Welcome to Secret Steel, the new project of The Metal Observer -Chapter IV: “Power Metal 2: Eternal Glory”
Some might be surprised to see a second serving of power metal so soon, but our dragons dragged in so much talent that we just could not pass it up!
Have fun discovering these awesome bands, for more information please look below!
Sometimes you can just tell when a band is German. This teutonic quintet take the (Elven)path once travelled by the legendary Gamma Ray – straightforward, energetic heavy/power metal with a strong rhythmic sense and that all important fantasy flavour. Having been a quite prolific act since 2001, releasing four full-length albums and two demos, Elvenpath have steadily developed their sound over the years, whilst remaining true to the cause of the underground. The culmination of which is 2015’s Pieces Of Fate – an ambitious effort which, at sixty-eight minutes, is a truly rewarding listen for any power metal fan. Current mic-wielder Dragutin Kremenovic has definitely spurred the band onwards with his impactful pipes since 2008, strengthening Elvenpath’s already strong penchant for galloping riffs and blazing solos. Although their whole discography is not to be sniffed at, Pieces Of Fate is the release to sink your dragonteeth into.
Giving your band its own niche stylistic label can make you seem pretentious, especially if you suck. Thankfully, Colorado’s Enceladus thoroughly deserve the self-proclaimed genre of ‘Cosmic Enlighten Metal’ – being cosmic-themed, enlightening, and most certainly metal. Their 2014 opus, and crowning jewel, Journey To Enlightenment is a vibrant, multi-layered and virtuosic affair that plays up the immense talents of the quintet beautifully. A flurry of double-kick here, a bass lick there – it all adds up to a magnificently impressive sound. This being US power metal, comparisons can be drawn from the likes of Fates Warning and (especially) Cellador – note the slick, smooth fluidity which makes the admirable fretwork seem effortless. These tracks aren’t the type to instantly implant themselves into your brain – but each listen will uncover another clever trick hiding amongst the melodic clamour. Highly recommended for those who were disappointed by the newest Cryonic Temple this year.
Don’t Drop the Sword are a brand new name in the German power metal scene. Like many of their predecessors, they thrive on galloping riffs and cheesy lyrics that project an overwhelming desire to ride into battle. What else would you expect from a band called Don’t Drop the Sword? The riffs are fantastic, the solos are fast, furious and super catchy and the drumming really propels these songs into the hearts and minds of fans everywhere. The vocals are much more mid-range than most German PM bands which works in DDTS’ favor as it helps them standout above the fray. This is the kind of music that makes you want to grab some steel and charge into battle to eviscerate your enemies. “Death or Glory” wastes no time in presenting the fast, galloping riffs that are the core of DDTS’ sound as it riffs your face off for four plus minutes. Add in the style’s penchant for insanely catchy melodies, awesome speedy drumming and excellent production and you have one hell of an EP.
Belgian power metal is few and far between (Iron Mask, Fireforce, Magic Kingdom, Ostrogoth) and even among the chosen few, it can be a little hit and miss sometimes. Brugge-based Guilty as Charged plough the heavier side of the genre and while not necessarily bringing in oodles of intricacies, their more balls-to-the-wall style fits them well. The riffing and rhythm can evoke a few memories of older Iced Earth, but a clone this is not. Instead, they channel this influence into an earthy mix of the European and American school of power metal with the grit of the US and the playful harmony leads of Europe coming together with a thrashy edge at times. “Leap of Faith” is the title track of their debut album and is a good example for the band’s energy fueled style.
Historically, Maryland has been known for producing awesome doom metal but Burning Shadows are out to prove that their home state can play heavy/power metal with the best of them. Hailing from the town of Savage, these guys have a more old school sound with riffs for days and powerful mid-range vocals to match. There are still plenty of lyrics about riding for glory with steel in hand but Burning Shadows’ approach is a little rawer than many of their contemporaries. It definitely gives the music that no frills feel of bands like Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol, which should appeal to a lot of USPM fans. Although the raw, simplistic drum sound sometimes feels like a mismatch with the polished guitar solos, their sound manages to hold together fairly well. “Southwind” showcases the band’s talent for riffs well but also leaves room for catchy melodies like the opening guitar lick to be weaved into the sound for greater impact. This is a band that will keep getting better and hopefully be around for many years to come and one that should be right up any USPM fan’s alley.
The fusion of melodic death metal and power metal has been around for a few decades but nobody has ever done it quite like Sirion before. Usually, the melodeth dominates with the power metal influence being shown mostly in the harmonies. Los Angeles natives Sirion take the style not one but two steps further by mixing in soaring clean vocals and the always cheesy but oh so glorious keytar. The meaty riffs and mid-register harsh vocals that typify melodeth are very much a part of Sirion’s sound but so are cheesy, spacey keyboards and high, soaring vocals with space themed lyrics. Despite having just one EP to their name, these guys put a new spin on an established fusion of styles that is both interesting and entertaining. “Interstellar” perfectly exemplifies Siron’s sound as it starts with cheesy keyboards, down-tuned meaty riffs and harsh vocals before launching into power metal mode with sweeping keyboards and soaring vocals.
