We Have The Power – The Top 30 Power Metal (And Power-Related) Albums Of 2021

Hails and good fortune, heroes! Welcome to the launch of List Season here at Last Rites.

As has become tradition, we kick things off with brand-spankin’-new edition of We Have the Power, our annual roundup of all things power and power-related: Euro and US strains, symphonic, neoclassical, prog / power, heavy / power, and even some dashes of power / thrash and speed / power to keep things extra wild. It’s an extremely diverse menagerie of performers, for sure, but it’s all material that should fall into the wheelhouse of most who enjoy metal’s most triumphant and bombastic sibling, power metal.

Hey, remember 2020? Yeah, it sucked the big one. But it did somehow manage to deliver an impressive 173 contenders for the We Have the Power top 25. That was pretty great news, as I’m sure we can all agree that 2020 very much needed an impressive level of music’s healing power.

Well, PFFT! PFFT, I say! Because 2021 has continued to suck a perhaps even bigger one! (Get your mind out of the gutter, Francis.) In fact, if 2021 were a film, it would be Fifty Shades of the Last Airbender, starring Adam Sandler and his segway-riding sidekick, Kevin James. Accordingly, we require an even greater level of therapeutic strength from metal’s most optimistic defender this year.

Well, friends, There are 310 contenders for We Have the Power 2021, which includes 15 EPs.

Wait, what? I listened to 310 albums for this list? Am I insane? 310 champions thrown into the pit? What is this madness.

Staring down volume such as this is akin to agreeing to participate in a completely mental eating competition: Obviously it’s something you enjoy consuming, otherwise why would you even be there, but do you like it enough to eventually projectile-hurl into any and all nearby receptacles because you very literally cannot take even one more teensy tiny bite? Well, (perhaps) thankfully, I appear to be the right combination of weirdo and nerd to take on a vast burden such as this, for I am THE SHIELD ANVIL.

Itkovian, Shield Anvil – by Toraneko

You know, art very much deserves more time than we have to give it. In answer to the question of whether or not I actually listened to all of these albums, the answer is a resounding YES. But did I give each and every one of them the time necessary for full assimilation? The sort of attention any album deserves, given the amount of effort required to even get the music to our ears? Not even possible, given other responsibilities and commitments to umpteen other genres to boot. However, I’ve been in the game since…well, day one, as it pertains to power metal, and I’ve been involved in culling metal lists at Last Rites (and Metal Review before that) since 2005, so this is far from my first rodeo. Know this: Trimming the master list from 310 down to 100 was a challenge; pruning that down to 50 was even more difficult; and the final chop down to 30 was the furthest thing from easy. And yes, the decision to expand the top of the tops from 25 to 30 this year was as much to put my mind at ease as it was a calculated plot to represent 10% of the full picture.  Please know this as well: If you walk away from We Have the Power 2021 with one insight, understand that each of the records landing in the top 30 are extraordinarily worthy of your full attention, and putting them into some tyrannical order was the hardest feat of the entire process. 

You remember I’m a cheater, right? Not at all in a dastardly way, of course, but certainly in the way We Have the Power commits to testing power metal’s boundaries. “True” power metal is still very much present, but it can be a prickly and stubborn dog, so it’s nice to widen the net a bit to keep things a little more lively. Again, nothing found below is so far outside the lines as to warrant pitchforks and torches, but I will continue to highlight the following caveat:  The process of determining which albums lean too far this way or that to warrant inclusion is far from an exact science. It’s mostly a gut reaction, and that gut reaction is based on a healthy blend of experience and a desire to draw attention to as many worthy challengers as possible without straying too far from camp. 

Let’s quickly highlight a couple trends for 2021:

  • Frontiers Records continues the course of throwing literally everyone from their insane roster against a wall to see what sticks, and a lot of the results are completely listenable and enjoyable, but only a few manage to truly shake the rafters.
  • Symphonic / orchestral metal numbers continue to skyrocket.

Here are six “WHERE THE HELL IS [BAND X OR Y]” with a brief explanation:

  1. Beast In Black – Dark Connection: People are loving it, and I get it. But buddy, I cannot handle all that Eurovision pop.
  2. Brainstorm – Wall of Skulls: Very solid record, but a number of the traditional Euro-power bands really need to ease back on beating the choruses into your head ad infinitum and spread the wings a bit.
  3. Orden Ogan – Final Days: See the Brainstorm commentary above.
  4. Epica – Omega: Ahhh, the ongoing debate of whether or not Epica deserves consideration in the power metal world. They clearly appeal to power crowd, but I continue to consider them enough of an outlier to exclude them from this list. That said, I will remark that Omega is an absolutely terrific album—their best since 2005’s The Score – An Epic Journey.
  5. Cauldron Born – Legacy of Atlantean Kings: Great album, but it’s a rerecording of 2002’s …And Rome Shall Fall.
  6. Seven Sisters – Shadow of a Fallen Star Part 1: I worked very hard to find enough evidence to include this album, but it’s just a little too far outside the lines. I will, however, find another way to honor its excellence.

No releases from December were allowed as contenders. This includes:

  • 
Iron Fate – Crimson Messiah [December 17]
  • Manimal – Armageddon [December 3]
  • Mega Colossus – Riptime [December 17]

And finally, the biggest WTF Is Going On Here award for the year is a tie between Foxlord and Kosmic Dragon. I don’t know what the hell these two outfits were smoking in 2021, but I’m guessing they found it under a rotting log in an extremely mystical forest.

Right! Enough messing about. Glory awaits!

THE TOP 3 EPS OF 2021

«»

3. Manimal – Chains of Fury

[Cover artwork: Stan W Decker]

I’m guessing you’re well aware of Sweden’s Manimal at this point—a band that’s consistently set a pretty high bar for those who love Euro power that’s infused with plenty of gauntleted traditional heavy metal to give it that little extra bit offorce. The Chains of Fury EP continues this trend, and it sets up the band’s very soon to be released (um, today) fourth full-length Armageddon perfectly—a record that’s only missing from this year’s top 30 because it didn’t get released in time to be considered.

Style: Heavy / Power
Country: Sweden
Sample: “Chains of Fury”
Label: AFM Records
Release date: October 22
Band website: Manimal

2. Fierce Deity – Power Wisdom Courage

[Cover artwork: Ryan Hancock]

Hobart, Tasmania’s Jonathan Barwick was once a main force behind the excellent band Taberah, and Fierce Deity is his new entity following that band’s unfortunate demise in 2019. His new project is a pretty different beast, though, exploring several faces of power that mix in everything from Grand Magus-styled doom (“Power”) to an extraordinarily bouncy nod to Nocturnal Rites (“Wisdom”) to something more epic and along the lines of While Heaven Wept (“Courage”). Power Wisdom Courage is one of two EPs released by Fierce Deity this year, and it is considered an EP despite delivering 32-minutes through three songs—we’ll just go ahead and let that go, because this is too fun to pass up.

Style: Power that’s not afraid to mix it up
Country: Australia
Sample: “Power”
Label: Independent
Release date: September 3
Bandcamp: Fierce Deity

1. Dialith – Atrophy

[Cover artwork: Marta Sokołowska]

From a review earlier this year: “’Ignite the Sky’ is infectious and feels fun and frisky, and it’s certainly the sort of thing power bands such as Dialith love flexing on bridge-gapping EPs that serve to remind people that they’re alive, kicking, and fully prepared to have fun while inspiring spirits to soar. However, outside of one notably bard-ish keyboard interlude, the remainder of Atrophy’s 10-plus minutes is spent underscoring the sorts of heavier elements that caused us to fall in love with Extinction Six. Both “Sweet as Wine” [4:54] and the closing “Undertow” [5:09] feature engaging proggy twists and bright bursts of melody, but they also flex an explosive energy that finds the next level of aggression, particularly with regard to the drumming—the prior does so in the most warlike manner of the EP, and the closer in a way that nimbly works in the most infectious chorus.”

