Introduction to Power Metal, Part I: Origins and Influences

(Join DMU Legend Johan Pettersson for what may be the most expansive analysis of power metal ever presented in the first of a 3 part series.  Listen to the accompanying suggested listening here)

Of all the subgenres and styles that fall within the metal spectrum (hence excluding unmitigated relapses into rock such as death’n’roll, stoner, nu- and indie metal), power metal most definitely counts as the one that has received the highest amount of scorn and ridicule from critics, fans and outsiders alike. Despite being located at the bottom of the pecking order, the power metal “movement” has stubbornly toiled on for over three decades packed to the brim with musical epiphanies and fads alike. Practically declared dead by the early 1990s following the rise of death and black metal, power metal experienced something of a renaissance around the millennium and has remained popular ever since.

While discrepancy between popularity and critical acclaim is hardly a rare phenomenon, the factors behind such divides can differ significantly. When it comes to power metal, there seems to be something inherently embarrassing about it. Not only is power metal often deemed artistically inferior when compared to adjacent subgenres, it is also perceived of as something that should not be taken seriously. For example, there are many stories where even the most seasoned of metalheads express a certain unease about someone overhearing them listening to a power metal record, even though they evidently show interest in the music in secrecy. Moreover, power metal has worked as an entry point for thousands of younger metal fans, who after delving deeper into the genre tend to denounce or conceal their earlier, supposedly misguided enthusiasm. Boasting a background in traditional heavy metal is perfectly legitimate, but for many power metal is definitely a no-no.

A further and perhaps more critical indication of power metal’s poor status within metal culture concerns the ultimate lack of literature dedicated to the subgenre in question. With a few notable exceptions – including an excellent article by a former DMU associate – very little has been written about the history, taxonomy, spirit or musical properties of power metal in a more systematic fashion. This three-part article has been written with the aim providing a rudimentary yet comprehensive introduction to the subject which could in turn open up for discussions about the potential and relevancy of power metal. If we are to believe the predictions presented in a recent publication courtesy of Spotify where power metal occupies the number one positions of “emerging genres” for 2017, such an endeavor should be in pressing demand.


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Famed Judas Priest singer and gay fashion icon Rob Halford has been recently vocal about starting a black metal supergroup.  A longtime fan of the genre, Halford has named Ihsahn of Emperor and Nergel of Behmoth as potential collaborators, with the latter jumping at the opportunity to use his cartoon-black-metal brand to pocket even more mainstream metal dollars.  Unfortunately for Halford and anyone dumb enough to be duped into thinking something like this will be good, Nergal will not have much to offer in terms of a black metal supergroup as he has not played black metal since 1994’s Sventevith despite masquerading around in corpse paint whenever it’s time to roll out the red carpet.



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On March 29th, 2014, I was booked on a conceptually enticing extreme metal show in San Antonio, TX.  It was held in honor of Christophe Szpajdel, the infamous “Lord of the Logos” who designed the logos for a good amount of the most relevant black metal bands over the last few decades.  Headlined by Abazagorath, every band on the bill had a Christophe-drawn logo.  Christophe himself was flown across the Atlantic to be present to draw logos for concertgoers on the spot.  But thanks to the abomination that is Facebook, Christophe never made it out of the airport.



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Varg Vikernes is one of the rare musicians in death/black metal that won’t sell his soul for the dollar.  In a new video posted to his Thulean Perspective YouTube channel, Varg has revealed that some scumbag promoter has at one point offered over £ 300,000 for him to do a live Burzum show in London.  While many in black metal swore never to play live, almost everyone ranging from Darkthrone to Graveland has given in at some point.  But with the most notorious metal musician in the genre’s history, blood is thicker than water and that’s never been more prevalent than now.



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Leviathan mainman and convicted domestic abuser Jeff Whitehead (a.k.a. Wrest) is being evicted from the Portland Oregon warehouse he maintained as a storefront for his Devout Rcrds label/record store and the “anarchist print shop” Eberhardt Printsop. Whitehead is the victim of allegedly evil capitalist landlords who want to commit the horrible act of leasing their hard earned property at market price, which happens to be double that of what Wrest can afford. Therefore, Wrest has tapped his neo-communist friend Neil Jameson (who is publicly living out a similar midlife crisis) to help beg for money from “the miserable collective workforce” a.k.a. you, the consumers.  Yes, you have read correctly- Wrest is so desperate to save a commercial “Anarchist clothing line” from having its free-market commerce shut down by other free market commerce that he has stooped to digital panhandling.


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Lousberg- Wintergemälde

Now here is a recording I am really quite enjoying, by Lousberg. This captures the spirit of the desolate winter-time, but not in a dreary way. Rather, the elegance of nature shines through. Low drones set the landscape, while tip-toing keyboard patches enunciate the mid and higher ranges. This has a nice balance between droning and suggesting a melody, which does a very nice job creating a virtual landscape. I prefer this to the other black metal I saw on this label such as Goat Semen, which was pretty cool too, since it reminded me of Norz Norz Norz. There is a sophistication to this particular composition, which reminds me of Maurice Jarre’s score to Runaway Train, which is a wintertime classic. Also, the Mosquito Coast, about leaving society for nature, is another majestic score by Jarre that this harkens. It seems easy to the passive listener to create such an album. As a keyboardist myself, I can tell you that it actually takes a lot of inspiration to write an album like this.



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Have You Droned Anyone Recently?

There is something delicious about a drone. Maneuver the joystick, trip the flaps, train the camera, identify the subject. With a deep sigh, avoid contemplating all that is ahead, then click confirm on your control screen. Watch the brief flash and distortion on your video feed as the missile falls free and ignites. Zoom in on the target. Seconds later, a gout of flame and fountain of body parts.



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One of death metal’s pioneering vocalists has passed away today.  Frank “Killjoy” Pucci of Necrophagia died this morning as revealed on the band’s Facebook page. One of the original tape traders of death metal, Killjoy’s legendary vocals on the phenomenal  Season of the Dead album (which predated Death’s Scream Bloody Gore by several months) paved the wave for the death/black metal technique and inspired some of the greatest artists in metal.


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Girding for War: Tools of the Trade

One does not go to war without weapons and one does not make music without instruments. Just as the quality of the warrior is more important than the quality of the weapon, so too, the quality of the musician is more important than the quality of the instrument. Nonetheless, limited equipment can impeach the user’s ability for effective action. With that in mind, let us take a look at Roland’s V-Drums.


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