Introduction to Power Metal, Part II: The First Wave of European Power Metal

[The epic continues!  Read part I of Johan’s journey here and listen for yourself via this playlist]

While working with what was intended to be the second part of a tripartite article series covering the history and general properties of the power metal subgenre, it soon became clear that a sufficiently thorough treatment of the subject would require more space and time than what was originally intended. This insight subsequently led to the conclusion that individual parts needed to be subdivided and portioned out in order to not grow out of proportion. The initial plan to present the material into three consecutive parts has thus been revised.

Another related issue that arose during “research” concerns the historical development of European power metal. As have been noted in previous articles on this site relating to the history of metal music, artistic “movements” or periods of development tend last about five years speaking in generalized terms. This phenomenon can be observed in European power metal as well. After having studied Euro-power metal as a composite phenomenon, a rough sketch outlining the developmental trajectory of said music began to take form:

1984-1989: The first wave of European power metal.

1990-1995: Intermediate period.

1996-2001: The second wave of European power metal.

While not a perfect model, this rough periodic division will be used as a framework for discussion in the articles to follow. The relatively lengthy timespan that has passed since the putatively defined second wave of European power metal will be left out for the moment, primarily (and regrettably) because there hasn’t really occurred much of a development in power metal since the early 2000s. If anyone sits on information that invalidates the above statement, feel free to chip in – this writer would be very pleased to be proven wrong on this front.

Accordingly, the second part of this article series will be mainly devoted to the development and characteristics of the first wave of European power metal and the intermediate period that followed in its wake. Instead of approaching the subject in thoroughly generalized manner, a ???-track compilation will be used as source material to make observations about the historical development and specific traits of first wave Euro-styled power metal. Please not that this collection of tracks is by no means intended as a “best of”-compilation but should rather be viewed of as a springboard for further discussion.

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The Musician’s Guide to SJW Values

Metal, like punk, once a lawless wild west where no attitude or ideology was unwelcome or too extreme.  But after hipsters unifed the masses of 90’s counter cultures into one mainstream culture, a far left ideology was adopted by and heavily policed within nearly every sub/counter cultural music genre (metal included).  Despite this being the exact opposite of what metal has been about for many decades, the desperation to fit in has left many of the aging neckbeard social outcast fake metalheads to adopt this heinous bastardization of music’s most honest genre and collectively enforce these new mainstream social rules.  And just like in the mainstream culture of today, breaking any of these rules (or having broken them in the past before these social norms were instituted) is designated with a swift lifetime band from showing yourself in public in the U.S.

Lately, a lot of metal bands have  been getting in trouble for doing things that progressive liberal culture finds unacceptable.  Many bands have been confused by the rules, as progressive liberal logic is absolutely nonsensical,  and therefore musicians struggle with the details behind this new social paradigm.  Having fought the left in our culture war for several years now and being often confronted with these nutcases, I determined it would be in the best interest of metal’s very badass musicians understand what crimes and behaviors are okay.  Please find below, a very thoroughly researched look into the disturbed mind of Social Justice Warriors:

Chart 1: Individual’s Morality

Crime/Behavior                                                                                  Acceptable?

MURDER                                                                                                      YES

ASSAULT (MALE VICTIM)                                                                      YES

ASSAULT (FEMALE VICTIM)                                                                 NO (Unless you’re signed to Profound Lore)

THEFT                                                                                                           YES

BESTIALITY                                                                                                 YES

PEDOPHILIA                                                                                               NO (Unless you write for MetalSucks)

GRAVE ROBBERY                                                                                      YES

SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT MEN                                                 YES

SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT WOMEN                                         NO (Unless you write for MetalSucks)

SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT WHITES                                          YES

SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT ANY OTHER RACE                     NO (Unless you’re signed to Profound Lore)

SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT CHRISTIANS                                 YES

SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT ANY OTHER RELIGION             NO

SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT LGTBTQ                                          NO

 

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Analysis of Demilich’s “When the Sun Drank the Weight of Water”

[Sections of this article by Jerry Hauppa].

The Finnish scene has spawned an impressive number of death metal giants, possibly the strongest overall scene with no band searching for shallow fame or popularity and each band exploring their own sound in complete artistic integrity and more often than not achieving powerful results. Though all these bands have captured the hearts and the imaginations of Hessians everywhere, one four-piece has managed to completely change the face of death metal. Releasing one album that elevated metal into being recognized as an intellectual genre in the eyes of the mainstream, so much so that the mainstream metal media fled from this album as no one could commercialize and democratize what was being played here, Demilich were unfairly pushed back into the underground when they deserved adoration from the masses.

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Sacramentum “Far Away From The Sun”

Sacramentum are heroes in the more melodic black metal style that appeared in Sweden after the initial Norwegian scene had worn itself out. Caught between the pop sensibilities of what was starting to develop in Gothenburg and the ambitious yet choppy compositions of Dissection, Sacramentum forged their own sound in that narrow gap, never stealing ideas from either side and searching inwards for inspiration. Far Away From The Sun is a particular track that shows joy and happiness while still denigrating human life. A strong understanding of the black metal melodic narrative has allowed them to reconcile such clashing emotions without showing the slightest contradiction.

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Thoughts on Composition

Metal music inherited the album concept from pop music. Originally, records could only hold about 3-5 minutes of sound on each side. In the 1940s new techniques allowed each side of a record to hold around 20 minutes of music on each side. Because of these limitations, the ‘single’ became the standard composition in popular music. As LPs became more prominent, the single, played over the radio, was used as the marketing device to sell albums: a couple of catchy singles swimming in a thin grey soup of filler material. Because it is only marginally more difficult and expensive to record and produce a whole album, there are much higher profit margins on LPs than on singles. That a pop album was not a consciously constructed artistic whole is borne by the fact that pop ‘greatest hits’ albums are easy to listen to, straightforward affairs. Consider a greatest hits album from a metal artist… at best it is off-putting and at worst it is a flaccid, confusing affair because all the songs have been removed from their appropriate context.

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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. (more…)

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HOW FACEBOOK SCREWED THE LORD OF LOGOS

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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SUFFOCATION’S BASTARD CHILDREN

Some bands perfectly encapsulate a sound and an era through the appropriation and development of an existing idea. Van Halen fascinated the mainstream with his take on tapping and his twist on virtuosity which had existed for centuries on various string instruments. Iron maiden took the harmonies from Thin Lizzy and adapted them for their long narrative epics. Suffocation took the slow thrash metal staccato riff and completely changed its use by using them as breakdowns. While those three bands are heavily associated with their respective techniques that have been used by all sorts of bands, Suffocation has spawned multiple subgenres that are all terrible and are completely eluded by the original intention.

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