News flash: Last Rites loves lists. Hell, we might as well refer to ourselves as List Rites come December because by then we’ve already spent weeks compiling lists, comparing lists, tweaking lists and, most importantly, arguing over lists behind the scenes like cranky children. Lists are sacred to our species—one of the principle elements that separates humankind from the rest of the animal kingdom. Sure, it’s conceivable that Pickles keeps a running agenda that prioritizes knocking shit off the dresser over attacking feet at night and shredding the side of a $1500 couch, but animals generally appear to arrange their days based purely on instinct. Humans, however, need lists to survive. We love lists. We crave lists. Go to the grocery without a list and you’ll come home with seven boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios. Not the worst fate, but you really needed double-A batteries and Cayenne pepper.
We Have The Power is yet another list, but it is not a combined Last Rites effort. This is important to keep in mind because that means the albums you’re about to see are beholden to one person’s bias alone—mine. This is not because I happen to be the only staffer who cares about this particular off-shoot, but rather because I am the only galoot who would willingly volunteer to plow through 70 power metal records in preparation for shining a light on the year’s best. Clearly, that’s a lot of power for any one person to process, and to be perfectly honest, a healthy portion of that listening wasn’t exactly gratifying. Truth: take a sample of 70 records from any sub-genre on its own from one year and you’re bound to mow through some serious chaff. It’s a little more difficult when it comes to power metal, though, because there’s less room for error. Whereas death and trad and other branches of metal can actually benefit from a certain sense of looseness, power metal needs to be tight.
As was the case last year, We Have The Power will stretch the boundaries a bit. Of course you’ll see the traditional Euro and U.S. styles that landed the genre on the map, but elements of progressive, symphonic, trad, hard rock and speed will sweeten the pot. This is good because it increases exposure to deserving bands, and it also makes us look like idiots because a good bit managed to fall through the cracks here at LR, which is reprehensible. If you know us well, you know we don’t really mind looking like idiots.
Really, the biggest difference between We Have The Power 2017 and 2018 is volume: 70 albums in contention—all footnoted—and a top 20 instead of 10. I was very much hoping to make the new Eternity’s End record Unyielding contender number 71, but it’s not out until December 26th. Still, the news that it’s right around the corner is very good, and understand that the chances are pretty good that it would’ve at least challenged the top ten. In other words, put it on your radar.
As far as differences in power metal itself are concerned… Well, it’s a genre not really known to stray too far off course, but the fairly recent trend that finds more and more AOR/Arena Rock elements entering the picture continues, and it does so with added vigor. Predictably, some bands use it to their advantage, others end up sounding like horseshit auditions for The Voice.
Much of the Old Guard made their presence known again in 2018. It’s nice to have a sense of usualness when the Earth so often feels as if it’s flipping on its axis. But bands like Primal Fear, Riot V, Tad Morose, Guardians Of Time, Ancient Empire / Shadowkiller and Black Majesty played the game so much by the numbers that the resulting output fell short of making the cut. Still enjoyable, but not list-worthy.
Disappointments were there, too. As much as it pains me to admit, Helion Prime missed the mark with album number two, Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster. The new vocalist is talented and the riffs are there, but the hook that dominated the debut feels scaled back. The song “The Human Condition” smokes, though.
Also disappointing was Nils Patrik Johansson’s debut solo record. We’re all familiar enough with the man’s voice that the music chosen to accompany him really needs to be dynamic in order to make a record stand out. Evil Deluxe is not terribly dynamic. Maybe call up Roy Z before you release another one, Mr. Johansson—he did wonders for Halford and Dickinson.
And the “Please Dear Lord, Make It Stop” award for 2018 goes to:
Warkings (a.k.a. War Kings) — Reborn.
A viking, a gladiator, a templar knight and a woodsman with a dead fox on his shoulders walk into a tavern. The bartender looks up and says, “Is this some kind of joke?”
Yes. Yes, bartender, this is some kind of joke. The band member names are—get this—The Viking (bass), The Spartan (drums), The Crusader (guitar), and The Tribune (vocals), and they play a very generic Kings of Metal-styled power metal that pushes a schtick that’s about as inviting as a piranha orgy.
To be fair, vocalist Tribune—clearly an elected official of ancient Rome and not, in fact, a newspaper—is quite good. He’s also the only one who’s brave enough to reveal his true identity: Georg Neuhauser of the otherwise capable Serenity. Perhaps best if you avoid Warkings and look toward his other project instead.
