We Have The Power Presents: The Top 100 Power Metal Albums Of All Time, Part 2

Adventurers! What-ho and forsooth, it is time once again to kick The Most Important List Ever Compiled By A Human Being back into life! [Falls headfirst into a roiling nest of deadly Alaskan marmots]

Yes, hello! You over there! Remember when we gathered in fellowship for Part 1 of The Top 100 (Euro and Progressive) Power Metal Albums Of All Time two weeks ago today? It was a wonderful time that bristled with risk, glory and fortune, and everyone who participated walked away with… A BRAND NEW CAR!!!

Feeling pretty silly for not showing up, no? Well, I have some terrific news: 1) There’s still time to catch up on Part 1, 2) The cars were all stolen (again, really sorry about that), and 3) there’s loads more fun to be had, as evidenced by this, Part 2 of The Top 100 (Euro and Progressive) Power Metal Albums Of All Time.

Here’s a little something that warrants mentioning before moving forward. I knew when I agreed to take on this venture that the exercise would require one hell of a lot of time allotted to one hell of a lot of albums—so much so that I likely wouldn’t have a lot of time to listen to much else, which obviously has its pros and cons. Cons: 1) I love all manner of genres, so limiting that is really pretty challenging for me, and 2) I still very much enjoy keeping up with new releases, but that’s basically been put on hold until this all wraps up. WEEP FOR ME.

Pros: Well, there’s really only one, but it’s fairly significant. My self-imposed POWER METAL SUMMER has resulted in a very rewarding reacquaintance with quite a few albums I haven’t spun in quite some time, replete with vital full discography dives to ensure the “correct” [slips on a banana peel] selections were being made. With that comes the added bonus of power metal’s wonderfully irrational level of positivity that can’t help but spill into the psyche. In other words, I feel pretty fucking magnificent! My brain, that is! My body is just as hammered to pulp as it’s ever been, but the ol’ brain waves are currently as sunny and warm as the summer days are long, and I’m loving the optimism high. It’s worth mentioning because if anyone out there reading these words has found themselves overwhelmed by the doldrums of late, I can certainly recommend a similar Power Metal Plan of Action™ to help BOLT you back in the right direction.

Okay, let’s get to the dipping in. In case you need a refresher regarding the rules, they’re pretty straightforward:
» (4) articles celebrating (25) albums each, every other week
» Only one album per band will qualify
» The order of the albums is totally randomized
» Progressive power allowed entry
» US power metal has already been covered here and here

Boom, that’s it.

Similar to part 1, the next 25 albums span a full range of styles and timelines. It may be a bit redundant, but I’ll probably copy / paste the next statement into each article, because it’s important and has a notable effect on the outcome of the list as a whole:

I am not one of those soreheads who thinks all modern releases must age on some cellar shelf for decades before being able to qualify for an endeavor such as this. Power metal has seen a serious influx of remarkable talent in recent years, and I very much believe the genre is bristling with more explosive spirit today than ever, thanks to new talent AND veterans discovering pathways to new energy. Put simply, it’s a great time to be alive and a fan of power metal, and a portion of this list will certainly reflect that truth.

Thus… The action is now GO GO GO!



Blind Guardian – Imaginations from the Other Side [1995]

[Cover artwork: the incomparable Andreas Marschall]

“When that bell rings, bust from the gate with brass knuckles flailing.” ~ Julia Childs

At least I think that was Julia Childs. Regardless, we’re kicking off round 2 of this endeavor with another massive scrapper.

Here’s the thing: Blind Guardian is the best power metal band of all time. They’re the band you reach for when it comes time to indoctrinate a curious bystander, they’re the band that often gets a pass from chumps who claim to hate power metal, and they’re the band whose merch flies off the shelves faster than toilet paper circa January 2020. I know there are power metal fans out there who claim to dislike them, but I have a sneaking suspicion those individuals might be spending too much time huffing manure particles in the bathroom. No offense.

I’m sorry I didn’t pick Nightfall in Middle-Earth for this list. I’m also sorry I didn’t pick Somewhere Far Beyond. I am not at all sorry, however, for opting to avoid A Night at the Opera, because I’m that absolute piece of trash whose brain continues to mishandle the orchestral maelstrom flying from every direction that is ANatO, a record I’d honestly still give a solid 8/10. Yes, allies, it is Imaginations from the Other Side that wins this epic scrum, because Imaginations is heavy as shit and has the invincible one-two punch of “Born in a Mourning Hall” (holy Hell) and the emotionally gutting “Bright Eyes.” May we all be blessed with the fortitude to never be blinded by fear of life, and long may Blind Guardian reign.

