Extremely cheesy and lame at times, epic in many others. What a bizarrely brilliant sub-genre of metal this is.
Oh, power metal. That bizarre deviation from heavy metal which offers us both the power of heavy/speed metal and the fantastical elements of (mostly) European folklore.
Having fallen in love with power metal in my youth, my views might very well be biased. Yet this genre of metal is irreplaceable to me. At its core, power metal groups are full on energy and can easily engage one’s imagination. A perfect source of stimulation for a hyperactive maniac such as myself.
Extremely cheesy and lame at times, epic in many others. What a bizarrely brilliant sub-genre of metal this is.
That said, power metal is one of the most diverse genres of all metal. Ranging from the stereotypical fantasy-ridden Rhapsody of Fire to so-called “extreme” metal Children of Bodom, this genre has exposed me to countless genres and artists.
Enough praising power metal, though. Chances are you already enjoy it, which is why you’re here in the first place.
Needless to say, my opinion is more on the side of biased than objective. After all, this is a blog of passion, one that I don’t even expect to get many views on at that.
Still, if you’re reading this, I want to mention two things: one, I will only mention one album per artist. If I didn’t set this rule for myself, the list would only feature 3 or 4 artists. And second, I might break any and all of the rules I never set in the first place.
Let’s get on with this~
They are a nice blend of everything that’s great about power metal: good riffs and melodies, epic and imaginative tales, and awesome energy. Unfortunately, they don’t really seem to excel at anything like other groups. Not enough to make it higher, anyway. Still a pretty good band, though.
12. Freedom Call: Crystal Empire
I’ll be honest here… I’m not big into Blind Guardian. I know, saying that is almost a sin in the power metal community, but I had to man up and say it. I enjoy their brand of power metal, but groups such as Rhapsody of Fire and Helloween are still preferable for me.
There is one album from them that blew me away, though. Even though I’m not particularly invested into Tolkien’s world (I’ve still to finish The Silmarillion, silly me), listening to Nightfall In Middle Earth was a fantastic and magical experience. I spent an insurmountable amount of time reading through the LOTD wiki because of this one.
I’m a sucker for anything that contains a good story. Thus, I’m a sucker for concept albums and sagas. Blind Guardian does just this, and it does it very well. This album would probably deserve a better spot if I was more acquainted with the Tolkien universe, but for now this seems like a good place for it to rest.
11. Blind Guardian: Nightfall in Middle Earth
When I found out that a band with Sonata Arctica’s former guitarist and keyboardist Janni and Mikko , as well as Stratovarius’ vocalist Timo Kotipelto existed, I knew I had to check it out. I was not disappointed.
Cain’s Offering is like a hidden relic in the power metal world. Well, at least for those whom adore SA and Stratovarius as much as I do. Gather the Faithful was like taking a breath of fresh air after the constant replaying of SA’s and Strato’s early work. Back to the roots, as it should be…
… kidding. It is not always a bad thing for groups to change and evolve. Us nostalgia-ridden fanboys must come to accept that. That or living in the past, hoping that it will create the same spark it once did.
Philosophizing aside, Cain’s Offering produced an amazing offspring of the Sonata-Strato relationship. It came in the form of Gather the Faithful, a melodic and (maybe) nostalgic experience.
10. Cain’s Offering: Gather the Faithful
Here we have the daddies of one of my all-time favorite groups. Yes, the ones that inspired that weird band that likes wolves and produces some melancholic ballads (as if you didn’t need any more hints about SA being in this list.)
My first impulse was to throw Elysium in here just because of the masterpiece track of the same name, but that would be dishonest of me. Instead, the album with most of my favorite tracks will take its place. It barely won out against the likes of Destiny, Infinite, and Episode, which are also great and worth listening to.
9. Stratovarius: Visions
What a funny thing it would be to name your power metal after your math school teacher. It would be even funnier if that group made it to this list!
Yes, it’s Edguy. The group led by that awesome guy by the name of Tobias Sammet. Edguy is one of those groups that manage to get power metal right. Epic and fantastical enough, yet always falling short of being cringey.
This guy also created one of the greatest supergroups in metal history. Can’t help but love a guy who makes a metal opera. There’s not a lot more to be said about Edguy and Tobi though. They’re just great.
8. Edguy: Tinnitus Sanctus
This might be cheating a little bit since Avantasia is Tobi’s project. Nevertheless, given its different style and how many artists have participated, I consider Avantasia its own stand-alone project, rather than an extension of Edguy.
Even though the first two Metal Operas are hard to topple in terms of epicness, albums such as The Scarecrow and The Wicked Symphony are amazing on their own. But not amazing enough to topple the final chapter of this trilogy, Angel of Babylon.
Perhaps it’s the more prog elements of this album, or the quirkiness that songs such as Death Is Just a Feeling Convey. This album deviates from the Avantasia style just enough to make it stand out, but without making it a black sheep.
7. Avantasia: Angel of Babylon
It always seems weird to think of this album’s name, given that I covered the Halo Effect on a previous article. I know it has a different meaning in the context of a Camelot album, but my brain and distinguishing do not like each other.
Silly facts aside, this was not a hard choice at all. Sure, Epica and Ghost Opera are very good albums, but The Black Halo is almost universally acclaimed as their greatest work. I am not a contrarian to this view.