Style: Symphonic Power
Country: USA
Sample: “Undertow”
Label: Independent
Release date: July 9
Bandcamp: Dialith

THE TOP 30 FULL-LENGTHS OF 2021

«»

30. Vandor – On a Moonlit Night

[Cover artwork: Nele Diel]

Full-length number two from this Swedish outfit is proof enough of 2021’s overall excess of great power metal: On a Moonlit Night is a wonderfully warm, inviting record that improves on the band’s debut in most every way—it’s fantastical and adventurous, there’s a very nice bass presence throughout, it features judicious and engaging keyboard breakouts, and there are tons of very smart leads that lift the story in a very amiable and comforting way. (The epic “The Sword to End All Wars” is particularly heroic.) “Memorable” would be a great descriptor. And perhaps “sneaky good,” as it really does make a person mull over the terrific idea of bumping it up several notches whenever the record gets played front-to-back. Those who are allergic to ballads might want to skip “Future to Behold,” but I quite enjoy it.

Style: Euro power
Location: Sweden
Sample: “Enter Twilight”
Label: Scarlet Records
Release date: July 16
Bandcamp: Vandor

29. Project: Roenwolfe – Edge of Saturn

[Cover artwork: Samuel Nelson]

A very discerning hero of the people had this to say concerning Project: Roenwolfe’s sophomore full-length Edge of Saturn earlier this year: “There are songs here dealing with cults, beast hunters, Frankenstein’s monster, lost friends, and sci-fi concepts exclusive to the band itself, and there are myriad shades of heaviness and varied gaits to suit each face: aggressive burners (“Mastermind Manipulators”), slower-paced wallopers (“Starbound Butcher of My Dreams”), emotional odes that represent “ballads” without actually being ballads (the album’s true closer, “Aeturnum Vale”), and outright face-melters like “Of Mice and Straw Men” dedicated to fighting racism, fascism and any other form of injustice we confront on a daily basis.” So, yeah, let that be your guide to…well, getting Project: Roenwolfe and Edge of Saturn into your flippin’ life.

Style: Speedy Power
Location: USA
Sample: “Something More”
Label: Divebomb Records
Release date: May 14th
Bandcamp: Project: Roenwolfe

28. Seven Spires – Gods of Debauchery

[Cover artwork: Tuomas Välimaa]

The Seven Spires sophomore effort Emerald Seas landed at an exceedingly respectable #3 on the 2020 version of We Have the Power, beaten only by the absurdly forceful Goldenhall debut and the sweeping epic from Sacred Outcry, Damned for All Time. In short, Emerald Seas was a big enough deal to lift the excitement level for album number three through the roof. What makes them stand out? Vocalist / composer Adrienne Cowan has one of finest voices in the metal today, and her songwriting partner, guitarist Jack Kosto, paints some of the most heartening leads you’ll experience in symphonic metal in the modern age. But they really threw me when they dropped “Lightbringer (feat. Casey Lee Williams)” as an early single for the record—not amongst my favorite songs of 2021, let’s just leave it at that.

In a nutshell, Gods of Debauchery is a more adventurous / experimental record compared to its predecessor, and its extremes are even more extreme, both in terms of the heavier and lighter faces of the band. To be clear, the highs are still very high, but there’s enough snarling and rasping packed into this 1hr and 20min journey to question whether the record even belongs on a list such as this. And hey, it’s quite possible that particular objective was intentional. Still, there’s well enough good-to-greatness happening throughout the record to call it wildly intriguing, and anyone who finds themselves pleased by the idea of an extreme form of symphonic power colliding with Dimmu Borgir will find plenty to love with Gods of Debauchery.

Style: Symphonic / Extreme / Power
Location: U.S.A.
Sample: “Gods of Debauchery”
Label: Frontiers Records
Release date: September 10
Band website: Seven Spires

27. Labÿrinth – Welcome to the Absurd Circus

[Cover artwork: Federico Mondelli]

Let me begin by underscoring the importance of this record’s inclusion based purely on my lifelong distaste for anything and everything circus and/or clown related. I can assure you I want nothing to do with any sort of absurd circus, and one look at this record’s cover artwork makes me want to stick my head into a wildly active sausage grinder. Please accept the a sincere “no offense” to offset this admittedly unhinged bias.

Here’s the thing, though: Welcome to the Absurd Circus is good enough to overlook any deep-seated issues with the big top and creepy clowns, and nothing at all about the record’s lyrical content appears to have anything to do with actual circuses. WHEW.

We know Labÿrinth, yes? We, the power collective, know the band is capable of greatness because they’ve done so a number of times over their 25+ years as a celebrated (but probably under-appreciated) progressive power band. Album number nine stays the course of catchy, intricate prog / power in the vein of Symphony X and the like, and it hits this year’s list by doing so with the benefit of a bevy of snappy (and at times surprisingly aggressive) riffs and the sort of stellar lead guitar work we expect from one of the genre’s foremost players.

Style: Progressive Power
Location: Italy
Sample: “Welcome to the Absurd Circus”
Label: Frontiers Records
Release date: January 22
Band website: Labÿrinth

26. Powerwolf – Call of the Wild

[Cover artwork: Zsofia Dankova]

Way up there in the intro to this piece I mentioned an issue with longstanding Euro power bands “beating choruses into your head ad infinitum.” In and of itself, that’s not always a nail in the coffin for an album, but when you have so many bands exercising the very same extraordinarily direct approach, there’s bound to be a supersaturation point that leaves the listener hunting for something a little more adventurous. Germany’s ever enduring Powerwolf is one of these bands that very much relies on a stock formula that includes insistent choruses, and Call of the Wild does absolutely nothing to diversify their ten-album portfolio. Where they have a one-up on, say, the latest Brainstorm and Orden Ogan records, however, is that added “church gone haywire” element that adds just the right amount of secondary symphonic flavoring that makes the full journey a touch more interesting.

Style: Euro Power
Location: Germany
Sample: “Dancing with the Dead”
Label: Napalm Records
Release date: July 16
Bandcamp: Powerwolf

25. Rhapsody of Fire – Glory for Salvation

[Cover artwork: Alexandre Charleux]

If you’re a power metal fan but don’t quite consider yourself a Rhapsody of Fire extremist, you probably agree that the band’s career has reached some incredible high points and some unfortunate lows. For me, the three pinnacle albums remain Power of the Dragonflame (2002), Symphony of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret (2004), and The Frozen Tears of Angels (2010), and the 11 years that have passed since Frozen Tears have been filled with a stack of releases that have either very simply satisfied the appetite or made me wonder if the fire was finally doused. 2019’s The Eighth Mountain seemed fairly well received by ardent fans, but to me it was flat (particularly the production) and lacked the soaring punch I crave from this long-standing crew of Italian symphonic power sorcerers, which resulted in an extremely cautious approach to album number thirteen (not counting 2017’s Legendary Years). Well, great news: Rhapsody of Fire seem to have righted the ship again with Glory for Salvation. Not quite to the level they achieved a decade ago, admittedly, but certainly well enough to make a chap like me sit up and take notice again. The production here has pop, Giacomo Voli sounds terrific (of course), and the leads provided by guitarist Roberto De Micheli and keyboardist / composer Alex Staropoli are once again magnificent. In short, Glory for Salvation sounds like a return to the true goodness they delivered half a decade ago with Into the Legend.

Style: Symphonic Power
Location: U.S.A.
Sample: “Glory for Salvation”
Label: AFM Records
Release date: November 26
Band website: Rhapsody of Fire

24. Antti Martikainen – Carmina Gloria

[Cover artwork: Kerem Beyit]

Never before in the hallowed halls of We Have the Power have we featured not one but two instrumental albums, which almost feels like a special form of cheating in and of itself. Vocals are such an integral part of this puzzle—can power metal exist in its most faithful form without a voice? YEP. Look no further than Carmina Gloria, an epically triumphant record that will likely conjure any number of great voices in your head as it shuffles from one song to the next, but it’s precisely that instrumental element that gives it a little extra uniqueness to push it over the edge. And make no mistake, Antti Martikainen understands how to do bombastic—he’s been making “orchestral battle music” for the better part of the last seven years, all of which is as grandiose as dragons banging midair. But he’s only gone full-on POWAH a few times, most notably with 2017’s wonderful Northern Steel, last year’s Sonic Savior (which I totally missed), and now with Carmina Gloria. Bottom line, this is an epic win for anyone who occasionally finds themselves making up heroic lyrics to sing along to extravagant Euro power whilst exfoliating in the shower. And seriously, who’s gonna skip an album with a song called “Claymore in the Face.”

