Power metal

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Power metal is a subgenre of heavy metal combining characteristics of traditional heavy metal with speed metal, often within symphonic context. Generally, power metal is characterized by a faster, lighter, and more uplifting sound, in contrast with the heaviness and dissonance prevalent for example in extreme metal. Power metal bands usually have anthem-like songs with fantasy-based subject matter and strong choruses, thus creating a theatrical, dramatic and emotionally "powerful" sound. [1] [2] The term was first used in the middle of the 1980s [3] and refers to two different but related styles: the first pioneered and largely practiced in North America with a harder sound similar to speed metal, and a later more widespread and popular style based in Europe (especially Scandinavia, Germany, Greece and Italy), [4] South America (especially Brazil and Argentina) and Japan, with a lighter, more melodic sound and frequent use of keyboards.

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. With roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre's lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.

Speed metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music that originated in the late 1970s from new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) roots. It is described by AllMusic as "extremely fast, abrasive, and technically demanding" music.

Symphony extended musical composition

A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, most often written by composers for orchestra. Although the term has had many meanings from its origins in the ancient Greek era, by the late 18th century the word had taken on the meaning common today: a work usually consisting of multiple distinct sections or movements, often four, with the first movement in sonata form. Symphonies are scored for strings, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments which altogether number about 30–100 musicians. Symphonies are notated in a musical score, which contains all the instrument parts. Orchestral musicians play from parts which contain just the notated music for their own instrument. A small number of symphonies also contain vocal parts.

Contents

Origins

Anthropologist Sam Dunn traced the origins of power metal back to the late 1970s, when the groundwork for power metal lyrical style was laid down by Ronnie James Dio. The fantasy-oriented lyrics he wrote for Rainbow, concentrated around medieval, renaissance, folk, and science fiction themes, directly influenced modern power metal bands. [5] It is mentioned that songs "Stargazer" and "A Light in the Black", from the 1976 album Rising and 1978's Long Live Rock 'n' Roll , "Kill the King" and "Lady of the Lake", respectively, might be among the earliest examples of power metal. In his 2011 documentary series Metal Evolution , [6] Dunn further explained how Rob Halford of Judas Priest created a blueprint for power metal vocal delivery. His almost constant high-pitched singing became one of the main characteristics of power metal. The twin-guitar sound promoted by duo of K. K. Downing and Glenn Tipton highly influenced this subgenre. Another pioneer in the power metal genre is Jon Mikl Thor, who was a strong inspiration to the American band Manowar.

Sam Dunn Canadian musician and film director

Sam Dunn is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, Canadian musician, and anthropologist best known for his series of documentaries on heavy metal music. He co-owns Toronto-based production company Banger Films with Scot McFadyen. Dunn holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Victoria and a master's degree from York University where his thesis work focused on Guatemalan refugees.

Ronnie James Dio American singer-songwriter and composer

Ronald James Padavona known professionally as Ronnie James Dio or simply Dio, was an American heavy metal singer-songwriter and composer. He fronted or founded numerous groups throughout his career, including Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio, and Heaven & Hell.

<i>Rising</i> (Rainbow album) 1976 album by Rainbow

Rising is the second studio album by the British hard rock band Rainbow, released in 1976. In issue 4 of Kerrang! magazine, Rising was voted the greatest heavy metal album of all time. In 2017, it was ranked 48th at Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time".

Another British band, Iron Maiden, brought epic and melodic sensibility to metal, creating anthemic, singalong music, an approach widely embraced by modern power metal musicians. The emergence of the early German power metal scene in particular was made possible by Scorpions and Accept. Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen made a significant impact on many future power metal guitarists, with his accurate and fast neo-classical style. His bandmate Jens Johansson modernized the keyboard sound of Deep Purple's Jon Lord, which was further incorporated into the genre. Manowar's mythological sword and sorcery lyrics influenced a number of power metal bands. In 1987 Helloween released their second album, Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part I , cited by Allmusic as "a landmark recording that remains arguably the single most influential power metal album to date. Its volatile combination of power and melody would inspire an entire generation of metal bands". [7]

Iron Maiden English heavy metal band

Iron Maiden are an English heavy metal band formed in Leyton, East London, in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris. The band's discography has grown to thirty-eight albums, including sixteen studio albums, twelve live albums, four EPs, and seven compilations.