Primitive origins: Germany
Label(s): Virgin Records / Aquarius Musikindo / Seoul Records / Solar Entertainment Co., Ltd. / Victor
Sample: “Born in a Mourning Hall” OFFICIAL VIDEO

Edguy – Mandrake [2001]

[Cover artwork: Jean-Pascal Fournier]

I’m fairly certain the bulk of the world’s widespread Edguy addicts would opt for Hellfire Club as the shoo-in for a list such as this, as Hellfire pretty much delivers an ideal example of a Power Metal Guide for Dummies for getting this sort of thing done with virtually any and all of power metal’s tricks and textures splayed in spades. So, why kick the wheels of the apple cart by throwing the crown at Mandrake? For admittedly selfish reasons, really. Reasons that begin and end with the truth that Mandrake has always reminded me of a Bruce Dickinson / Roy Z solo record dipped in classic Helloween. Wait, what? You don’t really care for the Bruce Dickinson / Roy Z solo records? Well, then please consider enjoying this full plate of fresh droppings whilst I soak in a treasure bath eating peeled grapes and cranking the heavy metalest power metal record Edguy ever created.

Primitive origins: Germany
Label(s): AFM Records / Aquarius Musikindo / CD-Maximum / Locomotive Records / Mystic Production / NEMS Enterprises / NTS / Rocris Disc / Scarecrow Records / Seoul Records / Wizard / Victor
Sample: “All the Clowns” OFFICIAL VIDEO

Nocturnal Rites – Grand Illusion [2005]

[Cover artwork: Axel Hermann]

What on earth would possess me to choose the Bon Joviest Nocturnal Rites album imaginable over total smoke shows such as Tales of Mystery and Imagination (their Yngwiest!), Afterlife (fire!) or a total cranker like Shadowland? Well, maybe I’m just a bastard, did you ever think of that? Plus, never underestimate the unconquerable might of the HOOK, which Grand Illusion delivers as if the life of its dearest mee-maw very literally depends on it. “Fools Never Die?” Impossible hook. “Never Trust?” Invincible hook. “Still Alive?” Hottest hooking hooker ever. (That sentence looks weird.) HOOKS, ye pub-lubbers—hooks as far as the ear can hear. And it’s all shotgunned even further into the stratosphere with the album’s purposeful and gilded intent to secure the listener in a platinum-plated armor of encouragement that simply will not allow you to be defeated whenever this absurdly heartening record plays.

Primitive origins: Sweden
Label(s): Century Media Records / Icarus Music / Fono Ltd. / Scarecrow Records / Victor
Sample: “Still Alive” OFFICIAL VIDEO

Manticora – 8 Deadly Sins [2004]

[Cover artwork: Mattias Norén]

“Waaaaah, power metal’s not heavy enuff,” cried the heavy metal lord grinding through life in a dang-ol’ Tool t-shirt.

Well, stuff 8 Deadly Sins into your vape pen and vape it, you impressive specimen of human evolution, you. Let the album’s heavy footprint trample a path through the stubborn brambles of your heart and inspire abrupt proclamations such as, “This is power metal?” Or, “If only more power metal bands did it like this!” We know, ultimate warrior. We know. Manticora is one of our darkest and most aggressive champions, and an argument can certainly be made that album number four from these brooding Danes continues to reign as their darkest and most aggressive to date. Mind you, they also happen to be one of the more consistent outfits in our forces, so be prepared to regularly face the laborious task of reattaching your barn doors the moment you’ve fully assimilated 8 Deadly Sins and moved on to the next Manticora campaign.

Primitive origins: Denmark
Label(s): Massacre Records / Melodic Heaven / Nightmare Records / Art Music Group / Replica Records / Wizard / Nexus
Sample: “1946. Melancholic (Betrayal)

Rhapsody of Fire – The Frozen Tears of Angels [2010]

[Cover artwork: Felipe Machado Franco]

I think Rhapsody (of Fire) does a pretty damn good job of giving Blind Guardian a run for the money in terms of The Greatest Power Metal Band of All Time. They’re certainly in the conversation, and that conversation absolutely involves a lot of arguing with full use of the hands. Have Rhapsody ever come close to releasing a flop? Outside of the ill-advised Legendary Years, I would say, “No, amici. No.” And let me tell you, it kills me—KILLS ME—to not pick Power of the Dragonflame for this list, even if for “Gargoyles, Angels of Darkness” alone. But the sheer POWER behind The Frozen Tears of Angels simply cannot be denied. Frozen Tears is the album I once paralleled to eagles fucking in mid-air, and it is the album I would most want to hear whilst sipping Vernaccia di San Gimignano on vacation with at LEAST three buttons on my fine cotton shirt unbuttoned. I know: HOT, right? Seriously, if you can listen to “Raging Starfire” and “On the Way to Ainor” without having 50 megatons of sunlight shattering through your arsehorl and vaulting you 50,000 lightyears into the heavens, you must have crocodile yarzim running through your veins instead of awesome, awesome power metal blood. Sing it with me now: “ON! THE! WAY! TO! AINOR!!”