Lastly, this marks the official beginning of List Season for Last Rites, so keep your eyes peeled for artwork favorites Wednesday and the combined staff list later in the week. Individual staffer Best-of lists will begin the following week.
Enough prattling; on to the champs.
20. Marius Danielsen – Legend of Valley Doom Part 2
Of all the various branches of power fighting for consideration, the symphonic “Hollywood soundtrack” style perfected by Rhapsody Of Fire is likely the most difficult for outsiders to grasp. It’s dramatic—at times mortifyingly so—and the narrative sometimes gets in the way of the music just, you know, being music. Such is the case for Marius Danielsen’s work under the Legend of Valley Doom umbrella; the second part of the story is preposterously theatrical, and the ballads are soppier than four hours of the Hallmark channel on a Sunday evening. But the guest list is just too much to pass up, and delivering a six-and-a-half minute cut (“Angel of Light”) that features Daniel Heiman (Lost Horizon, Heed) AND Michael Kiske (Helloween, Unisonic) singing together is well enough to land this record on the list.
Sample: “Angel of Light”
Label: Crime Records
Band website: Marius Danielsen
Release date: November 20th, 2018
19. Striker – Play to Win
That AOR/Arena Rock element I mentioned in the intro? This is one of two bands on this year’s list that’s firing full lasers toward that particular target. Striker’s early material underscored a delectably speedy form of power metal, reaching a notably successful peak with 2012’s Armed to the Teeth. But they’ve been incorporating stronger hard rock elements with each subsequent release, and Play to Win, full-length number six, represents the ultimate power AOR record—like Loverboy colliding with Edguy and still managing to pick up speeding tickets along the way. As strange as it may sound, they make the formula work.
Sample: “Heart of Lies”
Label: Record Breaking Records
Band website: Striker
Release date: October 26th, 2018
18. Manimal – Purgatorio
It’s all too easy to get wowed by the flashier, more progressive side of power metal, but there will always be room for the bands that keep things rooted to the basic building blocks of the genre and deliver a straight-forward punch of power that hooks and invigorates more than anything else. Short and sweet, that’s the plan of action for Purgatorio. Biggest selling point: Samuel Nyman’s vocals, which are smooth, dynamic and extremely capable of delivering those big, infectious choruses.
Sample: “Black Plague”
Label: AFM Records
Band website: Manimal
Release date: September 7th, 2018
17. Dynazty – Firesign
If you appreciate and love power metal for its exhilarating energy but also delight in the rest of metal’s knack for venting / fortifying aggression and negativity, Firesign will do a hell of a job of testing your limits for sugar. Sweden’s Dynazty clearly values AOR/arena rock as much as they do a fairly charged form of power, but there’s also a unique sort of raver element dancing around the corners here that makes it seem plausible that Firesign comes delivered with a Dynazty flat-brimmed baseball lid and glow sticks. But they’re just so damn good at it.
Sample: “Breathe with Me”
Label: AFM Records
Band website: Dynazty
Release date: September 28th, 2018
16. Mob Rules – Reborn
Germany’s Mob Rules has been in the melodic heavy metal / power game for more than two decades, and they’re responsible for some true whoppers, particularly in those early years. In truth, they’ve never released an outright bad record, but they’ve been on a notable upward swing again since 2016’s Tales from Beyond. Pure and simple, Beast Reborn continues that trend. If the idea of a power metal record mingling with Maiden’s X Factor sounds intriguing, this might be your next addiction.
Sample: “Ghost of a Chance”
Band website: Mob Rules
Release date: August 24th, 2018
15. Holter – Vlad the Impaler
By the time Holter’s debut dropped back in 2015, I was already on Jørn Lande overload. The man is clearly one of metal’s most talented active vocalists, but hearing him front a Dracula-themed symphonic power act didn’t really land high on my to-do list. That was a misstep, however, because Dracula: Swing of Death was actually pretty solid, thanks not only to Jørn’s voice, but also due to the fact that the man behind the project’s brand, Trond Holter, is a hell of a guitarist. Lande has since moved on, as he is wont to do, and his replacement is none other than the immensely talented Nils K. Rue, a voice many of us have been waiting very patiently to hear again. The last time Nils put those cords to use for metal was on Pagan’s Mind fifth record, Heavenly Ecstasy, back in 2011. Luckily, the years have been kind—Nils sounds great throughout Vlad the Impaler, and so does his cohort this go-round, Eva Iselin Erichsen, who takes the female lead in the album’s chronicle of, you guessed it, Vlad the Impaler. The record is symphonic and dramatic and sappy/soppy at times, but it’s also a little more aggressive than the debut, and Trond Holter’s guitar work remains terrific.
