As expressed in part 1 of this editorial a few days ago – I am in no way embarrassed about flaunting a love for power metal. It’s a genre that delivers a much needed lift when life gets particularly prickly and the usual cocktail of bourbon and St. John’s Wort fails to pull its weight.
The purpose of this article is simple: spotlight the ten top power metal albums released in the last ten years while avoiding some of the bigger names that typically hijack coverage. For those keeping score, the following releases received the first five endorsements in round 1:
Heed – The Call
Hibria – Defying the Rules
Anubis Gate – The Detached
Rob Rock – Garden of Chaos
Wuthering Heights – The Shadow Cabinet
And with that, things are about to get heavy – and not just literally. The battle for the final position was bloody and oddly exhausting, with three additional contenders left in the wings with a not-so-lowly “honorable mention” designation. Splashes of strong brew were tipped to the curb to pay respect to Lost Horizon‘s A Flame to the Ground Beneath and Tad Morose‘s Modus Vivendi for falling outside the ten-year mark by a mere handful of months, and I still aimed the target clear of bands that would more suitably march under a straight-up “traditional metal” banner.
Enough gum flapping/more glory riding…
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Outworld – Outworld
Released: 13 November, 2006 on Replica Records
From: Houston, TX
Status: Split up
Outwho? Whatworld? Outworld, you outhousers. Similar to Heed‘s excellent The Call, this self-titled debut represents the only full-length these Houstonians managed to muster before the typical internal skirmishes that bands often encounter quickly lead to an untimely demise. But if you’re going to leave a proper mark, you might as well make sure it’s a crater that even a blind man could see from outer space. Certainly the case here – Outworld totally smokes from start to finish. Fiery leads shred like a cloud of Looney Toons cats pouncing atop an unsuspecting bulldog; riffs gallop like the fifth horseman 2 hours late after forgetting his keys back at the house; and vocalist Kelly Carpenter belts out one of the most blistering power performances these ears have heard in years – directly on par with the aforementioned Daniel Heiman. Someone please reissue this gem.
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Pyramaze – Melancholy Beast
Released: May, 2004 on Nightmare Records
From: Hjordkær, Denmark
I love everything about the debut album from Denmark’s Pyramaze. Melancholy Beast strikes an ideal balance between dark progressive knottiness and sprightly power bounce, and it wraps its nimble intricacies within tales spun around Ichabod Crane, “Dreamscapes” and goddamn unicorns. UNICORNS. Oh, too taboo for you, bro? Don’t even pretend you wouldn’t give your left nut/tit for an opportunity to run around in a movie like Legend, and Melancholy Beast is the perfect soundtrack to a darkly twisting fantasy realm. Each tune is catchy and fiercely melodic, and Lance King provided an ideal vocal complement to the music’s somber stance. Sadly, he was sacked approximately two years later. Legend has it that he wore one too many fishnet shirts to promo shoots.
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Manticora – Safe
Released: 12 October, 2010 on Nightmare Records
From: Hvidovre, Denmark
Denmark strikes again! Four of the ten bands featured in this editorial hail from this particular pocket of Europe, so I suppose the water in that region must be more enchanted than lightning bolts firing from a wizard’s wang. Magic missiles aside, Manticora play the sort of power metal fans such as myself love to keep sleeved as a secret weapon to use against people who continually bitch about the genre being too wimpy/silly/jolly. Most all of the band’s discography is heavier than Brian Blessed’s gravy boat, but Safe represents a true walloping peak in a career that stretches over seven very worthy full-lengths. So the next time one of your chums tries to throw down the candyass card, cram this record into their grill and kick them into oncoming traffic. Honk fucking honk goes the 18-wheeler. Boom.
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Domine – Emperor of the Black Runes
Released: 2 February, 2004 on Dragonheart Records
From: Piombino, Italy
As much as I love each and every album on this list, Emperor of the Black Runes would be my top choice in terms of pleasant surprises because it nails everything I love about power metal without being a total dick about over-dramatizing its most typical components. The record is unquestionably bright, wailing and madly melodic, but still maintains a palpable rawness that keeps it miles away from something dissidents would consider overly candy-coated. Plus, Domine take the obsession with Elric of Melniboné to a kingly level that rams Stormbringer’s ebon blade right through the ol’ chitterlings.
“What happened to fantasy for me is what also happened to rock and roll. It found a common denominator for making maximum money. As a result, it lost its tensions, its anger, its edginess and turned into one big cup of cocoa.” – Michael Moorcock
Amen, Mr. Moorcock. Thank God we have heavy metal to wash away the sins of rock and roll.
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Dream Evil – United
Released: 31 Oct, 2006 on Century Media Records
From: Gothenburg, Sweden
And here’s the part where I also confess to having plenty of room in my life to fill the corners with the more brittle, joyous face of power metal. But understand, just because I’d refrain from mentioning United alongside the heavier bands in the spectrum, that doesn’t mean it’s any less potent. Sure, there’s material here that strikes about as hard as a Ratt album, but there’s also plenty of the sing-along-styled explosive exuberance that Helloween essentially trademarked in the late 80s. What’s interesting to me is the fact that it took the exit of Gus G. (Firewind) and Snowy Shaw (King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Memento Mori) from Dream Evil to finally get me hooked – “hooked” being the optimal word, as United secured the final spot mostly due to its relentless ear-worming clout.
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Three Honorable Mentions
Persuader – Evolution Purgatory
Released: 2 February, 2004
From: Umeå, Sweden
Primal Fear – Seven Seals
Released: 15 October, 2005
From: Esslingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Cage – Hell Destroyer
Released: 22 May, 2007
From: San Diego, CA, USA