Despite the bad rap heavy metal music gets for being degenerate, angry, violent music, there is a sub category within metal that is as uplifting as it is loud. One of the most intense and powerful subgenres is Power Metal, a very vibrant and energetic style that was created on a foundation of arguably four bands: Iron Maiden, Dio, Judas Priest and Manowar. Of course, other bands such as Queensryche, Fates Warning, Queen, and even Def Leppard and many others all played a role in Power Metal as well. But there is a thin line that blurs the distinctions between early thrash, '80s metal and power metal. Many of the bands are based out of Europe, with Germany being a hotbed for some of Power Metals earliest, and most well known bands. Today, Power Metal is a worldwide phenomenon, as big if not bigger than thrash, death or black metal scenes all across the globe. We now present our list of the Top 10 Power Metal Bands.
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10. Primal Fear
Based out of Germany, Primal Fear formed in 1997, and features vocalist Ralf Scheeers, bassist Mat Sinner, and guitarists Magnus Karlsson and Alex Beyrodt. The band's sound has been often compared to that of Judas Priest, and it makes sense. At one time, vocalist Scheepers was almost chosen as replacement for Judas Priest singer Rob Halford. After he was not chosen, Primal Fear was formed. The band's thrash-meets-'80s-metal vibe is often the musical backdrop for such subjects as religion, government, wars, and even space exploration, as seen on the album Black Sun (2002).
Named after the 1987 album by Dio, Dream Evil was founded in Sweden in 1999, by Swedish extreme metal producer Frederik Nordstrom, and at one time included renowned Greek metal guitarist Gus G (Firewind, Arch Enemy, Ozzy). Traditional heavy metal meets modern in this epic and grandiose approach to power metal. The band music is full songs that are very uplifting tales about slaying dragons, revealing prophecies, displaying honor and showcasing bravery.
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8. 3 Inches of Blood
Although the band might not be considered traditional power metal, due to a sound that has evolved over the years to be more in tune with speed metal or death metal, Canada's 3 Inches of Blood perform metal that is based in the power metal sound, including very heavy, thick riffs and intense high pitch vocals, more akin to Axl Rose and Rob Halford than Glen Benton. Over the band's career, including five albums, the band has created a hybrid of thrash and death metal with power metal, and music based around heavy metal warriors, pagans, heathens and ancient warfare. 3 Inches of Blood today still marches on, yet contains no original members, and retains a heavier, more extreme sound that still stays true to Power Metal Roots. Be sure to check out 2004's Advance and Vanquish for the band's most prominent work.
7. Iced Earth
Iced Earth formed in a state known mostly for American death metal bands in the late '80s/early '90s: Florida. Formed in the late '80s, the band was led by guitarist and songwriter Jon Schaffer, who remains the band's sole original member. Today, along with Schaffer, Iced Earth is composed of guitarist Troy Seele, vocalist Stu Block, drummer John Dette, and bassist Luke Appleton. At one point, the band also featured in its ranks, Tim 'Ripper' Owens. The band's music can be described as heavily influenced by Judas Priest, with elements of thrash and progressive metal all throughout. With 11 studio albums under its belt, Iced Earth shows no signs of slowing down or freezing over, and will continue bringing their rebellious music based on freedom and against tyranny to head bangers across the world. The band's lyrics over the years have touched upon history, ligature and horror films, but lately science fiction and dystopian themes have been incorporated, especially on Dystopia (2011).
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6. Grave Digger
Although the name might imply a death or black metal band, Germany's Grave Digger were a band that combined the early speed of traditional metal with Power Metal's melodies and harmonies, in the early '80s. The band are one of Germany's, and Europe's biggest Power Metal bands, and have a career that spans three decades and 13 albums. The band's music is built with loud, powerful riffs and catchy choruses, that has focused on everything from Hellenistic to medieval Times; ranging from King Arthur to ancient Greek Mythology.
5. Rhapsody of Fire
Originally known as Rhapsody, this Italian Power Metal band is known for its epic, symphonic heavy metal music, that incorporates opera music and classical orchestration with giant, loud slabs of heavy metal music. The band has been active since the early to mid '90s, but then in 2011, co-founding member Luca Turilli decide to leave the band, which spilt the band into two separate groups, one remaining with the name Rhapsody of Fire, the other taking the name Lucra Turilli's Rhapsody. Both bands say the split was amicable and see Lucra's Turilli's Rhapsody as an extension of the original Rhapsody of Fire. The band's very melodic version of clean vocals mixed with '80s heavy metal virtuosity, and proto-thrash is perfect for subject matters such as sword clinging ancient warriors, fantasy kingdoms, epic heroes and legendary battles.