Scorpions (band) German rock band

Scorpions are a German rock band formed in 1965 in Hanover by Rudolf Schenker. Since the band's inception, its musical style has ranged from hard rock to heavy metal. The lineup from 1978–1992 was the most successful incarnation of the group, and included Klaus Meine (vocals), Rudolf Schenker, Matthias Jabs, Francis Buchholz, and Herman Rarebell (drums). The band's only constant member has been Schenker, although Meine has been the lead singer for all of Scorpions' studio albums, while Jabs has been a consistent member since 1979, and bassist Paweł Mąciwoda and drummer Mikkey Dee have been in the band since 2003 and 2016 respectively.

Accept (band) German heavy metal band

Accept are a German heavy metal band from the town of Solingen, originally assembled by guitarist Wolf Hoffmann and former members Udo Dirkschneider (vocals) and Peter Baltes (bass). Their beginnings can be traced back to the late 1960s. The band played an important role in the development of speed and thrash metal, being part of the German heavy metal scene, which emerged in the early to mid-1980s. Accept achieved commercial success with their fifth studio album Balls to the Wall (1983), which is the band's only album to be certified gold in the United States and Canada, and spawned their well-known hit "Balls to the Wall".

Musical characteristics

Kai Hansen of Gamma Ray, ex-Helloween during a show in Barcelona, Spain. Hansen is widely regarded as the "godfather of power metal". Kai Hansen.jpg
Kai Hansen of Gamma Ray, ex-Helloween during a show in Barcelona, Spain. Hansen is widely regarded as the "godfather of power metal".

Power metal is today associated with fast tempo and melodic harmonies, the sound tempered by characteristics of speed metal, power metal's musical forerunner.

Vocals

Power metal is highly focused on the vocalist, with "clean" vocals being much more prevalent than the growling vocals often associated with extreme metal. Inspired by Ronnie James Dio, Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford, Geoff Tate, Freddie Mercury and other rock and heavy metal vocalists, power metal vocals are often in a high register, and the singer's vocal range is usually wide. [8] The majority of the genre's vocalists sing in the tenor range and are capable of hitting very high notes, for example Timo Kotipelto of Stratovarius, Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica, Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween) and Andre Matos (ex-Angra). There are many exceptions who sing in either baritone or bass range. Some vocalists sing in a harsh, thrash metal style, including Chris Boltendahl of Grave Digger, Kai Hansen of Gamma Ray and Peavy Wagner of Rage, or even make use of growls, like Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom [9] and Wintersun's Jari Mäenpää. [10] Many power metal vocalists, most notably Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian, record multi-layered vocals reminiscent of Queen creating a choral effect. [11]

Extreme metal is a loosely defined umbrella term for a number of related heavy metal music subgenres that have developed since the early 1980s. It has been defined as a "cluster of metal subgenres characterized by sonic, verbal and visual transgression".

Bruce Dickinson English musician, airline pilot, and broadcaster

Paul Bruce Dickinson is an English singer, songwriter, musician, airline pilot, entrepreneur, author, and broadcaster. He is the lead singer of the heavy metal band Iron Maiden and is renowned for his wide-ranging operatic vocal style and energetic stage presence.

Rob Halford English rock singer

Robert John Arthur Halford is an English singer and songwriter. He is best known as the lead vocalist for the Grammy Award-winning heavy metal band Judas Priest. He is famous for his powerful wide-ranging voice and his now-trademark leather-and-studs image, both of which became revolutionary in heavy metal. In addition to his work with Judas Priest, he has been involved with several side projects, including Fight, Two and Halford.

