I already did a writing prompts piece with several different genres featured. This time we’ll focus on “power metal,” a subgenre which grew out of classic metal, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and classic rock. We’ll start with some of the originators in power metal, and feature some of its noteworthy associates. Remember these are to prompt you to write, not write about what you’re hearing. Use music as an energizer, to provide atmosphere, and to focus your writing. Need to do an action scene? This kind of music will help. Write fantasy? Then you should be listening to power metal anyway.
Rainbow, Rising. I believe you can’t really call yourself a fantasy fan if you don’t know or at least listen to Ronnie James Dio. He’s best known for his own band, Dio, but he achieved fame in the 1970s as part of Rainbow, an offshoot band formed by ex-Deep Purple (And current Ren-Faire enthusiast in Blackmore’s Night) guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Rising was Rainbow’s second LP, released in 1976. The album starts pretty epic and just kinda gets more epic. If you already dig Led Zeppelin at their Tolkien-cribbing best, then you will appreciate Rainbow by many measures.
Blind Guardian, Nightfall in Middle Earth. Oh man. If you thought Rainbow was steeped in dragons and maidens, then you have no idea what’s coming with Blind Guardian. This German band formed in 1988 and decades later, they continue putting out layered and textured fantasy rock. Hansi Kursch, the band’s singer, echoes Queen by layering harmonies and vocal countermelodies into their already energetic power metal. In 1998 Blind Guardian decided they would out-nerd every dragon-riding, hobbit-loving power metal act out there by doing one, whole album based on the Lord of the Rings. They called it Nightfall in Middle Earth.
Dream Evil, The Book of Heavy Metal. Formed by “Gothenburg” producer Frederik Nordstrom in 1999, Dream Evil are a self-effacing, self-aware throwback to 1980s metal, but with some sound updates (Courtesy Nordstrom’s production skills), and are laden with inside jokes and unashamed geekiness. The Book of Heavy Metal is an entire album celebrating heavy metal itself, referencing skin-tight leather, metal studs and sees the group asking itself, “Am I a wannabe?” But all Dream Evil wants to be is in the Book of Heavy Metal. Bonus: before his Ozzy Osbourne gig, guitar wiz Gus G. spent some time with this act.
Hammerfall, Chapter V: Unbent, Unbroken, Unbowed. These Swedes have been doing it since 1993, when melodic metal like this could not be less cool in the United States. Hence this album is something of a defiant statement, because while the States fell in love with grunge and nu metal, power metal flourished in Europe, South America, Japan and elsewhere. Hammerfall borrows Iron Maiden’s gallop, mixes it with Helloween’s speed and gives the whole thing a sheen that’s promulgated itself throughout the entire power metal genre.
Edguy, Rocket Ride. Another German act, these guys started out very young in 1992. Why are they called Edguy? It’s an affectionate nickname for their former math teacher. Edguy’s had a long time in the metal ranks, and as such they’ve grown a distinct sound and personality. 2006’s Rocket Ride is their highest charting album in Germany, cementing their status as power metal mainstays. Edguy’s lyrics range from the symbolic to comedic. Like many modern power metallers, Edguy gets self-aware at times, while embracing the cheese at others. This band is also good if you like a change of pace in your metal, instead of constant headbanging like with Hammerfall, or taxing self-seriousness like Blind Guardian.
Kamelot, The Black Halo. I wanted to get at least one American band on here. Kamelot formed in 1991, and was from a then-flourishing Tampa, FL metal scene that saw bands like Savatage, Death, Cannibal Corpse and others get their start. Kamelot though was more like Savatage, incorporating theatrical and melodic motifs into their music, with lyrics focused on fantasy and storytelling. Their 2005 piece, The Black Halo, is a retelling of Faust. This album borrows from more contemporary symphonic metal, so if you like groups like Evanescence and Nightwish, you’ll like this particular Kamelot album.
Black Sabbath, Tyr. To finish up, let’s to back to the godfathers of metal. This late 80s album came out when Sabbath were at their commercial nadir – this record is actually out of print. It’s something of a cult classic now though, mainly for its rarity, the lineup and the fact that it branches out quite a bit from Sabbath’s trademark gloomy sound. Tyr features many mythological themes throughout, and the songs range from brooding to up-tempo. Tony Martin’s vocals never quite got their due because he had to fill the shoes of three previous Sabbath singers – Ozzy Osbourne, Rainbow’s Ronnie James Dio and Deep Purple’s Ian Gillen – whose legends vastly outweigh most other singers, period. If all you know by Sabbath is “Iron Man,” “War Pigs,” and such, Tyr will be quite a surprise, and a good one at that.