Top 10 Power Metal Albums of 2013
2013 has been an amazing year for power metal. For once, I don’t think I really have any complaints, as just about everything that graced my ears was awesome. I always feel bad ranking albums because each one of them is deserving of a spot in their own right, but if I must I must! The criteria are pretty simple. I base it on production quality, originality and creativity, all around musicianship, and my general love and play count on the album over the years’ time. So with that, here is my top ten!
10. Circle of Silence – The Rise of Resistance
This is a perfect example of the heavy side to power metal! The Rise of Resistance is driving and thrashy, with scratchy and rough, yet remarkably clear vocals leading the songs along. While European power metal can usually be thought as “fluffy” and “pretty”, Circle of Silence proves that power metal can have quite the dirty edge to it. From song to song, it is relentless in grooving riffs and soaring lead guitar work, all being pushed along by great drum patterns.
Though the album can get a little repetitive here and there, the record is great about showcasing different styles of songs from the in your face fast tracks to the slower, more emotionally driven ones. For a band that I had never really paid any attention to previously, this release was quite impressive. Check these guys out!
Best songs on the album: In the Absence of Your God, An Oncoming Storm, The Architect Of Immortality
9. Civil War – The Killer Angels
So by now we all know the Civil War is three-fifths ex-Sabaton members, but how much more needs to be said than “Nils Patrik Johansson” am I right? The vocals on this album are what makes it so unique, melodic, and epic, but gritty and edgy at the same time. The Killer Angels started on a high note and hardly let up throughout. It has a telltale ‘off-to-battle’ power metal style that was highly anticipated, and is very reminiscent of Sabaton here and there, but that was expected. The drumming is a simple and traditional rock style, while the keys and string instruments really drive the music.
The American history aspect to the album is also pretty impressive, considering most American metal bands turn to another country’s history for interest, ignoring our own. Kudos to the band for that attention! What I appreciated most about this album were the extremely catchy lines both in the vocal lines and in the lead guitar work. It’s rare I find myself singing along to a guitar part but it happens quite a bit throughout this release.
Best songs on the album: First to Fight, Rome is Falling, Gettysburg
8. Mindfeeder – Endless Storm
Holy hell! This album blew me away! I had never heard of these guys, as this is their first full length, but this album is of the utmost professional quality in songwriting, production and mixing, and vocal ability… one that even the most seasoned of bands should be jealous of. From the opening seconds of the first track, to the closing seconds on the album, I am relatively certain my jaw was on the floor. Throughout the year I lost track of the record, but returned to it for my year-end reviews and I am in love all over again.
I really can not wait for more music from these guys, as I am sure they can only get better from here. I don’t even know where to begin really. No corny ballads just to have a ballad, and a great near ten minute epic, hell yeah! The guitar harmonies and lead lines are spectacular, and have a way of painting a picture for the listener in a way that I rarely ever hear. This is an album any self-respecting power metal fan must own.
Best songs on the album: Feed Your Mind, The Call, Memories (Suite in IV parts)
7. Helker – Somewhere in the Circle
Helker’s first album in English, thank the gods! Somewhere in the Circle is phenomenal and powerful, and the lead singer is Diego Valdez, otherwise known as the Argentinian Dio, so you can only imagine how beautiful it sounds. In the American power metal world, this band always slipped under the radar, as most bands singing solely in Spanish do. This release was highly anticipated by myself and countless other “only-English” speakers that really connect to music through lyrics.
I don’t think I can emphasize the sheer beauty and power in the vocal presence. Of course the musicianship backing is perfect, especially the guitar harmonies and their conversations back and forth. This album is relentless with catchy choruses and driving drum and bass lines and is really difficult to put down. Cheers to these Argentinians!
Best songs on the album: Flying, At the End of the Journey, Modern Roman Circus
6. Infinita Symphonia – Infinita Symphonia
While I am not entirely sure if Infinita Symphonia is in fact “power metal” I do consider them extremely melodic metal, so here they are. Their self titled sophomore album came out this year, and I immediately fell in love. The production quality is pretty amazing, and the synth touches really bring a whole new level to the album. It’s an all around emotional album, driven entirely by the deep lyrics and beautiful atmospheric touches.
The band really attempted a bunch of different styles of songwriting throughout the album, from heavier tunes to acoustic ballads, but the music is consistently great. The album as a whole is pretty powerful. I couldn’t stop listening to this album all year-long, and I still love all the tracks!
Best songs on the album: Fly (ft. Michael Kiske), If I Could Go Back, The Last Breath
5. Heavatar – Opus I: All My Kingdoms
February 22nd marked the release of this great, heavy, power metal album, fronted by the most recognizable voice of Van Canto, Stefan Schmidt. Turns out, the man is a great guitarist and producer, because this record stuck with me all year-long and will likely continue to do so. Some highlights on the album were the amazing choir arrangements provided by Olaf Seinkbeil (Blind Guardian, Helloween, Freedom Call). And of course, Stefan’s voice is utterly perfect with the strength of a full band (rather than an a capella one) supporting him.
The members of the band could start their own Who’s Who book of power metal and Opus I is great evidence of that. Everything from the artwork, to the lyrics, to the production is simply outstanding. I particularly appreciate the presence of the bass lines in the mix, as David Vogt is practically nonexistent in the mixing of his other band’s more recent releases.