The United Arab Emirates are not exactly known as a hotbed for metal (only Nervecell really come to mind), probably also due to Islam not exactly looking favourably at the style. Out of nowhere, though, come Dubai-based Ascendant and their attempt at taking the power metal world by storm. Opting for a more down-to-earth style, the quintet wouldn’t sound out of place in any of the more established metal countries, displaying a maturity that does not just belie their origins, but also the fact that A Thousand Echoes is just a debut album to boot. Covering pretty much the whole power metal spectrum and then some, “Walls Between Us” is a powerful and emotive example of what Ascendant have on offer. Lyrically, they are strongly influenced about the troubled history and present of the Middle East, which lends the songs even more emotional expressiveness. Coupled with the slight Arabic melodies woven into the songs here and there, this also adds a regional authenticity that perfectly rounds off the compositions.
Most people connect power metal with dragons and swords and the likes, but a quite sizeable portion of the scene seems to show quite the devotion to space (even just on Power Metal 2: Eternal Glory we also have Enceladus and Sirion). Norwegian Keldian are also part of this movement and combine it with some of the most varied power metal one can find. They focus on highly cohesive, yet dynamic compositions that convince both through depth and catchiness. Their third album, Outbound, is a great example for their style and concept, touching subjects like Johannes Kepler (a German astronomer from the 17th century that is best known for his laws of planetary motion), aliens (the Silfens from Peter F. Hamilton’s space operas), to spacey atmospheres it sets a great framework for building their compositions. Not shying away from surprising acoustic interludes or grand prog rock influences, “Kepler and 100,000 Stars” is one of the catchiest songs on the album, while maintaining the band’s trademark depth and maturity. A new album has been announced for later this year and is definitely one to keep an ear on!
Disforia are one of the many bands fronted by Hansi clone, lovable scamp, and vocalist extraordinaire John Yelland. Like all of his projects, Disforia pride themselves on fantastic riffs with plenty of catchy melodies like those in “Dream Eater.” What stands out the most is the band’s use of keyboards. Many progressive/power metal bands rely too heavily on keys but Disforia uses them mostly for added background punch and atmosphere, which really works to their advantage. Theirs is a very full sound that leaves space for many complexities without going overboard with any one element. John’s high screams are not quite as high as many of the European vocalists in the genre, affording the listener constant lyrical intelligibility. This really works in Disforia’s favor on 2014’s The Age of Ether since it is a story of personal struggle and the lyrics are of great importance. “The Dying Firmament” is more sci-fi in the melodies and lyrics but still contains the great riffs, awesome keys, and killer vocals that make Disforia such a fun listen.
Hailing from the German capital of Berlin, Thunder and Lightning represent the grittier side of power metal, forsaking the bombast and epic elements a lot of other bands hold in high esteem, without forgetting the importance of the melodies. Instead the riff is more of a focal point as is the characteristic voice of Norman Dittmar, who manages to leave his very personal imprint on the songs, which is something not too many singers can claim. Dubbed one of Germany’s best kept secrets in the power metal sector, the quintet has already reached album number four with The Ages Will Turn (similar to Mercury Falling from Secret Steel – Power Metal 1: Genesis) and continues to push forward with their darker and slightly heavier take on the genre. “One Blood” is one of the album’s powerhouse tracks and also features Mate Bodor of Alestorm and Wisdom fame as guest soloist, but the album has enough quality and power not to have to rely on namedropping!
Opting to neglect neither quantity nor quality, the Yorkshiremen of Sellsword offer us seventy-five minutes worth of grand heavy metal that would certainly make Iron Maiden sit up and pay attention. …And Now We Ride is indeed as colossal as the battles of which they sing, but at no point does it feel like it drags. A supremely tight rhythm section; effective keyboard layers that don’t outstay their welcome; and excellent guitar solos that sacrifice complexity for sheer staying power. Just listen to the majestic lead break at the end of “The Warrior” – glorious! Stuart Perry’s noble vocal approach almost echoes Bruce Dickinson, with a hint of Messiah Marcolin – he’s commanding and decipherable. Not content with appealing merely to the fantasy-loving metalhead, …And Now We Ride is also viciously heavy when it needs to be, thanks to that marvellously gritty guitar tone. Only one release they may have, but England’s Sellsword are a veritable treasure trove of heavy metal goodness.
What’s this? Three vocalists? No official bassist? Three lute players?!? Is this madness? Of course it is – because it’s the appropriately-named Brothers Of Metal (despite harbouring a female member among their ranks!). Hailing from the wilds of Sweden, they appear to be a random gathering of musicians who have recently met in a bar and drunkenly agreed to write a generic heavy/power metal album about swords, vikings, hammers etc. On paper, that’s exactly what Prophecy Of Ragnarok is – but by Thor’s mighty hammer, if it isn’t brilliant! Huge choruses, authentic folky instrumentation, and a super-beefy guitar tone to really amp up the heaviness. There’s even a good dose of harsh vocals to add that extra dimension. At fourteen tracks, this is a chunky slice of metal to dig into, but every track delivers the goods in a balls-to-the-wall attitude that the likes of Majesty couldn’t hope to achieve these days. Looking for innovation? No chance! But rousing, powerful anthems for the warrior in you? Look no further.
We also just have to give credit where credit is due: Our awesome logo has been created by ModBlackmoon, all hand-drawn awesomeness and for great prices as well! And the amazing cover artwork has nonce more been donated by Nick “Smolin” Avallone of Deviant Art fame!
And we had asked you to stay with us until the end, right? Click on the cover below to get to our previous editions!
If you have any comments, questions or recommendations for bands to feature here, you can send us an email at secretsteel [at] metal-observer [dot] com (sorry for the code, but spambots are everywhere!)