In my opinion, Kamelot completely blows Nightwish out of the water with this album. Nightwish might be a better group overall, but even Once, with its Ghost Love Score, cannot topple the Halo. This is the pinnacle of symphonic metal.
6. Kamelot: The Black Halo
This list wouldn’t be complete without including the fathers of power metal. Of course, we’re talking about DIO!
Kidding, kidding. Of course, Dio isn’t a power metal group. But even if they were, it wouldn’t matter. After all, everyone knows that European power metal > everything else. It’s law.
So instead we will talk about the true masterminds behind the creation of power metal: Helloween. What an interesting name, it sounds like Halloween. Bet they have a pumpking in their logo too.
Their first true power metal albums, Seeker of the Seven Keys I & II, are staples of power metal. And, also, of ‘happy metal’.
As a guy who loves epic, long-form tracks that tell a story, Keeper of the Seven Keys II won out on this one. For the pioneers of power metal, this album has amazing quality and is very enjoyable. Of course, honorable mention goes to The Legacy, their “return to tradition” album. King For a Thousand Years is an amazing track.
5. Helloween: Keeper of the Seven Keys II
They seem to have figured out the secret formula for making epic and powerful power metal pieces, since their Emerald Sword Saga is so unbelievably good. Also, the fact that they focus so much on storytelling, which you already know I’m a sucker for, makes them even more epic.
This was by far the most difficult choice in this entire list. I could not let go of Legendary Tales, both the album and the track, but especially the track. Thinking of letting go of Dawn of Victory felt like it would be doing it a great disservice, and Power of the Dragonflame just had too incredible of an orchestration.
Yet, the decision had to be made. After an arduous battle, which wasn’t made any easier by the fact that the last track on this album felt a little underwhelming, clarity set in; the album with the most enthralling fantasy song in the power metal realm had to come on top.
And so it did. Symphony of the Enchanted Lands had to take the cake. Of course, that enthralling track I previously mentioned is none other than The Dark Tower of Abyss. What a fantastic balance this album achieves, though. The entire album has enough energy, epicness, and calmer moments to make for a fully enjoyable experience.
4. Rhapsody (of Fire): Symphony of Enchanted Lands
This group has been the most meaningful metal band in my life. I have yet to grow tired of their stuff, even after more than 7 years of discovering them on an amazing Friday night. The first time I listened to Kingdom For a Heart will be forever ingrained in my memory.
And that’s why it hurts to put them in this spot. However, it must be done. To me, Sonata Arctica is one of those “The sum of its parts is greater than their greatest fragment” type of groups (I don’t know if that’s an actual proverb, I just kind of made it up on the spot).
Following the logical train of thought, this means that, indeed, deciding on one album was very difficult. As many others, my burning nostalgia and love for their most energetic era made it difficult to give up their early work.
But, at last, Reckoning Night managed to get an inch on even greats like Silence and Unia. Sorry, Ecliptica, Fullmoon was not enough for you to make it.
I’ve seen people call this album Sonata Arctica’s ‘magnus opus’, and they have a good reason to. This is the album where Sonata Arctica found their footing, so to speak. Their style had been developed by this point, and it shows. Listen to White Pearl, Black Oceans, the magnus opus track fitting for the magnus opus album.
3. Sonata Arctica: Reckoning Night
Remember when I said I would break the rules I never made? Well, as soon as you read the name here your reaction will probably be: “Holy cow, the madman actually did it”. And no less than with a second place. How’s that for rebellious?
Sure, you can very well call this a folk metal band, and you would be right. However, when you compare this group to one such as Ensiferum, you quickly realize why I included it here. Yes, it’s Elvenking.
If there is such a thing as “Happy Metal”, this is it. Sorry, Helloween, but this is the pinnacle of Happy Metal. You created the genre, alright, but someone else did your thing better.
A Poem for The Firmament is a very worthy contender track to White Pearl Black Oceans, alongside Elysium and Legendary Tales. And that says something. Actually, it says a lot. Elvenking really outdid themselves in this one.
I rest my case.
2. Elvenking: Wyrd
If there was one artist I would break my first rule for, it would be this one. Forming a power metal band, adding onto it neoclassical, orchestral, and progressive elements, and putting the Brazilian spirit on it should be illegal. Crime: Too much awesomeness.
Angra is a one of a kind band. Just like with Sonata Arctica, their style is so unique and memorable that it is hard to find good competition for them. All of this is exemplified in their first album: Angels Cry.
I’ll be real; I thought long and hard about putting Temple of Shadows in place of this. As you might have predicted due to my love of storytelling, I am a sucker for concept albums. However, Angels Cry is so masterfully produced and has that indistinguishable, vibrant element of a debut album.
The Crusader-themed album was amazing and all, but Angels Cry deserved this… and the number one spot.
1. Angra: Angels Cry
Aaaand that concludes this list of mine. Hate them or love them, these albums and bands have brought me more enjoyment throughout the years than I know what to do with.
Even while exploring new genres and groups, drifting away from baseline, power metal shall continue to be that one special place to return to. It’s like a chord progression getting resolved: it’s what takes you back “home”.
For those of you who can relate, let’s enjoy the fact that we discovered such an awesome genre of music. For everyone else, I hope you enjoyed the music!