Lyrical themes

Power metal's lyrical themes often focus on fantasy and mythology, camaraderie and hope, personal struggles and emotions, war and death, or combinations of the listed themes. For example, Finnish band Sonata Arctica have been known for focusing their lyrics of their songs on fantasy but also have many songs based on reality, love and relationships. Many Power metal bands based their concept albums on fantasy books and national epics; for example Blind Guardian based their Nightfall in Middle-Earth on The Silmarillion by Tolkien and Kamelot based Epica and The Black Halo on Goethe's Faust. Some bands have even written their own imaginary stories, like Rhapsody of Fire's Emerald Sword Saga and The Dark Secret Saga , Iced Earth's Something Wicked Saga or Avantasia by Edguy's Tobias Sammet. Many otherwise typical metal themes such as religion and politics are comparatively rare but not unheard of. Historical themes have also been used. Sabaton's main lyrical themes focus on historical wars, war battles and individuals of war who are and have been notably recognized in war. Examples include World War I, World War II, Vikings, Samurai, and much more from around the world including the American, Swedish and German militaries. Serenity, an Austrian (symphonic) power metal band, focuses mainly on historical figures and events, including Sir Francis Drake, Marco Polo, Galileo, Beethoven, and Napoleon.

Fantasy genre of literature, film, television and other artforms

Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction set in a fictional universe, often without any locations, events, or people referencing the real world. Its roots are in oral traditions, which then became literature and drama. From the twentieth century it has expanded further into various media, including film, television, graphic novels and video games.

Sonata Arctica Finnish power metal band

Sonata Arctica is a Finnish power metal band from the town of Kemi, Finland. Created as a hard rock band named Tricky Beans, they later changed to Tricky Means and finally to Sonata Arctica, when they shifted to power metal. The current line-up consists of singer, keyboardist and songwriter Tony Kakko, guitarist Elias Viljanen, bass guitarist Pasi Kauppinen, keyboardist and keytarist Henrik Klingenberg, and drummer Tommy Portimo. All the musicians of the band's history except Portimo also acted as backing vocalists.

National epic literary work that is central national identity

A national epic is an epic poem or a literary work of epic scope which seeks or is believed to capture and express the essence or spirit of a particular nation; not necessarily a nation state, but at least an ethnic or linguistic group with aspirations to independence or autonomy. National epics frequently recount the origin of a nation, a part of its history, or a crucial event in the development of national identity such as other national symbols. In a broader sense, a national epic may simply be an epic in the national language which the people or government of that nation are particularly proud of. It is distinct from a pan-national epic which is taken as representative of a larger cultural or linguistic group than a nation or a nation-state.

Instrumentation

Power metal guitarists and bassists generally play rapid streams of notes, but change chords comparatively slowly, with a harmonic tempo of once per measure or slower. Fast and technically demanding guitar solos, however, are almost guaranteed. [12] The slow changing of chords is significant in defining power metal just as the fast rapid chord changes often define traditional thrash metal. Power metal often makes use of Major chord progressions as well as circle progressions. Some of the most influential and acclaimed power metal guitarists are Kai Hansen of Gamma Ray, Michael Weikath of Helloween, and Timo Tolkki formerly of Stratovarius. It is a common trait in power metal for the bass guitar to take a back seat, so to speak; often simply providing the chord root notes and being drowned out by the more prevalent rhythm guitars. However, some power metal bands incorporate bass that is more audible with colorful patterns distinct from the rhythm guitars, such as Helloween, Hibria, and Symphony X.

Many power metal drummers play double bass patterns with either two bass drums, or utilize a double bass pedal; using them to play a constant stream of sixteenth notes (semiquavers) with snare drum accents on the beat, a style not restricted to, but most often associated with, power metal. The style was used by drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg of Helloween, setting a blueprint for many other drummers to follow. Others, such as the drummers of Blind Guardian and Iced Earth, use a more thrash metal style of drumming with rapid bursts of double bass that involve three to six beats with the double kick.

Power metal bands often incorporate keyboards into their musical arrangements, something popularized by Jens Johansson of Stratovarius, though their usage varies from subtle accents to a full-blown melody line. Some power metal bands also record with symphonic elements, and as such, they utilize a full orchestra to fill the role usually played by the keyboardist.