Primitive origins: Finland
Label(s): Nuclear Blast / Chaos Reigns / Soyuz Music
Sample: “On the Way to Ainor

Falconer – Falconer [2001]

[Cover artwork: Jan Meininghaus]

Sweden’s Falconer is (and now sadly was) another of those stalwart bands that conquers consistency like Joey Chestnut conquers hot dogs. As a result, one can expect a full range of favorites to bubble to the surface when conversations turn to “the best,” including the works they managed late in their career, a time when most bands would settle with being pretty, pretty, pretty good. Know this: The struggle was terrifically real when trying to pick between 2014’s Black Moon Rising—a masterclass example of how to joyously slay listeners with melodic hooks—and this, their eponymous and very excellent debut. In the end, the thought of denying the gold for their massive arrival proved too much for my withered mind to bear, so… yeah, deal with it, ye lords and ladyships. Falconer still has the hooks, for sure, but it also carries over the heft from the Stefan Weinerhall’s Mithotyn days, polished to an almost impossibly perfect sheen by none other than Andy LaRocque, which adds to the overall (sigh) Kingliness. What a way to jump from the gate.

Primitive origins: Sweden
Label(s): Metal Blade Records / Fono Ltd. / Rocris Disc / Wizard
Sample: “Heresy in Disguise

Persuader – Evolution Purgatory [2004]

[Cover artwork: Hervé Monjeaud]

The pitch received back when Evolution Purgatory first landed: “It’s like Blind Guardian without the dragons.”

My initial reaction upon receiving said pitch: “What the hell is wrong with dragons?”

But, yeah, I get it: Some people have a (very sad) natural aversion to fantasy themes that trickles like the cruelest of poisons into their music predilections as well. Never having suffered the arrows of being called a (hwarf) “realist,” though, my first approach to this album included approximately one tablespoon’s worth of side-eye, even though the band didn’t really deserve it. Thankfully, that minuscule amount of skepticism gets washed away almost immediately, as Persuader’s even more aggressive take on the infectious Blind Guardian formula roars into the ears after Evolution Purgatory plays for, like, 30 seconds. The result: A power metal record burly enough to benchpress a full-grown grizzly in the midst of pounding a moose down its gullet, which I would have to imagine weighs quite a bit. RIFFFFFFS, suckas!

Primitive origins: Sweden
Label(s): Noise Records / Phantom Records / Sanctuary Records / Sauron Music / Nexus
Sample: “Raise Hell

Viathyn – Cynosure [2014]

[Cover artwork: Augusto Peixoto]

Why don’t more people shit their faces off for Cynosure? Do you guys really love your faces so much that you can’t fathom being separated from it for even a few seconds? It’s not like it won’t reattach, for hell’s sake. I mean, you do look great, let me be the first to tell you, but narcissism is not a healthy trait, and this album really is pretty terrific.

Full-length numero two-oh from Calgary, Alberta’s Viathyn bends the notion of “sophomore slump” over the railing with Cynosure, delivering an hour’s worth of hugely engaging progressive power that comes across like some sort of blessed collision between Ensiferum, (proggy) Iron Maiden and Wuthering Heights. I know, massive, no? Suffice to say, the record explores all manner of styles, pacing and temperaments, and it’s all woven together with a folky and folkloric narrative that leaves the listener feeling as if they’ve cracked the cover to some neglected Neverending Story every time it plays.

P.S. Please end the “On hold” status, Viathyn. It’s not like you guys have anything better to do, right? (IT’S A JOKE, take it easy.)

Primitive origins: Canada
Label(s): Independent (whut…)
Sample: “The Coachman

SinBreed – Shadows [2014]

[Cover artwork: Felipe Machado Franco]

An album that features guitarist Marcus Siepen and drummer Frederik Ehmke of Blind Guardian, plus the pipes of Herbie Langhans (Firewind, The Lightbringer of Sweden, ex-Seventh Avenue) in the ranks? I’m not sure any further information is needed to sell a record like Shadows, but in the interest of over-selling things to the point of senseless excess, let’s go ahead and weld expressions such as “speed-freak,” “riff-fest” and “melodic vortex” to the bumper in order to guarantee SinBreed’s entry. Sure, we love and appreciate all that power metal has morphed into in the modern age, but it’s great to have bands like this afoot that serve as stark reminders that the roots were built on a solid foundation of good ol’ (über melodic) speed metal that often borders dangerously close to thrash. Bang that head that doesn’t bang! Or don’t, I’m clearly not the boss of you. (If I were, though, I’d force you to listen to this record. Boss of the year!)