Sample: “I’ll Die for You”
Label: Frontiers Records
Band website: Holter
Release date: November 9th, 2018
14. Mad Hatter – Mad Hatter
Yeah, I know. Mad Hatter. Mad. Hatter. Who’s the person that immediately makes you regret coming to the party the second you see him or her cackling and trying to make sure everyone notices them? The POS wearing the Mad Hatter hat, that’s who. Seeing it as an actual band name might be a challenge for some, but the fact that vocalist Petter Hjerpe decides to wear a more steam-punked version of that hat in promo photos makes this record seem like a shoo-in for being squirrellier than an oak tree in an asylum courtyard. Surprise, surprise: Mad Hatter is a really fun and straight-forward power metal record, and there ain’t a lame nut in the bunch here. Fans of Helloween will definitely dig.
Sample: FULL STREAM
Label: Art Gates Records
Band website: Mad Hatter
Release date: February 23rd, 2018
13. Orion’s Reign – Scores of War
Symphonic power metal is a tricky gamble for a number of reasons. One: Rhapsody Of Fire remains the undisputed king, and they’re still quite active (new album in early 2019!). Two: if you’re hiring out an actual symphony, including singers, it can be a very expensive undertaking. Three: chances are high that you’re going to sound thin if you rely on nothing but a keyboard for symphonic elements. And four: symphonic power bands often give the non-metal elements too much room under the spotlight and neglect the vigorous punch that the power side of the equation needs to deliver. Orion’s Reign understands all of these points, because their sophomore effort, Scores of War, balances the power and the pomp perfectly, and despite the fact that all the strings, horns and choral components come from a keyboard, the symphonic sections are surprisingly realistic. Most importantly, the metal here is very metal, and vocalist Daniel Vasconcelos has one hell of a set of pipes.
Sample: “Together We March”
Label: Pride & Joy Music
Band website: Orion’s Reign
Release date: October 19th, 2018
12. Powerwolf – The Sacrament of Sin
I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you feel like doubting my conviction, there’s a self-titled Seal CD in my collection that would like to say hello and how do you do. That said, Germany’s Powerwolf is the sort of band that inspires a person to revisit their stance on guilty pleasures. Their brand of over-produced, over-dramatic, over-indulgent power metal isn’t afraid to deliver outrageous lyrics such as, “Oh oh oh ohohoh / Demons come at night, come and take her hand / Oh oh oh ohohoh / Demons are a girl’s best friend,” but it’s delivered with a Rammstein-level of detached confidence, and the infectiousness is positively blissful. So… Guilty-ish pleasure? Guilty as sin.
Sample: “The Sacrament of Sin”
Label: Napalm Records
Band website: Powerwolf
Release date: July 20th, 2018
11. Espionage – Digital Dystopia
Step into the game with a very straight-forward power design and you’ll need to make sure two particular genre fundamentals are in perfect health: spirited melody and impassioned, righteous vocals. There are hundreds of bands in this realm sweeping the lands on iron steeds or impressive dragons in hot pursuit of enchanted blades and barking about “brothers of metal” this and “warriors of the arena” that, so you better deliver those worn tropes with confidence and proficiency. Fortunately, Melbourne, Australia’s Espionage knows how to deliver the goods, so it’s easy to forgive them for marching out an immediate “Legions of steel / Wield your sword and shield” in the very first song following the requisite power intro. Lead guitarist Denis Sudzuka is a wizard on that fretboard, and vocalist Frosty Morris hits those high notes in a steely enough manner that he never comes across like a ruffled elf whose just had a honey-cake swiped by an orc. Digital Dystopia doesn’t bring anything terribly new to power metal, but who the hell really wants truffle oil and kimchee on a burger anyway.
