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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With New Song, Dimmu Borgir Officially Becomes Nightwish

In an unexpected turn of events, Mortal-Kombat-tier Norwegian opera-metallers Dimmu Borgir have gone full on symphonic power metal in their new song.  Embracing the trending female fronted power/quest metal sound that has replaced metalcore as the newest wave of a strange phenomenon known as “girlfriend metal” (the metal your girlfriend puts on while she’s cleaning the house), Dimmu have essentially robbed the sound of Nightwish, Epica, and Within Temptation while yet retaining the Hollywood-orc vocals of Shagrath.  While moments resembling early Blind Guardian are in fact an improvement over a preceding album that was almost completely devoid of guitars, this is by no means quality power metal nor is it the hybrid of older Dimmu styles that the band has been mouthing off about the past few months.

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Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs (2015)

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On their first album, Obsequiae made use of very simple but consistent and creative melodies in a harmony emulating that of early western music from the late medieval period. Under the Brume of Eos consisted of songs that were essentially folk-heavy metal in the vein of Primordial with black metal vocals. Each few songs an interlude played in an acoustic instrument was inserted. The material was fine for the first fifteen minutes, after that it just boiled down to a collection of songs which were merely collections of riffs. Aria of Vernal Tombs unfortunately did not move beyond this same strategy.

It is important to go back to the just-mentioned style of Primordial. Primordial is one of those bands that is really ideology first, aura and image of the band first, and then music. The music itself is flat, only serving to carry a mood while the image that the listener has in mind (given by lyrics and song names — concept) is imprinted on it from the outside. Obsequiae work in a similar way, except that they take it a step further and actually make use of musical patterns that evoke the era they are using as theme. They also surpass Primordial in that in the short-term, songs are far more dynamic and in Aria of Vernal Tombs particularly coordinate wonderfully with the vocal pulse.

Obsequiae could still move beyond this “cool-riff” sequence approach and give us much stronger songs — and perhaps a conceptual album extending beyond the lyrical and well into the music. Inserting interludes is only the easy way to do this.  Metal bands like Blind Guardian, Rhapsody and even Morbid Angel (on Blessed are the Sick) have done this light and easy concept album arranging, each going further in different ways. Obsequiae and any band looking for using relatively simple yet self-contained and solid songs as the bricks for a strong concept album can look up to Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Until now Obsequiae have only given us scattered ideas in an obviously consistent and distinguishable language. And if music is a language of some kind, Aria of Vernal Tombs is one message in a loop of synonyms and like-words drawn from a thesaurus.

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May 2015: The decent and the rescuable

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This is a “best of the month” list for this month, but making the title “Best of May 2015” sounds like giving too much of a spotlight for such a short span of time, and devaluating the word “Best of” somewhat, in my opinion. Therefore I chose a title to reflect reality more clearly: these are the only albums we heard of on this website this month that were decent enough to not be considered utter disgraces to the metal genre (those were in the SMRs or were ignored). The “decent” are those that show consistency in style, coherence, a direction and a clear artistic voice and goals. The “rescuable” are those that are still confused in their composition — unclear, or that seemed to be impeded from development by their own approach to music-making (or that of their own genre).

 

The Decent

  • Ascended Dead – The Advent                                      review
  • Blasphemic Cruelty – Crucible of the Infernum      review
  • Exhumation – Opus Death                                           review
  • Luciferian Rites – When the Light Dies                     review
  • Necrophor – Exterminatus                                          review
  • Nekromanteion – Cosmic Horrors                             review
  • Perversor – Anticosmocrator                                      review
  • Shroud of the Heretic – Unorthodox Equilibrium  review
  • Undead – False Prophecies                                           review

 

The Rescuable

  • Blind Guardian – Beyond the Red Mirror                review
  • Bureviy – Concealed Beyond the Space                     review
  • Dew-Scented – Intermination                                     review
  • Maruta – Remain Dystopian                                       review
  • Undergang – Døden Læger Alle Sår                           review
  • Wende – Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft    review
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Blind Guardian – Beyond the Red Mirror (2015)

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Compiling gestures from throughout legendary band Blind Guardian’s discography, Beyond the Red Mirror shows us a synthesis of their journey, bringing in their late 1980s style along with updates in the power and so-called symphonic metal up to the present state of affairs in said genres.  As such, this album’s strongest uniting element is the band’s own style, which lies in great part in the vocal approach of Hansi Kürsch. Apart from that, there is an evident diversity in the songwriting that ranges from the mediocre, to the best power metal from any period can offer. But it should be stressed that the consistency in style is still very strong and this along with the sober and talented songwriting skills of Blind Guardian lend a coherence to the music that set it on another level completely apart from the distracted music the vast majority of bands of its kind display. This is also something the band has improved on compared to its earlier albums where the anxiety to insert interludes bordered on gimmick instead of having them moderately and carefully contribute to the aura of the album.
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A Comment on Bardic Tradition in metal

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The terms bardic or minstrel metal have often been used to describe bands that usually sing in a clear voice and with anthemic overtones, often imitate medievalesque motifs and write lyrics in the manner of romanticized ancient legends. Generally, the metal subgenre most readily associated with bardic expression is power metal because they advertise themselves as modern-day minstrels and theirs is the kind of catchy and upbeat music most people can latch on to most easily. The bardic spirit along with the culture it transmits, however, requires a sturdier medium that is able to etch its runes indelibly without detracting from the importance of their message.
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Of Power Metal and Other Tales

1. Introduction
2. The Two Faces of the Genre: European and American Power Metal
3. European Power Metal
4. Power Metal of the United States
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