Primitive origins: Germany
Label(s): AFM Records / Fono Ltd. / Seven Seas
Sample: “Bleed” OFFICIAL VIDEO

Grave Digger – Rheingold [2003]

[Cover artwork: Markus Mayer]

Oh, great, another legendary act with enough first-class schwag attached to their name that selecting just one release for a list such as this is about as straightforward as an organic chemistry final exam (during a dream where you forget to wear pants.)

2003’s Rheingold takes first prize amidst the band’s imposing catalog because—outside of the fact that it celebrates one of Shitler’s biggest musical crushes, Wagner—it just so happens to be the closest Grave Digger’s ever come to delivering something that’s nearly bulletproof. Well, nearly bulletproof if you’re the sort of HERO who enjoys dark, menacing and epic Teutonic power, that is. The riffs throughout Rheingold are heavy and dripping with oil, Boltendahl’s gruff vocals have that unmistakable chew (bordering on Martin Walkyier at times), and the bits of orchestration add just the right amount of epic theatricality to the corners. In short, Rheingold proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that orchestral power metal can still flash serious teeth. One of many pinnacles from the German Big Four!

Primitive origins: Germany
Label(s): Nuclear Blast / Irond Records / Mystic Production / Rocris Disc / Wizard / Soundholic Co. Ltd.
Sample: “Twilight of the Gods

Angel Dust – Bleed [1999]

[Cover artwork: Axel Hermann]

It’s funny to think about a power metal band picking their name from an old Venom song. That is funny to me. Sure, it’s a little less funny knowing that Germany’s Angel Dust didn’t start off as a power metal band, but even Angel Dust amidst their speediest years sounded about as close to Venom as they did…oh, I dunno, Faith No More, who, as far as I’m aware, did not name their fourth studio album Angel Dust after an old Venom song. Anywho, Angel Dust was a decent enough speed metal band back in them ol’ ‘80s, but they really hit their stride once they shut the joint down in favor of a more powerful redesign and reopened ten years later. (That is a long remodeling!) Their first official foray into the land of power metal was good—1998’s Border of Reality—but the decision to infuse the subsequent Bleed with a darker and more emotional edge resulted in their biggest payoff, as well as surrendering their most iconic song to date: the ridiculously catchy opening title track.

Primitive origins: Germany
Label(s): Century Media Records / NEMS Entertainment / Rock Brigade Records / Victor
Sample: “Bleed

Dark Moor – The Gates of Oblivion [2002]

[Cover artwork: Andreas Marschall]

I’m not about to stand here and declare that Dark Moor totally flew off the rails following the departure of vocalist Elisa Martín, guitarist Albert Maroto and drummer Jorge Sáez in 2003. Hell, I’m not even going to sit here at my kitchen table with a half-eaten fish taco staring up at me and make such an outrageous claim, which is a much more accurate representation of what’s currently happening as I type these words. What I am going to profess, however, is the indisputable (INDISPUTABLE, I tell you) truth that Dark Moor released two of the finest power metal records this planet has ever had the pleasure of experiencing with that original lineup, and the only reason The Gates of Oblivion beats out its predecessor, 2000’s The Hall of the Olden Dreams, is because Gates also features masterful usage of a full choir (the Valcavasian Choir) to give the full adventure just one extra pinch of glorious drama.

Primitive origins: Spain
Label(s): Arise Records / CD-Maximum / NEMS Enterprises / Rock Brigade Records / Rocris Disc / Sail Productions / Scarecrow Records / Victor
Sample: “Nevermore

Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds // Pt. 1 [2018]

[Cover artwork: Drake Mefestta]

Look, I can’t really help you if you don’t think Symphony X’s Michael Romeo is one of the top guitarists in metal today. Dude is fast as hell, fluid, precise as balls, innovative, and as melodic as the day is long.

How is Romeo as a film score composer, though? Turns out, he’s actually pretty great, as evidenced by a record like War of the Worlds // Pt. 1, which serves as a nod to science fiction film score composition just as much as it continues Romeo’s mastery of progressive, power-tinged heavy metal. Yes, I’d say the record skates riskily close to Star Wars at times, especially in that extended intro, but that doesn’t really detract from the overall goodness of the record. In fact, it might actually increase the snuggle factor, considering how ingrained the works of John Williams have become in our lives. Suffice to say, if you’re a long-standing fan of Symphony X and find yourself wondering how a record like Underworld might sound after a head-on collision with a Naboo Royal Starship, WotW // Pt. 1 has you covered. Also, bonus points should be awarded to Romeo for landing Rick Castellano as a vocalist. Who the hell is this guy? And where is he now? WHERE ARE YOU RIGHT NOW, RICK CASTELLANO. GOD DAMNIT.