Sample: “Nightmare Approaches”
Label: Hellion Records
Band website: Espionage
Release date: June 1st, 2018
10. Brainstorm – Midnight Ghost
Despite the fact that Brainstorm has remained active for the better part of the last two decades (plus), I haven’t done much checking in with them since Downburst was released ten years ago. Also, GASP—it’s been ten years since Downburst was released. This information is relevant because I honestly don’t have enough info at my disposal to confirm whether or not Brainstorm has managed to derail in some way over that ten year gap. I do know that when I get hungry to hear these guys, I generally cram Soul Temptation (2003), Liquid Monster (2005) or Downburst into my ears, and even those aren’t really dissimilar enough to leave me outright loving one more than the other. In short, Brainstorm is pretty damn good at what they do, and what they do is this: bombastic Euro power metal with big choruses and stout riffs. Full-length number twelve, Midnight Ghost, does absolutely nothing to alter the original Brainstorm course, but holy hell does it ever feel as though the band has managed to find the sort of revitalized energy normally reserved for those instances where new members find their way into the fold. Thing is, it’s still pretty much the same guys who’ve been toiling away in the mines for years, with bassist Antonio Ieva still wearing the noob crown with a mere 11 years of Brainstorm service under his belt. If I had to guess just why this record is so satisfying, I’d put a C-note down on the reality that they over-wallop them choruses into your head. Dickinson’s got nothin’ on these guys and Midnight Ghost’s persistent refrains. Coooo-STANZA.
Sample: “The Pyre”
Label: AFM Records
Band website: Brainstorm
Release date: September 28th, 2018
9. Artizan – Demon Rider
The drums still deliver a sizable portion of Artizan’s heft, vocalist Tom Braden’s delivery still lands a little closer to prog territory than it does power, and by God, you can still actually hear the bass (delivered by the very familiar and hugely talented Joey Vera), so one could make a case that nothing’s really changed in the Artizan camp in the three year gap since their last record. But friends, this band continues to get better with each subsequent release, and Demon Rider tops the heap. Bill Staley’s guitar work on this record is absolutely superb—refined and complex with zero sense of pretentiousness. And holy crap does the man ever know how to pen a snappy, tough riff. What’s odd, particularly for power metal, is the fact that the record doesn’t really rely on solos to deliver the melody. Artizan makes it work, though, because Staley’s fretwork is melodic as the day is long, just sans profuse noodling.
Sample: “Soldiers of Light”
Label: Pure Steel Records
Band website: Artizan
Release Date: August 17th, 2018
8. Angra – ØMNI
“In the end, what makes ØMNI such a grinning success is that it finds Angra doing what Angra does best, and doing it better than they’ve done since 2001’s Rebirth. Bittencourt and Barbosa’s guitar work is phenomenal, Lione’s voice is flawless, Bruno Valverde’s drumming introduces a perfect pinch of jazzy impulse, Francesco Ferrini (Fleshgod Apocalypse) is much better suited for constructing the orchestrations, and the balanced production finally allows the bass play to shine. Sure, it might be challenging for some to separate the newfound energy and bits of aggression from a band like Rhapsody of Fire, thanks largely to Fabio’s voice and Angra’s penchant for painting the backdrop with dramatic orchestration, but plenty of the band’s classic style remains intact.” — from the Last Rites review written by a terribly handsome individual.
Sample: “War Horns”
Band website: Angra
Release Date: February 16th, 2018
7. Immortal Guardian – Age of Revolution
“Everyone in this band shreds. Drummer Cody Gilliland might be a robot, the only thing more impressive than Thad Stevens’ fluffy hair is his fluttering bass, and vocalist Carlos Zema (ex-Outworld) has an amazing range and more passion for delivering heavy words than 98% of active power vocalists out there. With all that in mind, however, it’s still difficult not to hand Gabriel Guardian the game ball—the only thing that outmatches this guy’s keyboard finesse is his fretwork, and he’s primed and ready to showcase both…at the same time?” — from the Last Rites review written by an intensely intelligent and humble man.
