Shredding: Power Quest

Larry zealously and over-enthusiastically ranks the British power metallers’ discography.

The music industry is a fickle mistress, and the harsh constraints of reality can put an end to the dreams of its progenitors. This is a reality felt all too powerfully by keyboardist Steve Williams. Originally forming as an offshoot from fellow Brits Dragonforce after Williams departed, the Welshman quickly formed his own melodic power metal act under the (frankly unbeatable) moniker Power Quest. Between 2002 and 2011, the band released five albums of almost consistently high-quality power metal chocked full of jaunty melodies, positive messages, and a distinct ’80s rock vibe that ensured the project was never going to be another Dragonforce clone. Sadly, in 2013, after some instability with line-ups and finances, Williams had to disband the group – to the horrified outcry of many – and so the Quest lay silent for a number of years. Fortunately, something stirred in the key-wizard’s heart and he brought Power Quest back for a triumphant return in 2016. Both the EP Face The Raven and the brand spanking new shiny LP Sixth Dimension have been a glorious return to form, and the band look to be sturdier than ever.

“Look Mum, one hand!”

Over their whole existence, the Quest developed a cult following which grew to be one of the most dedicated fanbases in metaldom. As a member of said fanbase for over 12 years, I feel I’m more than justified in producing TMO’s next ‘Shredding’ feature, where we rank the discography of a band from worst to best. Though, in the case of Power Quest, it’s more like ‘least amazing’ to ‘most phenomenal’. Remember, this is only one writer’s humble opinion…but I’ve been granted space to do it, so there! I recently spoke with Williams himself at a gig and asked him what his ranking would be…then proceeded to totally ignore his professional opinion – sorry Steve! You can all argue in the comment section afterwards. The Quest shall go on…

 

6. Wings Of Forever (2002)

Like I said, Power Quest never really released a ‘bad’ album. The fondly-remembered debut is definitely the sound of a newly-established act finding their feet and defining their sound. All the common traits of the band we know and love were founded here. The art of the catchy chorus, the keyboards taking centre-stage, the ultra-fast tempi, even the Power Quest musical motif (which recurs at certain points throughout their discography)…all appear in their semi-embryonic stages. Both the artwork and the reverb-heavy production quality absolutely scream ‘early 2000s’, but at least each member is performing to a damned high standard. This record birthed some PQ classics that still find their way into setlists now: especially the soaring “Far Away”. Rather than describing this as the ‘worst PQ album’, it would be more accurate to say this is Williams and co. ‘testing the waters’. That being said, “Freedom Of Thought” and “Distant Lands” do drag on a little bit.

Best track: “Power Quest (Part I)” – A sprawling, epic number with one of the most memorable choruses in their discography.

 

5. Blood Alliance (2011)

After the departure of beloved frontman Alessio Garavello, who was the voice that attracted many fans to the band in the first place, Sri Lankan vocalist Chity Somapala took up the reigns. The man has a great set of pipes, as exhibited on Firewind’s Forged By Fire, and of course, Power Quest’s Blood Alliance. Multiple sources unfortunately state that the man was reportedly hard to deal with in the studio, and as a result, his slightly passionless performance brings PQ’s fifth album down a notch. Thankfully, Williams’ songwriting prowess still shines through. As a result, the high-speed rockets like “Survive” and “Rising Anew” are utterly storming. On the flip side, the more leisurely paced ’80s stadium rock anthems “Better Days” and “Only In My Dreams” provide some fist-pumping singalong moments, and the greatest synth sound this side of Van Halen. The overlong and plodding “Sacrifice” could probably be cut, but it’s refreshing to hear the band explore their proggier side with the surprisingly heavy “Crunching The Numbers”. Oh, and the reiteration of the Power Quest theme at the end of “City Of Lies” is almost unbearably sad, considering what happened to the band not long afterwards…

Best track: “Crunching The Numbers” – A prog-tinged ode to the recession. Suitably tense, with the heaviest segment Power Quest have ever recorded.

 

4. Neverworld (2003)

I know this one’s gonna get some backlash! Power Quest’s sophomore full-length is where many live staples appear, and rightly so. The title-track, “For Evermore”, “Edge Of Time”, the unforgettable “Temple Of Fire”…these are all undeniable classics for good reason! Many fans would pen this as their number one choice, but what detracts from its brilliance is a noticeably thin guitar tone and generally weak production quality. Thankfully, it’s the melodies, especially from the keys, that steal the show. That’s not to say Garavello’s super high-pitched vocals aren’t massively impressive (‘temple of fi-YAAAAAAAH!!’), or that Andrea Martongelli’s solos aren’t admirable (that extended section in the title-track!) – but the key-driven tunes like “Sacred Land” and “Edge Of Time” are what really stand out and force me to hum along. When the album slows down, “When I’m Gone” makes for a truly beautiful ballad, but you can’t deny that “Lost Without You” drags just a tad! I find that the best tracks from Neverworld cruelly never see the light of day, such as the flowery “Into The Light” or the progressively-tinged “Well Of Souls”. Some underrated gems, some well-known classics, but not quite perfection.