Style: Euro power
Location: Finland
Sample: “The March of the Templars”
Label: Independent
Release date: July 16
Bandcamp: Antti Martikainen

23. Wardrum – Mavericks

[Cover artwork: Piotr Szafraniec]

No band that once featured the voice of Yannis Papadopoulos ever looks forward to breaking the news that Yannis Papadopoulos has left the band. That’s, like, written into the bylaws of the Power Metal Book of Golden Rules or something. Point being: Yannis Papadopoulos has one of the biggest voices in power metal today, and Beast in Black is lucky to have him / Wardrum were unfortunate to lose him back in 2017. But life goes on, and one of the best ways to turn the page after an event such as this is to unveil a replacement singer who… Well, is basically completely unknown. Giorgos “Wastin’ Away Again In” Margaritopoulos is now the vocalist of Wardrum, and most of us have never heard of him. Well, fret not: He packs one Hell of a punch, and the rest of the players are of course still here, which stacks Mavericks to the rafters with the sort of melody-driven, hook-heavy Euro power we’ve come to expect from Wardrum. Bonus points for delivering a song (“Sands of Time”) that offers a suitable soundtrack for a rough Saturday morning when you wake up next to someone you probably wouldn’t have woken up beside if you hadn’t finished off Friday night drinking Jägermeister in a parking lot: “Any action is better / Than no action at all!”

Style: Euro Power
Location: Greece
Sample: “Mavericks”
Label: Street Gallery Records
Release date: May 28
Band website: Wardrum

22. SkyEye – Soldiers of Light

[Cover artwork: Aleksandar Živanov]

Without question, my favorite part about compiling We Have the Power every year relates to the way the work always seems to uncover a small stack of absolutely stellar bands I would never have discovered if I didn’t commit to the full dive that scours literally every corner of the globe. In light of this, welcome to Slovenia’s SkyEye, a relatively new band (with one previous release under their belt: 2018’s Digital God) that just so happens to feature one heck of a powerhouse vocalist in Jan Leščanec, a fellow who appears to have no further experience beyond his time spent with this outfit. Leščanec has one of those belting Bruce Dickinson-styled voices that’s full power 100% of the time, and he is a massive part of the overall success of Soldiers of Light. The rest of the band delivers, too, with 57 full minutes (including a *gasp* 15-minute closer, “Chernobyl”) of hammer-swung trad metal melded with the sort of darker power that conjures the early days when bands such as Jag Panzer, Omen and Vicious Rumors ruled the underground.

Style: Heavy / Power
Location: Slovenia
Sample: “Detonate”
Label: Reaper Entertainment
Release date: June 25
Band website: SkyEye

21. Insania – V (Praeparatus Supervivet)

[Cover artwork: Uncredited]

I have been what I would consider to be a casual fan of Sweden’s Insania over the course of their career, but nothing has really managed to stick quite like V (Praeparatus Supervivet). Hey, sometimes all a band needs to do is take a 14-year hiatus, amirite? No clue how the members of Insania spent the long stretch between records, but I assume it involved risking a perilous journey up some craggy and incredibly impressive mountaintop to visit a power metal guru (likely Fangface from Walls of Jericho) for advice on how best to march forward. Well, it worked, as Insania’s fifth full-length manages to up the ante in most every way, resulting in a full hour of energetic, absurdly melodic Euro power that delivers huge rewards for anyone who prefers the style steeped in tradition, but not ever feeling overworked or tedious.

Style: Euro Power
Location: Sweden
Sample: “Solur”
Label: Frontiers Records
Release date: November 12
Band website: Insania

20. Claymorean – Eulogy for the Gods

[Cover artwork: Igor “Jimmy” Stanić]

Oh, how we love quarreling over genre boundaries. For every individual who might concur that a record like Eulogy for the Gods qualifies for a list such as this, there are likely two others fired up to throw a yellow flag on the play. So what makes a band like Claymorean that’s clearly very trad metal-inspired to their core more power-adjacent compared to, say, Seven Sisters or Herzel? Well, friend, the blessed spirit of Joey DeMaio’s fuzzy boots from 1983 visited me in the middle of the night and bade it so. Also, it’s a gut feeling. Also, the band a power tag to their bandcamp page. Also, they cover Virgin Steele (“The Burning of Rome (Cry for Pompeii”) on this record. All these things, plus the fact that these songs mirror that early USPM blueprint that emphasizes, well, power…with a little additional oomph. What truly makes Eulogy for the Gods qualify for this list, though, is the fact that the album is great, and it offers up a really absorbing culmination of trad, power and doom (especially “Lords of Light”), and it does so whilst also thrusting a very impressive vocal fireball, Dejana Garčević, into the spotlight. If you love stuff like Crescent Shield, Seven Witches et al., you’ll be all over Eulogy for the Gods.

Style: Heavy / power
Location: Serbia
Sample: “Hunter of the Damned”
Label: Stormspell Records
Release date: September 1
Bandcamp: Claymorean

19. BlackSword – Alive Again

[Cover artwork: Kiriakos Balanos]

Alive Again is the sort of power metal record that’s tailor-made for those who prefer the moderately more aggressive form of the off-shoot that recalls early Helstar, Sanctuary and Nevermore. And while it’s easy to spotlight vocalist Mike Livas due to his commanding and often scorching execution throughout the record, each player hits the ground running in top condition, with a notable tip of the hat given to the melodic leads that jump around nearly every corner.

Note: Alive Again might’ve landed a little higher if they’d cut “Cave of the Witch,” a song that nearly derails the fun very early on by scaring the listener into believing the album will deliver some jump-the-fuck-up riffing (tied to a strange cowbell strut), Thankfully, it’s the only off song on the record.

Second note: If you can’t get enough of Livas’ pipes, he also helms Silent Winter, a Greek power outfit that also released a power metal record in 2021.

Style: Heavy / US Power with a touch of Progressive
Location: Russia
Sample: “Iron Will”
Label: No Remorse Records
Release date: July 30
Bandcamp: BlackSword

18. Crystal Viper – The Cult

[Cover artwork: Mario López]

Poland’s Crystal Viper is no stranger to year-end lists in the power metal realm, but it’s been a minute since they’ve released something as strong front-to-back as The Cult—perhaps as far back as 2012’s Crimen Excepta. It’s not that record number eight manages to do anything that’s all that different (apart from a rather savory nod to Pentagram trad doom in “Whispers from Beyond”), it just does it with a deeper hook and a particularly gratifying energy. Maybe it was the addition of Cederick “Ced” Forsberg behind the kit, who’s since exited the band as quickly as he landed. Fresh blood has a tendency to reinvigorate, for sure, but it’s more likely due to the truth that Crystal Viper just so happens to be extremely adept at producing grade-A power metal that’s catapulted to further heights at the behest of vocalist Marta Gabriel. Also, don’t forget to freak out over the band’s wonderful cover of King Diamond’s “Welcome Home.”

Side note: Marta is now the bassist for Ced’s Blazon Stone project, whose 2021 release was as solid as expected, but fell just short of the top 30.

Style: Heavy / Power
Location: Poland
Sample: “Asenath Waite”
Label: Listenable Records
Release date: July 29
Bandcamp: Crystal Viper

17. Signum Draconis – The Divine Comedy – Inferno

[Cover artwork: Uncredited]

The two biggest factors standing in the way of Signum Draconis being the talk of the town: 1) The entire project is shrouded in enough mystery that Metal-Archives doesn’t even have it listed yet, and the band’s principal architect—guitarist / composer Oscar Grace—doesn’t appear to have much (if any) history with metal bands in the past; and 2) Coming out of the gate as an unknown band with a double CD debut that features over an hour and a half’s worth of material might be a tad over-ambitious. However… This is really something.

Clearly based on the first part of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy (with Pt. 2 & 3 in the works), Signum Draconis’ The Divine Comedy – Inferno throws down a thoroughly epic interpretation with what Oscar Grace self-styles as a “Heavy Metal Opera.” The guitarist / composer’s full vision is tremendous—an exceedingly dark symphonic vortex of stern and grotesque drama that spotlights plenty of fiery lead guitar work, striking vocals, and loads of orchestration (provided by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of David Hernando Rico.)