Primitive origins: USA
Label(s): Music Theories Recordings
Sample: “Djinn

Iron Fire – Thunderstorm [2000]

[Cover artwork: none other than Kristian “Necrolord” Wåhlin]

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but when it comes to a list that stretches out to 100, you obviously can’t expect every album to reach that 9+ / 10 range. What I’ve always loved about Iron Fire’s frankly rather bizarre debut is that it manages to hit that very solid 7.5 or 8 / 10 range that admittedly feels a bit underbaked, but the band underbakes things in such a captivatingly unique manner that you can’t help but return time and time again. In truth, there seemed to be a near endless supply of “masterfully underbaked debuts” around ’99 / 2000, from Morifade to Nostradameus to Steel Attack, etc. ad infinitum, but I think this particular launch outshined ’em all. Martin Steene’s vocals are totally alien—like a frenzied warrior designed by Jim Henson. And the music, while clearly rooted in classic epic power, occasionally veers off into totally reverse directions. The bit of reggae in the middle of “Rise of the Rainbow,” for example, or whatever the fuck happens in the absolute train-wreck of a ballad that is “Angel of Light.” It all makes for a fascinatingly weird ride, like the power metal equivalent of a Quorthon solo record, if you catch my drift. What should definitely not be devalued, however, is the album’s ability to wallop, as it is one of the heaviest power metal albums of the period (those drums!) Also, the lead work is great, and they somehow managed to land a beautifully clear and huge production. Just a terrifically unique album.

Primitive origins: Norway
Label(s): Noise Records / NEMS Enterprises / Rock Brigade Records / T&T Records
Sample: “Rise of the Rainbow

Seven Spires – Emerald Seas [2020]

[Cover artwork: Junki Sakuraba]

I have spent 3 years trying to uncover the best way to eeeeeevily pigeonhole Seven Spires’ Emerald Seas, and the closest I’ve gotten to date is referring to it as… extreme thespianism? I suppose “theatrical” or “symphonic” metal would also work, but there’s something even more, I dunno, ~stage play~ about the entire atmosphere conjured by the record. In short, it’s quite unique, extremely narrative, and still feels a bit like a cheat having it represented on a power metal list such as this. Sure, symphonic power is certainly present, owing a great deal to the dramatic flare of, say, Kamelot, but Emerald Seas has as much in common with a record like Epica as it does with Dimmu Borgir’s In Sorte Diaboli or most anything from Fleshgod Apocalypse. So, yeah, definitely a band that’s quite versed at calling audibles when things start getting heated. And buddies, Emerald Seas gets hot like getting hot is its fricken job. Vocalist Adrienne Cowan is a straight-up shapeshifter behind that mic, reaching acrobatic heights matched by guitarist Jack Kosto’s virtuosity on the guitar. As a songwriting tandem, they are absolutely wonderful, spinning epic yarns you can’t help but get wholly wrapped up in as the album slowly (and often quite quickly) unfolds.

Primitive origins: USA
Label(s): Frontiers Records / Icarus Music / Seven Seas
Sample: “Succumb” OFFICIAL VIDEO

Twilightning – Delirium Veil [2000]

[Cover artwork: Janne “ToxicAngel” Pitkänen]

Was it the band’s slightly unfortunate (but extremely power metally) name that kept them somewhat obscured upon the release of Delirium Veil in 2000? Probably not, as power metal is clearly no stranger to dubious monikers. Quality wise, though, this curious debut could go toe-to-toe with just about any other power metal release of that era, particularly if you count endless immaculate leads and a wailing vocalist as foremost selling points.

In truth, Delirium Veil takes a little time to settle, as the production comes off rather dry and brittle, but those who give the record a chance to open up are treated to a satisfying allotment of progressive adventurism that feels as if it… almost sneaks up on you. Suddenly, out of the blue you notice the bass has a palpable presence (rare!), and much of the corners get painted with plucky keyboard breakouts that battle comfortably alongside all those magnificent guitar solos. A solid comparison point would be the redesign Twisted Tower Dire underwent with Make it Dark in 2011. Despite the 5000 mile separation, both records demonstrate a similar approach to bright power that’s exuberantly energetic.

Primitive origins: Finland
Label(s): Spinefarm Records / Fono Ltd. / NEMS Enterprises / Universal Music / Rock Empire
Sample: “Return to Innocence

StormWarrior – Northern Rage [2004]

[Cover artwork: Uwe Karczewski]

Let’s have ourselves a good ol’ fashioned honesty sesh: Are you really living your best life as a human being if you don’t force the majestic speed of Northern Rage upon friends and strangers alike on an offensively regular basis? Next time some dick-whistle brandishing a bible swiped from a Super 8 tries to block entry to Planned Parenthood, try a little “Heroic Deathe”: “Fearless I stood, yielde I did not / the golden halle shalle await me / heroic deathe!” [solo: Lars / Dave / both / Lars / Dave / both / Dave / dick-whistle’s face ignites like a funeral pyre]

Or… “Son, would you like to say grace before supper?”