Best track: “Sacred Land” – If someone asked ‘What do Power Quest sound like?’, I’d play them this song.

 

3. Sixth Dimension (2017)

It’s been over a month since the release of the brand new LP, so I feel it’s had time to sink in and affirm its place in the rankings. Conclusion? It’s amazing. Ashley Edison’s charismatic vocals have revived the PQ sound, and Williams’ keyboard accentuations remain reliably flashy. Serious kudos to newcomers Glyn Williams and Andy Kopczyk whose guitar duelling camaraderie has not gone unnoticed! A more powerful production has made Rich Smith’s drums and Paul Finnie’s bass beef up to the most ‘metal’ the band have sounded in years. You can read my full review here if you want more thorough detail, but I will say that Sixth Dimension contains many tracks that I can see never fading from memory. The bouncy opener “Lords Of Tomorrow” showcases a keyboard melody straight out of Master Of Illusion; the super singalong-able “Starlight City” is a masterclass in how to write a memorable but unpredictable chorus; “No More Heroes” once again rocks that ’80s vibe, but comes off as surprisingly heartfelt; and the theatrical title-track boasts a truly dramatic refrain, plus guest vocals from Anette Olzon(!). This album has that ‘all killer, no filler’ bonus, including the token love song (“Pray For The Day”) and some real pedal-to-the-metal riffage (“Face The Raven”). A true return to form.

Best track: “Kings & Glory” – Another contender for the ‘this is what Power Quest sound like’ title. Happy, speedy, and catchy as hell.

 

2. Master Of Illusion (2008)

My flame shield is on! Steve Williams described this as somewhat of an experimental record, and to an extent, I agree. The lead synth sounds are unlike anything in PQ’s arsenal up to this point, and the unusual production quality (that whipcrack snare!) give Master Of Illusion a unique flavour – often finding itself among fans’ least favourites. However, I find the songwriting, themes and riffs on this album to be refreshingly dark and mystical, with a healthy dose of that AOR spirit. Tackling more hard-hitting issues, pounding tracks like “Civilized?”, “Human Machine” and “Save The World” may be among PQ’s slower material, but the crunchy riffage brings out another side of the band – especially in the verses. Speaking of riffs, who would’ve thought that a song called “I Don’t Believe In Friends Forever” could be so furious? Don’t be fooled, the flowery pomp is still there in the form of “Kings Of Eternity” and “The Vigil” – the latter of which includes some seriously odd guest vocals. There are so many individual highlights that remind me why this is one of the best PQ albums: the totally rocking solo in “Cemetary Gates” (which is my number 1 guitar solo of all time); the disco-esque middle section of the title-track; Alessio’s serious vocal athletics throughout “Hearts & Voices”; the storming pace of “Never Again”; and don’t tell me you don’t occasionally find yourself humming the keyboard melody to “Civilized?” every once in a while! I think ‘underrated’ is an accurate term for what I believe to be Power Quest’s second best album of all time. Oh, and a note-perfect cover of Megadeth’s “Reckoning Day”? Yes please!

Best track: “I Don’t Believe In Friends Forever” – Surprisingly ferocious, with a stellar chorus and relatable lyrics.

 

1. Magic Never Dies (2005)

The first two minutes of Power Quest’s third LP is pure magic – filling the listener with hope and wonder – and generally summing up the vibe of this whole record. “Ascension” introduces the band’s live sets to this day – that must be a sign of the fondness Williams still has for this album. Just look at the list of speedy, jolly anthems present here: “Find My Heaven”, “Galaxies Unknown”, “Diamond Sky”, “Soulfire”, “Strikeforce”, the title-track, “The Longest Night”… all sure-fire fan-favourites…and that’s just the up-tempo tracks! Magic Never Dies also brings stirling variety in the form of the ultra-emotionally charged ballad “The Message”; the delightful “Children Of The Dream”; the ’80s-as-fuck “Hold On To Love”; and of course the multi-faceted epic “Another World”. Every track is charged with passion, consistency and quality performances. Steve Scott’s bass actually gets a prominent position in the mix, and the light drum sound is both beautiful and characteristic. Alessio’s voice has reached its peak warmth, and Steve’s keyboards ride the fine line between digital synths and authentic strings. I simply cannot pick any highlights at all, because I feel I can’t leave one song out on its own. Every soaring chorus, every flashy keyboard solo, every melodic counterpoint is tailored to perfection. Am I biased because this was my introduction to the band? No. For the first time, I believe I’m being truly objective. Magic Never Dies = power metal perfection.

Best track: “Galaxies Unknown” – The velocity! The melodies! The best chorus in PQ’s catalogue! Magical, glorious, triumphant stuff!

So there we have it. Thank you for getting through my obnoxiously zealous ramblings about one of my favourite bands. Naturally, this is only an opinion, of which you will have your own strongly held one. So feel free to go down to the comments section and tell me how wrong I am! How would you rank the Power Quest discography? Check out the band’s official website, and be sure to catch them on tour with Freedom Call in February. The Quest will always be what makes us strong!

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