Label: M-Theory Audio
Band website: Immortal Guardian
Release date: September 26th, 2018
6. Ethernity – The Human Race Extinction
As loyal followers of all things power related, we’re used to allowing a certain level of leniency with regard to corniness. With that truth in mind, I admit that I cringed when this album cover first floated across my screen. It’s still not anything I’d consider to be an outright fiasco, but the execution and its comprehensive “purpleness” looks a bit like an ad one might come across plastered in the window of a local vape shop. “Submit to Cyburple Expulsion.” Plus, the band’s new logo, while certainly an improvement, travels eerily close to that of Eternity’s End, so that added to the hesitation. But calling a progressive/power record something as tough as The Human Race Extinction is a bold move, so curiosity killed yet another cat. Turns out, Ethernity pretty much rips, and this record delivers everything a prog/power fanatic craves: the riffs are as bold as the album title would suggest, the leads (guitar and keys) are as pretty as the day is long, and the band makes smart use of dark bleeps, bloops and whirs to help drive home the overall dystopian subject matter. The biggest Ethernity selling point, however, is Julie Colin, whose voice is gritty and powerful in a Tina Turner/Beyond Thunderdome kind of way. She sells the hook throughout the record in a very decisive manner, and the fact that she apparently decided to step away shortly following the release of The Human Race Extinction is a stone-cold bummer. Really, the only legitimate flaw here is the album’s length—70-minutes is overwhelming and too long for most any album in 2018.
Sample: “The Prototype”
Label: AFM Records
Band website: Ethernity
Release date: September 14th, 2018
5. Runelord – A Message from the Past
Of all the albums landing on this year’s list, A Message from the Past feels like the biggest cheat. Undeniably, Runelord’s sound bears a closer resemblance to a band like Visigoth (who are a little too trad-metal to be considered for this list) than Freedom Call, but similar to the prior, Runelord does a remarkable job of conjuring the earliest interpretation of the genre introduced by U.S. bands such as Chastain, Vicious Rumors, Omen and Savatage, and extended by (slightly) more modern bands like Crescent Shield, Twisted Tower Dire and Pharaoh. This essentially means the overall approach is darker and more aggressive in contrast to the Euro faction’s frisky and jubilant technique. Everything becomes a little more clear once you realize the duo behind Runelord is made up of Stormspell Records upper crusters Ced Forsberg (Blazon Stone, Rocka Rollas (R.I.P.), Cloven Altar, Breitenhold) and Georgy Peichev, who teamed up to produce one of Blazon Stone’s best records in 2015, No Sign of Glory. Ced still plays every instrument known to humankind, and Peich still masters the mic in a very raw, “warrior right off the battlefield” kind of way, but where No Sign of Glory was slightly speedier and a little more Running Wild, A Message from the Past wallops with with a heavier hand that gallops like Omen’s Battle Cry. Hopefully you love leads that blast like shattered glass!
Sample: “Valkyries Eternal Winter”
Label: Stormspell Records
Band website: Runelord
Release date: April 3rd, 2018
4. A Sound Of Thunder – It Was Metal
Washington, D.C.’s A Sound Of Thunder is certainly no stranger to delivering grade-A power metal—experienced fans consider the band’s seven-album run up to and including It Was Metal to be virtually devoid of blunder. Drummer Chris Haren, guitarist Josh Schwartz and vocalist Nina Osegueda (plus an apparent long-standing commitment to giving all bass players local to D.C. a shot. [EDIT 12/5: the bass player for ASOT is named Jesse Keen. He’s actually been with the band for seven years, which I should have recognized. Sorry for being a ramrod, y’all. – CPT]) have spent the better part of the last ten years perfecting a unique and adventurous take on power metal that allows hard rock, prog and good ol’ traditional heavy metal an almost equal parcel of land. The result is a bright, enthusiastic amalgamation that sounds a bit like a more power-focused Hammers Of Misfortune with a stronger appetite for the arena. It Was Metal continues this same course, but with an even greater emphasis on the proggy elements. Playful sci-fi synths dapple the faintly Voivody “Lifebringer,” for example, and organs reminiscent of Deep Purple’s more adventurous years (provided by Tony Carey: Rainbow / Rising / Long Live Rock ’n’ Roll, Zed Yago) carry throughout the bulk of the twisting, 9.5-minute “Obsidian & Gold (Desdinova Returns).” Really, nothing feels too far out of reach for A Sound Of Thunder, but the sum of all the parts always ends up delivering power-related gold, and It Was Metal does so with notable panache. Also, opening scorcher “Phantom Flight” features Mark Tornillo of Accept!
Band website: A Sound Of Thunder
Release date: June 15th, 2018
3. Judicator – The Last Emperor
“A point of fact very worthy of spotlighting: pull away Yelland’s voice and the band’s penchant for Guardian-styled vocal layering and you’ve got a creature that’s as much Thundersteel-era Riot and Master Control-era Liege Lord as it is anything germinated in the Deutschland speed metal scene of the mid/late 80s. It’s splitting hairs, sure, but there are moments—throughout “Raining Gold,” “Antioch” and “King of Rome,” for example—where the riffing and general blitz on the fretboard is positively lethal in a very thrashy, old-school Agent Steel kind of way. So, yes, aggression is in attendance, but it’s surrounded by a very enthusiastic sense of charming melody.” — From the Last Rites review written by an inventive and intensely gifted individual.