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4. Gamma Ray
Guitarist/vocalist Kai Hansen formed Gamma Ray in 1989 after departing his former band, Helloween. Hansen is the band's founding member, main songwriter and driving force, but Gamma Ray also includes guitarist Henjo Richter, bassist Dirk Schlacter, drummer Michael Ehre and keyboard player Alessio Gori. Gamma Ray's early work sounds, understandably similar to Helloween, but the band's evolution over the years has included hints of thrash and hard rock. Each of the band's 10 albums has its own concept, focusing loosely on various themes, including tyranny, space travel, Armageddon and science fiction.
For their best work, check out the eerie New Wave of British Heavy Metal influenced album No World Order (2001), a musical compilation of songs about the New World Order and Illuminati. Imagine reading books by David Icke, watching films by Alex Jones and simultaneously blasting Queensryche, Def Leopard, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. This is an album that paved the way for heavy metal based on modern 'conspiracy theories.' It was ironically released within a few months of the tragic Sept. 11, 2001 Terrorist attacks.
3. Blind Guardian
Considered by many to be one of the best Power Metal bands, Germany's Blind Guardian have evolved from being an early melodic speed metal band, to a more classical, even progressive rock based power metal band today. Founded by vocalist Hansi Kursch, who also played bass until 1996, the band also features in its ranks guitarists Andre Olbrich and Marcus Siepen, drummer Frederik Ehkme, and bass player Barend Courbois. The band's first two albums, Battalions of Fear (1988) and Follow the Blind (1989) were more akin to sped up, distorted classical music, with a bit of a darker, faster, thrashier sound. But, with later albums such as Somewhere Far Beyond (1992), Nightfall in Middle Earth (1998) and A Night At the Opera (2002) the band's sound had developed into more the more traditional orchestrated power metal sound based more on melody and the sounds of bands like Queen and Queensryche, than thrash bands like Slayer and Testament. Today, Blind Guardian is still going strong, with plans to tour the world, after the release a new album later this year.
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Hammerfall was formed in Sweden in 1993 by guitarist Oscar Dronjak, and early on included members of melodic death metal bands In Flames and Dark Tranquility. Hammerfall took what Manowar did but stripped it down some. Based less on a masculine image, the band's music focused on classic heavy metal guitars, and epic tales of medieval knights in battle and warfare.
Hammerfall also features additional guitarist Pontus Norgren, singer Joacim Cans, bass player Fredrik Larsson, and drummer Anders Johansson. Over the years, with eight albums under its belt Hammerfall has a new albums due out later this year, and during its career, the band has taken its huge powerful sound all over the world, and played alongside such artists as Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, WASP, DIO, Twisted Sister and tons more. Be sure to check out the band's best work, with the first two albums, Glory to the Brave (1997) and Legacy of Kings (1998).
Arguably one of the most prominent Power Metal bands, Helloween was founded in Hamburg, Germany, in 1984 by guitarists Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath with bassist Markus Grosskopf, and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg. Three decades later, the band has had a revolving line up of over a dozen musicians due to tension disagreements and musical direction, but still includes original members Weikath and Grosskopf, along with additional guitarist Sascha Gersner, vocalist Andi Deris, and drummer Daniel Loble. This group has been the longest lasting and most stable in the band's career. Helloween has released 14 full-length studio albums, and relentlessly waved the flag of heavy metal music by playing shows to millions of fans across the globe.
Musically, the band sticks to a classic sound that is slightly aggressive yet epic in its walls of sound. Rumbling drums, power chords, super high pitch singing, and thick riffs in the vein of classics like Maiden, Priest and Manowar. Helloween's lyrics are based on fantasy, war and folklore, and usually a bit on the darker side, including more recent releases such as 2007's Gambling with the Devil, which also shows the thin line between power metal, speed metal, classic heavy metal and even The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal(NWOBHM), forming a hybrid sound, known as 'extreme power metal' from the '80s. Helloween's catalogue of albums is vast and dense, but be sure to also check out the classic albums from the band's early career Keeper of the Severn Keys, parts I and II(1987-88), as well as last year's Straight Out of Hell.