While I would agree a little more editing would benefit the record, a significant part of me is totally on board with the idea of jumping from the gate with a statement piece that’s thoroughly overwhelming. The Divine Comedy – Inferno is certainly that.

Style: Symphonic Power
Location: Italy
Sample: “Gate of Hell” (Featuring Mark Boals and Ben Jackson (Crimson Glory))
Label: Rockshots Records
Release date: November 12
Band website: Signum Draconis

16. Dragony – Viribus Unitis

[Cover artwork: Dušan Marković]

Look, everyone has their limit concerning just how much exaggerated melodrama and absurdity they’re willing to take on when it comes to power metal’s more theatrical and joyous face. I would say I have a pretty high tolerance, especially compared to most of the Last Rites crew, having built my foundation at least partly on songs such as “Rise and Fall” and “Dr. Stein.” Throw a band called Dragony in my face, though, comprised of players who look a bit like an off-off-Broadway production of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and who offer up song titles such as “Made of Metal (Cyberpunk Joseph)” and a cover of Rainhard Fendrich’s “Haben Sie Wien schon bei Nacht gesehn?” That right there is beginning to tread dangerously close for many folks’ limits, me buckos.

Well, call off the hounds and holy Hell, because Viribus Unitis is a remarkably charming and grossly satisfying romp, start-to-finish. What we have here is a symphonic / orchestral power metal tribute to the escapades of Austria’s Franz Joseph I, and with that of course comes an overabundance of mellifluousness, pageantry and spectacle, without ever actually going so far overboard as to feel at all…insincere or nutty. It’s a perfect balance, really, and a prime example of power metal’s knack for loud theatrics that never forgets to keep it highly melodic and full of irresistible hooks.

Style: Symphonic Power
Location: Austria
Sample: “Legends Never Die”
Label: Napalm Records
Release date: January 15
Bandcamp: Dragony

15. Thorium – Empires in the Sun

[Cover artwork: Velio Josto]

Three Belgians brought together under the banner of a renewed Ostrogoth (who now feature only one original member: drummer Mario Pauwel) find so much chemistry together that they end up piecing together two albums-worth of new material for a brand new outlet called Thorium. The result: classic Euro power with roots in everything from the NWOBHM to early (Fates Warning-inspired) progressive metal to touches of speed, all of which is realized to great degree here with Thorium’s sophomore effort, Empires in the Sun.

Dario Frodo (guitar), Stripe (bass), and Tom Tas (guitar) no longer count Ostrogoth on their active resumes, but hopefully that means they have more time to focus on continuing this project, because it’s packed to the rafters with the sort of positive energy basically every human being needs in 2021. Rounding out the venture is drummer Louis Van der Linden and Black Knight vocalist David Marcelis, and together they deliver the sort of top-shelf vigor that feels as if they’ve all been playing together for decades.

Style: Heavy / Power
Location: Belgium
Sample: “Empires in the Sun”
Label: Freya Records
Release date: March 5
Bandcamp: Thorium

14. Black Soul Horde – Horrors from the Void

[Cover artwork: Giannis Nakos / Remedy Art Design]

Something’s definitely in the water over in Greece, as they’re amassing quite a collection of power-related bands that demand the public’s attention, Black Soul Horde obviously included. There’s something about the way this band paints in the corners that ends up coming across like an ideal collision between Eternal Champion and a Mercyful Fate-loving band like Portrait or Attic. As such, expect 40-plus minutes of dark, twisting heavy / power that’s never short on bright leads and wailing vocals that should absolutely appeal to anyone who counts bands like Cirith Ungol and Jag Panzer as staples in their diet.

Side note: Two of three members here also play in the equally impressive heavy / doom band Night Resident, and a bit of that bass-heavy strut manages to trickle into Black Soul Horde’s corners, which adds to Horrors from the Void’s uniqueness.

Style: Heavy / US Power
Location: Greece
Sample: “Beware the Deep”
Label: Independent
Release date: November 10
Bandcamp: Black Soul Horde

13. Silver Talon – Decadence and Decay

[Cover artwork: Gerald Brom]

Yeah, you know you have plenty room in your life for a band that fully comprehends all the ins and outs of the style of progressive power our dearly departed Warrel Dane first got us to fall in love with those many, many moons ago. Portland, Oregon’s Silver Talon checks all the right boxes for anyone interested in an ideal collision between Dane’s chief mainstays—the raw energy of early Sanctuary woven into the (ofttimes) elegant design of Nevermore—and they give it all just enough of a modern twist to feel as if the next step has been realized. Decadence and Decay is wonderfully dark, menacing and knotty, and vocalist Wyatt Howell’s extremely Dane-ish (but not at all Danish) vocals stack beautifully alongside a three-pronged guitar attack that shreds your face around virtually every bend.

Style: Heavy / Progressive Power
Location: USA
Sample: “As the World Burns”
Label: M-Theory Audio
Release date: May 28
Bandcamp: Silver Talon

12. Paladine – Entering the Abyss

[Cover artwork: Jimmy “Dreadjim” Ling]

One might think power metal has the realms of Dragonlance pretty well covered by now, no? Well, not really, amazingly enough. But when ol’ Fizban the Fabulous and friends do get some time in the spotlight, it’s at least good to know they’re in capable hands. Greek hands. The collective hands behind Paladine.

From a review written by an extremely handsome chap earlier this year: “Stylistically, Paladine falls squarely in the power metal camp that draws heavily from the darker, more aggressive subset that bubbled up in the US throughout the 80s: Manowar, Virgin Steele, Savatage and the like. But there’s a clear Euro neoclassical power element afoot as well, particularly with regard to the heaps and slews of leads heard throughout—a key element in the Paladine quiver that never quite ends up feeling as if the express purpose is to eclipse the remaining components. Indeed, balance is an element Paladine seem notably adept at controlling, as most every song paints heaviness, atmosphere, darkness, light, intricacy and a straightforward hook with equal brushstrokes.”

Style: Heavy / Power
Location: Greece
Sample: “Sacrifice of a Hero”
Label: No Remorse Records
Release date: March 26
Bandcamp: Paladine

11. Nahtram – Forest of Eternal Dawn

[Cover artwork: Caelan Stokkermans]

**BIG FAT CHEATER ALERT** Okay, we’ve finally reached the first entry that feels like a bonafide cheat. Not just because this is the second instrumental record to hit this year’s list, but mostly thanks to the fact that nothing related to Nahtram and Forest of Eternal Dawn finds a connection to power metal beyond being very epic and symphonic. One look at the logo and the album artwork screams black metal, and nowhere inside any of the band’s various social media pages is there even a hint of #power tagged. Therefore, it stands to reason that Forest of Eternal Dawn absolutely should not find its way onto a list such as this. In fact, it’s reasonable to expect the sole member responsible for the project, Lukas Grässlin, to be completely baffled to witness his inclusion alongside a significant portion of the remaining records hitting this year’s list.

Hey, but guess what… Despite the fact that Grässlin very likely pictures someone akin to Jari Mäenpää of Wintersun behind the mic for his vision, yours truly can’t help but envision Daniel Heiman, which, when combined with these twisting retreats into a far-off magical realm, results in something as epic as Dimhav’s wonderful The Boreal Flame. Okay, sure, it’s clearly not power metal, but you’d have to fight like a wounded bear backed into a corner to find a more majestically powerful 22 minutes in 2021 than the closing “Northern Winds” and “Forest of Eternal Dawn.”

Side note: This also wins my “The Most Listened to Album While Reading Steven Erikson’s Memories of Ice” award, so explosive hails for that.

Style: Syphonic Metal that most would not consider close enough to Power
Location: Germany
Sample: “Forest of Eternal Dawn”
Label: Independent
Release date: August 27
Bandcamp: Nahtram

10. NorthTale – Eternal Flame

[Cover artwork: Gustavo Sazes]

A number of people thought NorthTale would be a permanent Happy Zone for all parties interested in a world where the voice of Christian Eriksson (ex-Twilight Force) would get free rein to run rampant; he was, after all, one of three founding members of NorthTale, alongside Bill Hudson and Patrick Johansson. Well, whoopsie doodle—the dreaded “musical differences” quickly reared its ugly head following the release of 2019’s Welcome to Paradise, resulting in Eriksson being ousted by his second band in less than five years.