Sample: “The Queen of All Cities”
Label: Divebomb Records
Band website: Judicator
Release date: March 30th, 2018
2. Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds // Pt. 1
O Romeo, Romeo, I sure am glad you’re Romeo, Michael James Romeo. Are you the best living guitarist in metal right now, O Romeo? If not, you’re absolutely in the top five. How did you manage to yank a Caparison Dellinger II free from the womb when you were born, Michael James Romeo?
This is the first solo material Michael Romeo has done in over two decades, and it’s the first evidence of fresh music he’s attached his name to since Symphony X’s under-appreciated Underworld back in 2015. Yes, it would be really nice if the backstory leading up to War of the Worlds // Pt. 1 was more cheerful—Romeo needed something to focus on while Symphony X vocalist Russel Allen recuperated from a grisly bus accident while on tour with Adrenaline Mob—but it’s at least good to see something positive created in the interim while we wait for the triumphant return of Allen and SX. As luck would have it, this record delivers everything a fan of Romeo’s progressive technique could hope for in spades: spectacular riffs and immaculate leads, huge hooks (who is this Rick Castellano guy behind the mic?), and a sophisticated approach to the songwriting that’s intense and knotty without feeling excessively tangled. Admittedly, the orchestrated elements travel a little too close to John Williams turf at times, but that’s hardly a deterrent to the outright triumph of these 54-minutes.
Label: Music Theories Recordings
Band website: Michael Romeo
Release date: July 27th, 2018
1. THAUROROD – COAST OF GOLD
One of the challenges faced when attempting to showcase a massive stack of worthy power metal in one fell swoop is the fact that it becomes rather difficult to find interesting and compelling ways to say, “The album leans hard on the hook, and the melodic guitar work is very energized.” Regrettably, this is neither the time or place to beat around the bush, because Coast of Gold leans hard on the hook, and the melodic guitar work is very energized.
Ladies and gentledudes, in a power world where the hook reigns supreme, Thaurorod’s throne beams like the Eye of Sauron upon the topmost peak. Coast of Gold has more hooks than a fly-fishing expo populated only by one-handed pirates and their hooker escorts that just sailed in from a Hook-For-A-Hand convention. The infectiousness is immediate and thorough, with the opening “Poison,” the title track, “24601” (a number that’s somehow catchier than 867-5309??), “Feed the Flame,” and the snuggly “Cannibal Island” offering up vocal hooks so addictive they’ll invade your sleep at night. It’s a near-maddening level of contagiousness, I tell you, and that doesn’t even begin to underscore just how fun and furious and catchy the riffing and lead guitar/key battle-play is from start to finish.
Point of fact: Thaurorod ain’t exactly pushing the Euro side of power metal into any new turf, and they’re clearly unafraid to beat you over the head with the genre’s blatant essentials, but that doesn’t really matter if you can do it with this much tact and dexterity. Coast of Gold is a superior example of how to deliver SPEEDY power metal in a way that makes you feel positive about facing the day, and that’s precisely the reason why it wins top honors for 2018.
Added bonus! There’s a good chance that you’ll receive a snazzy Thaurorod patch if you order the disc from Amazon. Mine did. GO GET IT.
Sample: FULL ALBUM STREAM
Label: Drakkar Entertainment
Band website: Thaurorod
Release date: September 1st, 2017
This year’s contenders:
Ancient Empire – Eternal Soldier
Angra – ØMNI
Armored Dawn – Barbarians in Black
Artizan – Demon Rider
Ashes Of Ares – Well Of Souls
A Sound of Thunder – It Was Metal
Black Majesty – Children of the Abyss
Borealis – The Offering
Brainstorm – Midnight Ghost
Cryonic Temple – Deliverance
Crystal Tears – Decadence Deluxe
Derdian – DNA
Dragony – Masters of the Multiverse
Dyecrest – Are You Not Entertained?
