We Have the Power
The Year in Power Metal: Part IIposted on 8/2014 By:
[Illustration from Dagar the Invincible "The Red Ruby of Garloth" by Don Glut and Jesse Santos]
For those who missed it, Part 1 of this editorial explored three power metal albums from 2014 that should top any fan's list:
Falconer - Black Moon Rising
Released: June 6th, 2014
Metal Blade Records
Noble Beast - Noble Beast
Released: March 22nd, 2014
Crystal Eyes - Killer
Released: July 25th, 2014
These were chosen primarily based on the merits of superior songcrafting and overall entertainment, but also because they represent a fairly diverse sample of PM styles that don't necessarily smack of straight-up Helloween or Blind Guardian rip-offs. Yes, one could make a case for the Noble lads borrowing heavily from the latter, but their diligence toward adding a new level of intensity sets them apart from the rest of the pack churning out similar BG fare.
Day two of our guide to 2014's most notable power metal releases travels some interesting waters. We'll be focusing on a few supplementals — the releases worthy of the dedicated power nutters out there who need more than just an hour-and-a-half's worth of new material to keep the wind in their sails. Essential? Eh, it's all relative. Yes, if you're tired of psyching yourself up for that swanky job interview by listening to wispy depressive black metal done by Perl 5 nerds. ( <3 U! )
One of the challenges for me lies in the fact that I could write virtually the same review for all three of our next contenders. WTF? Probably. But said records achieve a shared goal with enough deft precision to easily qualify as worthy contestants.
The first two selections are likely to be no surprise to anyone who's been playing in the power sandbox for a healthy stretch of years. Both have been cranking out vigorous power/speed metal von den Schlössern von Hamburg for the better part of the last fifteen+ years, and both have a frighteningly (and possibly annoyingly) consistent discography custom-fit for students of the fire & lightning school of this sub-genre. If you hate fiery solos, get ready to have an aneurism big enough to drop a horny grizzly dead in its tracks. But fair warning: The lyrical content here is more threadbare than that neighbor-dude's ancient Frank Frazetta all-over-print t-shirt.
And as long as we're here, let's toss the latest SinBreed directly alongside our stormy saviors. Album number two from these similarly charged Germans, Shadows, adopts the sweeping 2014 PM aim of amping up aggression, and thereby handily clobbers 2010's When Worlds Collide. The chops are undoubtedly there, thanks chiefly to the pedigree behind the band (two dudes from Blind Guardian, plus the ever-steady gruff vocal styling of Herbie Langhans), but again, the necessity level here depends entirely on just how much melodic "Call to Arms" you need in your life.
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Next up, our 2014 extremely pleasant surprise...
Dynazty - Renatus
Allow me the opportunity to acknowledge the fact that I have never before hailed a band that replaces an "S" with a "Z" in their name. That's some Forever 21 zhit right there, friends. Unless you happen to be a hair metal band that fell asleep in an MTV studio bathroom for the last thirty years.
Wait, what?? These guys actually used to be hair metal? Or at least hair metal-ish? Oh shit, they once penned a song called "Monkey Wants, Monkey Needs." I... I don't know what to do with that.
Luckily, despite the fact that Sweden's Dynazty apparently decided to name their band after one of Yngwie's Ferrari vanity plates (God, I wish that was true), they've actually managed to drop one of 2014's most refreshing surprises; Renatus is an absolute triumph in contagious, melodic, modern power metal. Sure, it's sorta squirrelier than a 100 year-old oak with 10lb nuts, but who cares when the results are this cracking?
THE GOOD: 45 minutes of impeccable playing, impeccable singing (holy Hell, who is this guy?) and impeccable cramming of earholes with infectious choruses perfectly suited for belting out at the top of your lungs without a care that Gary in Accounting at the cubicle next-door thinks you're a grade-A arsehole.
A hugely recommended pick-up for fans of the Pagan's Mind style of contemporary progressive power metal that skillfully melds pompous keys, Borg riffs, ripping leads, and one of the better vocal performances i've heard since Daniel Heiman left the scene. (P.S. Please get this guy in Lost Horizon.)
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Okay, enough with all the Tony Robbins bullshit. Let's get some jeers up in this piece.
Power metal in 2014 has also seen its fair share of duds, some of which has already netted positive accolades from respected peers. This year's Charlie Browniest releases:
If you're the type who buys modern Helloween records to skip through the darker material in favor of the giddy, carbonated wankery, you just landed the album of your dreams.
Not entirely sure what rubs me so wrong about Freedom Call's Beyond that I'm willing to let slide by equally chipper outfits like Stratovarius, but perhaps it's rooted in the fact that this record shows real potential with cuts like the title-track and "Among the Shadows." Too bad the rest of the fare completely obliterates the line in terms of what's stomachable. One can actually see Rafiki presenting Simba to the pride at the start of "Dance Off the Devil," and "In the Rhythm of Light" makes Edguy sound like fucking Jungle Rot.
I have long been a proponent of Persuader's non-Hobbit oriented Blind Guardian metal and have recommended Evolution Purgatory numerous times because of this. But ever since that record landed back in 2004, it seems these Swedes have been trying to push the envelope in terms of power metal extremity with each subsequent release. Trouble is, while I quite enjoy the melding of speed and thrash into power, death elements simply are not welcome. The Fiction Maze employs generous use of modernized death hollers alongside the band's proven power formula, and the results are just too awkward.
Masters of power mehtal. A continued spiral since 2005's Seven Seals.
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That's it! No more powah. Back to sweet misery...
TAGGED Power,SteelWarrior,Iron Savior,SinBreed,Dynazty