Let me make the following point very clear: If Eriksson was upset about the material on tap for album number two, NorthTale is better off without him, because Eternal Flame pretty much blows the band’s debut out of the water. This record is much more adventurous, more dynamic and at times surprisingly heavy (“Future Calls,” feat. Kai AND Tim Hansen, and “Midnight Bells!”), and new vocalist Guilherme Hirose is an exceedingly competent replacement for the wailing style of Eriksson.

Eternal Flame offers up classic Euro power, neoclassical trad metal, hard rock, some surprisingly progressive twists (particularly the 11min “Nature’s Revenge”), and one hell of an unexpected cover of Iron Maiden’s “Judas Be My Guide,” and it paints an ideal picture of a power metal band now poised to become one of the genre’s greats.

Style: Euro Power
Location: International
Sample: “Future Calls”
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release date: November 12
Band website: NorthTale

9. Dragonbreath – The Awakening

[Cover artwork: Rafael Kallistratou]

Similar to Claymorean’s latest, the debut from Cyprus’s Dragonbreath straddles the line between traditional / epic heavy metal and a class of power beholden to Manowar circa 1983. That unmistakable OOMPH is even more pronounced here, though, thanks in a large part to fact that Dragonbreath vocalist Chris Karmi sounds very much like an ideal combination of Mark Shelton and Dark Quarterer’s wonderful Gianni Nepi. That Manilla Road / Dark Quarterer authority bleeds into the music throughout The Awakening, too, surrendering 40-minutes of exhilarating heavy / power that’s not afraid to get a little proggy, and it’s always prepared to light the listener up with limitless magnificent leads. Worth noting that I wasn’t instantly sold on The Awakening when it first dropped, for reasons I can’t really put a pin on, but it casts an alluring sort of spell that quickly caused a level of addiction that resulted with me not even blinking an eye over the freight costs associated with getting a CD version on my doorstep all they way from Cyprus. One of the more CRANKABLE releases of 2021, and something I have a sneaky suspicion will morph into one of my favorite underground records in recent years, given a little more time.

Style: Heavy / Power
Location: Cyprus
Sample: “1974”
Label: Rafchild Records
Release date: September 3
Bandcamp: Dragonbreath

8. Pharaoh – The Powers that Be

[Cover artwork: Chris Cooper]

I’m guessing the Last Rites collective was far from alone with our worries concerning the extended idleness from USPM’s best kept secret, Pharaoh. Luckily, the band finally shook the cobwebs loose and landed their fifth full-length, The Powers that Be, and this is what one particular Pharaoh nut had to say about the album earlier this year: “Most any longtime Pharaoh fan will gladly inform you that 9 years is far too long to wait for new material from this crew, but we’re also the sort to quickly admit just how lucky we are to already have four full-lengths and an EP’s worth of greatness from them—an exceptional feat in and of itself, considering how often the quality from bands has a tendency to fluctuate. And when the end product is so consistently gratifying and restorative / curative as is Pharaoh’s music, it’s only natural to worry about the day when that wellspring will eventually run dry. Luckily, we’re not there yet, and word on the street indicates that Matt Johnsen is already working on material for the next record, so hopefully it won’t take another decade for us to hear even more grade-A epic, progressive US Pharaoh Power.”

Style: US Power
Location: USA
Sample: “Lost in the Waves”
Label: Cruz del Sur Records
Release date: June 18
Bandcamp: Pharaoh

7. Warrior Path – The Mad King

 [Cover artwork: Dimitar Nikolov]

Full disclosure: Seeing the name Daniel Heiman attached to any project will immediately inspire me to come sprinting into the room with all the energy and elegance of a faithful Labrador Retriever once it hears the hallowed sounds of food pelting a doggie dish. The good news: Daniel Heiman is now a member of Warrior Path. The even better news: I’m housebroken.

A true champion of the arena had this to say about The Mad King earlier this year: “The beauty of Warrior Path circa 2021 is the truth that their brand of power is varied enough that it should net all sorts of foot traffic, whether ye be trad-minded, epic-obsessed, or crazy for all things USPM. The bottom line is that it’s just great metal that makes you feel powerful. What more could one hope for while enduring an age where negativity swirls like a demonic tornado around seemingly every bend?”

Having now sat with the record for a full nine months, I remain extremely pleased with the results, but I’ll admit that it might have benefited from a little less production polish. It’s not a significant hinderance, but it’s enough to bump it just outside the top 5.

Style: Heavy / Power
Location: Greece
Sample: “His Wrath Will Fall”
Label: Symmetric Records
Release date: March 5
Bandcamp: Warrior Path

6. Edu Falaschi – Vera Cruz

[Cover Artwork: Carlos Barbosa]

For the love of all that’s holy, skip the 2-minute intro to Vera Cruz. No, it’s not quite as bad as the opening to Onslaught’s In Search of Sanity, but unless you like the idea of a power metal record kicking off with a confusing narrative that involves light swordplay and the birth of a baby, for the love of all that’s holy, skip the 2-minute intro to Vera Cruz. Following that, BOOM: you’re right into some serious shred and the sort of (largely) speedy Euro power custom-made for pounding the steering wheel when we’re forced to drive 35mph for some bullshit reason. Falaschi sounds great behind the mic, and the cast of characters he’s collected from his years spent with Angra and Almah stack this deck to the point where the results manage to challenge and even surpass much of what the related bands have done in recent years. In short, Vera Cruz is a terrific album that’s loaded to capacity with smart riffing, exquisite lead work, and the sort of adventurous songcrafting that bodes well for a very long shelf-life.

Style: Power / Progressive
Location: Brazil
Sample: “Land Ahoy”
Label: Nexus
Release date: May 12
Band website: Edu Falaschi

5. Eternity’s End – Embers of War

[Cover artwork: Dimitar Nikolov]

As expected, there is quite a bit to unpack with the arrival of the third full-length from Eternity’s End. Embers of War is of course speedy, stacked to the blue yonder with swollen energy, rifftastic to the tenth power, and notably adventurous with regard to both songcrafting and narrative (everything from Cthulhu Mythos to the Battle of Jutland to Elric of Melnibone gets exposure here). In short, the album delivers the sort of otherworldly, speedy power metal most fans of the genre just love to eat up.

But we know why we’re really here…

We’re here to find out just how far each member of the band continues to go with their indecent levels of technical shred. We’re here because we love tickling the pleasure center with full-frontal shred, which Embers of War does indeed divulge in spades: Infinite blinding leads, killer break-out riffs (particularly in “Bane of the Black Sword”), one explosive bass jailbreak (“Arcturus Prime”), plus an excessive level of assault and battery. But there’s also enough new in the corners to give listeners a little extra to chew on, like the extra 80’s teaze in “Shaded Heart,” or the notably dark and damn-near blackened charge at the outset of the closing title track. So, yeah, it’s the shred-fest we were hoping for, but it doesn’t forget to add a little something new to the formula.

Style: Speedy Power
Location: International
Sample: “Hounds of Tindalos”
Label: Prosthetic Records
Release date: November 26
Bandcamp: Eternity’s End

4. Helloween – Helloween

[Cover artwork: Eliran Kantor]

I should probably be flogged in public for 40 days and 40 nights for not giving Helloween’s 18th full-length the top spot this year simply due to its existence as a conglomerate of most every major player the band has employed over the years (minus Roland Grapow, Uli Kusch and of course Ingo Schwichtenberg). That’s more testament to the unbridled strength of the releases that landed higher, though, and not an indication that this record is anything short of remarkable. Helloween is too long, yes, but could we ever have guessed a record featuring the return of co-founder Kai Hansen (for the first time since 1988’s Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II) and Michael Kiske (for the first time since 1993’s Chameleon) would sound this balanced and energetic?

Here’s what a notably dashing pumpkin-head had to say about Helloween when it first dropped back in June: “There’s no denying that the proposal to unite forces from across Helloween’s full career was risky; on its own, stacking three guitarists together with a collective century of power metal experience had the potential for overload the likes of which we’ve never seen. And adding three voices to the scheme, two of which come standard with larger than life theatricality? Let’s just say the chance of heartbreak from either side of the spectrum was definitely lurking, whether it be at the behest of too many years in the rearview, resulting in a too-dim a version of the early energy, or the other end of the scale where some level of “Spider-Man the Musical” disaster hits our eyes and ears. The Pumpkins United tour did the job of mitigating those fears, though. And now with Helloween, it’s clear that not only can this collective pull things off with nary a hitch from the stage, they’re equally capable of grappling in the studio sans injury, resulting in new material that’s triumphant enough to stand toe-to-toe with any other top-tier Helloween release.”