Dynazty – Firesign
Eldritch – Cracksleep
Elvellon – Until Dawn
Emerald Sun – Under the Curse of Silence
Espionage – Digital Dystopia
Estate – Mirrorland
Ethernity – The Human Race Extinction
Eunomia – The Chronicles of Eunomia, Part 1
Guardians Of Time – Tearing Up the World
Halcyon Way – Bloody But Unbowed
Hammer King – Poseidon Will Carry Us Home
Heavatar – Opus II – The Annihilation
Helion Prime – Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster
Holter – Vlad the Impaler
Immortal Guardian – Age of Revolution
Imperial Age – The Legacy of Atlantis
Ironflame – Tales of Splendor and Sorrow
Judicator – The Last Emperor
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Last Days Of Eden – Chrysalis
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Lords of the Trident – Shadows from the Past
Mad Hatter – Mad Hatter
Manimal – Purgatorio
Manticora – To Kill to Live to Kill
Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds
Marius Danielson – Legend of Valley Doom Part 2
Millennial Reign – The Great Divide
Mob Rules – Beast Reborn
Nils Patrik Johansson – Evil Deluxe
Novareign – Legends
Öblivïon – Resilience
Orion’s Reign – Scores of War
Powerwolf – Sacrament of Sin
Preludio Ancestral – Oblivion
Primal Fear – Apocalypse
Riot V – Armor of Light
Ross The Boss – By Blood Sworn
Runelord – A Message from the Past
Sage – Anno Domini 1573
Savage Machine – Abandon Earth
Seventh Wonder – Tiara
Shadowkeep – Shadowkeep
Shadowkiller – Guardians of the Temple
SinBreed – IV
Sonic Prophecy – Savage Gods
Spellblast – Of Gold and Guns
Striker – Play to Win
Tad Morose – Chapter X
Thaurorod – Coast of Gold
The Unity – Rise
Valkyria – Tierra Hostil
Veonity – Legend of the Starborn
Warkings – Reborn
Whyzdom – As Time Turns to Dust
Wurdalak – 6
That’s a great list! I would have put Romeo on top, and I’m gonna say it: he is the greatest guitarist alive, there. Seriously, though, this record is simply amazing (and nice shout out to Underworld as well, as you say, it was a great return to form after the meh Iconoclast and much underrated).
Thaurorod is a worthy pick, so much energy, so much hooks. it’s quite addictive and the best straight Power Metal I’ve heard in a while.
I didn’t know a Sound of Thunder and from what I heard so far it’s quite catchy indeed. Thank you for the recommendation!
Two records I’m surprised didn’t make the list (and weren’t even in contention) are Dire Peril and Frozen Crown’s offerings. The latter especially is amazing for a debut and is high on my end of year list.
Yeah, watching Romeo guitar technique videos is just… Wow. Dude is just amazing, and I can’t wait to get a new Symphony X album. He also said that Part 2 of this venture is already done, but he wants to give people time to absorb Part 1 before he releases it. Great guitarist who’s also SMART! Also, I’ll check out Frozen Crown tonight.
Whitherfall isn’t power metal? I guess that sorta makes sense…
I included their debut last year, much to the band’s surprise. This year’s record is even less power-related, so I decided to let it pass. FANTASTIC album, though!
So did Gatekeeper miss out by definition as More Epic Trad than Power or did you just not rate it? Asking for a frand https://gatekeeper.bandcamp.com/
Thanks for this, Captain. I look forward to these every year.
I think I am most excited for the Runelord, Michael Romeo, and Brainstorm albums. It’s too easy to reach for those albums from artists I am familiar with.
I’ve now heard good things about the Striker and Immortal Guardian albums, though, and I have a feeling I would really like that Espionage album too.
While I’m pleased to see A Sound of Thunder rank so high on this list, I’m mightily annoyed that the bassist was unnamed and dismissed as some kind of rotating “local” stand in. His name is Jesse Keen, he’s a splendid talent, and he’s been a standing member of the band for EIGHT YEARS.
That’s longer than Dio’s tenure with Sabbath! C’mon, guys. Show some respect.
Thanks for the clarification. I agree that my words right there sucked. I didn’t really intend it as a slight, but I certainly see it now. Live and learn. Apologies and hails to Jesse Keen. And thanks for reading!
Thanks you putting this list together, Captain! I’m unfamiliar with the majority of these bands/albums, so I have lots to dig into here.
By the way, have you heard Frozen Land?
Just saw someone mention them yesterday. Haven’t heard it yet. Also still need to give Frozen CROWN a proper shot. So much PM released this year! Also, HBD buddy!