Power metal is a subgenre of heavy metal. It’s pretty hard to describe it in a way people may resonate with it. Describing this music varies from person to person. One can say it’s full of high-tempo rhythm while emphasizing melody, while others describe it as melodic rhythms with no riffs. Moreover, the music has a 16-32 double bass rhythm instead of steady beats.
A clear definition of it would be a style of heavy metal music that combines traditional with speed metal, usually within a symphonic context. They have a more uplifting sound, unlike the general heavy metal music that leans more on heaviness and dissonance, mostly in styles like doom and death metal.
The storytelling aspect of this genre makes it stand out from other heavy metal music. Most songs focus on folklore, war, fantastical adventures, and national culture and history. They, however, do it in the cheesiest fashion. Some say that it’s an European thing since it captures their history from the knights of the round table, the Vikings, and mythical creatures to King Arthur.
This genre focuses on vocals; it has clean vocals compared to the growling vocals inherent in black and death metals. The vocals of singers are in the high register and usually in the tenor range, with the possibility of reaching high notes. They’re, however, other artists that went far and beyond on their songs using the bass range or baritone tone.
Some even used choir effects, while others doubled down as instrumentalists. Most bass and guitarists would rapidly play various streams of notes, then change chords slowly in a harmonic way. On the other hand, drummers will play the bass drums quickly, taking advantage of the streams of notes being played.
Different drum artists have perfected the art over the years and were the blueprint for other artists. However, other drummers took a different route, like drumming with quick double bursts that usually consist of three to six beats plus a double kick. Almost all the bands incorporate keyboards in their sessions, with some using quick ascents while others use a whole melody line.
Other artists use symphonic elements in their songs. Usually, they’ll incorporate an orchestra in place of keyboards. This was a popular style for bands in Europe, Japan, and South America.
Types of Power Metal
There are various types, each one with distinct characteristics. Let’s look at some of them and how important they’re in the development and growth of this metal’s subgenre.
American Power Metal
This is a type that came up in the 1980s. It was somewhat an offshoot of the speed and European version. The sound is characterized as fast, straightforward, heavy, and aggressive. Moreover, it has a distinct fighting feel, plus the keyboards take a back seat to the music, ensuring the vocals and the riffs take center stage.
The music is quite similar to the genre it was coined from. Additionally, it inspired the later melodic movement. It resembled European version, which had a similar style to the above type of music.
Melodic Power Metal
Europe is the home of the genre music: it was believed to have started in the 80s by Germany’s Halloween and Finland’s Stratovarius. They focused on uplifting melodious positive themes. The Halloween band tried to play around with the original style of music to create a mixture of high palm muted riffs from speed metal backed with high pitch guitar and vocals.
Stratovarius’s band went on the melodic route incorporating keyboard use and neo-classical guitar solos in their songs. It’s from these two artists that the genre further branched out and spread like wildfire in Europe. Additionally, it picked up some high fantasy imagery from classical and folk music.
This ensured that this type was more romantic and emotional. The style has become popular and has surpassed various musical boundaries.
Extreme Power Metal
A harsh and aggressive melody characterizes this type. It was like a fusion of death and black mixed metal with traces of neo-classical and piano keyboard melodies. Some don’t think this type of music should be included in the subgenres since it has more melody than the original music. The sound started in Finland and spread to other regions.
Folk Power Metal
It’s a type of music that was started by folk and Viking bands. They were more influenced by the power metal than the original black metal. It shuns away the dark atmosphere and even replaces the heavy screaming in the extreme one with tons of melodies. The lyric, however, touched both power and folk metal spectrums. It sometimes featured nature and fantasy.
It has a unique sound separate from other types. The music combines instrumental melodies with some unique traces of progressive metal. It’s characterized by uplifting vocals and a neo-classical keyboard and guitar. The lyrics to such songs lean towards introspective than the usual optimistic fantasy-based melody.
However, many prog bands in this subgenre don’t follow the odd emphasis on the traces in their music. The songs are usually short.
Symphonic Power Metal
In this type, artists use extensive instruments like those found on keyboards and classical music that imitate the symphony melodies. It’s an additional element of this type of music and serves as a basis for describing this type of music.
This led to the creation of an extra layer of music, making a variety of music compared to the original “power” school. Most artists used heavy keyboard notes as synthesizers that had no orchestra sound.
Thrash Power Metal
It’s highly influenced by thrash metal, featuring highly clean vocals and melodies. They make sure that the vocals and melodies are retained, which separates them from extreme metal. It is considered American based, but some European bands have made beautiful songs and records emphasizing the qualities of thrash power.