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Power metal is a style of heavy metal music combining characteristics of traditional metal with trash metal or speed metal, often within symphonic context. The term refers to two different but related styles: the first pioneered and largely practiced in North America with a harder sound similar to speed metal, and a later more widespread and popular style based in Europe (especially Germany, Italy and Scandinavia) with a lighter, more melodic sound and making frequent use of keyboards.

Musical characteristics[]

Power metal is today associated with an epic sound tempered by characteristics of speed metal, power metal's musical forerunner. Power metal's lyrical themes, though as varied as metal itself, typically focus on fantasy and mythology (eg. Rhapsody of Fire, Blind Guardian, Falconer), comradeship and hope (eg. DragonForce, Hammerfall, Lost Horizon, Highland Glory), war (eg. Manowar, Sabaton, Iced Earth), personal struggles and emotions (eg. Sonata Arctica, Evergrey) or combinations of the listed themes. Many typical metal themes such as anti-religion and politics are comparatively rare but not unheard of.

Power metal is highly focused on the vocalist, with "clean" vocals being much more prevalent than the growling vocals often associated with death metal and black metal. Following in the tradition of Ronnie James Dio, Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford and other heavy metal vocalists, power metal vocals are often in a high register. The majority of the genre's vocalists sing in the tenor range, capable of hitting very high notes. There are however many exceptions such as Pyramaze / Iced Earth frontman Matt Barlow, Falconer frontman Mathias Blad, and Sabaton frontman Joakim Broden; they sing in either baritone or bass range, though in certain songs like Creator Failure, Barlow hits very high notes reminiscent of Rob Halford. Power metal vocalists Kai Hansen of Gamma Ray, Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian, Jens Carlsson of Persuader / Savage Circus and Matt Smith of Theocracy record multi-layered vocals reminiscent of Queen, creating a choral effect.[1][2] Few power metal vocalists double as instrumentalists, but the setup is not unheard of. Some singers within other heavy metal genres have high registered voices as do those singers of power metal bands. For example Joey Belladonna of American thrash metal band Anthrax had a voice that was often high-pitched. As a result, high registered singing is not restricted to power metal bands even though the style is typical within the genre.

Power metal guitarists and bassists generally play rapid streams of notes, but change chords comparatively slowly, with a harmonic tempo of once per measure or slower. Fast and demanding guitar solos, however, are almost guaranteed. The slow changing of chords are significant in defining power metal just as the fast rapid chord changes often define traditional thrash metal.

A number of power metal drummers generally play with two bass drums for added speed, utilizing them to play a constant stream of sixteenth notes (semiquavers) with snare drum accents on the beat. This style is fairly common in power metal as in other heavy metal subgenres, though it is by no means universal. Power metal though has become the most prevalent in the use of this technique. The style was perfected by drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg of Helloween, setting a blueprint for many other drummers to follow. Some drummers however do not use this technique and use a more thrash metal style of drumming with rapid bursts of double bass that involve three to six beats with the double kick. Iced Earth and Blind Guardian both have had drummers who have used this style of drumming as opposed to the more common style. Even more uncommon is the use of the blast beat in the genre. The American power metal band Cellador is an example of a power metal band that utilizes blast beats in many of their songs; DragonForce are known for their extensive use of the technique, as well.

Power metal bands often incorporate keyboards into their musical arrangements, though their usage varies from subtle accents to a full-blown melody line. Some symphonic power metal bands such as Rhapsody of Fire, Fairyland and Nightwish have also been known to record with more symphonic elements, and as such, they utilize a full orchestra to fill the role a keyboard plays in other power metal bands.

This style is very popular in Europe, Japan, and some countries of South America (including Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina and Colombia), the province of Quebec, Canada, where it has a very strong fan base and in North America where its popularity is slowly rising. [citation needed]

Types of power metal[]

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American power metal[]

American power metal emerged in 1980s United States as an offshoot of classic metal, thrash metal and speed metal. It is usually fast, straightforward and somewhat heavy and aggressive, with a distinct epic 'fighting' feel. Keyboards never take a major role in this style, with the focus on vocals and riffs. The music is very similar to its influences but coined the term 'power metal' and was vital in inspiring the later melodic power metal movement. Europe has its own bands playing in a very similar style such as Grave Digger.

Examples: Manowar, Jag Panzer, Crimson Glory

European/melodic power metal[]

This style emerged in 1980s Europe with Germany's Helloween and Finland's Stratovarius with a strong focus on melody and uplifting, positive themes. Helloween mixed fast palm muted speed metal riffs with high pitched clean vocals and guitar. Stratovarius further developed this melodic direction by making heavy use of keyboards and neo-classical guitar solos. This genre branched and spread over Europe and into most of power metal's subgenres, incorporating further influences from classical and folk music and reinforcing the high fantasy imagery as well as sometimes developing a more emotional, romantic edge. The style has become one of the largest metal subgenres (outside the alternative metal movement) and its popularity is far from waning. The United States also has its share of European style power metal bands, an example of which, is Kamelot.

See also[]

  • List of power metal bands
  • Neo-classical metal
  • Progressive metal
  • Symphonic metal


  1. Template:Citation
  2. Helloween cover Queen's song 'Sheer Heart Attack' (Blabbermouth net)


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