[endless air guitar soloing as family weeps in glory]

Power speed metal magnificence such as this must be celebrated at impossible decibel levels, and as often as possible.

Primitive origins: Germany
Label(s): Remedy Records / Irond Records / Spiritual Beast
Sample: “Heroic Deathe

Unleash The Archers – Apex [2017]

[Cover artwork: Ken Sarafin]

Here’s an example of just how big of an idiot I am: I had Apex notched as 2017’s seventh best power metal album. Like… what in the holy shit was going on in my life back in 2017? Did I have a stroke? Did one of my beloved D&D personas catch an archer’s bolt in the giblets? Whatever the reasoning, I was clearly being an idiot, as nowadays the only thing keeping me from counting Apex as a top 3 contender for best power metal album of the last five years is the fact that it was released six years ago. Hello, still an idiot!

Anyway, Apex is an absolute powerhouse of a record that cleverly explores a full range of textures and moods in its seemingly brief 53 minutes (seriously, this album goes by fast), and there’s very honestly not a bad song amongst the ten. The record is wonderfully catchy, bright, adventurous, majestic and melodic, and although you can hear a wealth of influence from a number of forebears, the formula Unleash the Archers employs here is modern and unique enough to award them a sound that’s theirs and theirs alone—exceedingly rare in the modern age. Of course the number of imitators continues to grow each year as a result of the record’s noted success, which is honestly great, but Apex stands solo amidst peers as a modern power metal classic that’s truly deserving of its lofty title.

Primitive origins: Canada
Label(s): Napalm Records / Spiritual Beast
Sample: “Cleanse the Bloodlines” OFFICIAL VIDEO

Angra – Temple of Shadows [2003]

[Cover artwork: Isabel de Amorim]

Pick Angels Cry for a list such as this and you’ll have a sea of Holy Land fanatics breathing down your neck. Pick Temple of Shadows and you’ll find yourself on the business end of some angry pitchforks from all the Rebirth-aholics out there. Truth of the matter is this: For a number of people, Angra comes pretty close to Iron Maiden territory in that a fan’s favorite record often coincides with whichever album they’re currently obsessing over. (With a few exceptions, of course.) Hell, even Angra’s latest record, 2018’s Ømni, manages similar heights compared to their most celebrated releases. Hey, the band is just really good at what they do, pure and simple.

For me, though, it’s the remarkable Temple of Shadows that delivers the highest peaks more consistently from top to bottom compared to any other Angra record. This is vocalist Edu Falaschi’s second tumble with the band following Rebirth, and this time around he delivers a slightly deeper and more gravelly tone that almost conjures the great Minoru Niihara of Loudness—quite different compared to Andre Matos, obviously, but very well suited for what the rest of the crew delivers on the record.

Musically, Temple delivers virtually everything a fan of metal looks for when hoping to get leveled by an innovative power / prog record: dazzling acrobatics from each player, seamless integration of experimentation to add further texture (in this case, orchestration and Brazilian folk), a compelling narrative, and a handful of convincing guest appearances to throw things over the edge. (The cherries on top this time around being Kai Hansen and Hansi Kürsch. GASP!)

Bottom line: Temple of Shadows is a tour de force amidst more than a fair share of total windfalls for the band, and no amount of time will ever tarnish its radiance.

Primitive origins: Brazil
Label(s): Steamhammer / Aquarius Musikindo / Atrheia Records / Cornucopia Entertainment / Magnum Music / NEMS Enterprises / Paradoxx Music / Replica Records / Rock Brigade Records / SPV USA / YBM Seoul Records / Союз / Victor
Sample: “The Temple of Hate

Primal Fear – Seven Seals [2005]

[Cover artwork: Martin Häusler]

I sure as hell backed myself into a corner by only allowing one album per band for this GD list. How do we pick just one Primal Fear record when they’ve made a career out of happily detonating heads with some of the most consistently explosive power metal on the planet? Virtually every album from these guys is stacked to the rafters with volatile riffs, breakneck leads and some of the most spirited vocals in the genre. (As a related side-note: Would Scheepers have allowed Judas Priest to release a record like Demoltion had he gotten the job over Tim “Monster Energy Drink” Owens? Hmmm.)