Style: Euro Power
Location: Germany
Sample: “Skyfall”
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release date: June 18
Band website: Helloween

3. Marius Danielsen’s Legend of Valley Doom – Part 3

[Cover artwork: Dušan Marković]

42 guests comprised of 16 guitarists, 22 vocalists, 1 keyboardist (Derek Sherinian), 1 drummer (Ludvig Petersen), 1 bassist (Bjørn Helge Lervåg), and 1 narrator (John Rhys-Davies, also known as Gimli)—it’s safe to say if the brothers Danielsen (Marius: vocals & guitar, Peter: keyboards & orchestration) call your name, you come ready to play. And considering the guest list here—comprised of a stack of greats that very literally boggles the mind, including folks such as Ralf Scheepers, Daniel Heiman, Alessandro Conti, Tommy Johansson, Mathias Blad, Tim Hansen, Christian Münzer (who delivers the album’s best riff on “Mines of Eloroth”), Jimmy Hedlund, Dushan Petrossi and oh-so-many others—the fact that LoVD Part 3 can still come across this organized and polished is nothing short of astonishing. You were probably already aware of this, though, seeing as how Part 1 and 2 followed similar suit, with a number of the same guests. However, Part 3 really feels a little more special, likely thanks to the amount of experience everyone has with the process at this point, and also because the songs themselves happen to have a deeper comfort level that’s honestly a bit difficult to define. And honestly, this is exactly how any storyteller hopes to conclude a trilogy: with a huge and immensely satisfying victory. It’s certainly something that sets up Marius Danielsen’s next project, a solo record that continues the Valley Doom concept that’s due…well, hopefully sometime in 2022?

Style: Euro Power
Location: Norway
Sample: “Tomb of the Fallen Kings”
Label: Crime Records
Release date: May 7
Bandcamp: Marius Danielsen’s Legend of Valley Doom – Part 3

2. Ravenous – Hubris

[Cover artwork: Moch Luthfi]

The following quote from members of Canada’s Ravenous with regard to their approach to the genre is a perfect way to introduce them to those who remain unaware of the band’s existence: “We make power metal for people who both love and hate power metal.” Vocalist R.A. Voltaire takes it one step further with a follow-up: “Made by people who love power metal.”

Of course, this is hardly an approach that’s unfamiliar to the genre, as every year we’re guaranteed a handful of power metal records that crossover enough to become go-to grabs for anyone hoping to prove haters wrong about power being single-minded and inaccessible to those who never cared about, say, Helloween or Blind Guardian (poor bastards). However, those records are not always as strong as Hubris.

Make no mistake, the power element is still the chief ingredient here, and it’s quite clear the band’s love of the genre focuses on the more bombastic, speedier variety flexed by the Blind Guardians and Falconers of our day. Hubris is absolutely teeming with chest-swelling energy and, well, hubris, which matches the comprehensive theme of arrogance leading to collapse explored by songs that emphasize everything from Street Fighter (Akuma / “Die 1,000 Deaths”), Goethe’s Der Erlkonig (“The Alder Queen”), and Steven Erikson’s remarkable Malazan series (“Bridgeburners”).

R.A. Voltaire’s voice is deep and roaring—along the lines of someone like Jake Rogers of Visigoth—and he knows how to deliver a vocal hook. Surrounding him are the three remaining members who equal that power by kicking out an explosive energy via notably brisk riffing, aggressive drumming, and just enough ripping melody to prettify the corners. In short, Hubris absolutely is a power metal album custom-built for fans and bystanders alike. But even more so, it should be a case study for just how far a band can get when their vision and aptitude is heroic enough to overcome all the obstacles that typically damn those less committed into obscurity.

Related aside: Two of the four members come from the similarly underrated band Viathin, who equally blended genres, and whose Cynosure was one of the most rudely undervalued releases of 2014.

Style: Symphonic / Speed / Heavy / Power
Location: Canada
Sample: “Claw is the Law”
Label: Feast Beast Records
Release date: October 22
Bandcamp: Ravenous

1. Galneryus – Union Gives Strength

[Cover artwork: Uncredited]

Read the following words out loud to underscore their authenticity: Japan’s Galneryus is the most consistently excellent power metal band in action today. Outside of one somewhat average album (for Galneryus), 2008’s Reincarnation, the remainder of the band’s 15 (!!!) total full-lengths all hit around the 8.5 or higher range, with a particular leap in quality occurring with the last four records.

Again, read the following words out loud to underscore their authenticity: Union Gives Strength could very well be the best record the band has released to date. That might seem outrageous, considering the band’s stellar track record, and I believe a little more time might be necessary to see if it eventually eclipses 2017’s incredible Ultimate Sacrifice, but holy crap is it ever fun revisiting this thing time and time again to experience its upswing. Everyone sounds as incredible as ever, with reverent nods of course owed to vocalist Masatoshi Ono for his intensely passionate delivery and to guitarist Shusuke “Syu” Ueda for giving these songs a bladed intensity that could cut through a concrete wall. But there’s also a new drummer (Lea from Zygote) afoot, and new blood always has a way of bringing an extra level of energy to everyone’s play, and that certainly rings true with Union Gives Strength.

The album clocks in at a loaded one hour, but the final 12 minutes are re-recorded songs from previous records—“Deep Affection” (2005’s Advance to the Fall) and “Everlasting” (2007’s One for All – All for One)—and as good as they are, the maximum strength of this adventure occurs within the 46 minutes that makes up the six new cuts, three of which clock in at around 9 minutes. The longer songs are where the more progressive and splendidly knotty face of Galneryus really shines, but even the relatively shorter songs manage to hit the mark dead center. Not even the, um, ballad “Hold On” manages to throw a wrench in the works.

The whole affair is a bit darker and heavier compared to previous records, and at no point does Galneryus give indication that they’re in any sort of decline after being in action for 20 years and delivering 15 full-lengths and 10 EPs. Just an extraordinary band that continues to find ways to push power metal to the next level.

Style: Neoclassical Power
Location: Japan
Sample: “Whatever it Takes (Raise Our Hands!)”
Label: Warner Music Japan
Release date: June 16
Band website: Galneryus

———

«»

2021’s Full List of 310 Competitors (Bandcamp links provided where applicable):