Styles

American style

This branch of power metal emerged in early 1980s in the United States, drawing its influences mainly from traditional metal and the NWOBHM. Though very close to its roots, US power metal (often abbreviated USPM) is often faster and more energetic than traditional heavy metal, with a more riff-driven approach than its later European counterpart and with a relative lack of keyboards, but more melodic and often with a higher emphasis on guitar leads than thrash metal. USPM is also notable for its wide (but not universal) use of high-register operatic vocals, a trend which would continue with the rise of European power metal in the late 1980s and early 1990s. [12] This style is not exclusive to North America, as European bands such as Sacred Steel, Majesty, and Australian band Pegazus later adopted a style inspired by USPM bands in the 1990s.

The early releases of progressive metal bands Queensrÿche and Fates Warning, such as The Warning (1984) and The Spectre Within (1985), heavily influenced a number of bands that were to develop a common sound towards the late 1980s. Among the better known representatives of the style, such as Manowar, Vicious Rumors, Virgin Steele, Riot or Jag Panzer, a small number of bands enriched their sound with progressive and epic elements; the most obvious examples being Crimson Glory, Savatage, Sanctuary and the epic doom metal band Cirith Ungol. [13] US power metal saw a sharp decline in popularity at the beginning of the 1990s, though the style has rebounded somewhat in the past decade, with bands such as Liege Lord or Heir Apparent reforming for live performances [14] and some, like Helstar, Artizan, Omen and Manilla Road, releasing new material.

European style

Italian band Rhapsody of Fire performing in Buenos Aires in 2010. Rhapsody Buenos Aires 2010.JPG
Italian band Rhapsody of Fire performing in Buenos Aires in 2010.

European power metal originated from speed metal and the NWOBHM, emerging in late 1980s, particularly in Germany, with Helloween, Running Wild, Rage, Grave Digger and Blind Guardian, followed by Finland's Stratovarius in late 1980s and the early 1990s. These bands pioneered the genre, but took it in somewhat different directions. Helloween, followed by early Gamma Ray, mixed fast palm muted speed metal riffs with high-pitched clean vocals, and with a strong focus on melody and uplifting, positive themes. Stratovarius further developed this melodic direction by making heavy use of keyboards, with lyrics dealing with emotions and personal issues. Blind Guardian utilized the technique of vocal and guitar overdubbing to create an epic atmosphere, with lyrical content strongly based on fantasy novels, myths and legends. The symphonic and neo-classical elements also found their way through power metal with bands like Rhapsody of Fire, Serenity and Nightwish. [15]

HammerFall simplified their power metal to bring it closer to traditional heavy metal. This genre spread over Europe, often incorporating further influences from progressive and folk music. Italy's Elvenking, Sweden's Falconer and Denmark's Wuthering Heights are in particular influenced by folk music, while Angra, Kamelot, and especially Symphony X (though none of these 3 are European) are known for combining progressive and power metal. Furthermore, some bands are known for combining power metal with more aggressive musical forms, such as Children of Bodom, who combined elements of power and melodic death metal, or Iced Earth, who combined power and thrash metal. Two Helloween albums, Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part I (1987) and Part II (1988) are usually considered the first proper European power metal albums. [16]

European style power metal became widespread in comparison with US style as of the mid 1990s, with numerous North American bands such as Theocracy, Borealis, Forgotten Tales, Avian, Pharaoh, Nevermore, Circle II Circle, and Kamelot demonstrating the style. This European style of power metal is sometimes considered the "second wave" of power metal since its origination was in the late 1980s rather than the mid 1980s, and the widespread influence and development of the genre that came in its tow while US "first wave" style markedly declined.

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

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  3. Power Metal (guitarmasterclass.net)
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  10. Stagno, Mike. "Wintersun review". Sputnik Music . Retrieved 2012-01-04.
  11. Helloween cover Queen's song 'Sheer Heart Attack' (Blabbermouth net)
  12. 1 2 Sharpe-Young, Garry (2003). A–Z of Power Metal. Rockdetector Series. Cherry Red Books. ISBN   978-1-901447-13-2.
  13. Power-Progressive Metal (American style) (progarchives.com)
  14. "Reunited Liege Lord to Headline Next Year's Keep It True XVI Festival".
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