To sum it up, this album is a great example of heavy, dynamic power metal. These guys sound so much bigger than they actually are, without the help of cheesy keyboard fills that most would likely expect. It’s a genuine original sound and I can not wait to hear more material!
Best songs on the album: Luna! Luna!, The Look Above, Replica
4. Tad Morose – Revenant
There’s not many power metal bands that have been around as long as Tad Morose that can say they have released nothing but spectacular album after spectacular album. When I got word from their publicist of Revenant coming out I squealed like a little school girl. Even though the album hasn’t been on my iPod nearly as long as any of the others on this list, I have racked up about as many plays for it. Between Krunt and newcomer Kenneth Jonsson’s crushing guitar riffs and amazing leads and Ronny Hemlin’s haunting vocals, this release is addicting for ANY classic power metal fan.
This album seriously has everything I could have asked for. It’s heavy and driving, but extremely melodic and the production quality has a total 1980’s speed metal vibe. There’s chanting, epic layered choruses, driving drum and bass presence, and OH MY those guitar solos are to die for. Every single song brings about another great reason to why this band has been around for so long, even after a few major lineup changes and more recently, a ten-year break. Revenant was such an amazing comeback, I couldn’t have dreamed of anything better.
Best songs on the album: Within a Dream, Dance Of The Damned, Gypsy
3. Gloryhammer – Tales From the Kingdom of Fife
I know that a lot of you are shaking your heads right now, but I can not express the sheer joy this album brought into my life. Almost a year later, it continues to do so. This is Christopher Bowes Presents: Power Metal-By-Numbers and holy hell does it work. There is nothing serious about this album, and I can’t quite figure out why so many people took it literally, but they clearly have no sense of humor. Did you see the promo pictures?! Did you read the lyrics?!
Anyway, back to the music. For any fan of epic, fantastical power metal, this album probably made your life, as it did mine. It’s a HUGE, theatrical adventure into the mythology and history of Scotland, all set to a near perfect soundtrack of triplet-filled riffs, galloping drum and bass lines, and soaring crystal clear vocals. To appreciate it, you must see the cheesy stereotype of power metal blown out of the water, and whether it was intended or not, they made perfect music. Working out to this album is amazing, as I picture myself on the back of my noble steed, riding into the kingdom of Fife, with my hammer of glory at the ready. Oh, yes… even Peter Jackson would be jealous of these visuals.
Best songs on the album: Amulet of Justice, Quest for the Hammer of Glory, Magic Dragon
2. Stratovarius – Nemesis
To say this album changed my life would probably be an understatement. I am so grateful to the band for creating this wonderful, inspirational work of art. Honestly, this album is a perfect example of what power metal always meant for me. Power metal always inspired me to be a better person, to pick myself up when I was down, and to always look forward instead of behind me, and this album does that and more. I can’t remember my exact words in the review I wrote before Nemesis was released, but it was something along the lines of “I feel like I am a better person for listening to this album…” and here we are, almost a year later, and that fact still stands.
In the post-Tolkki Stratovarius world, there are lovers and haters of the new direction the band is going in. This album in particular is a more modern, digitized sound, with some seriously amazing production quality that really resonates with me. I am consistently sucked into this album with all of the atmospheric keyboard touches and pure beauty and depth in the musicianship, no matter how many times I’ve listened to it already this year. The album also has one of the best written Stratovarius ballads, hands down. I have never really been a huge fan of their ballads (“4000 Rainy Nights” anyone?) but this one is flawless. Which makes sense, since the album as a whole is nearly perfect as well.
Best songs on the album: If The Story Is Over, Unbreakable, Castles in the Air
1. Powerwolf – Preachers of the Night
Like I said, this decision was unbelievably hard for me to decide. Most of my close friends know how obsessed with Powerwolf I am, from the second I heard them, everything about them from the lyrical content to the theatrical music videos and outfits, I knew this was a band I could get behind. Fast forward to 2013 when I heard the sneak peak of the album… I cried tears of joy. I was so happy to get some new Powerwolf material that was a little more straight forward and heavy. My favorite songs are scattered around their early albums because they seemed darker, scarier, and at my work were actually mistaken for Halloween music on many occasions. I LOVE THAT. So when I heard some sneak peaks at Preachers of the Night that’s the first thing I thought. FINALLY. We’re back into the more haunting side of Powerwolf.
The organ touches are flawless throughout the album, topped with amazing vocal layering components, the album easily gave me chills from track to track. The guitar is constantly driving the songs with thrashy riffs to soaring leads, coupled with those beautiful synth touches, proving that Powerwolf is not just another power metal band. These guys know how to make seriously (but not so serious) heavy metal.
On a side note, the lyrics throughout the album were better than expected with a healthy dose of religion and humor, and of course they top it off with song titles like “Coleus Sanctus” that from Latin roughly translates to Holy Balls. I feel like this album as a whole feels more like one solid piece than their previous three did, and I love that I can sit down and seemingly blink and the entire album is over. Between the wonderful, smooth song transitions and Atilla’s hauntingly beautiful voice, I can always count on being lost in this album. It is definitely the best power metal album of 2013, and easily one of Powerwolf‘s most solid releases yet.
Best songs on the album: Sacred and Wild, Kreuzfeuer, Last Of The Living Dead