403 Forbiddena – Heroes Part 2
Acamarachi – Rise of the Broken
Ad Infinitum – Chapter II: Legacy
Aeonblack – The Time Will Come
Aetherea – Through Infinite Dimensions
Alefla – Unbreakable
Alvablot – Harmonic Dystopia
An Ancient Legend, Long Forgotten – Kingdom
Ancient Myth – ArcheoNyx
Angels’ Temptation – Anthem of the Angels
Angelwings – Primordium
Anguish Force – Metal Disco Satellite EP
Antonio Giorgio – Between Light & Darkness EP
Antti Martikainen – Carmina Gloria
Apostolica – Haeretica Ecclesia
Arcane Tales – Tales from Sharanworld
Arion – Vultures Die Alone
ArkenFire – Trials through Time
Athlantis – Last But Not Least
Attika – Metal Lands
Avaland – Theater of Sorcery
Beast in Black – Dark Connection
Between Worlds – Between Worlds
Binary Creed – Inferno Part One EP
Black & Damned – Heavenly Creatures
Black Soul Horde – Horrors from the Void
BlackSword – Alive Again
Blaze Bayley – War Within Me
Blazon Stone – Damnation
Blessdivine – Between Sin & Sacrifice
BloodBound – Creatures of the Dark Realm
Book of Numbers – Magick
Brainstorm – Wall of Skulls
Brother Against Brother – Brother Against Brother
Burning Point – Arsonist of the Soul
Burning Witches – The Witch of the North
Carmeria – Advenae
Castellica – Moment of Glory
Celtic Hills – Mystai Keltoy
Chalice of Sin – Chalice of Sin
Claymorean – Eulogy for the Gods
Craft Sword – The Furious the Savage the Wild EP
Crimson Fire – Another Dimension
Cross Vein – Life of Veins
Crowne – Kings in the North
Crystal Throne – Crystal Throne
Crystal Viper – The Cult
Crystallion – Heads or Tails
Custard – Imperium Rapax
Dan Baune’s Lost Sanctuary – Lost Sanctuary
Dark Arena – Worlds of Horror
Dialith – Atrophy EP
Distant Past – The Final Stage
Doomsday – Leyendas
Drac Attack! – Drac Attack!
Draconicon – Dark Side of Magic
Dragonbreath – The Awakening
DragonCum – The 4,000-Year-Old Virgin
Dragony – Viribus Unitis
Drakkar – Chaos Lord
Dream Tröll – Realm of the Tormentor
Dreamcatcher – The Road So Far
Dreams In Fragments – When Echoes Fade
Durbin – The Beast Awakens
Dyryth – Watchers
Edu Falaschi – Vera Cruz
Eld Varg – One Man Army
Eldritch – EOS
Electric Crown – Prophecy of Doom
Elfsong – Encyclopedia Nova Creatura
Embrace of Souls – The Number of Destiny
Emerald Rage – High King
Energema – Promised Land
Eons Enthroned – Into the Arcane
Epilog – Providence Asylum
Eternal Flight – SurVive
Eternity’s End – Embers of War
Everdawn – Cleopatra
Evergrey – Escape of the Phoenix
Evermore – Court of the Tyrant King
Everture – Emerge
Evil Hunter – Lockdown
Evil King – The Dark Age
Existance – Wolf Attack
Fate Gear – The Sky Prison
Feanor – Power of the Chosen One
Fierce Deity – The Trials UnMasked EP
Fierce Deity – Power Wisdom Courage EP
FireForce – Rage of War
FireWing – Resurrection
FireWölfe – Conquer All Fear
Forsakken – Shadowcaster
Fortunato – Insurgency
Foxlord – Foxlord
Frozen Crown – Winterbane
Fugatta – The Darkest Planet
Galaxy – On the Shore of Life
Galneryus – Union Gives Strength
Garden of Darkness – Shokai
Generation Steel – The Eagle Will Rise
George Tsalikis – Return to Power
Giotopia – Trinity of Evil
Gospel – The Spell
Graywitch – Rise of the Witch
Great Master – Thy Harbour Inn
Hammer King – Hammer King
Haunter – Silent Earth
Havenlights – Songs of Autumn
Headon – Génesis
Heart Healer – The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson
Hell and Back – A Thousand Years
Helloween – Helloween
Heretic – Feast
Herética – El hereje
Herman Frank – Two for a Lie
Hevilan – Symphony of Good and Evil
Hizaki – Rusalka EP
Hollow – Tower
Holy Mother – Face this Burn
Hopes of Freedom – Light, Fire & Iron
Hyloxalus – Aposematic EP
Ibuki – Storm of Emotion
Icon of Sin – Icon of Sin
Illusion Force – Illusion Paradise
Illusory – Crimson Wreath
Imaginature – Imaginature
Imago Imperii – A Tale of Darkness and Hope
Immortal Guardian – Psychosomatic
Immortal Synn – Force of Habit
Imperia – The Last Horizon
Infamia – Crisálida
Inner Call – Leviathan
Inner Core – Dark Chronicles
InnerSiege – Fury of Ages
Insania – V (Praeparatus Supervivet)
Iron Attack! – No Loser, No Winner
Iron Attack! – Maze of Gradation
Johan Kihlberg Impera – Spirit of Alchemy
Kaelis – Far Galaxy EP
Kambrium – Synthetic ERA
Katana Cartel – The Sacred Oath
Kiko Shred’s Rebellion – Rebellion
Knight’s Oath – Knight’s Oath EP
Knightsune – Knightsune
Kosmic Dragon – The Galactic Hammer
Krilloan – Stories of Time Forgotten EP
Labÿrinth – Welcome to the Absurd Circus
Last Days of Eden – Butterflies
Legions of the Night – Sorrow is the Cure
Leverage – Above the Beyond
Long Shadow’s Dawn – Isle of Wrath
Lords of Black – Alchemy of Souls Part II
Lost in Grey – Under the Surface
Loudstorm – Metal Battleroyal
Lovebites – Glory, Glory to the World EP
Lycanthro – Mark of the Wolf
Mägo de Oz – Bandera Negra
Malacoda – Crawling Chaos EP
Malacoda – The Strain EP
Malison – Death’s Embrace
Manimal – Chains of Fury EP
Manora – Brave the Storm
Marble – S.A.V.E.
Marcel Verand – Memorias de un despertar: Ira & sacrificio
Marco Garau’s Magic Opera – The Golden Pentacle
Marius Danielsen’s Legend of Valley Doom – Part 3
Mary’s Blood – Mary’s Blood
Master Spy – The Train
Mentalist – A Journey into the Unknown
Metalite – A Virtual World
Metalsteel – Forsaken By the Gods
Metalwings – A Whole New Land
Minstrelix – 11 Trajectories
Morning Dwell – The Power Will Go On
My Refuge – The Anger is Never Over
Mysterizer – The Holy War 1095
Nahtram – Forest of Eternal Dawn
Nanowar of Steel – Italian Folk Metal
Naoto Project ~ Crystal Peach ~ – Crystal Carriage
Neonfly – The Future, Tonight
Nergard – Eternal White
Nexus Opera – La Guera Granda
Nightshadow – Strike Them Dead
No One Spoke – Nine Mirrors
NorthTale – Eternal Flame
Nothing Sacred – No Gods
Nova Era – The Curse
Númenor – Draconian Age
Ominous Glory – The Elven Dream
Orden Ogan – Final Days
Ossian – A Teljesség
Oversense – Egomania
Ovvercross – Stuttgart, 1943
Painters of Ether – Painters of Ether
Paladine – Entering the Abyss
Paradox – Heresy II – End of a Legend
Percival – Riders of the Sun
Perpetual Etude – Now is the Time
Phantom Divine – The Cosmic Vision
Phantom Elite – Titanium
Pharaoh – The Powers that Be
Phoenix Rising – Acta Est Fabula
Poverty’s No Crime – A Secret to Hide
Power Reset – Dungeon Master
Powerwolf – Call of the Wild
Prelude to Ruin – Ronin Ex Mortis EP
Primal Fear – I Will Be Gone EP
Primitai – Violence of the Skies
Project Resurrect – False Reality
Project: Roenwolfe – Edge of Saturn
Rage – Resurrection Day
Rage in My Eyes – Spiral EP
Rakshasa – 百花創生
Rascal – Headed Towards Destruction EP
Ravenlight – Intermission EP
Ravenous E.H. – Hubris
Ravian – Kinsmen from Afar
Reaper’s Revenge – Versus
Rebellion – We Are the People
Redd Barron – Sands of Time
Reinforcer – Prince of the Tribes
Resurrection Kings – Skygazer
Rhapsody of Fire – Glory for Salvation
Robledo – Wanted Man
Rubicon – Demonstar
Running Wild – Blood On Blood
Saber Tiger – Paragraph V
Sacred Oath – Return of the Dragon
Sacrifer – Valhalla is for Me
Saratoga – XXX
Scarlet Valse – Apocalypsis
Sceptor – Rise to the Light
ScreaMachine – ScreaMachine
Screaming Shadows – Legacy of Stone
Season of Dreams – Heroes
Secret Chord – Aurora
Secret Rule – Mea Culpa
Secret Sphere – Lifeblood
Seven Spires – Gods of Debauchery
Seventh Dimension – Black Sky
ShadowStrike – Fables and Folklore EP
Signum Draconis – The Divine Comedy – Inferno
Silent Winter – Empire of Sins
Silver Talon – Decadence and Decay
Sinner Guard – War is the Father of All
Sirenia – Riddles, Ruins & Revelations
SkeleToon – The 1.21 Gigawatts Club
Skyblazer – Time for Deliverance EP
SkyEye – Soldiers of Light
Skyhammer – The Skyhammer EP
Skyliner – Dark Rivers, White Thunder
Skywings – How Beautiful
Sonic Haven – Vagabond
Sorrowful Knight – Lost City EP
Sorrowful Knight – Once upon a Time EP
Souls of Diotima – Janas
Spirit of Lao Dan – Secret Life
Steel Sword – The Steel Sword
Steelbourne – A Tale as Old as Time
Steelforce – The Oracle EP
Stranger Vision – Poetica
Subfire – Define the Sinner
Sunrise – Equilibria
SunStorm – Afterlife
Sweet Oblivion – Relentless
Tales and Legends – Struggle of the Gods
Tales of the Old – Book of Chaos
Temperance – Diamanti
The 5th Dragon – The Battle Field EP
The Dark Horde – The Calling
The Fabled Fallen – Nightmares
The Fabled Fallen – Dreams
The Giant Void – Thought Insertion
The Grandmaster – Skywards
The Sheglapes – Seiren
The Three Tremors – Guardians of the Void
The Veith Ricardo Project – Storm Warning
Thola – Somewhere
Thomsen – III
Thor – Alliance
Thorium – Empires in the Sun
Thunder and Lightning – F.E.A.R.
Timeless Haunt – Dark for Life
Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – The Enigma Birth
Tragedian – Seven Dimensions
Trend Kill Ghosts – Until the Sunrise Again
Trytan – Blood of Kings
Unlucky Morpheus – Loud Playing Workshop EP
Van Canto – To the Power of Eight
Vandor – On a Moonlit Night
Vell’z Fire – The Last Stand
Velvet Viper – Cosmic Healer
Vexillum – When Good Men Go to War
Viral – Viral
Volker – Banners
Wardrum – Mavericks
Warkings – Revolution
Warrior Path – The Mad King
Whyzdom – Of Wonders and Wars
Wings of Destiny – Memento Mori
Winterage – The Inheritance of Beauty
Witchbound – End of Paradise
Witherfall – The Curse of Autumn
Wizard – Metal in My Head
Wolfchant – Omega : Bestia
Wonders – The Fragments of Wonder
Xiphea – Witchcraft
Yngwie Malmsteen – Parabellum
Гран-Куражъ – Эпохи, герои и судьбы
矢島舞依 – Heretical Soul EP