As much as I love the molten energy behind records like Jaws of Death (1999) and Nuclear Fire (2001), or the revamped energy courtesy of guitarist Magnus Karlsson provided by 2012’s Unbreakable, it is Seven Seals (somehow album number six) that rises as the victor. Choose from a number of reasons for this, the principal being precisely the thing that ended up throwing a number of folks off the band’s trail in 2005: The decision to fold in orchestral elements to give the album’s more somber tone an extra level of spectacle. Hey, I know we don’t generally look toward Primal Fear for anything beyond can-crushing power, but the orchestration and gravity works really well alongside that stock bombasticity. (Is that a word? Sure, why the hell not.)

Primitive origins: Germany
Label(s): Nuclear Blast / Irond Records / Laser Company Records / Magnum Music / NEMS Enterprises / Scarecrow Records / Victor
Sample: “Seven Seals

X Japan – Blue Blood [1989]

[Cover artwork: Masayoshi Nakajo]

Growing up in the ‘80s alongside heavy metal, I was no stranger to the Japanese scene, but my exposure pretty much started and ended with Loudness (duh), Anthem, Ezo, Dead End, and Genocide because those were the only bands shops were able to stuff into their bins, thanks to distribution / availability / etc. In the case of X Japan, an outfit that’s been releasing material for the better part of the last four decades, I don’t believe I ever even caught a whiff of their existence until… maybe 2010? Certainly within the last 20 years. So, yeah, thank you, blessed internet, for never allowing anything to remain hidden forever.

Now, it’s admittedly a bit of a stretch to consider a record like Blue Blood pure power metal because, like a great many bands hailing from Japan, genre rules often go right out the fricken window. In the case of Blue Blood, the band’s second studio record, we get tastes of power, speed, hard rock, trad, goth and glam, and it’s all sewn together in a way that’s not only seamless, it feels… totally reasonable! Like, at no point during the record does a song just suddenly throw an absolute curveball, which is testament to the band’s skill as players and songwriters.

Primitive origins: Japan
Label(s): Sony Music / Siren Song / Ki/oon Records
Sample: “Kurenai

Crystal Viper – Legends [2010]

[Cover artwork: Chris Moyen]

Let me begin with the following proclamation: I very much believe Crystal Viper is operating at full capacity right this very moment. 2017’s Queen of the Witches? Good stuff. 2019’s Tales of Fire and Ice? Apart from that original album cover (WOOF), equally solid. But 2021’s The Cult? Now we’re talking firing on all cylinders, homeslices. That being said, it’s the early days of Crystal Viper that gets the nod for this venture, largely because vocalist Marta Gabriel roared onto the scene during a time when we really didn’t come across a lot of women fronting new “traditional” heavy metal bands. That’s the thing, though: As much as I’d love to hand the gold to the band’s debut, 2007’s excellent The Curse of Crystal Viper, it is, at its core, a straight-up traditional heavy metal record. DISqualified. Luckily, just two albums later they dropped what would likely be considered the closest Crystal Viper’s ever gotten to the glory years of Running Wild, which is basically pure bullion for a list such as this.

Primitive origins: Poland
Label(s): AFM Records / Spiritual Beast
Sample: “The Ghost Ship

Elegy – Labyrinth of Dreams [1992]

[Cover artwork: Eric Kusters]

The debut full-length from Dutch progressive power metal outfit Elegy is… frankly, pretty strange. Right from the jump, the production is about as thin as a reed and tinnier than the Tin Man’s taint (apologies for the visual), which obviously ain’t ideal for establishing a solid first impression. Beyond that unfortunate distinction, though, Labyrinth of Dreams delivers a notably unique fusion of power metal, prog, hair metal and shred that ends up coming across like some sort of hybrid between Crimson Glory (particularly Eduard Hovinga’s vocals), Psychotic Waltz and Dangerous Toys, released by Shrapnel Records circa 1988. So, yeah, a strange pill to swaller, even if you somehow count yourself a fan of all those crucial ingredients, which I do. It all finds ways to work, given a sort of “shapeshifting” power metal mood, and I can promise you will be hard-pressed to find another album on this list with a more stunning display of dual lead guitar work, as Henk van der Laars and Arno van Brussel put on an absolute clinic front to back here.

Primitive origins: Netherlands
Label(s): Shark Records
Sample: “I’m No Fool” OFFICIAL VIDEO

Galloglass – Legends from Now and Nevermore [2003]

 [Cover artwork: Carsten Frank]

We all have those special pocket bands / albums we reach for when it’s time to flex that super duper impressive deep state knowledge about a genre that will immediately cause hundreds of individuals to quietly bow their heads in solemn regard for your prowess as a Lord Of The Realm. Is Legends from Now and Nevermore one of those records? Yeah, kind of, but it’s not like Galloglass was totally unknown during their sadly brief presence on this planet Earth. Hell, they were on Limb Music, so they were clearly part of the discussion at some point during the early 2000s. BUT… they never gained enough of a foothold to warrant an entry on wikipedia, so OFF TO OBSCURITY WITH YE, YE JARMAN SCAMPS.

