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 East Asia 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 almost always scored for an orchestra consisting of a string section, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments which altogether number about 30 to 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. Some 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 studio album by Rainbow

Rising is the second studio album by the British 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.

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-nine 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 (bass), 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 is a German heavy metal band from the town of Solingen, formed in 1976 by guitarist Wolf Hoffmann and former members Udo Dirkschneider (vocals) and Peter Baltes (bass). Their beginnings can be traced back to the late 1960s, when the band got its start under the name Band X. Accept's lineup has changed over the years, which has included different singers, guitarists, bassists and drummers. Their current lineup consists of Hoffmann, vocalist Mark Tornillo, guitarist Uwe Lulis, drummer Christopher Williams and bassist Martin Motnik. Hoffmann has been the sole constant member since its inception, and he and Baltes are the only band members to appear on each album.

Throughout the early 1980s especially in the years 1982 and 1983, a US power metal style first emerged from traditional heavy metal, NWOBHM, and thrash/speed metal influences. The exact first origin is often contested, but bands such as Jag Panzer, Manilla Road, Savatage, Warlord, Riot and Omen are thought to have influenced the earliest development of the style. [7]

Jag Panzer is an American power metal band from Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Manilla Road American heavy metal band

Manilla Road was an American heavy metal band from Wichita, Kansas, founded by Mark "The Shark" Shelton and Scott "Scooter" Park. Beginning in 1977, the early years of Manilla Road were spent playing mostly progressive rock and space rock but eventually became noticeably heavier with time, the band's later heavy metal sound becoming more and more apparent with the release of Metal in 1982.

Savatage American heavy metal band

Savatage is an American heavy metal band founded by brothers Jon and Criss Oliva in 1979 at Astro Skate in Tarpon Springs, Florida. The band was first called Avatar, but, shortly before the release of their debut album Sirens (1983), they changed their name to Savatage as Avatar was already taken by another band.

More concretely, in 1987 German band 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". [8] This release influenced a European power metal style to evolve, which proliferated throughout the globe and since the start of the 1990s is still the most commonly heard style of power metal.

Helloween German power metal band

Helloween is a German power metal band founded in 1984 in Hamburg, West Germany by members of bands Iron Fist and Gentry. Its first lineup consisted of singer and rhythm guitarist Kai Hansen, bassist Markus Grosskopf, lead guitarist Michael Weikath, and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg. After the release of a self-titled EP and their debut album Walls of Jericho in 1985, it expanded into a quintet with the addition of singer Michael Kiske, Hansen choosing to focus on guitar instead. Under this line-up, they released the Keeper of the Seven Keys albums, which established Helloween as a notable heavy metal band and led to the creation of the power metal subgenre. Hansen left the band soon after the release of Part II and was replaced by Roland Grapow. After leaving Helloween, Hansen formed Gamma Ray.

<i>Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part I</i> 1987 studio album by Helloween

Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part I is the second studio album by German power metal band Helloween, released in 1987. It marks the first appearance of vocalist Michael Kiske, and is considered the album that created the genre of European-style power metal. Kai Hansen stepped away from doing vocal duties as he had difficulties singing and playing the guitar at the same time during the previous tour. It was an album dominated by Hansen, due to an injury to co-guitarist Michael Weikath which prevented him from performing on much of the album. "Future World" was released as a single and a music video was made for "Halloween" but with 8 minutes omitted from the song. The band originally planned to release Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part I and Part II as a double album, but their record label refused, insisting that the albums be released separately. In 1993, both albums were released as a double CD set with bonus tracks.

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, 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. [9] 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 [10] and Wintersun's Jari Mäenpää. [11] Many power metal vocalists, most notably Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian, record multi-layered vocals reminiscent of Queen creating a choral effect. [12]

Lyrical themes

Themes that frequently feature throughout other metal subgenres, such as religion and politics, are comparatively rare in power metal - albeit not unheard of. 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 aforementioned. 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; Blind Guardian based Nightfall in Middle-Earth on Tolkien's The Silmarillion , while 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.

Historical themes have also seen usage in the works of bands such as Sabaton, whose lyrics extensively focus on historical wars, battles, and individuals that received notable recognition for their wartime accomplishments. 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.

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. [13] 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

The American branch of power metal emerged in early 1980s in the United States, drawing influence primarily 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 and a relative lack of keyboard usage compared to its later European counterpart. However, it is often more melodic than thrash metal, with a greater emphasis on guitar leads. USPM is also notable for its widespread (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. [13] 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. [14] 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 [15] and some, like Helstar and Omen still 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. The second and third 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] Alongside the early German bands came 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. [17]

HammerFall simplified their power metal to bring it closer to traditional heavy metal. Over the late 90s and early 00s, power metal spread over Europe especially as well as the rest of the world, often incorporating new influences. Italy's Elvenking, Sweden's Falconer and Denmark's Wuthering Heights integrated elements of folk music with power metal. Angra, Kamelot, and especially Symphony X are known for combining progressive and power metal. Some bands are known for combining power metal with more aggressive musical forms; Children of Bodom were one of the earliest who combined elements of power metal and an early form of melodic death metal. Iced Earth combined power and thrash metal.

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, 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 spread was in the late 1980s and especially the mid-late 1990s rather than proliferating throughout the 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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Nocturnal Rites band that plays power metal

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Majestica band

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Heavy metal guitar

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References

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  3. Power Metal (guitarmasterclass.net)
  4. Sharpe-Young, Garry (2003). A–Z of Power Metal. Rockdetector Series. Cherry Red Books. ISBN   978-1-901447-13-2. "American metal such as Queensrÿche, Attacker, Jag Panzer, Iced Earth, Liege Lord, and Savatage; European bands such as Helloween, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, Running Wild, and Grave Digger;"
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  11. Stagno, Mike. "Wintersun review". Sputnik Music . Retrieved 2012-01-04.
  12. Helloween cover Queen's song 'Sheer Heart Attack' (Blabbermouth net)
  13. 1 2 Sharpe-Young, Garry (2003). A–Z of Power Metal. Rockdetector Series. Cherry Red Books. ISBN   978-1-901447-13-2.
  14. Power-Progressive Metal (American style) (progarchives.com)
  15. "Reunited Liege Lord to Headline Next Year's Keep It True XVI Festival".
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Bibliography