal band Dimmu Borgir, Shagrath). It should be noted however that in the musical sense, Kamelot is very much a European power metal band. Following Kamelot, the Nebraska-based power metal band Cellador was signed August of 2005 to Metal Blade Records, signalling a return of the style by a homegrown band to a noted record label in America, although their sound is more similar to European power metal.

European power metal

In the mid-1980s, European bands such as Helloween (Germany) and Europe (Sweden) put even more attention to the melodic development of the songs. Helloween mixed fast speed metal riffs with melodic ones and added Iron Maiden-like powerful vocals, further cleaning the sound. Their albums Keeper of the Seven Keys, Part 1 (1987) and Keeper of the Seven Keys, Part 2 (1988) are generally regarded as a milestone of this genre. Subsequently, European-style "happy metal" has spread across the continent (particularly to Finland) and worldwide, though it is comparatively unpopular in the United States, United Kingdom and other English speaking countries.

Recently, however, many power metal bands have abandoned the "happy-metal" sound of their predecessors, and have adopted a more epic sound combined with the power metal core. Bands such as Blind Guardian have combined their classic power metal sound with an orchestral background as Rhapsody or Angra have done.

Musical characteristics

Power metal, as the term is used today, places primary importance on an epic sound, usually at high speeds, primarily due to its speed metal roots, and with catchy melodies. Whereas most rock lyrics focus largely on "the real world" - personal experience, historical incidents, social commentary, etc. - power metal often treats epic, cosmological or metaphysical themes. Many power metal songs draw inspiration from religion, science fiction, mythology, and fantasy, and they tend to be more optimistic than most metal lyrics.

Power metal vocals are generally "clean", as opposed to the growling vocals that characterise death metal, and are delivered by a trained vocalist. Following in the tradition of Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford, power metal vocalists tend to sing in a high register and often in falsetto. Some singers, such as Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian, record multi-layered vocals reminiscent of Queen. Because of the primary importance of vocals in power metal, vocalists generally do not double as guitarists as in other styles of metal, which is why Hansi Kürsch stepped down as bassist for Blind Guardian after their album "The Forgotten Tales"; Hansi said that he wanted to focus on enhancing his vocals both in and out of the studio. This is also the case as to why Kai Hansen recruited Michael Kiske for Helloween after Kai himself sang on the first two Helloween albums. When Kai formed Gamma Ray with Ralf Scheepers, his singing took a back seat as Ralf fronted the band. Although, after Ralf quit the band, Kai returned to singing and currently is both the vocalist and the lead guitarist of the band.

Power metal guitarists and bassists generally play rapid streams of notes, but change chords comparatively slowly, with a harmonic tempo of once per measure or slower. Fast and demanding guitar solos, however, are almost guaranteed.

Power metal drummers generally play with two bass drums for added speed, often playing a constant stream of sixteenth notes with snare drum accents on the beat. Some bands defy this formula, but it is surprisingly universal.

Many bands also play with a keyboardist, but keyboards are not generally a musical focus. A few, such as the Italian band Rhapsody, have also been known to record with more symphonic elements. Rhapsody actually calls their style of music "Hollywood Metal," emphasizing its resemblance to modern film scores.

This style is most popular in Europe, Japan, and some countries of South America (including Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Chile), and has a growing popularity in certain parts of North America.

External links

  • The Gauntlet Huge archive of metal bands with discography, reviews, interviews, news and more
  • HMAS
  • Metal Rules - Webzine with interviews, news, reviews and articles
  • Metally Band List - Complete album discography of many power metal bands
  • Transcending the Mundane - Scroll to the end to read "How The Pumpkin Stole Power Metal!", an essay attempting to reclaim the term "power metal" for pre-Helloween bands.
  • Metallian - The encyclopedia of hard rock and heavy metal, also includes reviews, demo reviews, news and interviews
Heavy metal
Black metal - Death metal - Doom metal - Folk metal - Glam metal - Gothic metal - Grindcore - Industrial metal - Neo-classical metal - Power metal - Progressive metal - Symphonic metal - Thrash metal
Other topics
Fashion - History

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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