It really is great stuff, though, these legends from back then and forevermore. Is it the most innovative slice of epic, adventurous, medieval power metal you’ll find? Nā, friendo. Nā. But by Lancelot’s flinty lance, they certainly do it well. So if you’re lookin’ to impress some bonny potato peeler or cobbler in the village who’s never previously caught wind of Galloglass and counts bands like Rhapsody (of Fire), Freedom (Call) or Twilight (Force) as faves, get ready to win some serious favor. Oh, and Legends wins over the equally grand Heavenseeker simply because it’s a bit more raw. And oh, baby, I like it raaawwww.

Primitive origins: Germany
Label(s): Limb Music
Sample: “Eye to Eye

Dimhav – The Boreal Flame [2019]

[Cover Artwork: Staffan Lindroth]

You know you’re confident in your game if you very suddenly announce your arrival out of the blue alongside an attached “clarion call” statement concerning the netting of Daniel Heiman (one of power metal’s most revered voices), and then you kick off that inaugural release with a 10 minute long instrumental. I think that might actually be the most impressive thing about Dimhav and this, their studio debut: As impressive as Heiman’s performance is throughout The Boreal Flame, his role almost feels like an accent on the record. Yes, of course it’s the most impressive accent one could ever hope to encounter, but this is one of those cases where the band was hoping to make a record they knew was already great into something… simply greater, which is testament to just how phenomenal the brothers Lindroth happen to be at literally everything else to do with Dimhav. The Boreal Flame is a knotty yet extremely fluid progressive power metal album that’s beautifully dark, epic and loaded to the gills with stunning play, and it just so happens to also feature one of the greatest power metal vocalists to ever step into the game. Total home run, cover to cover.

Primitive origins: Sweden
Label(s): Independent (pardon me?)
Sample: “The Flame Transcendent

~ Please enjoy a selection of part 1 & 2 as a playlist below ~

Where we are so far:

    • Helloween – Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I [1987]
    • Avantasia – The Metal Opera, Pt. 1 [2001]
    • Symphony X – V: The New Mythology Suite [2000]
    • Power Quest – Neverworld [2003]
    • Nightwish – Wishmaster [2000]
    • Dark Forest – Beyond the Veil [2016]
    • Masterplan – Aeronautics [2005]
    • Judicator – At the Expense of Humanity [2015]
    • Running Wild – Death or Glory [1989]
    • Blazon Stone – No Sign of Glory [2015]
    • Pagan’s Mind – Enigmatic: Calling [2005]
    • Scanner – Hypertrace [1988]
    • Highland Glory – Forever Endeavor [2005]
    • Fairyland – The Fall of an Empire [2006]
    • Brainstorm – Liquid Monster [2005]
    • Conception – Parallel Minds [1993]
    • Shaman – Ritual [2002]
    • Tad Morose – Modus Vivendi [2003]
    • Powerwolf – Blessed and Possessed [2015]
    • Lovebites – Awakening from the Abyss [2017]
    • Mob Rules – Tales from Beyond [2016]
    • Outworld – Outworld [2006]
    • Guardians of Time – Machines of Mental Design [2004]
    • At Vance – Dragonchaser [2001]
    • Lorenguard – Eve of Corruption: The Days of Astasia – Part One [2011]
    • Blind Guardian – Imaginations from the Other Side [1995]
    • Edguy – Mandrake [2001]
    • Nocturnal Rites – Grand Illusion [2005]
    • Manticora – 8 Deadly Sins [2004]
    • Rhapsody of Fire – The Frozen Tears of Angels [2010]
    • Falconer – Falconer [2001]
    • Persuader – Evolution Purgatory [2004]
    • Viathyn – Cynosure [2014]
    • SinBreed – Shadows [2014]
    • Grave Digger – Rheingold [2003]
    • Angel Dust – Bleed [1999]
    • Dark Moor – The Gates of Oblivion [2002]
    • Michael Romeo – War of the Worlds // Pt. 1 [2018]
    • Iron Fire – Thunderstorm [2000]
    • Seven Spires – Emerald Seas [2020]
    • Twilightning – Delirium Veil [2003]
    • StormWarrior – Northern Rage [2004]
    • Unleash the Archers – Apex [2017]
    • Angra – Temple of Shadows [2003]
    • Primal Fear – Seven Seals [2005]
    • X Japan – Blue Blood [1989]
    • Crystal Viper – Legends [2010]
    • Elegy – Labyrinth of Dreams [1992]
    • Galloglass – Legends from Now and Nevermore [2003]
    • Dimhav – The Boreal Flame [2019]


See you in two weeks for part 3/4

Posted by Captain

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; That was my skull!

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