«»

 

Posted by Captain

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; I got the Wordle in 1 guess; Just get evil all the time.

  1. “The entire project is shrouded in enough mystery that Metal-Archives doesn’t even have it listed yet…”

    You sure?

    https://rateyourmusic.com/artist/signum-draconis

    Band members seem to be listed.

    Otherwise, decent list. I think Eternity’s End and maybe Helloween (though I didn’t enjoy it as much as everyone else did) will be the only ones from this list to be remembered after a period of time.

    Reply

    1. Ha. I checked M-A yesterday evening and SD still wasn’t listed. Kiiiiiinda thought it might happen once we published this thing. As for what will be remembered: Agree to disagree. And thanks for reading!

      Reply

  2. Once again, another excellent list! I’m so glad to see Valley Doom Pt.3 on this list, as it’s my #1 of 2021. Thanks for continually giving love to this awesome sub-genre!

    Reply

    1. Ahhhhh, been wondering what might top the pile for you this year, Frank! Hoping you’ll drop a list at some point! Hails, brother!

      Reply

      1. I’ll be dropping (as the kids say) on Instagram next week. Top 15 and some honorable mentions.

        Reply

  3. You know whats missing? A complete band promo photo gallery. Who has most leather and moustache?

    Reply

    1. Fantastic idea. Will incorporate this into next year’s list.

      Reply

  4. I always love to read this one. I’ve rarely heard more than a couple of the bands mentioned (same again this year), and it’s a non-stop blast jamming stacks of OTT metal for weeks on end. Feels very in keeping with the holiday season to be enjoying so much rousing music. Thanks, as always, Cap. Looking forward to reading the rest of the crew’s picks for 2021. (Also, holy shit, how great is that Galneryus!) Best to ya’ll.

    Reply

    1. Love and miss you, homeslice! Keeping the ol’ peepers peeled for Six Noises End O’ the Year action!

      Reply

  5. Always one of my most anticipated lists, I always find at least one or two great records that I wasn’t aware of and that quickly become favorite (like Dimhav two years ago and Goldenhall last year). This year is no different, since I didn’t even know Legend of Valley Doom existed, and this record sounds bombastic in all the right ways. I’m less enthused by Ravenous, their music is definitely interesting but I’m not sure if there’s enough hooks and melodies to hold my interest for good. Still, I will give it a few good listens.

    Fully agree that Galneryus’ newest is the Power Metal record of the year, and that this band is the most consistently awesome in the whole genre. I don’t know if this one is their best, but it is absolutely fantastic for sure, and ranks high on my list for the year as a whole. Btw, I also agree that Reincarnation is their least good album, but even it has several amazing songs, especially the opening track. And the dearly missed Yama-B sounds as good as he ever has, ie. untouchable.

    In any case, the whole list is great, but I must protest Seven Spires being placed so low. Sure, the record is too long and I pretend “Lightbringer” doesn’t exist, but there are so many incredible songs on it, some of which are the best the band has ever put to disk! Those guys remain in a league of their own.

    Also shocked to see that Skywings was under consideration but didn’t even make the cut. It’s cheesy as hell, but the songwriting and melodies are second to none. It’s their most consistently great work, and my favorite Power Metal record this year after Galneryus. They really deserve more recognition.

    Reply

  6. Fredrik Schjerve December 4, 2021 at 7:52 am

    Marius Danielsen holds the 3rd spot while Nergard isn’t at the list at all? *draws a deep fucking breath* Hnghhh!!!!

    Alright, I’m not gonna be that guy. Great fucking job sorting though this humungous amount of music and coming to an informed conclusion (although I have to strongly disagree about the aforementioned, unacceptable lapse of judgement regarding Nergard ):c I am actually compiling a list of the 50 best Norwegian metal records of the year for my blog (we cover all new Norwegian metal releases from week to week), and funnily enough, Nergard is on the shortlist but not Marius Danielsen. As this list has shown me, I might have underestimated the record, but throughout the listening and review process the material never gripped me the way Nergard did. Mad props to Danielsen for not making a cluttered mess out of so many participants, but the story is a bit too stock for me to get immersed, and as the music is more or less a vessel for the story, that’s a problem. Re-listening to it while writing this does remind me of some of its strengths though, so I may have to reconsider it. Seriously though; don’t sleep on that Nergard-record. The (true) story combined with its incredibly empathetic lyrical treatment of it is absolutely touching, and the title track is probably one of the strongest power tracks of the whole year. Once again, terrific work, and don’t take my rant to seriously; I’m just astounded that ‘Eternal White’ didn’t get the reception it deserved, and it shows in everything I write about the subject! Merry Christmas, I can’t wait to see what you guys have in store for the staff top 25!

    PS: I’ll link you guys our top 50 once it releases, the blog is called Metallurgi (it’s in Norwegian (RIP))

    Reply

    1. Fredrik, ranting is part of the game — RANT AWAY. Without your rant I might not go back to Nergard to give it more of a chance and subsequently feel awful about its omission! If it makes you feel any better (I know it won’t), it did make the cut to 50. And yes, please do link that list! Curious to see what it ends up looking like. And as always, thanks for reading!

      Reply

  7. Thanks for continuing to do this!

    Reply

  8. Marcus Kaellberg January 7, 2022 at 1:33 pm

    Hi Captain

    Belated holiday wishes to you and thanks for still having the Power…

    Hoping to find a hidden gem in your list again like Sacred Outcry last year. I’ll check in later with my impression from 2021.

    Reply

  9. I don’t understand how people are able to process this much music. Especially of one sort.
    I needed some power metal to listen to.
    Thanks for doing this.

    Reply

  10. Always wait with anticipation your list Cap despite Power metal not being anymore my fav cup of tea! Had the chance to discover a lot of gems (still remember my dropped jaw when i listed to Anubis gate) and this year it turns to have no shortage of some nice discoveries.

    On a personal note, this was the year of the pumpkin however a few other strong albums got a few spins from my side like pharaow, warrior path and silver talon. Yet excited about Falaschi’s album as i haven’t heard it and looks so so promising!

    Being from Greece, super proud to see 4 representatives from here while on last year we hit the top of the mountain with Sacred outcry. So allow me to share our secret for consistency – we eat power cereal for breakfast and metal beans for lunch – arrrg!

    Keep on sharing the goodies!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.